A Small and Cute St. Louis Rental Shows How to Mix Secondhand Finds with Ease
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I signed the lease on this apartment while I was still living on the other side of the world. It was my eighth year in Beijing, and I was residing in a shoebox-sized flat with my partner Iain, and our landlord had just informed us that our building would be undergoing maintenance that involved shutting off the water—for three weeks. We were already considering a transfer to the U.S., so when a full six weeks went by and there was still no sign of running water, we took our cue to pack up our cats and start our new adventure.
St. Louis is filled with so many charming, renovated buildings, but this one in particular stood out. Our landlord did a beautiful job doing a modern facelift, while maintaining the building’s character. I was particularly eager to decorate; I couldn’t wait to create a space inspired by the design I had seen on my travels and finally put some of my antiquing finds to good use. Though I had tried my best in Beijing, our rented home there had its limitations, the most severe being the gold and beige, subtly shiny, fleur de lis pattern that wallpapered every room. After three years, my cat Pigeon decided she had enough and started gradually ripping it off the wall. I think she meant well.
I am grateful to have a partner who lets me be as creative as I want when it comes to decor. He’s pretty hands off, though we have picked out some of the major pieces together, and he keeps me reasonable with knick-knacks (though I admittedly tend to push the limits). The embroidered dog in the living room is the one item I “promise” to replace, but secretly can’t bring myself to do it.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Modernized vintage with a splash of boho.
Inspiration: I take cues from my travels around Southeast Asia and Southern China and around Europe—I tend to be attracted to a restaurant, hotel, or boutique by design before anything else. I’m also frequently browsing Apartment Therapy, Design Love Fest, Design Sponge, and of course Pinterest and Instagram for ideas.
Favorite Element: My cheery peach and orange kitchen curtains, which lead the eye to the cozy velvet seat next to the fireplace. Before, I had duller colors next to the dark brown fireplace, but the living room doesn’t get much light (it faces out onto the brick home next door). When we found the orange chair, I switched out our rug for a white one and put up the curtains to brighten up the room and tie everything together.
Biggest Challenge: Keeping the apartment tidy. Before the lockdown, I didn’t spend much time at home and would always rather be doing anything other than cleaning. I also have a difficult time parting with items, thinking I’ll eventually find a place or use for them. Now I finally feel like I have the decoration down, so I can focus on applying a bit of Marie Kondo energy to my other belongings and tackling all the piles (not pictured for everyone’s sake!). I always look to Apartment Therapy for tips and tricks on staying organized and on top of the clutter.
Proudest DIY: My dream is to refinish a piece of furniture, but for now, my DIYs are more like craft projects. I made the pompom flowers for my living room vase. I love real bouquets, but so do my cats, so this is the next best thing!
Biggest Indulgence: Antique malls and estate sales. I love stumbling across little treasures at a steal, but I need to work on saving up that small change for a bigger investment item. Also pillows and rugs. It’s hard for me to pass up a cute pillow, and they’re more affordable than a whole new piece of furniture (again, see above). I switched out the living room rug three times before settling on this one.
Best Advice: Don’t be afraid to experiment! Also, if you’re on a budget, try switching around furniture or accent pieces in various rooms before buying new. You might be surprised to find a combination that works, or learn that what you actually needed to buy was an entirely different item from what you originally thought.
What’s your best home secret? I’ve saved so much money on furnishings with Facebook Marketplace and going to estate sales on Sundays, when everything is half price or less.
- Desdemona Upholstered Ottoman by Christopher Knight Home — Target
- Mirror — General Grant Antique & Decor Mall
- Sofa — A secondhand Carol House sofa from Facebook Marketplace
- Stockholm Cushions — West Elm
- Pata Pillow — World Market
- Black Floor Lamp — Facebook Marketplace
- Side Table — Secondhand
- Coffee Table — Facebook Marketplace (Target)
- NuLOOM Lauren Lattice Shag Rug — Amazon
- Bookshelf Ladder — Overstock.com
- Zenith Record Player — Estate Sale
- Lamp — Target
- Dog Embroidery — Estate Sale
- Vintage Floor Lamp — Kimmswick
- Orange Chair — Secondhand (from a local bar that closed)
- Plant Cushion — West Elm
- Magazine Rack — The Hill Antique Market
- Blue Chair — Facebook Marketplace
- Bar Cart — Target
- Bed Frame and Dresser — Estate Sale
- Gold Velvet Pillow — West Elm
- Green Velvet Pillow — At Home
- Golden Gate Poster — Type Hike
- “Meanwhile” Embroidery — Rose Supply Co
- Pink Velvet Chair — Secondhand
- White Cabinet — Secondhand
- Side Table (Vintage TV Tray)— Estate Sale
- Gray Bedside Floor Lamp — South County Antique Mall
- Record Stand — South Jefferson MCM
- Coat Rack — Amazon
- Medallion Print with Pom Fringe Shower Curtain by Opalhouse — Target
- Pink and Orange Rug — Aelfie
- Black and White Rug — Estate Sale
- “Let’s Rock” Banner — Golden Gems
- Pair of Vintage Pink Pekingese Wall Ornaments — South County Antique Mall
- Yellow Candle — Flowers and Weeds
- Woven Basket with lid — Target
- Apple Basket with handle — Honeycomb