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Credit: Erin Wengrovius

17 Americans on Where (and How) They Live Right Now

published Jul 3, 2020
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Anyone would agree that 2020 has been an extraordinary—as in literally beyond ordinary—year so far. In the U.S., it’s been weird, painful, scary, hopeful, and a myriad of other adjectives. In many ways, it’s been a year like no other we’ve had before. It’s also been a year of having to face decades- (and centuries-)long issues that have never been resolved.

And almost everyone in the U.S. has had to do that from their homes. We want to show you some of those homes and the people who live in them. America’s greatest resource has always been its melting pot of people, cultures, perspectives, points of view, and design styles. This post is a celebration. It’s hope, illustrated.

As much as Apartment Therapy’s content—and our house tours—is about interior design, it’s actually about people. The people who live in small homes and tiny houses and newly constructed condos and historic houses and everything in between. Our unofficial tagline for house tours has always been “real people, real homes.” We’re here to celebrate the ingenuity and the beauty of how real people deal with the real issues facing us in our homes and beyond—in this crazy year, and in the future.

This year, our homes have become much more than just the place we sleep. They’re now our home offices, Zoom backgrounds, places of worship, places of self-care, and more. Below, 17 Americans share a little about their home, their neighborhood, and how their lives have changed this year:

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: This is my third apartment in Los Angeles, and the neighborhood was a huge gamble. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to navigate it without a car (which thankfully I can!). It was pretty far from my last two homes and most of my friends and fave thrift stores. Plus, the rent was a little more than I was used to. But the windows sold me. Also, there are like a million closets in which I store all of my finds.

Lowe Saddler – Koreatown neighborhood in Los Angeles, California

Who do you share your home with: It’s just me and my various busts and statues here!
Occupation: I’m an editor by day and an avid Facebook Marketplace stalker by night
Type of home: One-bedroom apartment
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? This year has been a whirlwind (and far from a comfortable one) for all of us. It’s been a little scary too, I’d say. I’ve been forced to think a lot more about how privileged I am to have a home—a place where I feel relatively safe and usually happy. I’ve also made a deliberate change to my shopping habits for sure. I freaking LOVE to shop. But I’ve been buying from more BIPOC creators, and I’ve also been more intentional with the large businesses I support. Do they support causes I believe in? Do they ignore matters that are important to me and people that look like me? Do they deserve these coins? If the answer is no, then I’m pulling my coins away.

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What is your neighborhood/community/area like? Rahway is a small town in the county of Union, New Jersey. Living and growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was the exact opposite of living in Rahway, New Jersey. It's a very quiet place, however they do a great job of infusing culture and arts into the neighborhood with theatre programs, a great variety of eateries, and activities that families can attend. When we moved here I was already in my late 30s and I was 100 percent ready for a slower pace of life; I can appreciate the hustle and bustle of my hometown NYC and take drives there often, but I can honestly say I love coming back home to my quiet street and the sound of birds in the morning!

Tiffany Brown-Barino – Rahway, New Jersey

Who do you share your home with: My husband, daughter and son, as well as my fur baby
Occupation: I am a paralegal who happens to work in finance right now, but interior design/decorating has been my hobby since I was a teenager
Type of home: We live in a colonial and it’s a new build so we were the first family to live here, which I really like
Do you rent or own your home? Own

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? Being that I now work from home everyday, I’ve had time to really look around and figure out how the entire home functions for us. The guest bedroom also serves as a home office. Funny enough, when I first set up the space for the office, I felt silly because we didn’t have any use for a home office and always thought people were being so pretentious when they said they had one. Well… I had to eat those words this year!

I love a home that smells good, so I try to keep up with my cleaning (I’m a bit of a fanatic) and there has been a heavy use of candles and wax melts in these parts! More so now because we’re here and want it all to look, smell, and feel good. I have also turned my attention to bedding because again, we’re home more, so we are also relaxing a bit more than we were able to in the past. I have slowly tried to incorporate the best linen and bedding that I can afford into our master bedroom. The husband doesn’t know it yet, but I have big plans to overhaul that space next.

