This Broadway Performer Transforms Literal Trash to Treasure in a Sophisticated NYC Rental

published Nov 10, 2022

This Broadway Performer Transforms Literal Trash to Treasure in a Sophisticated NYC Rental

published Nov 10, 2022
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Name: Bronwyn Tarboton and fiancé
Location: Upper West Side — New York, New York
Type of Home: One-Bedroom Apartment
Years Lived In: 3 years, renting

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Musical theater performer Bronwyn Tarboton was doing “Frozen” on Broadway when the pandemic permanently closed the show after lockdown. “I began trying to make over my apartment on almost no budget, which led me to doing DIY projects and grabbing furniture that was being discarded on the curb,” Bronwyn begins. “This expanded from me doing projects of my own into creating pieces to sell. You can now find me @nyctrashtotreasures on Instagram/TikTok where I sell the furniture and art that I create from items found in my neighborhood’s trash and recycling. As I’m writing this I’m actually on tour with ‘Frozen’ so, things have come full circle!”

Credit: Erin Derby

Bronwyn says that this one-bedroom apartment on New York City’s Upper West Side she’s been renting for three years was actually the apartment her fiancé was living in when they started dating. “It looked COMPLETELY different when I moved in,” Bronwyn admits. “The apartment used to belong to a friend of ours who had moved out and left most of the furniture. My fiancé hadn’t adjusted anything when he moved in so, when I got there the apartment was sort of a strange mish-mash/bachelor pad; there were still hooks on the walls where pictures had been hung, various things in the apartment left by previous tenants, no dining chairs, strange wall colors, etc. Neither of us had time to do anything about it until the pandemic hit. The day after the shutdown when businesses were starting to close, I made us rush immediately to the paint store! We painted every wall in the apartment that first week of the pandemic, and then I spent the next phase doing DIY projects and completely making the place over. I absolutely love it now and can’t believe it took us so long to make it our own.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I love so many styles! So, I guess eclectic, slightly minimal, boho. I love mixing vintage and modern elements.

Credit: Erin Derby

Inspiration: I really believe in using what you already have or shopping secondhand, so I get a lot of inspiration from watching other thrifters and DIYers on YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. There are an endless amount of low budget cool projects going on. I also get a lot of inspiration from what I find getting thrown out!

Credit: Erin Derby

Favorite Element: I absolutely love our bedroom wall color. It’s a mix of green, blue, and gray that never gets old to me and turned out exactly how I had hoped. It’s “Knoxville Gray” by Benjamin Moore.

Credit: Erin Derby

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was that the apartment was already furnished and decorated but, not in the way that I wanted or that I thought worked for the space. So, I had to sort of “undo” things, sift through what was already there and figure out how to make it work, also while being unemployed and trying to do it on no budget. I ended up selling the furniture we didn’t want, DIY transforming some of what was already there (for example: re-stuffing the couch, painting the bathroom cabinets, removing dated shades from light fixtures, grout refresh on yellowing tile, swapping cabinet knobs, etc.). The furniture I decided needed to be bought I got at thrift stores or on Facebook Marketplace at a low price or took stuff for free off the curb.

Credit: Erin Derby

Proudest DIY: Too many to pick one!! I’m really proud of the art that I made for the apartment because I NEVER thought I could make art of any kind. I just didn’t feel I could spend on art at that time, and it forced me to try to make things. My absolute favorite is probably the colorful canvas in the kitchen, which I painted over a canvas found in the trash using kids craft paint that a friend was getting rid of. I’m also proud of the living room light fixture because I think it’s unique and was really easy! 

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I think the most unique thing about our apartment is the amount of items that were either salvaged or transformed through some sort of DIY.

Credit: Erin Derby

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: It’s a little bit extreme but about twice a year I go through every single item I own, pare down, and get rid of what I don’t need anymore. It’s the only way I know to not let things build up.

Credit: Erin Derby

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Shop secondhand! Basically the only things in our apartment that are new are the fabric items, rugs, bedding, pillows. I get most things at Goodwill, Housing Works, or on Facebook Marketplace. I feel like you can get things that are way higher quality and more unique by shopping secondhand, but for crazy low prices. I also love that if you buy something secondhand and it doesn’t look right you can resell it for the same price and try again. The other tip is that you don’t have to have any prior experience to do something in your home. I swapped almost all of our light fixtures by following videos on YouTube.


Credit: Erin Derby


  • Bedroom — Benjamin Moore “Knoxville Gray” and Sherwin-Williams “Marshmallow”
  • Bathroom — Benjamin Moore “Opal”
  • Living Room — Sherwin-Williams “Marshmallow”
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Round Mirror — All Modern
  • Cabinet — Left in the apartment, swapped knobs with these found on curb
  • Lamp — Home Goods
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Stool — Grabbed from an apartment cleanout
  • Arc Lamp — Marketplace
  • Gallery Wall — Mosaic and squiggle art made by me
  • Tapestry and Frames — Goodwill
  • Butterfly — Found in trash
  • Mirror — Housing Works
  • Bird print — Book found in recycling
  • Painting — LaurieAnne Art print (frame from trash)
  • Couch — Very old Pottery Barn (Restuffed it using quilt batting and polyfil!)
  • Ottoman — Found on curb
  • Rug — Rugs USA
  • Chair — Target
  • Side Table — Found on curb
  • Vase — DIY, found in recycling
  • Tapestry — Home Goods
  • Throw Pillows — CB2, Etsy, Target
  • Oval Mirror — Trash
  • Macrame Plant Hanger — Made by me
  • Piano chair — Found in building, reupholstered using a friend’s throw pillow cover
  • Drum planter — Found on curb
  • Wall sconce — Marketplace (plus spray paint)
  • Bench — Home Goods
  • Shelf — Found on curb
  • Items on shelf — Found on curb
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Chairs — Gifted
  • Table — Marketplace
  • Art — DIY over discarded Canvas (this one is inspired by art seen on Studio McGee )
  • Light Fixture — Marketplace (plus spray paint)
  • Rug — Etsy
  • Shelf Items — Thrifted or found
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Lamp — DIY
  • Art — Painted over canvas found in trash
  • Black knobs — Amazon
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Rug — Loloi Rugs
  • Chair — Found on curb
  • Nightstands — These were a large desk found in my basement (I unscrewed the top and walked it down to the hardware store so they could cut it for me!) Looked ridiculous but, meant the total cost for the project was $18.
  • Sconces — Found in recycling, rewired, spray painted black, rub and buff for gold
  • Wall ledge — Found in trash
  • Art over bed — Pages from book found in recycling (taped onto cardstock)
  • Accent Pillow — Pottery Barn
  • Desk — IKEA, found on curb
  • Desk chair — Found on curb
  • Art over desk – DIY, joint pound over canvas found in basement
  • Lamp — Marketplace
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Trash Can — Target
  • Cabinet and Mirror Frame — Painted with Americana Décor Black Chalk Paint
  • Mirror Frame Molding — Hardware store cut and glued it on with liquid nails to cover rust
  • Art — Squiggles by me
  • Frames — Goodwill
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Art — Frame found in trash plus pieces of cardstock painted white

Thanks Bronwyn!

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