A Cozy Philadelphia Row Home Is Packed With Cheery Color Inspiration, Inside and Out
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Name: Carina Romano, Brian Baughan, Nanuq and Millie (dogs)
Location: Fishtown, Philadelphia
Size: 1,100 square feet
Years lived in: Brian (15), Carina (10)
Rent or Own: Own
I—Carina Romano, one of Apartment Therapy’s House Tour photographers and Contributors—am not a designer by any means. But from photographing stylish homes throughout the years, I’ve learned a lot that I’ve been able to apply to my own home, a lovely row home in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. I share my home with Brian, an editor, who actually bought the house in 2004 when we were just friends. He didn’t know anything about home buying or what he was particularly looking for, but luckily his realtor knew about a row house on the market that had a full side yard, a rare thing in Fishtown. Nanuq and Millie, our two dogs, round out our family.
In our home, we like everything to be functional and have nice air flow. My family practices a sort of “light” Feng Shui (from my mother’s side) and we have always been very practical with what we choose to include in our home as well as the placement of furniture and objects. We love to entertain (thought we don’t do it often enough), so our dining table, which was inherited from Brian’s grandparents, can seat six comfortably. For casual week night dinners, we eat off of a cool pop-up coffee table. Mainly, we pass time by enjoying life inside our home. We love doing jigsaw puzzles, reading books, listening to records, and having lots of “couch time” with our two dogs. We also plan to host outdoor movie nights in the future (once it’s safe to do so).
I’ve also included images of my photography studio in this tour, which is nearby on the same street as our house, though a very different structure. Since there is no more room inside our home and I work with coworkers, we rented a building nearby to work out of. It is a 2000-square-foot loft that we’ve been in for the past five years. We put in a lot of hard work to make it what it is now today, a functional photo studio and adequate work and meeting space. To me, it is a sacred space, where I can get straight to work, but also love being in. You can see more of my work on instagram: @lovemedophoto, @carinasama.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Mid-Century Vintage, Nature Inspired.
Inspiration: ’70s style bathrooms, greenhouses, the American Southwest…
Favorite Element: Carina – The open floor plan of the first floor and the amount of natural light that the space receives.
Brian – The side yard, because it offers a space to mellow out and give the impression you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle on the street.
Biggest Challenge: Storage. Philadelphia row homes are notorious for not having closets. Most of what we own is out on display. We didn’t want to have bulky furniture to stow everything away in, so we chose pieces where we could store items but also felt open. With this challenge, we never buy anything we don’t have the space for.
Carina – I am also highly allergic to dust and mold, so, the fewer the items, the less I have to worry about it accumulating. The dog hair, unfortunately, gets everywhere so between weekly vacuums, we also have a Eufy Robovac that runs through the first floor terrorizing our dogs.
Proudest DIY: Brian – Pulling up all the carpeting and refinishing the original wood floor underneath. The flooring in the living room has since been redone, but the original wood on the second floor remains. It was really hard work, but I enjoyed the process of improving a space by shedding what was there. (A big thank-you to my dad, who helped me with every step on the project.)
Carina – My most recent DIY was the backyard wall. Our “yard” is the property next to us that came with the purchase of the house. A house that burned down several years before we bought it used to stand here. Since then it’s been a concrete side yard where we enjoy fire pits and sometimes dinner outside. The back wall had an old mural that a friend made when Brian bought the house. Over the years, ivy grew up the wall and destroyed the mural. During this “stay at home” order, I took it upon myself to restore the wall. I first had to remove all the ivy, remove the remaining pieces of the mural, scrape and sand the wall, then prime and paint it.
I was inspired by Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul (side note: we were supposed to spend a week in Mexico City but our trip was canceled due to the coronavirus). I wanted to bring a little bit of Mexico City here. I ordered the tiles from Etsy and used an old unused mirror to make the moon mosaic—something that I had never done before. It’s not the most beautiful thing ever made, but it really gave me a sense of ownership and pride. I taught myself a new hobby! Oh, and Brian helped.
Biggest Indulgence: Air Conditioning. Our house is over 100 years old and has no duct work and never had central air. The year we got married, we gifted ourselves AC throughout the house. We went with Mitsubishi Electric ductless units—one for the first floor and two for the bedrooms on the second floor. It made life bearable during the hot summer months in the city.
Best Advice: Brian – When it comes to any kind of rehab project, most people’s first thought is to go DIY, but if you go that route, you better know ahead of time what kind of time and effort you’re about to invest. Hiring a professional, of course, can pose budgetary challenges. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a few friends just as they’re launching their own contracting or rehab business, so I had the satisfaction of knowing I’m supporting a friend AND not being charged an arm and a leg.
