This Luxe-Looking Rental Apartment is Actually Packed with Affordable DIYs

published May 10, 2021

This Luxe-Looking Rental Apartment is Actually Packed with Affordable DIYs

published May 10, 2021
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Name: Sourya Venumbaka and husband Franklin Burg 
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  
Size: 600 square feet 
Type of Home: 2 bedroom apartment 
Years Lived In: 1 year and four months, renting

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Sourya Venumbaka has used her DIY magic to transform the Philadelphia rental she shares with her husband, Franklin Burg, into a space that continues to impress her large Instagram and TikTok followings. Sourya is known for constantly trying her hand at furniture revamp projects of all kinds — she never fails to make budget-friendly finds look sleek and stylish thanks to her creativity and carpentry skills. 

Credit: Carina Romano

You’d never guess by looking at their well-decorated space, but Sourya and Franklin only moved into this apartment three months before the pandemic hit. “Moving in with a partner is always an adjustment, but throw in a quarantine, where all our time is spent indoors, and you’ve got yourself a major shift in lifestyle,” she reflects. “I had to make all 600 square feet of this apartment work hard to cater to our new needs.” 

Credit: Carina Romano

For example, one design dilemma was figuring out how to best work from home within a small space. “The dining table for two ended up being my husband’s workstation, and the second bedroom doubles as my workshop and studio,” Sourya explains. Challenges aside, Venumbaka, who previously lived in New York City, considers her shared 600-square-foot space to be a major win. She notes, “After living in New York for four+ years, an affordable two-bedroom was a dream come true!” 

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Modern Eclectic

Inspiration: Athena Calderone from EyeSwoon, Andrew Jonathan Griffiths from A New Day Interior Design

Credit: Carina Romano

Favorite Element: All my thrifted treasures! From the faux burlwood side table to the 200-year-old Colombian clay bowl.

Biggest Challenge: Storage! There never seems to be enough. We actually got a storage unit so the house wouldn’t feel so cluttered. Not going to lie, my constantly bringing home furniture in need of a makeover doesn’t help! Neither does my ever-growing arsenal of power tools.

Credit: Carina Romano

Proudest DIY: The renter-friendly kitchen makeover! Since the kitchen is an extension of our living room, I couldn’t stand looking at our outdated kitchen cabinets and Formica countertops. With some clever contact paper hacks, I was able to transform the kitchen into a modern, cozy space. 

Biggest Indulgence: Our couch! We love how it looks and it is so comfortable. We spend so much of our time on it now that we’re home all day and it’s worth every dollar.

Credit: Carina Romano

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Storage is at a premium in our apartment so instead of sticking stools under the kitchen counter I added two cabinets to act as our pantry.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? 

1. Folex Carpet Cleaner. This thing is a miracle worker for stains on upholstery. I even got purple paint water out of my WHITE rug.

2. The IKEA Bekvam spice racks. Being Indian, I use a lot of spices in my cooking and these spice racks have helped me keep my herbs/spiced organized and at easy reach.

Credit: Carina Romano

3. Our Breville Espresso machine. This was a recent splurge, but one we know will pay for itself with all the brown sugar oat milk lattes we intend to make. 

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have:  Think high, think low, and think double duty! Think high: Store occasionally used items on higher shelves. I added two picture ledges above my kitchen cabinets to hold pantry items we don’t reach for often. Think low: If you have space under your couch, use it. We store all our board games in trays under the couch that can easily be pulled out on game night. Think double duty: A dining table that doubles as a home office, a shoe cabinet that doubles an entryway table etc.

Credit: Carina Romano

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Thrift and DIY! My house is filled with thrifted treasures that make the space feel far more unique than if I bought every item from a chain store. Thrifting will save you money and it’s great for the environment! Do-It-Yourself projects are not only fun but mean you can customize off-the-rack furniture to suit your home.


Credit: Carina Romano


Credit: Carina Romano


  • Bissa Shoe Cabinet — IKEA
  • Target Stamped Metal Mirror — Target
Credit: Carina Romano


  • Adams chaise sectional — Castlery
  • Natural wood leaning floor length mirror — World Market
  • Alexander Home tremezzina boho terracotta sky distressed Rug — Overstock
  • Amped fleece throw blanket — Urban Outfitters
  • Nissafors bar cart (modified)— IKEA
  • Vintage anatomy poster digital print — Etsy
  • Thrifted art — Circle Thrift, Philadelphia
  • Thrifted coffee table (upcycled) — Uhuru Furniture, Philadelphia
  • Thrifted faux burl side table — Roanoke Antique Mall, Roanoke, VA
  • Shelves — DIY with floating brackets from Amazon
  • Arched lamp — Crate and Barrel Outlet with DIY lampshade
Credit: Carina Romano


  • Dining table — Facebook Marketplace
  • Thrifted dining chairs (upcycled) — Circle Thrift, Philadelphia
  • Art (original) + Frame — New Life Thrift, Cheltenham, PA
  • Thrifted vase (upcycled) — Thunderbird Salvage, Philadelphia
  • Wood links — Crate and Barrel Outlet, California
Credit: Carina Romano


  • Bekvam spice racks — IKEA
  • Ivar cabinets (upcycled) — IKEA
  • Marble contact paper — Amazon
  • Backsplash — DIY
  • Maleras picture ledges — IKEA
  • Breville the Barista Express —  Sur la Table
  • Tiered fruit bowl — TJ Maxx
  • Thrifted clock – Circle Thrift, Philadelphia
  • Spice jars —  Amazon
Credit: Carina Romano


  • Malm bed frame — IKEA
  • Channel tufted Headboard — DIY
  • Side tables (upcycled) — Facebook Marketplace
  • Sconces — DIY using a bread basket and this lamp base from IKEA
  • Mirror — Facebook Marketplace
  • Dresser (upcycled) — Facebook Marketplace
  • Casa Luna linen blend duvet and sham set — Target
  • Woven striped throw pillows — Target
  • Thrifted rattan trunk — Uhuru Furniture, Philadelphia
  • Isabelle traditional Vintage border printed area rug — Overstock
  • Art — DIY
  • Curtains — IKEA
  • Curtain rod — Amazon
Credit: Carina Romano


  • Thrifted desk (upcycled) — Thunderbird Salvage, Philadelphia
  • Unique loom striped Tribeca — Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Naador rug —  Nordstrom
  • Kleppstad wardrobe (upcycled) — IKEA
  • Desk chair — Facebook Marketplace
  • Reeded plant stand — DIY
  • Leather chair (upcycled) — Facebook Marketplace
  • Nude original watercolor painting — Antique Mall in Orange, California
  • Abstract painting of woman — Thunderbird Salvage, Philadelphia
  • Female figure abstract watercolor digital print — Etsy printed by Elite Wall Art

Thanks Sourya!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.