A Carefully Crafted Home in Cambridge

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Samara Vise)

Name: Caitlin Snyder
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Size: 650 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; Rented

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Caitlin was lucky to score her apartment the old-fashioned way: by word of mouth. Three years later, she’s transformed the cozy two-bedroom into her first “adult” apartment. With an intrinsic sense of style and practical skill inherited from her parents—and the blessings of a friendly octogenarian landlord—Caitlin has refreshed the worn finishes of her apartment and filled it with treasures she’s collected since college. In an area saturated with millennials in a constant state of housing flux, Caitlin has achieved the improbable dream: a home of her own.

(Image credit: Samara Vise)

Caitlin grew up in Santa Barbara but came east for college and attended a small school on the North Shore. Since graduation, she’s stuck around the Boston area, finding her current apartment three years ago through a friend who was moving out. Caitlin’s a graphic designer who works part-time at Anthropologie, and when she first moved in, she used the second bedroom as her office. Recently, in order to keep costs down and help out friends in need of temporary housing, Caitlin started renting out the second bedroom on a short-term basis. The room feels like a peaceful respite for a friend who is just passing through—a guest room, if you will.

Having her own place meant Caitlin could finally take out of storage the dishes and cookware that had been abused in former roommate-filled apartments. She also invested in the space itself: rehabbing tired finishes, painting wherever needed, and adding shelving for storage. In the kitchen, Caitlin brightened up the dark wood cabinets—an example of less-desirable Mid-century design—by painting them white. She then stripped the cabinetry hardware, leaving the brass unfinished for an antique look. With the help of her dad, a contractor who now lives in Rhode Island, Caitlin even replaced her boring bathroom door with a vintage, character-filled substitute that livens up the room. While her father has taught her practical DIY skills, Caitlin credits her mother with her ability to craft a home that is both comfortable and functional. “My mom always said that small vignettes made a house feel like a home, so I strived to do that,” Caitlin says. “To display photos of friends and family, but also have my trinkets and memorabilia that showcase my history and my life.”

(Image credit: Caitlin Snyder)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Modern and Eclectic. Think Anthropologie in the ’60s?

Inspiration: My mother and the idea of “Home.” My inspiration has always been to make a place feel like a home, something I got from my mom and her style. She always made a home beautiful, but not museum-like. It was always cozy and felt lived-in. That is my inspiration.

Favorite Element: Honestly, my living room is my favorite room in the house. I think design-wise, it flows so well. It also isn’t the warmest house physically, so I like to cozy up here in the winter!

Biggest Challenge: My apartment is small and has weird spaces and door placements, so the biggest challenge was fitting my furniture into each space without it feeling imposing or cluttered. Granted, some rooms are still somewhat furniture-heavy, but I believe I was able to work around the small rooms and make it flow.

What Friends Say: Haha, most of the time they walk in and say, “You’re a real adult!” They say my place feels “lived-in,” not transient like a lot of places in Boston. I have been lucky to be in one place for over three years, and it shows. My friends joke that because I have pictures on the walls, it means I’m planning on staying. My mom always said that small vignettes made a house feel like a home, so I strived to do that. To display photos of friends and family, but also have my trinkets and memorabilia that showcase my history and my life.

Biggest Embarrassment: I wanted to paint a chalkboard wall in my now bedroom (at the time, it was my office). And feeling so crafty and up for the challenge, I told myself I would make my own chalkboard paint! If Martha Stewart has a DIY, then it has to work… that is, IF if you follow the actual instructions. I decided to go freely on my own path and instead of using Plaster of Paris (the powdery stuff you used to make models with in elementary school), I found some tile grout in my friend’s basement and used that instead. Just so every reader knows… tile grout is NOT Plaster of Paris but rather more similar to cement mix. It went well for the first ten minutes, but soon the paint turned the grout to black cement, which started to dry. I was able to finish the wall but it’s not smooth. It has little balls of concrete stuck to the wall, which doesn’t really allow me to write well with chalk, let alone clean it off. I honestly have no idea how to even take it off or fix it…. textured wall paint may be the only cover-up.

