This Lived-In Rental Apartment Features a Gorgeous Mural and Expert Textile Layering
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Name: Sarah Montgomery and two cats, Weegie and Girly
Location: West Bucktown — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 800 square feet
Type of Home: The house is a two-flat duplex up and I live on the first floor
Years lived in: 1 year, renting
Interior decorator Sarah Montgomery moved into her West Bucktown, Chicago, rental in November 2019, alongside her two cats, Weegie and Girly, after going through a breakup. She had just taken the leap to run her business full-time and there were many unknowns, but she had to go where the “dishwasher and central air was,” she recalls. She ultimately found a 800-square-foot duplex, a one-bedroom with an office she could make her own.
The self-described textile lover, who holds a BFA in Fibers from Savannah College of Art and Design and was formerly a product designer at Eastern Accents and display artist with Anthropologie, describes her style as eclectic and colorful. She’s a fan of layered looks and sources inspiration from British designers and boutique hotels, and her new digs is the perfect representation of her interiors favorites. “I like my spaces to look welcoming and lived in, with the right balance of modern elements as well as a nod to the past and a bit of patina,” she says.
She rented the property from private owners, which gave her the flexibility to paint and put up wallpaper. In the dining room, there’s a custom-printed floral mural from The Pattern Collective, her most beloved piece in the space as well as the biggest splurge. “In the end, it makes me happy and I have no regrets,” she says. The one downside is the lack of natural light, but she added dimmers and sconces, a simple way to change the mood.
The rest of her home features savvy finds like the Craigslist Room and Board sofa, a reupholstered settee, gorgeous burlwood console (also a Craigslist find), Hay Matin Table Lamp, a rug off Etsy, and vintage dining room chairs from the Apartment Therapy Marketplace. “I join my clients in the shared excitement over the thrill of the hunt. The unique pieces we find grow with my clients and bring new meaning to the part of their story that has yet to be told,” she concludes.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I am known for my eclectic and colorful style. Most clients find me on Instagram where they already have a sense of my vibe. I use color and pattern through textiles to evoke the feeling in the space. I create spaces with livable color that look personal and collected over time. I like my spaces to look welcoming and lived in, with the right balance of modern elements as well as a nod to the past and a bit of patina.
Inspiration: I’m inspired by a lot of British designers—the layered color and pattern through textiles and often quirky design elements. I’m also inspired by Boutique Hotel Design.
Favorite Element: My favorite element is the dining room mural. I knew I wanted to do something with that wall and I originally sourced that particular mural. After moving expenses added up, I decided to forego the purchase and try a DIY color block treatment on the wall. It never looked right and I painted over it several times. That room is in the middle of a first floor apartment and the light is poor so it needed some life. I eventually gave in to purchasing the mural and even had it custom printed to fit the wall so the proportions were right. In the end it makes me happy everyday and I have no regrets! I tell this story to my clients if they are wary of buying something that is a splurge, but they truly love.
Biggest Challenge: The space is a first-floor apartment so it doesn’t get much light. The amenities made it worth it after having to downsize after a breakup. The lack of natural light is not something you can really overcome, but I’ve recently moved into my own design studio that has amazing light.
Proudest DIY: I’ve always been a scrappy DIYer, but these days I will hire most things out except painting and hanging art and drapery.
Biggest Indulgence: The biggest splurge was the mural. After that it was the custom red curtains in the living room. I had several sets of curtains from past places, but I just needed the red.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? There isn’t great natural light and light fixture placement either, so I have added a lot of dimmers, lamps and sconces. It’s so important to have the right ambient lighting, but it does take a bit to turn everything off at the end of the day.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Enlist the help of a designer rather than running around in circles online, becoming paralyzed by choices. I also have a blog post about furnishing a room from scratch which is super helpful.
What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? If you continue to dream about something that seems excessive or out of reach, you probably need it! I also encourage clients to buy quality upholstery, and vintage, antique, and custom furniture. It’s more accessible than you think!
PAINT & COLORS
- Living Room — Benjamin Moore “Old Country”
- Dining Room — BM “White Dove,” Window Trim in Farrow and Ball “Yeabridge Green”
- Bedroom — BM “Caldwell Green”
- Sofa — Craigslist Room and Board
- Rug — Etsy
- Accordion Lamp — Hay
- Sphere Lamp — Rejuvenation
- Side Tables — Vintage
- Bookshelf — Blu Dot
- Chair — Vintage and reupholstered
- Sette — Vintage and reupholstered
- Pillows — Custom from Eastern Accents (I used to be a product designer for them)
- Drapery and Hardware — Custom from Eastern Accents
- Burlwood Console — Craigslist
- Coffee Table — Vintage, borrowed from a friend
- Cement Planter — Grandparents
- Tulip Table — Lexmod
- Green Chairs — Vintage from AT Marketplace
- Wishbone Chairs — Amazon
- Mural — The Pattern Collective
- Rug — Antique Store
- Cafe Curtains — DIY
- Vanity — Passed down from grandparents
- Two stacked mirrors — Target
- Two light sconces — Etsy
- Wood Sconce — Etsy
- Bed — Hedge House Furniture
- Nightstand — West Elm
- Pendant — Etsy
- Quilt — Pom Pom at Home
- Lumbar Pillow — Custom from Eastern Accents
- Floating Shelf — Pottery Barn, no longer available
- Print — Family Tree
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