The Only Thing Better Than This Apartment’s Woodwork Is the Bold Color Throughout
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Name: India, Jerome, and lazy cat, Dorian
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Size: 1100 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years lived in: 1 year, renting
We loved Chicago but after a decade there, we realized that it no longer fit our needs. I’m a sucker for cheesy Hallmark rom-coms, and love how they always feature tight-knit communities, friendly, laidback shop owners (looking for love of course), and bustling town squares full of happy people. We wanted a taste of that — a decent, affordable apartment in a walkable neighborhood where we could relax, instead of constantly having to hustle to keep up. We’d fantasized about Cincinnati’s colorful architecture ever since we visited my sister there a few years ago, so when the time came, it was at the top of our list of places to go.
The moment we saw this apartment and neighborhood, we knew this was the place for us. It was the “Hallmark Life” we’d always wanted! Just a block away are shops, restaurants, a plaza with local events, and even a hardware store — the icing on the cake for me! We sit on the porch and wave to the neighbors as they walk by, go for hikes in the nearby woods, and can quickly walk to a local grocery store. The only thing missing is a 24 hour wing/pizza/chili dog/sandwich/Chinese restaurant! Given the location, this space is more than we could afford in Chicago, and the slower, laid-back pace is perfect for us! We see ourselves staying awhile, and dream of one day owning the building and turning it back into a single-family. I’ve already come up with floor plans, now we just need to win the lottery!
Random Fact: Our building was built as a single family home in 1900 and converted to a funeral home in the ’50s. The back stairs lift up for caskets, and there are still drains in the basement apartment where they did the embalming. Our unit is where they held the funerals; the home is currently converted into four units.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Bold color, clean lines, geometric shapes, color blocking, and random stuff that makes me smile!
Inspiration: The kids’ section (they have the coolest stuff), radical design, and “The Price is Right”! I grew up watching “The Price is Right” and always loved their colorful, bold set designs. We still watch it on the weekends and I’m always pausing to take pictures of the sets. My family also inspires me. My grandpa was in construction and passes his tools down to me. My sisters are both artists, my aunt always had the coolest, funkiest thrifted goods, and my mom is a Jill-of-all-trades who builds, paints, sews, and somehow knows how to make awesome stuff out of thin air. My family’s art and ceramics are throughout our apartment. It’s like having my own team of artists!
Favorite Element: Surprisingly, the kitchen! It’s the least “designed” space in the house, and the lack of storage makes it more cluttered than we’d like, but there’s something about that kitchen! It was the first room we walked into when we saw the apartment. We took one look and immediately said yes! We love bowling and had our wedding reception at an old-school bowling alley, so the fact that the counters are all made from alley lanes was PERFECT for us! I love the late ’80s remodel with the flat front-cabinets and can lights, and the giant hood makes us feel like we’re chefs running a restaurant kitchen!
Biggest Challenge: Storage and layout! The two floors, wide hallways, and spread out floorplan make this feel like a single-family, so we didn’t notice the lack of storage at first. We were so excited about those giant pocket doors and ornate details until I realized I couldn’t have furniture over five and a half feet long without blocking a doorway or running into a fireplace. Our only storage space is the built-in bookshelf and two small closets in our bedroom. Thankfully I like a challenge, and worked hard to find usable space to store everything without making it look like we live in a cabinet showroom. We share one bedroom closet and I use the other for my tools. The armoires and wall cabinets spread throughout the house hold everything from paint cans and wood scraps to guest sheets and my “Murder, She Wrote” DVD collection. The built-in bookcase behind the curtain in our bedroom guards the most popular Apt528 inventory. We built the TV console and window bench on top of the large, non-working radiators, and used the remaining space to add hidden storage. We also added extra cabinets to the kitchen since there were only two. It’s a work in progress and we still had to get a storage unit to hold the extra stuff, but we’re making it work!
