These Renters Have Painted Every Wall and DIYed It All

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Living room with white walls, neutral textile furnishings, wood floor, round coffee table, plants, art

Justine Portmann Katz; spouse, Fen; 1-year-old daughter, Larkin; and 5-year-old Boxer pup, Tycho, have rented this apartment for nearly nine years: When we moved into this apartment, we were moving in together for the first time. I had lived in a co-op with five roommates and had no furniture, and Fen had lived with a previous partner, who had taken all of theirs in the breakup. We moved in with my mattress on a box spring, and some hand-me-downs from friends and family. Over nearly a decade our home has evolved with us, our style, and our lives, as we added layers of furniture, art, and plants … lots of plants. We’ve painted every wall at least once and thrifted, rewired, and DIYed it all.

We planned our wedding in this space, brought home our first dog together, changed jobs and careers, and welcomed our daughter, Larkin, all here. The walls hold a lot of memories for us, and while we are in the process of finding more space to continue to hold our growing family and lives, we love it so much and it will always hold a special place in our hearts and memories.

I identify strongly as a gardener, a reader, and a spiritual person, and I believe it is reflected in my home. We have over 30 houseplants and hundreds of books, and before our daughter was born her nursery was my personal yoga studio and meditation space. The color story throughout our home is inspired by Scandinavian simplicity, farmhouse utility, and an artistic and vintage sensibility. My spouse, Fen, worked in the restaurant industry (where we met) for over a decade, and so our mutual love and appreciation for food and beverages is also reflected in our home’s expansive cookbook and vintage barware collections.

Describe your home’s style in five words or fewer: Unique and lived-in sophistication.

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room is the living room — the light from the southwestern-facing bay window is incredible in every season, and there is a Honey Locust tree out front that turns golden in early fall. The sunsets are just spectacular.

Fen’s favorite room is the dining room — with all other rooms in the apartment we painted the walls white (Benjamin Moore “Snowfall White”), but here we opted to embrace the traditional feel of the chair rail and paint the upper half of the wall a dark contrasting slate blue grey color (Benjamin Moore “Trout Grey”). Having a formal dining room to host dinner parties and holiday celebrations has always felt very luxurious.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? We finally upgraded our sofa last year to the Neva 84″ sofa and chair ottoman from Sixpenny.

I was pregnant and we knew when the baby came we would want to be able to all be comfortable on the couch together. Our space was too small for the Neva sectional, so we added an ottoman to create a sectional for movie nights, which we move away to create a loveseat when we have company.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Take your time, don’t rush to fill the space with things you think you need to have right away. If you’re a renter it can be tough to not have control over things like fixtures and floors — we took down ugly overhead fixtures and used lamps in rooms for years to create our own soft light and ambiance. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be yours and to be beautiful.

Thanks, Justine!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.