That moment of liberation when you say goodbye to roommates and head out on your own can come with challenges. How do you design and decorate an apartment all by yourself? San Francisco resident Carra Manahan recently moved into an apartment solo and had to navigate how (and how quickly) she wanted to decorate it.

Carra grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco, and after graduating from undergrad in San Diego, she decided to come back north to SF proper to pursue her career in marketing for a tech company. Five years later, she’s now living on her own for the first time, sans roommates.

The apartment in question, a small one-bedroom in the Marina District of San Francisco, is a charming blank slate with enviable bay windows, arched doorways, and plenty of built-ins. She wanted to make sure she spent the time to design this new space perfectly to match her style, going for a gender-neutral vibe that highlighted her love of warm wood accents and plants.

Read on below about her design process!

west elm home tour — carra manahan

west elm home tour — carra manahan

west elm home tour — carra manahan

How would you best describe your personal style at home?

Minimal and neutral. When decorating my apartment, I knew I wanted to make it more minimal and gender neutral than my room at my prior place. I’m a big fan of wood trims and accents, so mid-century modern with a boho twist was a perfect fit.

I’m also big on plants. I have over 40 in my apartment and love how they look in any spot— from a shelf to a tabletop. They add color and vibrancy, plus look great with all the wood.

Which room do you spend the most time in and what do you love most about it?

I spend the most time in my bedroom; it’s my sanctuary. It’s the biggest room in my apartment and gets the best natural light during the day. If you asked my friends and family to describe me, they’d say I’m always on the go, but I’ve designed my room to be my oasis and a place for me to unwind.

What were your 3 main goals when designing this space?

1. Welcoming – Besides creating a retreat for myself, I wanted my apartment to be homey as I enjoy entertaining. I love hosting dinner and cocktail parties so I wanted to decorate in a way that’s inviting and can also accommodate guests.

2. Curated – I knew I wanted the accents in my apartment to be in the details. Being a huge traveler, I began collecting decor on my trips. What’s great is that doing this, is that it forces for me to be more thoughtful about my purchases abroad.

3. Minimal – In the years leading up to my move, I began appreciating a more minimal and neutral look and sought to emanate that when making design choices.

What’s one thing in your home you couldn’t live without?

The natural light. I’m huge on light and love how bright my room gets on a sunny day. Not having natural light would be deal breaker for me.

west elm home tour — carra manahan

west elm home tour — carra manahan


west elm home tour — carra manahan

west elm home tour — carra manahan

What were some big (or small) challenges in designing your space?

My place isn’t huge so it was challenging finding pieces that fit without making the apartment look smaller. The living room was the hardest since it’s meant to be a dining room. I made sure to measure everything and used online tools to brainstorm various layouts.

What’s something you would do if you had an unlimited budget and timeline?

Would love to remodel the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen is small, but there’s potential to add cabinets and leverage the space better. There’s lots of opportunity in the bathroom, would love to redo the floor, vanity, and shower. Since I couldn’t remodel, I added the floating shelves and replaced knobs on the drawer- both of which did the bathroom a lot of justice.

What’s your best piece of advice to those just starting to design a space for themselves?

Start with a few furniture pieces you love and design from there. It’s natural to want to buy everything at once, but I encourage you to take your time. Also, leverage Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration, they both gave me ideas that I ended up putting my own twist on.

west elm home tour — carra manahan

west elm home tour — carra manahan

west elm home tour — carra manahan

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June 6, 2019

Lindsey Swedick, thank you ever so for you post.Much thanks again.

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