This Philadelphia Rental Has Rustic Brick, Vintage Finds, Tons of Plants, and One Seriously Cute Cat

This Philadelphia Rental Has Rustic Brick, Vintage Finds, Tons of Plants, and One Seriously Cute Cat

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Square feet
Sq ft

Name: A couple and their incredibly cute cat, Stella
Location: Old City, Philadelphia
Size: 1024 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, rented

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Our home is a loft-style apartment situated in the heart of Old City, Philadelphia’s most historic neighborhood. When we started hunting for an apartment in this area, we knew we were looking for something with a lot of character and a history of its own. The unit’s arched windows, exposed beams, and rustic brick were just the charm we were looking for, and the building’s location couldn’t be beat—just steps away from art galleries, cozy cafes, and the nation’s oldest residential street.

In addition to wanting an apartment with a heavy dose of character, we had two other important requirements: space for entertaining and enough natural light to support a small jungle’s worth of house plants. By dividing the large living space into two distinct seating vignettes, we were able to create discrete zones. The seamless integration of living and dining space, aided by the galley kitchen’s large cut-through, allows us to foster a sense of togetherness as we prepare dinner and drinks or clean up after a meal. To create more division and privacy for our bedroom area, we hung floor-length curtains in front of the partition wall, which also provides a nice, airy backdrop for the bar.

Credit: Carina Romano

The apartment’s south-facing windows were a huge draw, and our plant collection has thrived here! We always knew plants would be the primary decor feature when we thought about what our home would look like and how we would blend our individual design styles into one. A lot of our design choices—from the dark green velvet couch to the warm woods and metals throughout—were made with them in mind. To maximize the ratio of plants to square footage, we repurposed an IKEA clothes rack as a plant stand and we made our own macrame hangers to take advantage of the abundance of vertical space. We were recently inspired by another Apartment Therapy house tour to purchase beaker vases to create a “propagation station” on the wall by our desk. Using current plants to make more plants is the best hack we can offer readers!

Credit: Carina Romano

My Style: Mid-century minimal, plant-maximal, lightly transitional

Inspiration: Museums and galleries, libraries and books, architecture, historic homes

Favorite Element: Probably the character of the apartment itself: exposed beams, unique windows, and rustic, imperfect brick walls. These are the elements that really sold us on the unit and the style we created was built with the bones of the place in mind.

Credit: Carina Romano

Biggest Challenge: Blending two distinct design styles. When strategizing about the vibe of our new home, we compromised by figuring out which design features we were both drawn to: rich textures, natural wood, warm metallics, and the occasional pop of color or vintage flair. Focusing on what we liked in common toned down the extremes of our individual styles: sleek, modern minimalism on the one side and anything dark, dusty, and Victorian on the other. The end result has elements of major design trends like mid-century while being fully reflective of us as a couple.

Credit: Carina Romano

Proudest DIY: The live-edge coffee table! As we were taking stock of the pieces we would need to collect before moving in together, we initially had a difficult time agreeing on the right style of coffee table for our space. We stumbled across some unfinished live-edge slabs at an antique shop in Old City (Jules Goldman Books & Antiques) and realized we could make our own. We shaped and finished the slab ourselves, and the black legs with brass feet were a custom order from Etsy. We love the way it turned out and think it perfectly complements the other pieces in the space.
It’s hard to pick just one favorite DIY though, because a lot of elements in our home were updated, repurposed, or made entirely by us. The lockers we use as a pantry were sourced at a yard sale and completely refinished, and the mirror above the fireplace was a sidewalk rescue that we cut and framed ourselves. We’ve also made several of our own couch pillows and chair cushions and pieces of art, like the large quilted piece in the bedroom and the various cross stitches found throughout.

Credit: Carina Romano

Biggest Indulgence: The dark green, American-made, velvet couch from Grossman Furniture. We think it was totally worth it and we feel like it represents the perfect blending of our individual styles. We searched for a couch with a classic mid-century shape to pair with dark velvet fabric for a moodier, luxurious feeling.

Best Advice: At the risk of sounding cliche—don’t rush to buy. Take the time to shop a variety of places, buy the best quality you can afford, and make sure it’s something you really love. While you can certainly find popular go-tos like IKEA and CB2 in our home, we try to find alternative sources whenever we can, creating things ourselves or giving older pieces a second life. Everywhere you look in our home you’ll find something vintage or secondhand—our mid-century credenza was a shocking Craigslist find. We try to approach design in a considered way, giving each item careful thought, minimizing waste where we can, and making sure we surround ourselves with pieces that are meaningful. That, and you can never have too many plants!

Credit: Carina Romano

What’s your best home secret? If you have a feline friend—and the space/landlord approval—consider fitting one of your closets with a cat door! We were lucky in that a previous tenant had installed one in a large utility closet, and we were able to stow our cat’s food, water, and litter box all out of sight.


Credit: Carina Romano


  • Dorset Sofa by Rowe — Grossman Furniture
  • Copper ribbed pillow — CB2
  • Blue pinwheel pillow — DIY
  • Red wool blanket — Hudson’s Bay Co, found at The People’s Store
  • Live-edge table — DIY, slab from Jules Goldman Books & Antiques
  • Wool rug — Retrospect Vintage
  • Credenza — Craigslist
  • Plant hanger — IKEA
  • Philadelphia pennants — United by Blue
  • Screenprint flag — Robert Indiana, “Untitled Flag,” inherited
  • Woodcut map — @PhillyLoveNotes
  • Nude Top planter — Group Partner
  • Playing card poster — Galerie Graglia (Beaune, France)
  • Federal mirror — Thrifted at Cherry Street Pier
  • Forest scene cross stitch — DIY
  • Marble-base arc lamp — Secondhand
  • Vintage file cabinet — Beaux Arts Vintage
  • Reproduction Harry Bertoia Side Chairs — Philly AIDS Thrift
  • Side Chair cushions — DIY
  • Brass shell bookends — Retrospect Vintage
  • Framed mirror — DIY
  • Desk — IKEA DIY and Multitable
  • Desk chair — d-Scan Teak Dining Chair from Jinxed
  • Illustrated screenprint — Vertigo Galleria (Mexico City)
  • Beaker wall vases — CB2
Credit: Carina Romano


Table — Handcrafted by Brooke Kauffman
Chairs — KI Xylon Stack Chair from The People’s Store (Lambertville, NJ)
Bar — Handcrafted by Brooke Kauffman
Large watercolor painting — Purchased at the Pancakes & Booze Art Show, Underground Arts
Philadelphia skyline cross stitch — DIY
Hansens is — Mælk, print by Mads Berg – L’Affichiste Vintage Poster Gallery

Credit: Carina Romano


  • Vintage locker — Found at a yard sale, finished, and painted by us


  • Bed Frame — IKEA
  • White, cotton woodgrain duvet — West Elm
  • Tommy Bahama print pillow — DIY
  • Chair — IKEA
  • Abstract quilt art — DIY
  • Shad Fest Poster — Illustration by Scott MacNeill
  • Abstract digital painting on silk — Stuart Lehrman