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What is your neighborhood/community/area like? My neighborhood is one of the oldest in the Miami area, where the average home was built in the 1940s. My home sits in front of a tree-lined boulevard dubbed "Cardio Way" since it's perfect for a jog or walk in the afternoon. The community is mostly Hispanic—I often speak Spanish with my neighbors and grab a cafecito from the corner bodega.

Ellie Rojas – Schenley Park in Miami, Florida

Who do you share your home with: I share my home with my plants, 17 and counting. Each with their own personality!
Occupation: Frustrated attorney with a passion for interior design
Type of home: Two-bedroom bungalow built in 1955
Do you rent or own your home? Own

Tell us about how and why you chose this home: I grew up in a pastel pink country villa built in 1911 on the north side of the Escambray Mountains in the heart of Cuba. My fondest childhood memories are of that house—the giant marble staircase, arched hallways, ornate Spanish tile flooring, and a front porch that led to a tree-lined boulevard. Leaving that house and my small town for opportunities in the U.S. was difficult, to say the least. When I was finally ready to take the leap into homeownership years later, a little bungalow nestled beside a tree-lined boulevard felt like fate. It even had an arched hallway! I was lucky enough to snatch it and customized it to my liking. I added patterned tile to the front of the porch, gray marble as the backsplash in the kitchen, and painted my front door pink.

Every time I walk into my little casita, it feels like I have a small piece of my childhood with me. I’ve lived in the home for one and a half years now. I look back at my history, my roots, and I know this house is a culmination of hard work, sacrifices, passion, and goal-setting. An immigrant’s aspiration to make a better life. At 30 years old, this Cuban is so proud to own her home and be able to hold on to the nostalgia of the first home she ever knew.

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What is your neighborhood/community/area like? Have you ever seen the 2018 documentary called “Lawtown”? If so, great! I can debunk all of the narrative that film scarred us all with. You could be facing any direction in Lawrence and will likely notice one to two warehouses in the background of your view at any given time; with a high probability that the entire building has been converted into high ceiling lofts and condominiums. Although there’s still plenty of room for the growth of new businesses and organizations to better support the community, I can say with confidence that Lawrence is next up! Especially in the creative community. From my observations living in this city for almost a year, Lawrence has intrigued authors, journalists, photographers (like myself), and filmmakers for most of two centuries, drawn first by its history as a birthplace of the labor movement and as a beacon for many immigrants. Being from NYC I can appreciate that. I’m excited to submerge myself in the city streets this Fourth of July (hopefully), for an opportunity to document the many decedents of the immigrant community (like myself) to observe the nation's holiday, and how.

Rain Bloomfield – Lawrence, Massachusetts

Who do you share your home with: Right now, my friends whenever they are visiting New England
Occupation: Product and Operations Specialist
Type of home: Loft Apartment
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? This past year I’ve seen establishments pop up and some that weren’t able to withstand the effects of the pandemic, and that’s unfortunate since I enjoyed one of the restaurants now closed. Living alone in Lawrence, 31 miles from coworkers, good friends, the city life of Boston, and being 200+ miles from my family can sometimes feel a bit gray, but I’ve always been able to turn my free time into “me time”. New habits began to form that helped my pursuits of becoming a better version of myself and I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come for me. I dove head first into veganism post-lockdown, and won’t be looking back at animal product again!

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: I moved to the Bay Area from Seattle so that I could be closer to my sister and absolutely adorable niece. It was all about location for me. I'm not too far from work and pretty close to my sister's house! Although I live in a small studio, the layout allows me to be creative and really make the most of every square foot!

Abigail – San Francisco Bay Area in California

Who do you share your home with: I have all 415 square feet to myself!
Occupation: My day job is merchandising in the beauty industry and my side hustle (Kut from Kente) is turning living spaces into stylish sanctuaries—on a budget!
Type of home: Studio Apartment
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? Today is a great day to pause and reflect. In the midst of a pandemic that disproportionately affects Black people, my community continues to face injustice. In the wise words of my good friend, Lea (@poet_breathenow), “At the heart of decorating your home is the effort to feel like you’re safe and secure in the familiar of your own taste—a hodgepodge of what you grew up with and what you’ve grown to appreciate.”

