Before & After: A 350-Square-Foot Condo’s Dated Interiors Got a Fresh DIY Facelift

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Name: Tess Ciarloni and my cat Severus
Location: Cabbagetown neighborhood — Toronto, Ontario
Type of home: Condo
Size: 350 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I was able to realize my dream of renovating a home when we bought this condo. It was a fairly dated unit and a lot of it seemed like it hadn’t been updated since it was built in the ’70s. Over the course of two years, my dad and I changed almost everything about this small space to get it to where it is today—a bright, plant-filled home brimming with creativity and pillows.

My dad is a contractor so he was able to do a lot of the larger projects like scraping off the popcorn ceilings, replacing the floors, and tiling the bathroom and kitchen. I helped as much as I could and did all the painting and patching (and there was a ton of patching) as well as all the design of the apartment. I live in the unit with my cat, Severus, who turned 7 this summer. I’ve had her since she was a kitten and this is the fifth apartment that she’s lived in with me and it’s definitely her favorite. I can tell she’s super happy here with all the light and the huge windows that she can watch the pigeons from. I initially went to school for design, which led me to my current role as the Creative Services Manager at an interior design magazine. I also blog on the side, am a trained pastry chef, just finished my yoga teacher training, and have recently gotten really into sewing lingerie.

Whenever I’m faced with a problem—design or otherwise—I usually try to DIY it myself first. That’s how a lot of the projects in my apartment came to be. I see things that I like and I make them myself. OR, I spend hours searching for a very specific thing that I want and when I’m not able to find exactly what I’m looking for I’ll make it. I was also raised in a very creative home so I was encouraged to explore various artistic and creative outlets and found that I loved painting. So, a lot of the art pieces around my apartment are things that I’ve painted or photos that I’ve taken. My need for organization is very apparent in my home as it’s often very clean and organized and everything has a place where it stays. My love of plants is reflected in my home as I have a bunch of them and I love that they can function to help purify the air; they can be used as a design element (like over my headboard) or they can add a pop of color. I just love the energy that a space has when it’s filled with plants.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Bright, cozy, organized, functional, plant-filled

I painted this DIY circle headboard above my bed for a pop of color!

What is your favorite room and why? Well, I live in a studio so technically it’s all one room. But, having said that I am loving my bedroom area right now. I recently just painted a circle headboard behind the bed and I’m obsessed with the shape and how it really just pulls that area together and the pop of color! My walls were all white before—aside from my pale pink door—so I love that this adds a deep dusty shade to the room without feeling heavy. I’m also obsessed with my bed and the super cozy bedding that I have on there. Oh, and of course all the pillows!

One end of the balcony with a sitting area. The other has a small dining table and chairs.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing I bought for my home was a new (huge) rosemary plant. I had a small herb garden in the summer but it was so hot this year with a lot of sun so all the herbs wilted and died. I decided to replace the rosemary because as we head into the winter, I love to include rosemary in a lot of what I cook. It reminds me of my Nonnie’s cooking.

Any advice for creating a home you love? I think what I love most about my home is looking around and being incredibly proud of all the work that I put into this unit. So, my one piece of advice would be to do as much work yourself as you can. Make your home a real labor of love. I have so much pride knowing that it was my hard work (combined with a lot of my dad’s) that made this home happen and I’m thankful for that every day.

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