Proudest DIY: My bathroom door! Since my bathroom has ZERO light (no windows, no working lights), I wanted to replace my door with one that had a window, with the hope that the window would allow natural light in. I scoured Craigslist and bought a door from an old, remodeled house. I had to sand it and replace the glass, and with my father’s contracting experience, I learned how to hand plane, move the knob and door jam, and fix the door frame! It was such a great experience working with my dad and learning how to do something like rehab the door.

Biggest Indulgence: My gorgeous “adult” couch from Pottery Barn. It was the one thing I wanted to purchase when I first moved in. I initially had no seating except for single armchairs and the orange love seat, which I thrifted in college and have moved and stored for the past six years! But the new couch is the anchor piece. It also signified that I finally had a place to call my own, to settle, even if I am only renting. I scoured every place I knew that sold couches: West Elm, IKEA, Work Market, Pier 1, Craigslist. My mom always had Pottery Barn furniture, which is where I found this beauty and decided to get it!

Best Advice: Don’t try to decorate your space all at once. Most of my inspiration comes from gathering special pieces and building on them. I think that’s what helps the space feel eclectic and interesting instead of sterile and boring. Go slow and find things that are beautiful to you. Over time you will be able to place and move around and curate a room that is unique!

Dream Sources: An abandoned estate in New Mexico. Weird, I know. But what I love about West Coast style are the large wood pieces—like tables and buffets and the like. Haha, if I could ransack an estate house, I would be pretty happy… or I could just move into it.


(Image credit: Samara Vise)


  • Bedroom: BEHR Black Suede
  • Second bedroom: BEHR Rhino
  • Bathroom: Glidden White On White
  • Bathroom door: BEHR Rhino
  • Hardware (bathroom knobs, shelf brackets): Rustoleum Metallic Spray Paint in Oil Rubbed Bronze
  • (Image credit: Samara Vise)


    • Green side table: The Country Door
    • Gold mirror: estate sale
    (Image credit: Samara Vise)


    • Grey couch: Pottery Barn Landon
    • Orange vintage love seat: thrifted
    • Wooden side table: thrifted
    • Mango wood and cast iron coffee table: West Elm
    • Black Nate Berkus rug: Target
    • Green vintage armchair: thrifted
    • Grey linen pillows: H&M
    • Brown print pillows: H&M
    • Floral vintage lamp: found
    • Mercury glass lamp: Pottery Barn
    • Burlap lamp shade: Pottery Barn
    • Turntable: Jensen
    • TV stand: handmade by Caitlin’s father with hairpin legs from eBay
    • Record storage: IKEA Kallax
    • Blanket baskets: Marshall’s
    • Bar cart: IKEA Bygel
    • Deer antlers: Diamonds and Rust in Beverly, MA
    • Butterfly print poster: IKEA
    • World map print: salvaged by a friend from her insurance office’s trash
    • Other photos/wall hangings: found, thrifted
    (Image credit: Samara Vise)


    • Table: thrifted and rehabbed by Caitlin
    • Baking rack: IKEA
    • Dish towels: Anthropologie
    • White chairs: IKEA
    • Black vintage chairs: found
    • Microwave cart: IKEA
    • Jute runner: Target
    (Image credit: Samara Vise)


    • Bed frame: The Country Door
    • Blue dresser: Boutique Fabulous in Cambridge, MA
    • Brown dresser: thrifted
    • Dresser knobs: Anthropologie
    • Wool rug: Anthropologie Marmotinto
    • Side table: thrifted
    • Large mirror: IKEA
    • Grey polka dot sheets: West Elm
    • White duvet comforter: IKEA Dvala
    • Linen pillowcase: H&M
    • Euro sham pillow cases: Anthropologie
    • Small wall mirror: thrifted
    (Image credit: Samara Vise)


    • Bed frame: roommate’s father’s childhood bed
    • White dresser: roommate’s grandmother’s
    • Curtains: Marshall’s
    • Blue lamp: Caitlin’s great-grandmother’s
    • Rug: IKEA
    (Image credit: Samara Vise)


  • Shower curtain: West Elm
  • Wooden shelf: handmade from pine, stain, and spray painted IKEA brackets
  • Bath mat: IKEA
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    Caitlin’s floor plan of her space. (Image credit: Caitlin Snyder)

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    Thanks, Caitlin!