A Small Illinois Rental Has Historic Charm and Budget Decor Tricks

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Bedroom with pink blanket at the bottom of the bed and colorful pillows
Credit: Hannah Conklin
The bedroom, featuring my childhood bed frame and my favorite Facebook Marketplace find of all time — the arched mirror for $20.

Name: Hannah Conklin
Location: DeKalb, Illinois
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 750 square feet
Years lived in: 10 months, renting

Credit: Hannah Conklin
The living room, my favorite spot (and my plants’ favorite spot) in the apartment. The multicolored pillow from the Target Jungalow collection brings together many of my featured colors.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I’m a graduate student living in a college town about an hour west of Chicago. The building was built around the 1890s I believe, and I’m nothing short of in love with its historic character. The charm of the tall ceilings and sunny bay windows makes me feel like I’m living on the set of a rom-com, and I definitely wanted to cultivate that kind of story with my decor choices.

Credit: Hannah Conklin
The view into the bedroom from the living room. The rug is actually two IKEA rugs put together — the seam is barely noticeable under the bed, and it creates a nearly 9’x13’ rug for $60!

On the salary of a teaching assistant, it was important to me to be as resourceful as possible in furnishing and styling this place. Much of what you’ll see in the apartment was thrifted somewhere in the Midwest, handed down from a family member, or rescued from the side of the road.

Credit: Hannah Conklin
The dining room, which houses the most complimented item in the apartment — the vintage theater seats from an old Ohio high school auditorium sourced from Craigslist.

It’s been a work-in-progress since I moved in, and since I’m graduating and moving out, it finally feels “complete” to me.

Credit: Hannah Conklin
The desk corner in my living room with a view into the bedroom. A secondhand desk and a chair rescued from my parent’s basement make the perfect spot for any online classes or meetings.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Thrifty, cozy, whimsical

Credit: Hannah Conklin
The view into the living room from the dining room. This view with the archway and bay windows is the reason I signed the lease immediately!

What is your favorite room and why? I’m a big fan of the living room with its ten feet tall, south-facing bay windows. Such abundant natural light streams in that it often feels like a greenhouse by late afternoon. This makes it a very happy home for my ever-growing family of houseplants.

Credit: Hannah Conklin
The bedroom seating nook with a view into the living room, a cozy spot to read and soak in the apartment’s historic charm.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? Googly eyes?! I recently bought a small pack of googly eyes from Michael’s and gave some personality to a few plants in plain terracotta pots. I’m all about tiny purchases that boost the playful factor of my apartment — several small disco balls from Party City, a little vase shaped like a cowboy boot from Goodwill, and so on.

Credit: Hannah Conklin
The kitchen, simple yet functional. The open shelving helps me cope with the lack of dishwasher!

Any advice for creating a home you love? Be sentimental! It’s okay! Dig through boxes to find old family photographs, and get prints of new ones. Keep that scrap of paper that means something to you or that cool rock you picked up years ago. I even keep an old DC Metro card on display because it reminds me of the year I lived there and friends I adore! My memory-minded approach to decorating has helped me create a sense of home and a reminder to cherish the sentimentality of the present.

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