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Personal Finance: How you can design your pad on a dime

Before this Degas poster was on Torabi's wall,

Before this Degas poster was on Torabi's wall, it was against a tree on West 80th St. (Farnoosh Torabi) Photo Credit: Before this Degas poster was on Torabi's wall, it was against a tree on W.80th St. (Farnoosh Torabi)

My first apartment in the city was 400 square feet. My pull-out sofa doubled as my living room couch, and my favorite piece of art — a mounted Degas poster — was discarded on the street, up for grabs. Decorating your tiny abode can be tricky if you’re on a strict budget. Carmen Alonso, founder of Carmen Alonso Interiors, offers a few tips:

Buy multifunctional furniture
“Don’t you dare purchase anything that doesn’t have at least two uses,” Alonso said. For example, a small desk also makes a cozy dining table, and with an ottoman with storage, “you can [turn it into] a coffee table — or use it to store extra linens and towels,” she said.

Remove closet doors
Why? It opens up space, Alonso said. She suggested asking your building’s super if he or she will store them in the basement. (There may be a fee.) Replace the doors with a curtain, buy or make curtain panels out of some interesting fabric, and voila!

Decorate with mirrors
Mirrors are “a small space’s best friends,” Alonso said. “They’re functional, timeless and blend in with any style.” Check out Pearl River Mart and CB2, both located in SoHo, for affordable decorative items.

Use light paint colors
“Light, pale colors on the walls recede and reflect light,” making your home feel bigger, Alonso said. Janovic Plaza has one of the widest selections of paint in the city. Ask for pre-mixed paints that are discontinued. “They’re often discounted,” Alonso said.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, TV personality and the best-selling author of “Psych Yourself Rich.” Follow her at and at


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