Carina – For our home I like everything to be of good quality. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to come from the most expensive stores. I stick mostly to solid wood, things that will last a lifetime or more. I became very tired of having to replace items left and right when they would break or start to fall apart. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a few skills in how to repair pieces of furniture when things do break.
Most things can be given a new life with some refinishing or new paint. Many of the vintage or secondhand items throughout the house were bought for next to nothing. I got myself a nice sander (now I have a few different ones) and learned how to refinish. Now it’s a hobby and I’m always looking for new (old) things that I can make “like new.”
What’s your best home secret? “Everything has a home.” We’re certainly not clean freaks but we do easily misplace a lot of items. I always have a designated spot where each item goes after we’ve used it. We have a few “junk drawers” where we toss things we don’t know where to put, but overall—it is still put away or hidden. For other items, I have some “catch-all” baskets and containers that end up being design elements as well.
PAINT & COLORS
- Crosby Mid-Century Sofa — West Elm
- Industrial Storage Pop-Up Coffee Table — West Elm
- Rug Tiles — FLOR – These are great because if you have a spill or accident, you can simply replace one tile instead of buying an entirely new rug.
- Vintage Leather Arm Chair (comes with tray table and ottoman not shown) — Inherited from Brian’s grandfather.
- TV Cabinet — Craigslist
- Wooden side tables — Craigslist and yard sale finds. Refinished by Carina.
- Plant table — Yard Sale
- Bookshelf — Thrift Store
- Plants — Stump, Vault and Vine, Field, etc.
- Lamp — Anthropologie, previously owned by a friend
- Screen Print above TV — Will Stichter, HYMY Industries
- Flower Thread Art — Thrift Shop
- Rainbow Blanket — Jinxed Philadelphia
- Dining Table and chairs — Inherited from Brian’s grandma
- Rug — Bought in Istanbul
- Kallax Record Unit — IKEA
- Yellow Cabinet — Flea market find, repainted by Carina
- Piano — Second hand from friends
- Square Photographs — Carina Romano
- Audubon Bird Chart — Tender Land Home
- Fox and Rabbit Print — “Past Life” by Sullivan Anlyan
- Days of the Week sign — Outdated
- The kitchen was gutted and renovated by us and Jesse of Brass Tacks Home. We used IKEA to design where we would have our cabinets and shelves, and Jesse did all the hard work.
- Cabinets and shelving — IKEA
- Kitchen Table — Inherited from Brian’s grandma
- Chairs — Fake Eames from Amazon
- Dumpling Print — Tiny Eyes Comics
- Modern Show Wood Bed — West Elm
- Cotton Quilt — Pendleton
- Dressers — IKEA
- Bedside Tables — IKEA
- Leather Arm Chair — Curbside find.
- Photos above bed and dressers — Carina Romano
- “I Love You” sign — DIY by friend, Jenna for our wedding
- Butterfly Print — Tender Land Home
- New Orleans House Photo — Adrienne Breaux
- Jewelry Storage — Acrimet Key Cabinet from Amazon
- Black and White Striped Chair — Anthropologie via Final Cut Furniture
- Sailing Ship Kite — Haptic Lab
- Dog Drawing — Gift from our nieces Callie and Ella
- FRIHETEN Sleeper Sofa — IKEA
- Rug — IKEA (discontinued)
- Desk — IKEA (legs and table top separate)
- ALEX Drawer Unit — IKEA
- Green Chair — IKEA (discontinued)
- RANARP Floor Lamp — IKEA
- Eagle Kite — Gift from a friend, Holly
- Hanging Basket — UO Home
- Macrame Hanger — Maggpie Vintage
- Bookshelf — Unknown
- Yakima Camp Blanket — Pendleton Woolen Mills
PHOTO STUDIO (Down the street from our house):
- Blue Remark Sofa — Overstock
- White fake Eames style chairs — Amazon
- Hammock Chairs — Amazon
- Wooden Slat Coffee Table — Thrift shop, refinished by Carina
- Modern Tribeca Metal Daybed — Overstock
- Jute Boucle Rug — West Elm, previously owned by a friend
- Leather bench — Urban Outfitters via Final Cut Furniture
- Eames Chair — Craigslist
- Peacock Chair — Second hand
- Bookshelf — IKEA
- Floor Pillow— Urban Outfitters via Final Cut Furniture
- Side table — Thrift shop, refinished by Carina
- ALEX Desks — IKEA
- Picnic Table — Handmade by Brass Tacks Home
- Bistro table and chairs — Terrain
- Plant Rack — Second hand
- Plants — Stump, Vault and Vine, Field, Urban Jungle, City Planter, etc.