Proudest DIY: The sock dispenser was the most fantastical project, but the mirror and earring display in our bedroom is by far my favorite DIY! I’m obsessed with accessories and have large collections of socks and earrings (and purses and tights) so having a fun way to display them was important to me. I spent a year talking about the mirror, drawing designs, and coming up with all sorts of complicated ideas. There were so many iterations that every week when my sister and I did our sketchbook video calls, she would start by saying, “let me guess, you’re drawing a mirror again?” Each idea was so different, but something about this last design just clicked! I sprained my ACL making it (apparently trying to sit on the floor becomes more difficult as you get older) but it was worth all the blood, sweat, and tears. It looks exactly like how I imagined it! Thanks to everyone who listened to me talk about mirrors for a year, and to my husband for helping me build it!
Biggest Indulgence: CURTAINS! They cost more than everything else in our apartment, combined! I’ve never known what to do with windows and usually do my best to ignore them, but in this house, that was impossible. I spent MONTHS obsessing over colors and fabrics and styles. I’m surprised Jerome didn’t divorce me over the curtain insanity! I never knew how much they cost until we moved here and had to buy a zillion sets of 10-foot curtains. Our apartments have been handmade, vintage, and DIY only for 15 years (excluding necessities like bedding and towels), but since we needed so many curtains and didn’t have a big budget, I had to break my no-big-box-store rule and buy them on Amazon. They were still expensive! I’m working on adding trim and cornices to customize the curtains so that my brain doesn’t scream “cheater!” every time I look at them.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? All these Victorian details! We’ve always lived in vintage apartments, but this one takes the cake! There are four giant pocket doors, windows everywhere, three beautiful fireplaces, original light fixtures, and THOSE STAIRS! Don’t even get me started on the entryway. The foyer walls and ceiling are all wood, plus the original tiled floor and stained glass double doors are still intact. It’s gorgeous! We fell in love with the woodwork when we looked at the place, but when it came time to design, it was intimidating. It took me awhile to find ways to honor the architecture while still making it work with my style. I’d like to think that I figured it out, and that the clean lines and bright colors leave room for the woodwork to shine.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? The animal cutouts! They were made by an Ohio craftsman 15 years ago for a vacation bible school. I kind of have a thing for random, handmade wood cutouts. We already had clowns and a Thing 1 Thing 2 (currently in storage), so when I saw the animals on Facebook, I HAD to have them. I mean, look at that zebra! Getting them was quite the adventure. They were in a barn, at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by cornfields, in a town we weren’t familiar with. And of course it was pitch black. We’ve seen way too many “Criminal Minds” episodes so we were one hundred percent on guard for serial killers! Thankfully we lived to tell the tale! There are six total; we kept three and the rest are available in our shop.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: One word: cabinets! You can usually find them for cheap or free on Facebook Marketplace when people remodel their kitchens. Wall cabinets are slim and come in tons of sizes. They’re handy for adding space where there is none. I’ve used cabinets in every room over the years. You can paint them, change the hardware, add legs, hang them on the wall, turn them into a credenza or kitchen island, or sit them directly on the floor. They’re great modular pieces for small spaces.
What most people get wrong about using color in their home: People say to stick with neutrals because you’ll get bored with color. I’ve had 10 apartments over 16 years, every single one of them completely painted, and never have I ever become bored with a color! I’ve only repainted two rooms in all that time, and it was because the tint was wrong, not because I was bored! If you truly love a color — whether it’s a creamy white or a vibrant marigold — you’ll stick with it. If you don’t like it, it’s just paint so you can always try again!
What are the biggest tricks/secrets to using color in decor? Go with your gut! Back when Apartment 528 was brick-and-mortar, customers would constantly come in and say how much they loved how colorful the space and products were, but that they didn’t know how to add color to their homes. I don’t know a thing about color theory, and I definitely don’t care which dining room colors are the most appetizing (are people really skipping meals because the room is teal instead of red?) I don’t do color palettes either. I start every apartment by choosing colors I’ve been dying to use (in this apartment it was the neon lilac, tomato red, and chartreuse) and slowly adding colors that vibe with those. I go with what looks good to me and makes me feel happy! As long as you love your space, it doesn’t matter if the colors you choose are contrasting or complementary, it just matters how they make YOU feel!
