Name: Kory DeClark and Lindsey Cordova
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Size: 900 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Rented
When Kory and Lindsey moved to New Haven from Los Angeles, they had a tight budget and only a few items with which to furnish their new apartment. Even with those constraints, they were able to create a refreshing, inviting space. Their home is simple and spartan, but there is always an abundance of good company and delicious food.
Kory and Lindsey moved to New Haven in 2012 and only planned to stay a few years (in fact, they moved back to California this past summer). While they wanted a comfortable and stylish home, they didn’t want to invest in expensive furniture or collect a lot of stuff. Instead, they doggedly scoured used furniture stores and Goodwill and found several modern pieces. When the right piece eluded them, they figured out a creative solution (like the story of their custom dining room table described in the survey below).
The couple wanted a space where they could work and relax. Kory was in law school and Lindsey worked at Sandy Hook Elementary as a child trauma therapist, so they wanted their home to feel stress-free. They created zones in the living room for different activities: reading on the couch, studying at the desk, or sewing by the window. Since they spent most of their time in the living and dining rooms, they invested the most in those spaces. In the bedrooms, they kept things simple and spare. Their bedroom was pretty tiny, but the couple slept on a Japanese shiki futon, which got folded up and tucked in a corner each morning. The other rooms were used to host the friends and family who came through frequently.
Kory and Lindsey also love to entertain, and they often invited friends over for homemade vegan food. Their open and inviting home made a perfect setting for great conversation.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: We try to eliminate everything we don’t need, and to get maximum utility out of everything we do. We work in the apartment, so we don’t like clutter to distract us. If we don’t use it, we get rid of it.
Most of our furniture is minimal and functional—no frills, and only a few decorative flourishes. The sofas are comfortable, and we have plenty of seating for small group gatherings. We don’t have a TV. When we want to watch a movie, we take down the mirror in the main room and project the movie onto the wall behind it. And everything else—our stereo, printer, etc.—is run through wifi, so we don’t have unnecessary cords cluttering the walls.
Lindsey kept the color palette muted with the curtains, sofa, and rug in the living room. That allows the small bits of color we do have to pop. On the weekends, she gets fresh flowers and makes arrangements for different parts of the house. That adds purples, yellows, and reds to the space.
Inspiration: Mid-century modern, minimalism.
Favorite Element: High ceilings and big windows. We also love our dining table.
Biggest Challenge: We don’t have much money, so we had to take time to find things we liked at Goodwill and in the returned-furniture section at IKEA. It can be frustrating to dig through 100 pieces of furniture to find one thing you like, but it’s a lot of fun, too. Goodwill has amazing stuff if you’re willing to look for it.
What Friends Say: Friends generally comment on our dining table, which we use for big group meals once every couple weeks.
Biggest Embarrassment: It’s an old building, so dirt and dust hide in cracks and ridges we can’t clean well. Everything looks clean at first, but don’t look too close…
Proudest DIY: Our dining table.
We moved into our apartment in 2013. Having never had a dining room, we didn't have a dining table. We looked around, but quickly learned that even ugly, soulless tables are unbelievably expensive. IKEA seemed like a solution. But if you want to seat more than eight people—something that was important to us—then IKEA tables are expensive too, particularly if you have to buy extra chairs to go around them.
After giving up on both Craigslist and IKEA, we looked into building a simple table ourselves. We found this template from A Beautiful Mess for a beautiful DIY table that required only $300 in materials, and a weekend of work. That sounded like a good idea… for about 20 minutes, when we acknowledged that we didn’t have the proper tools and would probably mess it up, leaving us with no table and a $300 life lesson.
Then we had an idea: a picnic table. Picnic tables are big, fun to sit around, and cheap. So we looked online…. where we discovered we were wrong: decent picnic tables are expensive.
We were about to give up on having a dining table at all when we stumbled onto a homegrown furniture website. Steve, the owner, does IT work during the day, and makes furniture at night as a hobby. We told him what we were looking for: a really simple wooden table. Well, pretty simple. We wanted it to be square, seat between eight and twelve people, have thin legs, be light for its size, come apart for transport, have bench seating, and look urban. And we also needed it to cost less than all of the other tables we had seen so far, including the picnic table. Could he do it?
Yes he could.
We sent Steve pictures of a number of tables we liked so that he could see what we were going for. After that, we just let him do his thing, and told him that we'd be thrilled with whatever he produced.
We exchanged texts throughout the process, and three weeks later, Steve dropped our table off. It’s been a gathering place for our friends and families ever since.
Biggest Indulgence: Our Vitamix.
Best Advice: Get a Vitamix.
More generally, put your money where you spend your time and on things that work better at a higher price point. The things we’ve spent money on are kitchen tools, office chairs, and our couch. If it’s something you will use every day, then it’s worth spending the money on if it means more comfort and better functionality.
For us it’s also important to be able to really use our space. When you’re shopping, it can be easy to get caught up in what looks pretty in the showroom. But you don’t want to cringe every time a guest sits on your couch or sets a glass on your coffee table. We wanted our space to be inviting, not picture-perfect. And that meant choosing a combination of high quality pieces that will age well with wear, and inexpensive pieces we’re comfortable using and losing when the time comes.
Finally, if you’re a renter and move around every few years (like we do), we’d recommend investing in items that you will want long-term and will work well in any space. Our dining room required a table much bigger than we will probably have space for in the near future, so we set a moderate budget that we were comfortable with, knowing that we might not be able to use it again.
Dream Sources: Design Within Reach, MidCentury Mobler, Blu Dot, Thrive Furniture, Arne Jacobsen’s estate sale (if ever there were one).
- Sofa: IKEA as-is section
- Coffee table: IKEA
- Side chairs by bay window: local thrift store called Helping Hands
- Sewing table: IKEA
- Desk: antique drafting table from Kory’s grandpa
- Desk chairs: Steelcase Leap Stools found on Craigslist
- Small chest with books: Goodwill
- Larger chest: Goodwill
- Picnic table: custom-made by local furniture maker
- Benches: custom-made by local furniture maker
- Sofa bed: Urban Outfitters
- Clothing hanger: IKEA
Side table: IKEA
- Mattress: Japanese Futon Shop in Koreatown in Los Angeles
- Dresser: IKEA
- Bed: Craigslist
- Desk: Craigslist
- Bedside table: antique from Kory’s mom
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