A Couple’s Small Toronto Apartment Is Whimsical, Romantic, and ‘Side-of-the-Road Chic’

published Oct 18, 2022

A Couple’s Small Toronto Apartment Is Whimsical, Romantic, and ‘Side-of-the-Road Chic’

published Oct 18, 2022
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Name: Lauren Park, partner Kevin, and cat siblings, Brutus and Malvolio
Location: Cabbagetown — Toronto, Canada
Type of Home: Second floor + attic studio
Size: 700 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, renting

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Lauren and her partner, Kevin, lucked out big time during their apartment search last year, scoring this cozy nook of an apartment in Toronto’s Cabbagetown, a neighborhood characterized by Edwardian-style century homes that are often very narrow. Lauren works in publishing, and her love of books is seen throughout the space. She has managed to create a warm and inviting atmosphere using candles, lamps, textured textiles, and trinkets. When you are there, it is the kind of space that makes you want to brew a nice cup of tea, grab a book, and curl up on the sofa with the cats, Brutus and Malvolio.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Whimsical, romantic, side-of-the-road chic

Inspiration: I work in book publishing and am happiest in the thrall of an offbeat, inviting story — our home, to me, is an extension of that feeling. Fairy tales, period dramas, and fantasy novels have all lent imagination to this space. I feel inspired among rich jewel tones like emerald green and plum, and have put up a fairy light canopy in every place I’ve lived — I like to make my inner child happy!

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

I’m obsessed with the Facebook group Weird (And Wonderful) Secondhand Finds That Just Need To Be Shared, which ignited my love for home decor thrifting. And I follow a lot of interior creators on Instagram and TikTok — some favorites include Brigette Muller, Natalie Wong, Clare Sullivan, Kaytuc, The Victorian Octagon, and Honey I Dressed The Pug.

Favorite Element: My favorite thing about our apartment is that the vast majority of it is secondhand — mostly from Facebook Marketplace, plus thrift stores and the curb. One of our neighbors likes to leave out classical art for the taking, and we scored a massive framed print of Piero di Cosimo’s “Perseus Freeing Andromeda,” a little worse for wear but a huge conversation starter. My all-time luckiest score would have to be our Lenox Spice Village from the ’80s! Looking around at our home often brings back that rush of wonder and surprise at a good find. 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Biggest Challenge: I bring the vision and thrift finds, and Kevin is the plant dad, DIY expert, and logistical mastermind. Together we’ve creatively dealt with challenges — in this case, I was set on a vintage sofa, but the entrances to our unit were too narrow to fit bulky furniture through. We ended up securing it with rope, grabbing a couple friends, and hoisting it up to our second-floor balcony!

Since our apartment is all open-concept, our current greatest challenge is how to keep screaming cats out of the bedroom while we sleep. Any tips welcome! 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Proudest DIY: Kevin can take all the credit for this one — he built me this reading nook by the bedroom window as an anniversary present. His parents upholstered the foam cushion, which is now our cats’ nap spot of choice. And since bedroom space is quite limited, the nook doubles as a bench for his piano keyboard, which is hidden inside! 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Favorite Budget Hack: I’m always singing the praises of Facebook Marketplace, but picking up large furniture might not seem feasible for city dwellers who don’t drive. Taskrabbit to the rescue for small hourly jobs! We found our headboard and couch online for nearly free, at opposite ends of the suburbs, but had no way of picking them up ourselves. For a fraction of the cost of buying new or renting our own moving van, a freelance mover made both pickup stops and brought them to our door.

I also follow Stooping Toronto, an Instagram account that reposts locations of free curb finds for people to go grab!

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Our bathroom might be the most unique part of the apartment — between the stone walls, slanted ceiling, and mirrors opening up the space, I feel like I’m in an enchanted cottage. And the blue lightbulb is always a hit at house parties!

We’ve also turned our attic balcony into a movie theatre, with a pull-down projector screen and lots of twinkling lights, and Kevin DIYed a retractable pergola canopy so we can hang out there rain or shine! 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Storage can be as beautiful and inspiring as it is functional! Our place is open concept and short on storage space, so minimizing clutter was a challenge. We covered up open shelving with a curtain and styled an eye-catching Art Deco dresser as the focal point of the living room. White woven baskets in the living room help us keep cables and cat toys out of the way, and for organizing paper odds and ends, I have decorative boxes disguised as books. Also, under-bed wheelie containers are game-changers.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Don’t let renting stop you from investing emotionally in your space! You deserve to feel warm, cozy, and peaceful in your home, so figure out what brings you joy and fill ever corner with it to whatever extent you can. Soft ambient lighting, plants, and lots of pillows to sink into totally transform the mood of a room without leaving a trace. Ceiling medallions and stick-on moulding are budget-friendly ways to achieve vintage charm and can be easily removed. For gallery walls, I like to mix a lot of shapes and textures and bring in the unexpected in the form of something living. Above all, sentimental objects should be enjoyed, so put out the nice tableware, light the candles, and don’t wait until tomorrow to use your lovely things! 


