Jane & Mike's "Trial and Error" Federal Hill Home

Jane & Mike's "Trial and Error" Federal Hill Home

Kim R. McCormick
Aug 2, 2011

Name: Jane, Mike, Alice the cat, and Eva the puppy
Location: Federal Hill, Baltimore
Size: 625 square feet
Years lived in: One year

Despite their busy schedules, medical student Jane and her boyfriend, Mike, an art director for a computer animation company, aren't afraid to take on new projects. In addition to maneuvering the happy cohabitation of a cat and puppy in close quarters, they have added their handmade art, upholstery, and furniture throughout their apartment. As a result, their home feels lived-in and comfortable and is full of personal touches.

Jane and Mike have made the most of the space in their long and lean railroad-style apartment, which we first saw in this year's Small Cool contest. You enter into the kitchen from the porch where Jane grows a variety of plants. She hasn't had luck with zucchini — no bees to pollinate them, she was told — but she has a row of tomato plants ripening in planters behind her building's parking spaces.

In addition to greening her thumb, Jane clearly enjoys decorating as a process and has fun rearranging things in their apartment and trying out new ideas. She explains that she used to keep the middle den/office as a dining room, but she realized that she mostly used the space for schoolwork. Now the room is dedicated to a desk area, a bookshelf, and a reading chair. The dining table fits to the side of the living room.

In spite of — or maybe in reaction to — spending so much time at her desk working to complete her third year of medical school, Jane has exercised her creative muscle in projects throughout the apartment. She re-covered the cushions of a chair, created a decorative banister from an old fence post, and made the painting over her bed. Together she and Mike built their coffee table, and she has ambitions to reupholster the orange recliner in the living room. I was especially impressed by the wall-mounted planters she fashioned out of sheet metal. She explained that she cut the pieces with tin snips and lined the pockets with plastic bags, where the soil stays.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mid-century modern industrial is the goal, IKEA + houseplants may be the reality

Inspiration: Trial and error

Favorite Element: Mike likes the coffee table we made out of pipes and a piece of plywood our landlord left on the deck. Jane likes the hardwood floors with exposed brick walls.

Biggest Challenge: It's so narrow and has next to no storage.

Biggest Embarrassment: Mike doesn't like the aquamarine tub in the bathroom and the clutter (usually from Jane). Jane doesn't like the paint cans stored on the top of the cabinets in the kitchen.

Proudest DIY: The sheet-metal wall planters in the bedroom and the coffee table.

Biggest Indulgence: The most expensive piece of furniture we've bought is the sideboard in the kitchen, but it was definitely a necessity. The biggest indulgence was probably our dog, Eva!

Best Advice: You can always paint over it. And don't try to finish decorating now, your style will be more interesting if you let it evolve over time. Anyway, wouldn't you be sad if there was nothing to change tomorrow?!

Dream Sources: We (ahem, Jane) would love to cover most of the apartment in reclaimed, sanded, and lacquered hardwood and galvanized steel. We'd fill the rest of it with stuff from Trohv (in Baltimore).

Resources of Note:


    • Black and white chair: From Jane's grandparents, reupholstered with Ikea fabric by Jane
    • Dresser: Craigslist
    • Bed: Vintage, from Mike's mom
    • Coffee table: Handmade with plywood and galvanized pipe
    • Orange chair: Second Chance, in Baltimore
    • Desk chair: Herman Miller, from Mike's dad


    • Oil paintings: Jane
    • "Splatter monsters": Mike
    • Rabbit and other prints: by Baltimore art students and bought at MICA's Art Mart
    • Lighting: Ikea, Target, and Home Depot
    • Living room curtains: Ikea

Thanks, Jane and Mike!

Images: Kim Rinehimer

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