A Cozy 500-Square-Foot Chicago Apartment Was Furnished for Less Than $1000

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This south-facing window lights up one corner of the living room featuring a bought peace lily, a gifted record player, and a thrifted side table.

Name: Hannah M. Rehak and my partner moved in six months ago!
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 500 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

This thrifted futon couch and large mirror make a statement but keep the room looking modern and clean.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I grew up in Chicago and upon moving back in my twenties, decided I needed to create a space that felt like my own corner of the city. I worked and lived at home to save money so I could afford to live on my own. When I finally found this apartment, I fell in love with the light that streamed into the living room, and dove into the project on a major budget. I spent less than $1000 to decorate the entire space over three or four months. While my taste leans more towards mid-century and Scandinavian, I am passionate about thrifting (a habit I learned from my mother) and knew that my style would have to benefit from an array of objects and found items. That’s why the apartment ended up being so colorful and bohemian. I leaned into the joyful clutter of my favorite objects from my own past and that of others.

This full-length mirror positioned horizontally opens up the room, reflects the light, and showcases the acoustic guitar, vintage lamp, and fast-growing corn plant!

At the start of quarantine in March, my partner moved in with me. It was a big deal, not just because the pandemic kept us in such tight quarters, but also because the apartment had come to represent my artistic self, my adult life, my independent goals. Ultimately, his items added to the beauty of the space and it transformed while maintaining the look and feel I had come to love. In September of this year, I moved into a two-bedroom leaving my beloved one-bedroom behind. Though it was time to move on, that apartment will always mean so much to me. It’s where I learned how to style for myself and where I learned how to reflect my energy and creativity in the things around me. This submission is a love letter to that home I created.

Tucked behind a tree philodendron is a thrifted collection of cards from vintage cigarette boxes featuring Oliver Twist characters.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Eclectic, Bohemian, Mid-Century, Colorful, Warm

This record player was gifted to me and sits upon a thrifted wine box, cloth-covered boxes, and a wooden side table passed down from a friend!

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room is my living room because of the natural light and bay windows. Because it’s a one-bedroom apartment, it’s also the room I spent the most time in. I had to crack the code on how to make it functional to host guests, watch movies, eat breakfast, and work from home. It was a challenging space to figure out! But once I got the orange futon couch and accumulated all my plants, I felt very inspired. Soon I had a bar cart, a little table, and a TV—and the vibe was set!

This blue chair is part of set gifted to me from a family friend. It functions as a cozy reading chair as well as a seat for dining!

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing I bought for my home was a table from Amazon. When I started dating my partner, I realized we needed a place to sit and eat together! We both chipped in and got this glass-topped table we love. During the first few months of quarantine it’s where I spent most of my time working from home and eating meals—and I love it! I love that it lets light through, is easy to clean, and doesn’t take up a lot of space.

Upon moving in, my partner Cameron brought his Jerry Garcia print and his electric guitar, which perfectly complements the vintage look and feel, as well as the bold couch.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Think long and hard about what you like in other peoples’ homes. I spent months sketching out what I wanted my apartment to be. Go from the broad questions like “what do I want it to feel like?” to the more specific “How do I need this space to function?” to the super-detailed “What objects do I already own and love, what else might I need to complement that item?” Asking those questions and trusting the answers will go a long way. Every person’s home is different because every person wants and needs different things—knowing the answer to those questions can help you get to know yourself and help you create a home you love.

This tea cart from the '80s was passed onto me from my late grandmother, and now holds all I need for an early evening cocktail.

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