A 500-Square-Foot Rental Has the Dreamiest Sofas Found in an Alley

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Living room with exposed white brick wall, white shelf along entire wall, under TV, 2 white curved sofas, wood floor, round glass and gold coffee table, kitchen in background

Name: Olivia Huffman; roommate, Abby; and dog, Finn
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 500 square feet
Years lived in: 3.5 years; renting

A bar cart of collections

Olivia Huffman has been sharing this rental apartment with her roommate, Abby, and dog, Finn, for three-and-a-half years. She tells AT about her home: After graduating and moving back home to St. Louis, I was very ready for a change. That’s when I started daydreaming about moving to Chicago. It so happened that my cousin in Chicago, who lives in and manages a beautiful vintage building, had tenants who were about to move out. She agreed to take a risk on us and let me and my friend move in at a special cousin discounted rate. I had two months of rent saved up and no job, but I made the move. I started applying for marketing jobs and going on interviews, and in the meantime my cousin told me I could intern for her at the interior design firm she works at. That’s where I found my absolute passion and never looked back. In letting me move in to her building, my cousin Sarah changed my life forever and I am so grateful for her.

I’ve collected many beautiful pieces because of my job, but my favorite has to be my sofas. One day I was driving to work with Sarah, and I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye in the alley behind our office. I started freaking out and she pulled the car around back for us to investigate. I get out of the car and it’s pure euphoria. The dreamiest, curved clamshell sofas were sitting there in the alley. My cousin Sarah started taking pictures and videos because she knew they had to be mine. “You can’t separate twins, Liv,” she said. She was right! I had them taken to a reupholstery shop that day and picked out a fabric for my first project for myself.

I’ve collected many other pieces since then and now the time has come to move on to my own place. I will miss life in this beautiful building, filled with family and warm memories in the most perfect landing spot in Chicago.

As someone who loves to have fun, I definitely am drawn to colors and interesting shapes. I’ve always tried to go against the grain and stay true to myself so I also do that with my designs. I don’t like anything that fits into a standard, normal box. I love everything that’s curved or challenges the eye. I still strive to keep balance, though, so I’m trying to tone down the curves a notch. For color palette, I am drawn to a dusty, earthy palette of mauves, creams, pinks, and browns. In my future home, though, I’d love to have one or two rooms that challenge me creatively to do something that I normally wouldn’t — play with color, wallpaper, or a crazy stone.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or fewer: Collected, colorful, layered, comfortable.

What is your favorite room and why? I love my bedroom because it feels like me. The creamy nightstand with brass details with the mauve headboard make me so happy. I just bought a vintage painting that brings it all together. I’m in the process of having my two chiclet style chairs reupholstered in my fave fabric ever and then I’ll be set!

If Barbie moved out of her dream house into her own apartment.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I just found two free swivel chairs on Facebook Marketplace and decided to give them a new life! I found fabric for cheap from a local Chicago vintage dealer and had them reupholstered. I’m trying to sell them, but they’re so cute they may have to stick around a bit longer.

My piggie bank savings will go to a real Eny Lee Parker sconce and a vintage Murano lamp.

Any advice for creating a home you love? In an era where instant gratification is so huge, I think my best advice when creating a home would be to curate it slowly. People my age are so comfortable with ordering furniture on Amazon or Wayfair that they’ll get in days, but in a year it won’t make them happy anymore. I find it much more satisfying to invest in pieces that will grow with you. Take one thing at a time and replace it, and you’ll have your dream space before you know it. If you pass on buying things that just do the trick, you’ll be on the way to building a space you love.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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