This Unique Mid-Century Rental Is Full of Natural Light
Name: Matthew Manupella and Andrew Horan
Location: Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC
Size: 1,100 square feet
Years lived in: 2
Matthew and Andrew weren’t huge fans of mid-century modern architecture before they found their townhouse in Capitol Park in DC’s Southwest Waterfront neighborhood. The development embodies its 1960s origins, with clean lines and floor-to-ceiling windows. Plus, a little mid-century quirk: The kitchen and living space are on the second floor, while the bedrooms are on the first. So how does the couple feel about MCM now? “We’ve clearly fallen in love with it,” Matthew says.
One big reason is those windows, which let in so much natural light. (Matthew and Andrew have a botanic garden’s worth of plants, and they’re happy to soak it up.) The couple has honored the home’s mid-century vibe with a mix of consignment pieces, splurges, and some killer DIYs. (Check out those Danish modern chairs in the living room!) But they still face the urban renter’s eternal challenge: cramming everything you love—like their family heirlooms and finds from trips abroad—into a small space.
“That’s why we’ve been so attracted to the mid-century modern furniture,” Matthew says. “The pieces tend to be less bulky. We were able to fit a whole living room set and a dining table upstairs without making the room feel cramped.” “Cramped” is definitely not the word: Matthew and Andrew have hit a great balance, creating a space that feels homey and inviting but not overcrowded. But as they created a home filled with beloved possessions and meaningful pieces, they realized they needed to protect those special items they’d so thoughtfully acquired.
Matthew and Andrew love renting to avoid homeowner headaches like major repairs, but they know the landlord isn’t on the hook for everything. Contrary to popular belief, if something like a fire happens when you’re a renter, the landlord is only responsible for the apartment—not your stuff.
State Farm® Renters Insurance can help protect all of those prized possessions—from the glass jaguar lamp that belonged to Matthew’s grandmother to the antlers from Andrew’s Peace Corps host family in the Philippines—for pennies a day. (Think your possessions aren’t so prized? Think again: The average renter’s belongings are worth more than a new car!) That sense of security also applies outside the home: If your bike gets swiped outside the coffee shop or your laptop is stolen from your car, renters insurance has you covered.
With the security of renters insurance, Matthew and Andrew can focus on more fun things—like their next DIY. To learn more about how State Farm can help ease your mind as a renter, talk to an agent today.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our home’s style: Our house is eclectic, heavily influenced by the mid-century modern architecture but with a bit of bohemian feel mixed in. We love to pick things up while traveling and thrifting. I (Matt) have lots of items that came from my grandparents, so I’ve displayed a lot of random pieces from them around the house—glassware and knick-knacks. We’ve both traveled a lot and have lived abroad, and Andrew travels internationally frequently for work, so he’s picked up different original art pieces from China, alpaca blankets from Peru, flower pots from Spain, etc.
Inspiration: We’ve definitely been inspired by the mid-century modern architecture of the townhomes in Capitol Park. Neither of us was particularly into the style before we moved in, but it works incredibly well with the space. We’ve clearly fallen in love with it now. The development was built in the early 1960s and was considered very modern for the time. The homes have clean lines and many have floor-to-ceiling windows which let in tons of natural light and allows our many plants to thrive.
Favorite element of the home: We love the floor-to-ceiling windows in our living room and dining room areas. It would be hard to live in another place without all the natural light, which of course is also why we have so many plants. This is the perfect home for lots of plants. We also like that the bedrooms are on the first floor and the living space and kitchen are on the second (top) floor. The bedrooms tend to be a lot cooler and better for sleeping, and we genuinely have a unique layout.
Biggest challenge, and how you overcame it: I (Matt) think with urban apartments the challenge is always figuring out how to cram in all the things you want in a smaller space. That is why we’ve been so attracted to the mid-century modern furniture. The pieces tend to be less bulky, so we were able to fit a whole living room set and dining room table on the upstairs level without making the room feel cramped.
Finding a bike storage solution was also challenging since our neighborhood does not have a storage unit for them, and it is prohibited to keep them outside. We researched a lot of different options and the Gladiator bike hooks were the best choice. They make it easy to get the bikes in and out and the hooks allow for the bike to be stored easily without scuffing up the walls.
What friends say about your home: Our friends have always been wowed by the space the first time they come over. The floor-to-ceiling windows upstairs are a big hit. They also say how warm, comfortable, and inviting the space is. They always ask about the DIY projects we’ve done and are very surprised to hear that most of our furniture was bought secondhand and that we put time and energy into refurbishing them. Most people don’t know about this neighborhood, which is kind of a hidden gem close to many of the sights in DC, like the National Mall, the Capitol, the waterfront area on the Potomac, etc.
Biggest embarrassment: Having a rental kitchen means you really can’t do structural or even cosmetic changes. Our cabinets have grape handle hardware and a frosted glass cabinet with grapes on it that are kind of tacky. Also, the backsplash to the oven has textured grape tile on it that is really not our style at all, so it’s unfortunate that we can’t change it, but we’ve learned to live with it.
Proudest DIY: Our proudest DIY is the two Danish modern chairs in the living room. We bought them when we first moved in together. When we initially bought them, they had multiple layers of white paint on them and came with patterned cushions that were extremely dated and felt like they came from the ’90s. It took a long time to strip off the several layers of paint, and since we have no dedicated workspace in which to do that (and since you are using heavy chemical strippers to get the paint off) we ended up doing the project on our deck over a few weeks. The chairs are standard-sized, so we bought new cushions for them off Joybird.
I (Matt) also really like my penny top table project. I got the little table for free from a friend. It had some pretty bad stains on the top that just refinishing wouldn’t remove. I saw a video of a guy on the internet redoing a bar with pennies, so I took the idea and used it on the table. It definitely gave new life to it.
Biggest indulgence: The mosaic tile coffee table. We bought it for $600, which felt like a pretty big indulgence at the time, but we were in love with it. We also splurged on a brand new couch, which is pretty much the only brand new piece of big furniture we bought. We fell in love with its style and bought it online at Article without having sat in it or seen it in person. It was $1,700, which was a lot to pay for something sight unseen.
Best advice: Our best advice would be to not be afraid of a little DIY. There are so many great resources on the internet; it makes taking on projects really easy. If you don’t have outdoor space, it doesn’t mean you can’t put down a drop cloth and strip furniture inside (with proper ventilation, of course).
Creating your home is a process that’s never really done. So don’t feel like you need to spend a bunch of money and make a lot of decisions right away. Take your time and let it build organically.
Dream sources: We pull ideas from all over: travels, Instagram, friends, Apartment Therapy (obviously), etc. Our place is always evolving and changing.
- Living room pillows – Joybird
- Mid-century living room chairs – Consignment
- Danish modern chair cushions – Joybird
- Coffee table – Consignment
- Buffet – Habitat for Humanity Re-store
- Poufs – CB2
- Gold bird leg table – Urban Outfitters
- Plant/bookshelf – Ikea
- Most of our flower pots and many plants – Ginkgo Gardens
- Living room rug – Home Goods
- Sea creature and dinosaur prints – Jason Polan
- You Are Not Alone graffiti painting – Artist Aaron Hill
- Danish modern lamp – Estate sale
- Dining table – Table swap with a friend
- Dining room chairs – Craigslist
- Quilt set – Pendelton