A “Junk Chic” Home in Boston’s South End

A “Junk Chic” Home in Boston’s South End

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Samara Vise
Oct 20, 2016

Name: Christa Cardwell
Location: South End — Boston, Massachusetts
Size: 550 square feet
Years lived in: Rented 10 years

According to Christa Cardwell, her 550 square foot apartment in Boston's South End is full of junk. When asked to describe her style, she laughs. "Junk Chic? Is that a thing?"

Christa grew up in New England before moving to Austin, Texas, where she worked as a graphic designer. Christa's eye for shape, pattern and color shows through in her impressively arranged art collection. Many of the pieces are Christa's own works — collages made up of old mailers and advertisements, the stuff most people would have recycled (or thrown out). You know, the aforementioned junk. Other art comes from Christa's travels and relationships, from places like Rhode Island's Block Island, where she spent summers growing up.

It's often difficult to define one's design sensibility, and Christa's characterization of her own space seems a little brutal at first, especially since to any observer this is obviously not junk, but the furthest thing from it.

Sure, there's a lot of metal. Christa's friend made her the coffee table from scrap metal he repurposed from an Austin dump, and Christa's dining table was rescued from an Austin retail shop that went out of business in the 1990s. A cast iron donkey — purchased at a Connecticut junk shop as a good luck charm for the 2008 presidential campaign — stands guard at the door. Even Christa's proudest DIY, her pipe-fitting pot rack and sconces, are nothing but little hunks of metal. But with natural light from the apartment's high ceilings and the warm texture from the wood floors and exposed brick, the abundance of metal feels well-balanced and intentional. In contrast to the living and dining spaces, the bedroom feels airy and soft. After all, who wants to sleep on a metal slab?

Christa's been in her apartment for a decade, and actually said goodbye last month when she moved to a larger space she now shares with her boyfriend. Goodbyes are hard, but in an apartment that already houses mementos of Christa's life and travels, it's clear that Christa may be leaving the apartment, but its memory will never leave her.

Ancient Eygptians used to bury their loved ones with the objects that would protect and aid them in the afterlife. But what about this life? What about the things that make us laugh, or bring us a memory of an old friend or lover? We move through life, meet people, live in different places, and inevitably pick up "junk" along the way. We let some of it go, we take some of it with us. The beautiful, useful, sentimental or otherwise — our junk is a visual road map of our lives. So if this is junk, well, it's the best kind.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Junk Chic

Inspiration: Places I go. Things I see. People I meet.

Favorite Element: I love everything about this place. The high ceilings and windows, the view from my dining room table, my tiny kitchen and bathroom, the vines that grow up the sides of the building and the sounds of the city from my windows.

Biggest Challenge: Not a one.

What Friends Say: "Christa knows exactly how to turn a small space into a grand time. Parties of 15 feel like a hopping neighborhood scene. Passersby look up into the windows and wonder how to get invited. It's the South End at its best." — Greg, Christa's friend



Biggest Embarrassment: The cat-scratched sofas I've had through the years…(RIP Gorg and Zola)

Proudest DIY: Pipe-fitting wall sconces and pot rack.

Biggest Indulgence: Not much money was spent in gathering the furnishings here...until it came to framing some of my favorite pieces of art.

Best Advice: Take your time. Consider quality, function and versatility. Don't overspend on trend. Only splurge on pieces that you will still love when you're 100 years old.

Dream Sources: Flea Markets of NYC, Paris and LA. Estate sales in Houston's River Oaks neighborhood and Beverly Hills.

Thanks, Christa!


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