It Will Be Tough to Pick a Favorite Mural in This Incredibly Colorful Philadelphia House
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“Our home is a 100+ year old Victorian row home in the Roxborough-Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia,” begins Emma Chasen, a grad student with a love for bold style and a first-time homeowner. “The character of the home immediately stood out. In this neighborhood and many other neighborhoods of Philly, there are a lot of shoddy flips. The new construction is flashy on the surface but can’t really be trusted.”
But Emma says this 1403-square-foot house wasn’t one of those shoddy flips, and that’s part of what attracted her and fiancée, Carolyn Chernous, to it in the first place. “It had been with the same family since the ’80s and had such a quirky character about it,” Emma continues. “Plus, the house is literally solid as a rock — the walls are made of stone and it has been impeccably cared for by the previous owners. It has some really good bones. The house is also on a corner lot, so it was only attached to one other home at the back of the house. This is such a rare find for a Philly rowhome and allows for so much natural light in the space, which is incredibly important to me.”
“When we first toured our home, my fiancée got this gut feeling that we belonged here. She describes it as the same gut feeling she got when we met. And after viewing 13 houses before this one, I agreed — this home was special and there was so much opportunity to put our stamp on it,” Emma explains.
“I try to embody a sense of playfulness and experimentation with my style, finding so much joy in the creative process of doing whatever the F I want. It has been so much fun documenting my mural creation and home decor on my TikTok: @phillyfunhouse.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: A mix of eclectic, maximalist, Art Deco, and retro-inspired
Inspiration: ’90s cartoons, French Victorian greenhouses, immersive art installations
Favorite Element: My favorite room is the dining room. It is a perfect representation of my style and the central gathering place in our home. Coming from an Italian family, we often eat large family dinners and spend hours at the table talking and laughing. So the dining room is, in ways, a sacred space. My dining room has such a beautiful mix of playfulness (a mushroom painted on the wall, a drippy paint cabinet come to life with eyeball knobs, a wavy mirror DIY, a mini heat map mural around the thermostat), plus heritage (heirloom cherry wood dining table from my fiancée’s mom and an antique workbench as our sideboard) plus art plus a large deep-set window with plants. It is also the only room that doesn’t have a ceiling fan — the house came with a different ceiling fan in every room and I was adamant that at least the dining room ceiling fan had to go in favor of a light fixture.
Biggest Challenge: We are definitely working with a small budget, really a non-existent budget. And I’m an incredibly impatient person with a lot of things I want to do at once. Our kitchen has been the toughest space to work within. I love to cook and when we moved in, it wasn’t at all set up to do so as it is a very small galley with hardly any storage or counter space. We don’t have the money for a kitchen reno, so we turned to DIY. We used our small budget to buy an IKEA butcher block island and then made shelves with some old barn wood and painted our cabinets. It’s transformed the space and has allowed us to actually use the kitchen.
Proudest DIY: I love all of my murals but if I have to pick the one I’m proudest of it is probably the rainbow ribbon in my second and third floor hallway. It took so much work because I wanted it to be really precise and I am in love with the way it turned out.
Budget: We pay just under $1700 per month for our mortgage. We feel so privileged to own a home. When we bought our house we moved across the country and didn’t bring any furniture with us. So we were starting from scratch. We saved about $5,000 to completely furnish and decorate our house. We’ve saved a lot of money by decorating with paint and reusing paint from one project on other projects. Paint makes such a big impact without too big of an expense.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? We transformed one of the bedrooms into a dressing room for my fiancée complete with a green velvet couch. It’s really the only room in our house with closet space and my fiancée gets up super early for work so she has all of her clothes and gets dressed in her dressing room so she doesn’t wake me up.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space
maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I’ve taken to displaying otherwise mundane items as decor. For example, I put all of my unrefrigerated produce in bowls on my side board and I love the way it looks. On a similar line of thinking, I utilize open shelving in my space and display items I like and free up more closed storage for things that are a bit uglier.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? If you’re unsure about a design or a style, just try it out! Experimenting with colors and shapes has allowed me to make mistakes that have aided to a final product that I love. Also, decorating is a marathon not a sprint. Be on the lookout for thrifted pieces you love and let your style evolve as you evolve.
Shopping local and secondhand: I love to scour local shops such as Philly Aids Thrift and Philly Vintage Bazaar for vintage home goods and treasured thrift finds. My favorite thrift find to date has been the mid century mod lamp that sits next to my cow chair (found at Philly Aids Thrift!) – it is such a treasure. All art in my home has been gifted to me or sourced from small, independent artists that I’ve found through local flea markets or seen through the power of the internet.
- Orange Modular sofa — Overstock
Velvet cow chair — Urban Outfitters
- Multi-patterned loveseat— Urban Outfitters
- Rainbow coffee table — Lightsmoon
- Pink and yellow mouth pillow — Aelfie
- Middle finger pillow — Tapered Nomad
- Pink side table — Urban Outfitters
- Lamp — IKEA
- Ottoman — Overstock
- Rug — Wayfair
- Artwork — Female gaze print is Florence Given , Pink hand with green base is Haley Lane
- Artface side table — This was a gift but I believe it is Urban Outfitters
- Orange velvet chairs — Wayfair
- Heirloom cherry wood dining table from my fiancee’s mom
- Pendant lamp — IKEA
- Artwork — Ice cream print Wright Kitchen, flower head lady dromsjel, two faces painted on glass ‘duality’ by Aus
- Painted wooden cabinet — Amazon, I painted it and added Haley Lane Art eyeball knobs
- Coat rack — Amazon
- Mirror — This is the tiktok where I show the process. I bought a huge mirror at Lowes for around $70 and made a frame using the cardboard box it came in, papier mache, plaster, and paint.
- Sconce lights — IKEA
- Artwork — Gifted to us by our friend, @bahptarts
- Shower curtain — Quiet Town
- Towels — Sand Cloud
Thanks Emma and Carolyn!
This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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