7 Decorating Tips from the Hovey Sisters

Sisters Hollister and Porter Hovey run an apartment staging and interior design company together. One of their jobs was to decorate a one-bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. “We had a $5500 budget to kit out this adorable apartment, including all the major pieces — sofa, table, chairs, rug, lamps, bed and mattress,” says Hollister. They went for clean, bright basics that felt welcoming. Take a tour around, and hear their seven design tips…

7 Decorating Tips from the Hovey Sisters

Rattan chair: Ikea. Sofa: CB2. Coffee table: Urban Outfitters, sold out. Side tables: Urban Outfitters, similar. Small lamp, left: Ikea. Floor lamp, right: Urban Outfitters. Mirror: Umbra. Frame: Ikea. Carafe: similar. Rug: World Market.

Start with big pieces. We love CB2’s armless sofas. They’re so chic and easy. The sofa helped determine the overall color palette. For this apartment, we stuck with neutrals — black, white and tan. It’s a thousand times easier to shop on a budget if you’re doing neutrals, versus prints and patterns.

Consider rattan. Compared to upholstered furniture, you can get incredibly beautiful rattan pieces for pennies on the dollar. World Market has great rattan. You can also paint them, if you want brighter colors. We once visited a fancy, fancy $1000-night beach resort that had painted their Ikea rattan chairs hot pink. I loved seeing that!

Mirrors are foolproof wall decor. When in doubt, decorate with mirrors. We use the Umbra Hub wall mirror in every apartment we decorate. At 37″ and $150, they’re the biggest cheapest mirrors we can find. They work well for rentals because you only need one nail.

7 Decorating Tips from the Hovey Sisters

Rattan chair: Ikea. Side table: Ikea.

You really can make your own art. I did this art with a Sharpie! You can just scribble, the messier the better. You can also draw geometric shapes or do abstract paper cutouts. Don’t be too precious, just start chopping and glueing! Do a zig zag with a blob at the end. Little kids’ art is also great to hang. Give your kid one color to work with if you’re going monochrome; then put it in a nice Ikea frame.

7 Decorating Tips from the Hovey Sisters

Dining table: Target, similar. Dining chairs: Urban Outfitters. Frame: Ikea. Vase: West Elm.

Try Target, Urban and Ikea. Target has awesome, awesome stuff, especially accent tables; and their outdoor furniture and pillows can work well indoors. I always thought of Urban Outfitters as junkier stuff, but it can be really sophisticated. Big retailers like Ikea and World Market can be overwhelming, so take a deep breath, go in with a list, and just get what you need. And we are big believers in stealing from your parents’ house, if they have anything extra!

Give vintage chairs new life. Our big tip is to seek out busted-looking chairs that have a cool shape and good structure. Don’t be afraid of stains on the seat because you can switch out the fabric. Anyone can do it, you just need fabric and a staple gun. Also, if you’re searching on eBay, try Boolean search terms, which are so boring to talk about, but really work! For example, you might search ‘Italian (197*, 196*)’ and then you’d get cool Italian stuff from the 60s and 70s.

7 Decorating Tips from the Hovey Sisters

Headboard: Ikea, similar. (“We used two twin-sized headboards, which worked perfectly for a queen.”) Mattress and bed frame: Ikea. Quilt: Parachute. Table lamps: Urban Outfitters. Bedside tables: Ikea.

Add personality with small things. Start with simple furniture that never goes out of style. That way, it can move with you from home to home, year after year. Then you can decorate with travel souvenirs and family photos. Personal touches make a space feel homey and wonderful. Instead of spending your money on 1,000 little adorable candles, buy a rattan chair and put family photos on your walls. Big pieces create the framework of the space, and small pieces tell the story. The couch doesn’t need to tell the story.

A few Hovey sisters’ picks:

Thank you so much, Hollister and Porter!

P.S. The Hovey sisters share their own apartment tour, and a woodsy cottage in New Hampshire.

(Apartment photos by Hovey Design.)