A Small San Francisco Apartment Is a Master Class in Adding Color and Personality to a Rental


A Small San Francisco Apartment Is a Master Class in Adding Color and Personality to a Rental

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
House tour cover

Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox

Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter

Name: Amanda and Drew
Location: Mission District, San Francisco, California
Size: 900 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years lived in: 7 years, renting

Originally from North Carolina, Amanda didn’t have the easiest time finding a place to live when she first moved to San Francisco seven years ago. “I found an Airbnb with a one-month lease and moved in,” she says of her first place. “The hosts had their parents visiting while I stayed. To my horror, I left my furnished bedroom in the morning and had to gently step over and around the elderly parents who slept on the floor in the living room between my room and the exit.”

That experience motivated Amanda to find a more permanent, less-crowded place, and she says she sent out messages to 100 apartment listings on Craigslist… and only got one reply back, from a “two-bedroom” apartment in the Mission District in San Francisco. “The couple I met there wanted the master bedroom, and for their prospective roommate to live in the ‘office’ with no closet or window… And they wanted to split the rent 50/50! I became desperate. Luckily, another couple had also attended that same apartment showing. As we were leaving, I chased them down on the sidewalk and asked if they had a better strategy. They said they had only written to one apartment (the one we were at) and that they actually had an apartment where they needed a roommate! Talk about kismet!”

Amanda shared this apartment with those sidewalk-kismet roommates for five years, and her boyfriend-now-husband eventually moved in. The roommates bought a house and moved out, but Amanda and her hubby still call this rental home! I had published a teeny peek of their home awhile ago in a house call, but her home’s story is too rich with detail and ideas to only be told in a few photos. The whole space is an amazing example of not letting a rental keep you from designing a home that expresses your personality. And how to add tons of color to a rental! It’s such an inspiring space, in fact, that Amanda’s found fame on Instagram sharing photos of her home decorating journey under the handle, @bohofrisco

“I started my instagram as a creative outlet from my super serious job as an attorney,” she explains. “I have found so much joy in sharing my colorful spaces with others and showing how you can make a rental as personal as any home and that a small space doesn’t limit how much fun you can have in your home!”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Colorful, Boho, Fun

Inspiration: I love decorating with plants and bringing the outdoors inside. I also like to use color to energize me when I’m home. I get a ton of inspiration from Pinterest, Instagram, and paper magazines! 

Favorite Element: I love the bay windows in the living room! It’s the best light, and the biggest room in the house so it’s a great place to spend the days. Especially now working from home it’s a great spot to sit and observe the neighborhood while working.

Biggest Challenge: The apartment is a shotgun style, so no two rooms are really connected (except the living room and the kitchen) and it’s made everything feel sort of disconnected.  It’s also a small space, so we have to be really picky with our décor choices. I realized that with a small space, and [few] windows that provide any natural light, the current trends of all neutrals just weren’t going to work for us. It just made the place feel drab. It wasn’t until we started adding bright colors and patterns that each room felt like a delight and instead of a place we rented, it started to feel like home. Also, adding multiple sources of light to every room was a critical move!

Proudest DIY: We just finished making our faux fireplace from scratch. It’s such a source of pride for us. We had very little experience with any tools prior to starting so it was so fun to overcome those fears and make something. Also, I love that we were able to add something to the apartment that truly feels custom.

Biggest Indulgence: A nice mattress! For the first five years we lived here, we lived in the current guest room. The biggest mattress that could fit in the room was a full. When we took over the lease in our apartment, the first thing my husband bought was a king-size mattress and yes, it was totally worth it! (But I didn’t realize at the time it also meant a new bed frame, all new sheets, and a new duvet, so don’t forget to factor those in your budget when you get a bigger bed!)

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Commit to a style. Everyone has lots of things that they love and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you will save a lot more money and energy if you pick a style and try to make it cohesive throughout your space. I’ve spent too much time in past trying to work industrial pieces with bohemian pieces and now I can just admire the industrial pieces and leave them behind! Also, try everything. Even if you’ve lived in your place for a long time or short time, just take a weekend and move it all around. You’d be shocked how often I move a chair to a new corner just to realize it was literally made for the space!



  • Bathroom — Sherwin-Williams HGTV “Sweety Pink”
  • Accent Wall — Benjamin Moore – “HC-158 Newberg Green”
  • All other walls are whatever my landlord chose


  • Couch — IKEA (Though the current color selection varies!)
  • Rug — Overstock
  • TV stand — Target
  • Desk — IKEA
  • Curtains — Target (2018)
  • Basket for plants — Target
  • Coffee table — Target
  • Shell pillows — Amazon



Barstools — Inmod


  • Bed frame — Wayfair, DIY project painting it
  • Nightstand — IKEA, Malm, with DIY project updates
  • Duvet Cover — Walmart
  • Curtains — Anthropologie
  • Chandelier — World Market


Thanks Amanda!

Share Your Style: