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Name: Bryce, my fiancé, Stefan, and our two kitties Cal Ripkitten Jr. and Edith
Location: Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
Size: 1060 square feet
Type of Home: Rowhome
Years lived in: 3 years, renting
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When Bryce and fiancé Stefan, a photographer, were looking for a place to move in together after meeting in Philadelphia, they chose the suburb of Conshohocken for a “slower lifestyle, more parking, and a yard.” Bryce is originally from Maine, but Stefan had lived in Conshohocken prior to moving to Philly, so the couple was familiar with the area and loved it. They chose to rent a historic 1920s rowhome, which while originally built during a charming era, was lacking in notable architectural details when Bryce and Stefan moved in.
“Our little rowhome was built in 1920, but somewhere along the way it went through a builder-grade renovation that stripped it of its original character,” Bryce writes. “The past few years I’ve been on a mission to inject some love and character back into the space. Most items in our home are thrifted or vintage and each carries a story and reminds me of various thrifting escapades (you would be surprised what you can fit into the back of a small sedan).”
“Our home has become such a place of comfort and, especially during the pandemic, has worn a lot of hats — it’s transformed into both of our workspaces, an at-home photography studio, a wood shop, a 5-star restaurant during” Chopped Challenge” Sundays, and most importantly, a sanctuary for our two cats Cal and Edith,” Bryce explains. “We both enjoy creative hobbies — Stefan is an incredible photographer and in my free time I love painting and working on DIY projects.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Maybe eclectic transitional? I’m drawn to a lot of different styles from mid-century to French country, “global eclectic”— you name it. I think renting is a good opportunity to play around with different styles to see what you like.
Inspiration: Instagram for DIY ideas and following both professional and hobbyist designers (Beata Heuman and @harrisvintage are favorites), Apartment Therapy (obviously!), and design/architecture books I find at thrift shops and estate sales. Estate sales are kind of strange in that you’re going shopping through someone else’s home, but I’ve been to so many beautiful, unique homes filled with inspiration.
Favorite Element: My favorite room in the house is probably our office. During the pandemic, we both switched to working full-time from home and needed to accommodate separate work areas. We ended up turning our guest bedroom into a home office and I love being in there. It has a few of my favorite pieces — the vintage portraits I found at estate sales, a little vase that my grandfather got in Japan, and two great vintage chair finds. I also love our bright tangerine hallway. It’s energizing and great to wake up to in the morning.
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge has probably been the things we cannot change since we don’t own our home… specifically, THE CARPETS! The brown carpeting upstairs has been my biggest grievance since living here. I’ve covered some of it with area rugs but man, it’s an eyesore. The rowhome layout has also been a major challenge since it doesn’t allow for a lot of natural light and it can be tough to layout furniture. The staircase bisects the living and dining rooms and figuring out how to arrange furniture in our small, dark living room in a functional way was a big challenge.
Proudest DIY: The DIY I’m most proud of is probably re-painting the kitchen cabinets and replacing all the hardware only because I never thought the project would end. Halfway through I was thinking, “Oh my god what have I gotten myself into.”
I think renting forces you to get creative with some DIY projects to make temporary changes to your space. I’ve used contact paper a bunch of things like upgrading the ugly white laminate vanity in the bathroom that came with the apartment and cladding our hood vent in the kitchen.
Biggest Indulgence: Probably 90 percent of our furniture is thrifted, from estate sales, or bought from Facebook Marketplace. Cost-wise, the biggest indulgence has been either the vintage secretary desk in our hallway or the vintage Milo Baughman table in our dining room. Space-wise, I think it’s the bookcases in our living room. I found them on Facebook Marketplace and they ended up being way too big for the space I originally had planned for them. I loved them so much that I had to make it work.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I think technically our living room is supposed to be the dining room and visa-versa, but we switched the layout upon moving in. The original layout didn’t really work with our lifestyle since the two rooms we use most are the living room and kitchen. Also, the closet situation is pretty bleak. Stefan has the closet in our bedroom to himself and I use half of the third floor as my closet. The other half is used for storage.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? It was actually a Christmas gift, but this is the first time in my life I’ve owned an electric kettle and I’m never going back! I also have used IKEA LACK floating shelving multiple areas in our house because they’re so easy to hang and inexpensive. A little tip — the trick to painting IKEA furniture is using Zinsser BIN primer first!
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: For small spaces like ours, getting creative with storage solutions and using furniture that doubles as storage has been helpful. I DIY’d our banquette seating benches in our dining room using cube storage units and some cushioned top boards I upholstered myself. They’re great because it adds a lot of seating and hidden storage. In our kitchen, we added a ton of storage with a vintage barrister bookcase and a kitchen island cart.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Take time to find furniture or pieces that you really love and don’t be afraid to play and make changes!