Name: Larissa Gaul, boyfriend Jack, roommate Matt, dog Gustav, and cat Mishka
Location: Fairmount — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Size: 1,800 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5 years; Rented
Larissa Gaul’s apartment does not have an abundance of natural light. Located on the first floor of a row house, it has two windows in the front and two in the back but zero anywhere else. Most people might find the lack of light gloomy, but Larissa doesn’t mind. As the assistant manager at a cadaver lab at the University of Pennsylvania, she has a preference for darker environments—and the occasional decorative faux skull or skeleton.
Larissa moved to Philadelphia from Colorado a few years ago with her boyfriend, Jack, and their 160-pound Great Dane, Gustav. Larissa, Jack, and their roommate Matt (whose bedroom is in the basement that was not photographed for this tour) were all in medical school when they started living together. Despite being on a student budget, they found a way to decorate their home inexpensively while still showing their personalities, creativity and style.
Larissa has worked part-time at Anthropologie for many years and recently started a buying job at their home office in Philadelphia. Working at the historic Philly location and visiting Terrain, a home and garden store outside of the city, have had a large influence on Larissa and her style. However, she does admit that Jack has come up with the most impressive design elements around the apartment.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: The style of the house is eclectic. Many of the items are from thrift stores or salvaged. Because we are all scientists that live here, we love to find vintage medical equipment, references or books as well. The furniture is somewhat mid-century modern, which is my favorite aesthetic, although I can’t say that all the elements of the house can fall under that umbrella.
Inspiration: We find a lot of inspiration in the things that other people throw away. Literally. At the end of the week when the neighborhood puts the trash out, we go on a long walk to see what everyone has discarded. We call it “salvage Sunday” and have gotten some really amazing ornate gold frames, the chair and end table in our front room, and more just from various neighbors' trash heaps!
I also work at Anthropologie and have held a part-time role there for a long time. This position holds a lot of inspiration for home decor through the historic store where I work, and also the company-associated Terrain facility out in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. However, my boyfriend, Jack, tends to be the mastermind behind many of the inspired interior design ideas that happen around here.
Favorite Element: The landscape wall is by far my favorite part of the house. Jack and I are from Colorado and we collected almost every single one of the landscapes from various thrift stores when we were living there. We would go thrifting every Sunday afternoon and scour shops to find more. When we moved across the country, the landscapes were one of the must-bring essentials.
I was also ecstatic about having a backyard in this house. While the yard is small and needed lots of TLC when we moved in, we have been able to grow tons of herbs, kale, corn, cucumbers, and more. It is a fantastic space to host gatherings as well. My favorite thing to do in this house is have friends over for brunch so that we can enjoy the backyard!
Biggest Challenge: The house is a row home, so there are challenges with the shape of the space and also the lighting. It is very long and narrow, so it’s hard to really break up the space into traditional “rooms” and the kitchen is basically along one wall. We have also had a really tough time with plants because we get so little natural light and it only comes in the front and back windows sparingly.
What Friends Say: Our friends are always impressed with our house, which is definitely a source of pride. We often catch new friends who have never come over before snapping photos, which is a great feeling. It makes me happy to have a comfortable space where our friends want to spend time.
Biggest Embarrassment: My biggest embarrassment of our house is the bars on our windows. We get so little light from the windows as it is, and the bars give a very cold vibe. Because they're on the insides of the windows, it makes it hard to have plants sitting in the windowsills, as well. The previous tenant had them installed for safety, but they were somewhat poorly done, and aren't even uniform in color—the bars on the front windows are black and the ones in the back bedroom are white. When we moved in, we really wanted to take them all down, but decided against it for security reasons. Still, they are so aesthetically un-appealing!
Proudest DIY: Jack has been the main DIY genius around the house. When we first moved in, we picked out an old door from Philadelphia Salvage Company. He then ordered buckets of resin online and poured it over the entire door to seal it in and create a thick, smooth surface. We were using it as a desktop until the recent office conversion and have re-purposed it as a headboard. We get so many compliments on it, and people always want to know how he made it!
Biggest Indulgence: Honestly, we are a very low-indulgence household. Since we were all students when we moved in, the budget for fun house items was very low. The biggest splurge we have ever indulged in was the purchase of our couch from Macy’s home store. We opened a credit card on an additional-discount weekend to make it cheaper, but it has been incredibly worth it. It is still in great shape five years and three moves later, and is very comfortable. A couch that you love is so incredibly important and we definitely made the right decision with this one.
Best Advice: Decorate with what you feel passion about! I love that the landscape wall reminds me of home in Colorado, and that there are bone replicas under the glass table in the living room. Look everywhere for ideas—from thrift stores to extremely fancy stores to catalogs and Pinterest. Being able to make a space both comfortable and personal is such a source of happiness.
Dream Sources: There is a mid-century modern furniture shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania called Gregory Michaels Vintage that I would love to frequent. I follow their Instagram and swoon over just about every single piece they post. Recently, I’ve been looking at a lot of rugs online and have developed an obsession with Pink Rug Co. However, we have owned rugs before and they tend to get gross and dirty when you live with animals, which makes me want one considerably less.
- Doorknobs holding bike locks: Anthroplogie
- Upholstered chair: Oak Express
- Pillows on chair: hand-sewn gift from a friend
- Globe: thrift store
- Small triangle table: found in trash
- TV stand: IKEA
- Small yellow side table: Target
- Brown lamp: URBN sample sale
- Coasters: Anthropologie
- Couch: Macy’s
- Pillows on couch: Urban Outfitters
- Silver glittery bench: Urban Outfitters
- Glass side table: Craigslist
- Parrot lamp: Target
- TV stand: IKEA
- Brass eye magnifying glass: Anthropologie
- Speakers: found in trash
- Record player: Pro-Ject brand from Listen Up in Denver, CO
- Green chair: found in trash
- Red pillow: Urban Outfitters
- Brass lamp: Craigslist
- Wooden side table: found in trash
- Skull: Target
- Cat: antique mall in Lancaster, PA
- Antlers: Jack's grandmother's house in Wyoming
- Mask: Matt brought it back from a public health trip to Africa.
- Sawbones: cadaver lab
- All empty frames: found in trash
- Phila pennant: United by Blue in Philadelphia
- All landscape paintings: thrift stores
- Prints above chair: limited-edition of 250 designed by Steve Powers via a 2013 Kurt Vile concert at City Hall
- Kitchen table: IKEA
- Chairs: The two matching chairs are from IKEA, the wooden one on the right is from a thrift store (it was $1!), and the other was found in the trash.
- Glass test tube set: Jinxed in Philadelphia
- Skulls: Target
- Succulent pots: Home Depot
- Portrait of Gustav: drawing by Matt, frame found in trash
- Mid-century modern clock: 2 Percent To Glory in Fishtown, Philadelphia
- Cookbook shelf brackets: Anthropologie
- Tree ring cutting board: Terrain
- Headboard: door from Philadelphia Salvage Company, restored by Jack
- Quilts: Anthropologie
- Large pillow: Anthropologie
- Floor rug: URBN sample sale
- Sheets: Company Store, Target
- Plant stands: IKEA
- Pots: Terrain
- Snake plants: Home Depot
- Bookcases: Oak Express
- Wooden shelf: found in trash
- Mirror: found in trash
- Mannequin legs: antique mall in Albuquerque, NM
- Globe light: IKEA
- Nightstand: found in trash
- Lamp on nightstand: thrift store
- All candles: Urban Outfitters
- Ceramic dish: Anthropologie
- Prints behind bed: veterinarian pathology specimen cards
- Frames: IKEA
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