Before and After: A Renter Remodeled Her Home on a Budget

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Katherine, one roommate, and a three-legged cat, Baby, live in this 800-square-foot rented Austin home. (Image credit: Eyes of Texas Properties)

Name: Katherine, one roommate, and a three-legged cat, Baby
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 800 square feet
Years Lived In: 3 years, renting

My apartment occupies a single unit in a quaint four-plex on a gorgeous residential street just west of downtown Austin. I was lucky enough to discover it on Craigslist, and rushed to see the rental and to meet the tight-knit community of residents who’ve lived there for years. Needless to say, I was sold, and I rented it that very same day.

Originally, the 1948 complex was used as military housing, and when I moved in, the apartment still had that understated, no-frills charm, but had been through decades of disjointed updates by the various tenants. Throughout my gradual remodel, I always aimed to stay true to the simple and straightforward nature of the apartment while layering in elements of color, texture, and pattern to achieve a modest yet rich look and feel.

Ultimately, I take the most pride in the resourcefulness of my design. Virtually every piece in the apartment was found on Craigslist, eBay, or sitting on the curb for free. I was also able to support worthy nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill by shopping for furniture, decor, and remodel supplies in their stores. I even got to incorporate pieces I built myself as well as my own original artwork throughout the space. In the end, no single item cost over $100. Not only was the remodel financially economical, but it also felt important to furnish the space responsibly and sustainably. There can be so much waste when establishing a new home, and I find comfort in the fact that not only was I able to avoid a lot of that waste, but I was able to breathe new life into pieces that would have otherwise been thrown out. I think people believe that they will only be able to create their ideal home when they have more money or resources, but I feel strongly that my apartment shows that good design can be accessible at any stage.

A friend recently told me that I took on this project “bravely and independently,” and I hope that my apartment expresses a kind of confidence that is different from high-budget designs. Of course it’s great to have access to all of the best materials and products, but to me, there is something so rewarding about looking at the finished product and knowing that I didn’t sacrifice anything aesthetically even though the space was put together with recycled items. I’ve been empowered through this process to know that I can create a beautiful space entirely on my own.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Adaptable. I think every space has different design needs so I don’t personally feel drawn to one style over another. The space knows what it wants or needs to be, so rather than imposing a specific look I like to respond to the environment and create from there. That being said, I like to remain playful and open to experimentation in my own home.

Inspiration: I really just took inspiration from all of the treasures I found along the way. Each one sparked excitement in me, and often led me to my next project.

Favorite Element: My desk. I built it as my final project when I apprenticed with a furniture maker, and it reminds me of a turning point in how I thought about design and myself as an artist.

Biggest Challenge: Storage. I often go through the apartment and donate things that aren’t used or don’t add to the enjoyment of the place. I’d rather have less stuff than more storage—except when it comes to clothes and shoes! I added an entire wall of IKEA wardrobes and customized the closet so I don’t have to sacrifice fashion.

Proudest DIY: Probably the bar in my dining room. It was the project that really gave me a run for my money, and I almost gave up quite a few times.

Biggest Indulgence: Living room chairs. I paid $100/each for them on Craigslist. It’s also no surprise that my cat, Baby, has taken them over as his thrones and uses them more than any human has.

Best Advice: Don’t take anything too seriously. Just have fun and fill your space with things that make you feel good.


Walls: Behr — Polar Bear
Kitchen Floor and Counters: Behr — Satin Black
Dining Chairs: Benjamin Moore — Oasis Blue
Bedroom Side Table: Benjamin Moore — Gulf Shores

Rug — paktraders (Ebay)
Record Console — Vintage (Craigslist)
Lamp — Vintage (thrifted)

Peggy Sofa — West Elm (Craigslist)
Pillows — IKEA (thrifted)
Rug — Vintage (Craigslist)
Shelves — IKEA (Craigslist)
Lamp — Vintage (thrifted)
Chairs — Unbranded (Craigslist)
Coffee Table — Flat file cabinet
Credenza — Vintage (thrifted)
Rugs — paktraders (eBay)
Light Fixture — Habitat for Humanity Restore
Curtains — IKEA
Mannequin Legs — Hawkins Furniture Company
Blanket Basket — HomeGoods
Blankets — Hawkins Furniture Company and Room Service Vintage

Table — West Elm (Craigslist)
Dining Chairs — West Elm (Craigslist)
Bar — Vintage (Craigslist)
Rug — paktraders (eBay)
Light Fixture — Vintage (thrifted)
Art — Tin ceiling tiles (thrifted)

Rug — Tuesday Morning
Cabinet Hardware — Home Depot

Desk — Hawkins Furniture Company
Shelves — IKEA (Craigslist)
Pendants — IKEA
Storage Cabinet — IKEA (thrifted)
Chair — Vintage (thrifted)
Quilt — Room Service Vintage
Pillows — Bed Bath & Beyond
Rug — Hawkins Furniture Company
Wardrobes — IKEA (Craigslist)
Curtains — IKEA

Rug — Tuesday Morning
Shower Curtain — Target

Thanks, Katherine!

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