This Prop Stylist’s Brooklyn Rental Is Packed With Secrets to Decorating Affordably, Quickly, and Beautifully

published Mar 20, 2023

This Prop Stylist’s Brooklyn Rental Is Packed With Secrets to Decorating Affordably, Quickly, and Beautifully

published Mar 20, 2023
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Name: Caity Birmingham
Location: Bed Stuy
Size: 680 square feet
Type of home: Second floor of a 3-unit apartment building
Years lived in: 1 year, renting

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Credit: Erin Derby

Caity Birmingham is a production designer for movies and TV and a prop stylist for commercials and photo shoots. And if you’d guess her home is a stage for stunning decor and art, you’d be right. “I was working on a movie upstate and searching for a place in Brooklyn on the weekends, and not having much luck. Then I found this open house on Craigslist, and I fell in love with it,” explains Caity. “It’s in a bit of strange spot in between neighborhoods, and definitely not a beautiful brownstone on a tree-lined street, but it has a lot of original details, super-high ceilings, wood floors, and great light. That the location is unassuming makes it more of a hidden gem.” Below, Caity shares just a few of her secrets to decorating a home affordably, quickly, and beautifully.

For curtains, buy in bulk.

“I did everything as thriftily as possible, with all secondhand furniture, and a lot of treasure hunting,” Caity explains of her budget for decorating the space. “I made my living room curtains from bulk fabric I found on Etsy for $6/yard.”

Credit: Erin Derby

Don’t do the WHOLE framing job custom.

Caity says to skip buying things just to fill space, especially when it comes to art. “Wait and find things that speak to you, that are special and specific. Why buy mass-produced art when we have such amazing access to image makers on Instagram, Etsy, and beyond, and buying their work helps support their art-making? Secondhand and handmade is the way to go whenever possible — more unique and better for the world (and not necessarily more expensive, either),” she explains. But once you’ve found your art, save even more money by not choosing a custom framing job. “I framed collected art with thrifted frames and custom mats, rather than doing a whole custom framing job, which can get very expensive.”

Credit: Erin Derby

Be a believer… in contact paper, vinyl, and removable wallpaper.

“A more specific hack: “I’m a big believer in contact paper, vinyl, and removable wallpaper for temporary but bold changes in a rental,” Caity admits. “Most of them go up easy and come off without any damage. You can do a wall, a whole room, or just some cabinet fronts (like in my kitchen) or the back of a bookcase or built-in. Even your refrigerator. I changed the color of picture frames with vinyl, added stripes and details to furniture, and used a cool geometric wood-grain vinyl on my worktable. It’s a very fun, cheap way to change a look.”

Credit: Erin Derby

Say no to overhead lights.

Caity calls herself an “Anti-Big Light activist. I have lamps in every room. My tiny bedroom contains three lamps, all pink. I even cook by lamplight if possible; a set decorator friend of mine taught me about the joy of a fridge lamp, which is just a table lamp on top of your fridge, and this is now a way of life for me. I have a little lamp in the bathroom too.”

Credit: Erin Derby

THE secret to cohesive spaces:

“I’ve been asked how I can have such a mishmash of colors and patterns and make it feel like it goes together. Don’t worry about it. If you find things you like to look at, then that’s the unifying factor, and they will go together,” she writes.


Credit: Erin Derby


  • All furniture — Facebook Marketplace
  • Rug — Crate and Kids
  • Yellow lamp — West Elm
  • Curtains, fabric — Etsy
  • Yellow fan pillow — IKEA
  • Green throw pillow with figures (on chair) — BFGF
  • Other pillows — Vintage
  • Himalayan pink salt orb lamp — Amazon
  • Fortune teller tray and red cowgirl matches — Gentle Thrills
  • Artwork above the sofa — My talented friend Amber Fletschock
  • My treasured original Tretchikoff Green Lady print — Flea market in Northern California
  • LORETTA FOREVER print — Church of Type
  • Corita Kent I Love You Very Much print — Flea market in LA
  • Forever heart suncatcher — Mind and Mineral
  • Metal flower mirror — Thrift store in Los Angeles
  • Fringe banner — Fun Cult
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Worktable and dressers — Secondhand
  • Desk chair — IKEA
  • Geometric inlaid wood-grain contact paper — Amazon
  • Blue lamp base — West Elm
  • Red small file cabinet — IKEA
  • ’80s stereo with turntable, cassette players, and radio — Facebook Marketplace
  • Tape wall organizer — Crate and Kids
  • Red molded plastic original ’70s wall organizer — Thrifted
  • Becker Uten.Silo — Vitra
  • Cool Cool Cool wall clock — Society6
  • 3 fish art pieces in this room — Made by my friend Mark Johnston
  • A number of speech bubbles — Artist Martha Rich
  • A number of pieces — Nathaniel Russell
  • ’80s vintage papier mache animal heads — Gina Truex
  • An Introductory Ethic for Designers print — Rick Griffith
  • Girard print — The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe
  • We Are Working All the Time Print — Labor Camp
  • Wonderful, silly book print — Anna Hoyle
Credit: Erin Derby


Credit: Erin Derby


  • Round mirror — Secondhand
  • Metal bed frame — Secondhand
  • Wall shelf — IKEA
  • Linen sheets and satin and linen pillowcases — Kip and Co.
  • Coverlet microplush blanket in Rust — Target
  • Striped velvet throw pillow — Circa 78 Designs
  • Pink velvet curtains — IKEA
  • Patterned curtains — Target collab with Society6
  • All lamps — Thrifted
  • Plant hanger — IKEA
  • Lightweight plastic plant pot — Target
  • Bird print — Nathaniel Russell
  • Eye — Martha Rich
  • Fun Cult fringe banner — Fun Cult
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Shower curtain — Leah Reena Goren
  • ·Rolling cart in Rust Red — IKEA
  • Variety of thrifted and collected framed religious art, portraits
  • Pink lamp — Thrifted
  • All towels —Vintage
  • Hand soap — Aesop

Thanks, Caity!

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