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Name: Natalie Doef
Location: Ontario, Canada
Size: Approx. 400 square feet
Type of Home: Quadruplex apartment
Years Lived In: 2 years, renting
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I’ve had a passion for interior design for as long as I can remember — I remember constantly rearranging my room and having perfectly hung posters on the wall as a kid. Whenever my friends came to visit, I made sure my room was on full display — my pillows fluffed, my toys all lined up, and my best art on the walls. I’ve always felt like my space is the most accurate representation of who I am as a person. It’s always been a way for me to creatively express myself and tell my story without saying a single word.
Two years ago, I moved into my very own apartment and I knew I was no longer bound to only decorating a bedroom, but I was able to explore my style for all spaces; kitchen, bathroom, and living room — and that was so exciting to me! I learned very quickly that plants would be a huge part of my personal style; my small plant collection became a very large collection and expanded to every room. While living in my own space for two years now, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring new design elements and interior styles.
Before moving to my current apartment, I was living with friends in an apartment in downtown Toronto. I knew I couldn’t keep living in a city; the noise and fast pace just wasn’t for me anymore. My Toronto apartment was north facing, which meant it never got any direct sun. What initially drew me to this apartment were the windows (especially the one in the bathroom); I loved them so much that it didn’t even matter which direction they were facing. It wasn’t until a FaceTime tour [with the landlord] that I learned they were facing west, so in my mind I knew right away — I was going to get to watch the sunset every night (and my plants would be happy too)!
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I would describe my style as bohemian, whimsical, modern, and fresh. Narrowing in on a set style can be so difficult; I’d definitely say I combine different elements from all types of styles. I tend to gravitate towards earthy features; I love incorporating natural materials like rattan, bamboo, clay, ceramic, and stone. Those materials enhance all the plants in my home.
Inspiration: I gather inspiration from all around me; it can range from a simple walk in the forest, to discovering ideas from my fellow interior enthusiasts online. If I’m drawn to something outdoors, I’m not shy to bring it home with me; I love using pressed flowers, crystals, and rocks to decorate my space. Earth itself has been my number one inspiration.
Favorite Element: My favorite room in my apartment would have to be my bathroom. Which is quite the unexpected choice! It also happens to be the smallest room but it is packed with so much life. I love the way the sun streams in on a cold winter day and warms up the whole room. My plants are happiest in this sunny, humid space — I call it my own little rainforest!
Biggest Challenge: Like many renters, I think the biggest challenge is finding ways to elevate your space without interfering with the building’s integrity. I’m grateful my landlord has allowed me to install shelves and to paint — that has been something I’ve taken advantage of; it’s allowed me to get creative with shelf placement and refresh my space with a new paint color. The high shelf above my kitchen has become one of my favorite features in my space; it’s allowed me to create an organic separation between my kitchen and living room.
Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY also happens to be a renter friendly one! I completely revamped my bathroom cabinet with some contact paper and sheets of rattan. When I moved in the cabinet was a finished gray color, because I prefer warmer tones, I knew I wanted to change it. Replacing it wasn’t an option so I opted for a faux wood contact paper; I covered the entire cabinet, which instantly transformed it. I used sheets of rattan to fill the panels on the cabinet doors and voila! It’s now a warm, inviting, earth-toned cabinet that complements everything else in the room.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I have always found it so special how the light pours in from my west-facing windows. It was such a huge part as to why I chose this apartment and it never ceases to amazes me when the sun bounces off the objects in my home. In the evening when the sun is setting it’s like my apartment comes to life, everything glows and radiates a beautiful energy. I like to think of it as my home recharging itself every evening!
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? My favorite pieces tend to be the ones I’ve found at flea markets and thrift stores. There’s something so special about knowing the item was passed down and reused. There’s also a slight satisfaction knowing you’re the only one that has it, haha! My credenza and vanity desk were both found at a flea market and they are the most beautiful wooden furniture pieces; they add an element of mid-century modern style because of their tall legs and deep wood tones. Not to mention they were dirt cheap!
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: My favorite tip has always been to make use of both horizontal and vertical space; It can be easy to get stuck decorating in one direction and only considering the area that is at eye level. I like to make use of all the space; I say don’t be afraid to put a shelf up high above your door or hang plants vertically to maximize the space. You can also put things in unconventional spaces — like hanging plants right in your shower! Try adding texture with textiles; you can never have too different-styled blankets and pillows!
Does your home reflect your home country/city in any way? I would say my home does a better job at representing nature and Earth than it does representing my specific city. It does capture the wildlife of Canada though, because I incorporate the indigenous flowers and leaves; they are often scattered around my home. Some flowers are even framed on my wall. In the spring I put the blossoms in a vase and use them to style my space.
What are your favorite places to shop for home décor that can only be found in your country? My favorite Canadian-exclusive stores are Homesense, Structube, Indigo, and Canadian Tire. A lot of my favorite pots/planters were found at Homesense — they offer such a wider variety of furniture and home goods. My couch is from Structube, which is an impressive furniture shop with beautiful modern pieces. My wooden shower caddy is from Canadian Tire, which carries hidden gems within their hardware store. Indigo is a bookstore that also carries home items; they have beautiful pillows and blankets.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Don’t be afraid to do it yourself! Before moving into my home, I had never used a power tool. I quickly learned and now I consider myself pretty handy! The process of learning and using new tools is so satisfying, there is a great sense of accomplishment tied to your home when you know you’ve done everything yourself. Now whenever I see the shelves on my wall or the DIY bathroom cabinet — I’m reminded that I CAN do the things I once thought I wasn’t capable of. Along with learning new things comes the practice of patience. It takes a while for your house to become a home; Every step along the way is part of the process.