Credit: Lauren Kolyn


Credit: Lauren Kolyn


  • Vintage couch — Facebook Marketplace 
  • Round plum rug — Facebook Marketplace 
  • Emerald seashell chair — Facebook Marketplace, but Wayfair has similar 
  • 1980s Art Deco gold shelf — Rainbows & Retro
  • Art Deco dresser — Facebook Marketplace, we repainted 
  • Mirror — Structube (Anthropologie Gleaming Primrose dupe!)
  • Wood coffee/side table set — The curb 
  • Wood ladder desk — Facebook Marketplace, we re-stained
  • Light fixture — Structube (sold out)
  • Ceiling medallion — Home Depot
  • Wood appliqués on balcony doors — Ekena Millwork
  • Tea station wall shelves — Facebook Marketplace 
  • Electric fireplace — HOMCOM from The Bay
  • Cream pintuck and plum pillows — Wayfair (sold out)
  • Geode coasters — Hearts and Crafts Decor on Etsy
  • Book boxes — Les Trois Tours
  • White woven baskets — Homesense
  • Typewriter — 1940s Royal Magic Margins (her name is Foxy!)
  • Vintage candlestick holders — Margot Joan on Etsy, and Facebook Marketplace
  • Candle tray — IKEA
  • Vintage milk glass/ceramic bud vase collection — Facebook Marketplace, Value Village, and the curb 
  • Tea tin collection — Sloane Tea via Facebook Marketplace
  • White 1980s lamp — Facebook Marketplace
  • Moon tealight holder – Handmade by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Macneal!
  • Tudor house plant pot — Painted by my sister (our cats are in the windowsill!)
  • “Read More Books” print — TheQuoteHouse on Etsy
  • Vintage wallpaper ad — ​Old Book and Paper Show
  • Cat tree — Facebook Marketplace, but Wayfair has similar
Credit: Lauren Kolyn


  • Folding table — IKEA 
  • Wicker chairs — IKEA
  • Solar-powered paper lantern string lights — IKEA
Credit: Lauren Kolyn


  • Dining table — IKEA, we re-stained
  • Dining chairs —Structube via Facebook Marketplace
  • Mason jar light fixture — Our landlord!
  • Bookshelves — IKEA
  • Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco art — the curb
  • Vintage vases on bookshelf — Facebook Marketplace and the curb 
  • Plum wheelie bench — Facebook Marketplace
  • Litter box — Petmate Booda Dome 
Credit: Lauren Kolyn


Credit: Lauren Kolyn


Credit: Lauren Kolyn


Credit: Lauren Kolyn


  • Headboard — Facebook Marketplace 
  • Dresser — Facebook Marketplace, we replaced knobs
  • Nightstand — IKEA, we replaced knob
  • Reading nook — built by Kevin! 
  • Bedspread — Amazon 
  • Sheet set— Amazon 
  • Weighted blanket — Silk & Snow 
  • Various mirrors — Facebook Marketplace
  • Lamp — Facebook Marketplace 
  • Pressed flower frame — Facebook Marketplace
  • Floating wall shelf — IKEA (sold out) 
  • Decorative initial books — Penguin Drop Caps
  • Jewelry holder — Urban Outfitters (sold out)
  • Beehive candle — Candle by the Hour 
  • Vintage wall candle sconces — Facebook Marketplace
  • Vintage letter holder — Facebook Marketplace
  • Vintage bud vases — Facebook Marketplace and the curb 
  • Vintage pillar candle holders — Facebook Marketplace 
  • Candle dome cloche — Yummi Candles 
  • Nook throw pillows — Simons (sold out)
  • Nook throw blanket — Simons 
  • Vintage gold tray — Value Village
Credit: Lauren Kolyn


  • Reclining chair — Facebook Marketplace
  • Sofa chairs — IKEA
  • Folding table — IKEA
  • Outdoor rug — Safavieh, sold out but this is similar
  • Outdoor star light curtain — IKEA
  • Solar-powered paper lantern string lights — IKEA
  • Solar-powered fairy lights — Amazon 
  • Tablecloth — TheInJoyBoutique on Etsy
  • Table lantern — IKEA (sold out)
  • Plant hangers — Facebook Marketplace

Thanks Lauren!

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