What’s your favorite wall paint color of all time: There was a STUNNING Ralph Lauren blue that we used two apartments ago. It was almost black at night, and bright cobalt in the sun. Unfortunately I lost the sample and the label on the can wore off, so I have no clue what it was called. After wallowing in grief, I switched to “Expressionism” by Behr. It’s the color of the blue cabinet in the lounge. It’s not as rich or vibrant as the Ralph Lauren color, but it has the same moody vibes. I’ve used it several times and LOVE it!
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Be patient and spend less! As a shop owner, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to push materialism, but one of the best things I’ve learned from my mom is that creativity shouldn’t be limited by money. If anything, a limited budget (whether by choice or circumstance) challenges you to be MORE creative and think outside the box to find solutions. You can do so much with so little. Repurpose old pieces, use scrap materials, mix old paints to create new colors. Buy secondhand instead of new. Take your time to find things you truly love and save up for what matters. Whether your budget is large or small, don’t let money get in the way of creating something awesome!
PAINT & COLORS
- Kitchen — Behr “Hemisphere” Benjamin Moore “Lilac Pink”
- Half Bath — Behr “Just a Fairytale”
- Living Room — Benjamin Moore “Chartruesse”; Dark Green – Custom Color; Ralph Lauren “Bali Turquoise” (media console)
- Lounge — Benjamin Moore “Gypsy Pink”; Benjamin Moore “Outrageous Orange”; Behr “Mango Madness” (cabinet); Behr “Expressionism” (cabinet); Benjamin Moore – “Lilac Pink” (coffee table)
- Dining Room/Entry — Behr “Velvet Leaf”; Ralph Lauren “Bali Turquoise”; Behr “Cosmic Blue” (cabinet); Behr “Just a Fairytale” (dining table)
- Bedroom — Behr “Goldfish”; Benjamin Moore “Outrageous Orange”; Valspar “Skyscape” (dresser)
- Upstairs Bathroom — Benjamin Moore “Tomato Red” Behr “Indian Dance”
- All Curtains – Amazon
- All Window Film – Amazon
- Rug — Via Chicago Mid-Century Modern Facebook Group
- Green Console Table — Facebook Marketplace
- TV Console — DIY
- Chair — Facebook Marketplace
- Coffee Table — Craigslist
- Couch — Facebook Marketplace
- Record Shelves — Vintage Store Displays from Sarah Waldo
- Clown Cutout — Facebook Marketplace
- Art Print Above Record Shelves — Marcelo Romero
- Fireplace Art — DIY
- Couch — Facebook Marketplace
- Coffee Table — Facebook Marketplace
- Chair — Facebook Marketplace
- Window Bench — DIY
- Giraffes — Facebook Marketplace
- Cabinets — Facebook Marketplace
- Tripod Floor Lamp — St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store
- Ceramic Art — My mom!
- Art Print Above Yellow Cabinet — Kelly Knaga
- Rug — Ollie’s
- Table — Facebook Marketplace
- Chairs — Facebook Marketplace
- Zebra — Facebook Marketplace
- Lamp on Fireplace — Peach Things
- Yellow Geometric Piece above Fireplace — Facebook Marketplace
- Painting Above Fireplace — Dial M for Modern
- Art Prints in Hallway — Jenny Gray
- Mirror — Facebook Marketplace
- Mirror Wallpaper — Janine Lecour
- Blue Cabinets — Facebook Marketplace
- Gumball Machine — Gifted by old neighbor
- Cat Condo — Amazon
- Sock Dispenser — DIY
- Quilt — Target
- Dresser — Bad Sandy Vintage
- Geometric Print — Traded for a lamp at a vintage market
- Exercise Bike — Craigslist
- Mirror — DIY
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity. Share Your Style: House Tour & House Call Submission Form