Shannon & Alex’s Artistic Apartment in an Old Victorian

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Chloe Berk)

Name: Shannon Retseck and Alex Boatman and their two cats
Location: West Philadelphia
Size: 950 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year; Rented

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Like many apartments in West Philadelphia, Shannon Retseck and Alex Boatman’s is located in an old Victorian home. When Shannon first moved in a year ago, the apartment needed a lot of updating—the counters were outdated and the walls needed a fresh coat of paint. When Alex moved in shortly after, they decided to make some changes, but as renters, they opted to pick and choose their battles.

(Image credit: Chloe Berk)

Changing the counters would have been too much of an investment, so they decided to embrace them—just as they have with the vintage charm of the entire apartment—and focus on the walls. A fresh coat of white paint in the living room, kitchen, dining room, and office immediately brightened up the space, and the couple went with a dramatic and striking deep blue for their bathroom.

Shannon is the owner of the company Cuttalossa, which works with local farms to sell handmade heirloom textiles and dry goods. All of her products are made of 100% natural fibers and natural dyes, which is also true for her imported line of handwoven Turkish textiles. She sells her wares on her online shop and at markets in Philadelphia and beyond. While selling her goods at these markets, Shannon has befriended other local artists and acquired many of their beautiful pieces of work. Alex, who helps elderly people move into retirement homes, is also an artist. He makes Japanese-inspired light fixtures for his Etsy shop, Makoma Lights.

(Image credit: Chloe Berk)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We have a practical approach. We want our house to be comfortable and functional while representing what we love and where we are from.

Inspiration: George Nakashima, Jim Hamilton, Shakers, our childhood, and movies and cartoons we watch. Also, the outdoors. We are both from a more rural part of Pennsylvania so we try to bring in some natural elements into our city dwelling.

Favorite Element: The old windows and wood floors that come with West Philly Victorians. Our favorite addition would be the wall art behind the bed. Artist Julia Blaukopf normally uses an adhesive wallpaper for a project like this. Since we are renters, that was not an option. She was able to have her work printed on a material that was durable but lightweight enough to tack to the wall.

Biggest Challenge: Because we are renting, we have to stop ourselves from putting too much effort into fixing the place up. We would love to restore the old windows and radiators to their original glory. But it’s not our house, so we have learned to embrace and love the worn appearance.

What Friends Say: They love the high ceilings and the feeling of openness it gives.

Biggest Embarrassment: The old Formica countertops in the kitchen and bathroom. We were able to work with the rust red in the bathroom, but the kitchen countertops are really beat up. I am not sure we are embarrassed of it, but would love to replace them.

Proudest DIY: We needed better lighting in the kitchen but did not feel comfortable doing major rewiring in the ceiling. We decided to run the pendant light cords along the wall using small tacks. We even created a makeshift light switch by tacking the on/off switches for each pendant next to each other on the wall.

Biggest Indulgence: Beer.

Best Advice: Have less, and keep it simple.

Dream Sources: I am not sure there are any particular brands we dream of having in our home; we have a process of discovery that inspires us.



  • Bathroom: Sherwin-Williams Dark Night
(Image credit: Chloe Berk)


  • Bicycle and bicycle box: Shannon’s father made the box and is responsible for the bike, as well.
  • Rhinoceros: Jonathan Adler
  • Pennsylvania sign: The American Collector
(Image credit: Chloe Berk)


(Image credit: Chloe Berk)


(Image credit: Chloe Berk)


  • Pendant lights: Makoma Lights
  • Shelving unit: IKEA
  • Mini house shelf: Harvey Oak Mercantile
  • Backsplash: Katia McGurick, Moravian Tile Works
  • 3-tier spice stand: Harvey Oak Mercantile
  • Vintage perfume bottle and floral arrangement: Petit Jardin En Ville
  • Rug: Cuttalossa
  • Towels: Cuttalossa
(Image credit: Chloe Berk)


  • Bench: At Home Modern
  • Lantern pendant: Makoma Lights
  • Branches and vase: Petit Jardin en Ville
  • Clothes racks: IKEA
  • Shelving units: IKEA
  • Rug: Cuttalossa
  • Reading chair: Jonathan Adler
  • Pillow on chair: Cuttalossa
  • Lamps: inherited
  • Throw blanket: Cuttalossa
  • Side tables: Franklin Flea
  • Sheets and duvet: Eilleen Fisher Home
  • Cotton plush throw: Cuttalossa
  • Mural: Julia Blaukopf
  • Botanical print: George Retseck (Shannon’s father)
(Image credit: Chloe Berk)


  • Lighting: IKEA
  • Bathmat: Cuttalossa
  • Towels: Cuttalossa
  • Black mirror: trash-picked
  • Owl towel hook: Harvey Oak Mercantile
  • Shower curtain: IKEA
  • Towel rack: IKEA
(Image credit: Chloe Berk)


  • Black trunk: N3rd Collective
  • Basket trunk: inherited
  • Textiles ladder: Franklin Flea
  • Chair: N3rd Collective
  • Desk with cabinet: inherited
  • Black table: Meadowsweet Mercantile
  • Storage drums: N3rd Collective
  • Cabinets: left from previous tenant
  • Easel: gift from Shannon’s mother
  • Work bench: made by Alex
  • Painting: Shannon’s mother
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Shannon and Alex’s Jonathan Adler couch is the centerpiece of their sunny living room. (Image credit: Chloe Berk)

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Thanks, Shannon & Alex!