Name: Michael & Mandy, author of the craft blog Fabric Paper Glue
Location: Arlington — Virginia
Size: 608 square feet
Years lived in: 3
Mandy and Michael overcame the monetary restrictions of being grad students and the architectural limitations of their condo's 1980's construction, to create a stylish livable home. Their place is a blend of mid-century cool, sprinkled with a few southern details and a dash of asian treasures. Somehow, it's all tied together by Mandy's impeccable eye for color and composition.
Mandy and Michael's place is just like them, adorable. Both are Nashville transplants who came to the DC area for grad school and decided to stick around. Michael is a criminal defense lawyer and Mandy works as an analyst for Health and Human Services (HHS).
When asked about her sources of inspiration, Mandy says she isn't sophisticated enough to name a designer. Mandy is that rare type of person who has an innate talent and passion for design, but lacks that pretentious false modesty so often encountered. She is energetic and earnest, which is perfectly balanced against Michael's more laid back, practical attitude. She says things have to pass a Michael test of usefulness before they can be integrated into the condo.
Mandy and Michael laugh about their multiple battles over whether or not they need more accent pillows. Michael believes accent pillows are pointless and a nuisance. He says his threshold for design is "practicality." However, there are quite a few accent pillows on their sofa, so it's safe to say Mandy ultimately won this fight. It's these small details, like the graphic houndstooth pillows, that helped fabricate this well-designed home out of a former rental unit, devoid of character.
Michael is very appreciative of Mandy's efforts to transform their outdated condo. He says when they moved the condo needed some major refurbishing, but he only put in about 8 hours of work. He proudly states it was Mandy that painted the rooms, installed the kitchen floor, painted the kitchen cabinets, replaced the hardware, regrouted the bathroom and changed all the light fixtures. Even though Mandy is sprightly, she is quite handy around the house. She credits her father for instilling her confidence and competence.
She says when she was younger, he owned rental property and would do all of his own maintenance. "He would bring me along so I always thought everything related to your home, you could do yourself," she says. Mandy's optimistic attitude and old fashioned elbow grease really paid off. Their cheery Arlington condo exudes southern hospitality, while maintaining a sophisticated (regardless of what Mandy says) modern edge.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Ikea chic? We are aiming for eclectic modern, but we're not there yet. When we moved in 3 years ago, we didn't have real-life furniture so we went to Ikea and bought everything at once. Now, we're trying to cycle in new things, but we're waiting until we can afford nice things. Baby step upgrades.
Inspiration: I'm afraid I'm not sophisticated enough to name a designer. Our inspiration comes mainly from magazines and blogs. I developed an addiction to HGTV that got out of control. Then I discovered Apartment Therapy. It was one of the first home design blogs I got into. I googled small space solutions and Apartment Therapy was the first site to pop up. Then I started tagging designs from Martha Stewart and Better Homes and Gardens. Then there are always the pictures from Anthropologie.
Favorite Element: It might sound strange, but my favorite element is the small space. I actually like that we live in a small condo because it forces us to pare down and only buy what we need. When we buy new things, we have to get rid of other things. We can only keep the things that are truly meaningful to us. It also forces us to be creative.
Biggest Indulgence: We really don't spend that much money. If I had to choose, it would be the fabric on the chair in the living room. It's actually an Ikea Tullsta Chair that was originally navy blue. Then I saw this Thomas Paul yellow and white print fabric online and just went for it. I bought 3 or 4 yards, thinking this is so expensive and I don't know how to reupholster furniture. Instead of reupholstering, I decided to sew a custom slipcover to put over the chair.
Biggest Challenge: Space is part of the challenge. The main issue is that our condo used to be a rental unit. You can tell because the architecture is uninteresting and very boxy. The apartments were converted to condos in the 80's, and 80's construction is pretty boring. Although, in once sense, it was nice because everything was white. We put paint on the walls and tried to do what we could, but Michael was in school and I had just graduated, so we didn't have a lot of money to make changes.
What Friends Say: They say it looks like legitimate people live here. Almost like grown-ups. Possibly productive members of society.
Biggest Embarrassment: The lighting in the kitchen is awful. Also, I hate the countertops, but we don't have the money to bring in contractors.
Proudest DIY: I love the Thomas Paul chair. I think it adds a lot to the room. I also painted the cabinets and installed the floor in the kitchen. I was pretty proud of the floor because I'd never done anything like that before.
Best Advice: Read a lot of blogs. Also, expect that you can't achieve the home you want overnight, because I tried. Especially if you want an eclectic home, you have to be patient. That's ironic for me to say because I'm not even a little bit patient.
Dream Source: I wish I was the kind of person who had the time to go to flea markets and thrift stores, but I'm not. You have to get there really early. All the good stuff sells quickly.
RESOURCES OF NOTE:
• Shade: made by Mandy.
• Ceramics on Window: made by Friend
• Most Kitchen Supplies: Ikea
• Bedroom Suite: Graduation present from Michael's parents.
• Bedspread: Target
• Lumbar Pillows: made by Mandy
• Sconces above Bed: Z Gallerie
• Side Tables: Ikea
• Lingerie Chest: Target, revamped by Mandy.
• Vases on Lingerie Chest: Ikea
• Framed Collection of Prints: Frames from Ikea, pictures taken by Mandy or family.
• Curtains: Brown fabric from Bed Bath and Beyond, velvet fabric from World Market, sewn by Mandy.
• White Mirror: Goodwill refurbished by Mandy.
• Silver Lamp and Vase on Dresser: Home Goods
• White Chair: Goodwill refurbished by Mandy using Amy Butler fabric.
• Van Gogh Print: Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
• Ceramic Elephant: Ross
• Prints and Shower Curtain: Out of Business Art Store Georgetown.
• Bento Box: Family gift from Japan.
Images: Susan Mitchell Blavin
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