Still, despite these efforts, carving out a safe space for myself has proven difficult because of the murder of Breonna Taylor. Maybe she picked out curtains for her window or watered and nurtured the plants on her window sill—the little things that made her feel safe. Yet, despite these efforts, her home wasn’t safe—not even as she was sleeping. That has been difficult to grapple with this year. #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: We truly believe that when something is meant to be yours you instinctively know and that is exactly what happened to us with this house. We looked at so many other homes and almost bought another one, but something just did not feel right and we didn’t go through with it. One day, as I was browsing on Zillow, I came across this small house with a giant window and so much old charm. We just knew that this was the one. We walked in and it had so much natural light, all the original details were preserved, and it was the perfect size for us. It felt like a happy, chill space and we were sold. It has been a good house to our little family for the past five years and the perfect canvas for all my crazy experiments.

Kaviya Ravi – The Highlands neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky

Who do you share your home with: Husband Guru, pups Zorro and Spock, and many many plant babies.
Occupation: I am an artist and my husband works in IT
Type of home: We live in a 115-year-old single family home
Do you rent or own your home? Own

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? What a year it has been thus far! Louisville has always been such a wonderful and welcoming city. People are so nice here and nobody passes you by without a smile or a little talk about the weather, ha! I envisioned moving to a bigger city to experience big city life but Louisville won me over and this is home. With the pandemic and then with the protests, it feels like we are in the cusp of something. I don’t know what that something is. I would like it to be something positive, that my city and its people come out of it stronger, better educated, inclusive and tolerant of all our collective differences. I have hope!

We have made so many changes at home to better suit our lives right this moment and not focus on things that we may need in the future. For example, my husband works from home now. He had a pretty little desk in the corner of our guest bedroom before quarantine, but that just does not work anymore. So we got rid of the guest bedroom, which was very beautiful, but we used it maybe for about two weeks a year. We turned that into a full fledged office/personal space, which he uses every single day. I also have a little studio space reserved just for me. We have realized that personal spaces are so important when people spend so much time together… and so is using every single square footage you are paying rent/mortgage on.

Our kitchen, however, has become the star of our house. We (and the pups!) always end up spending the most time here. Us for the delicious cooking, and the pups for the scraps. We always wanted to cook more, but with work and excellent restaurants nearby that wasn’t always the case. But now we have rediscovered our love for cooking and we enjoy hanging out here. Besides all the pots, pans, and gadgets, we have also added an island and some seating since this has become our new “living room.” It has become a huge part of who we are, two people that are traveling all over the world through their kitchen, getting by one day at a time and having a blast while doing it together.

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What has changed about how you live in your home this year? This is our first year living in our home. A huge part of the reason I loved this house was that it was close enough to the downtown area that we could just walk to restaurants. Currently, with COVID, I'm not going anywhere, so the location isn't very exciting right now. I was also super excited about having a large enough home that I could have accessible gatherings. That is a no-go as well. For now, at least. One super great ritual that my husband and I started is having a cappuccino on our porch every morning before work. It's such a nice, calm place to start our day.

Leah Nixon Fitzgerald – Rapid City, South Dakota

Who do you share your home with: My husband, our two dogs, and my parent’s dog. Also lots of orchids!
Occupation: Illustrator and co-owner of Tiny and Snail
Type of home: Historic home
Do you rent or own your home? Rent (Actually renting from my parents who own the house)

Tell us about how and why you chose this home: I was living in my friend’s backyard in a super tiny house that I had designed and built on wheels and I worked full time as a construction worker for Habitat for Humanity. August 14, 2018 a telehandler fell on me at work. I lost part of my right leg, and my spinal cord was severely damaged, leaving me paralyzed from the armpits down. We were trying to figure out where I would live when I finished with rehab. My dad and aunt went looking at houses and they found one that was in my dream neighborhood, and it was one floor with wood floors. It had an interesting personality with built-ins, archways, and beautiful light. So without me even seeing the house, we bought it. Though, it needed renovations to make it accessible for my wheelchair, so we renovated the bathroom, brought the washer and dryer upstairs, and we are currently making the kitchen more wheelchair friendly.

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What is your neighborhood/community/area like? I love my neighborhood. It’s incredibly green and walkable to so many grocery stores and bars (not that I go to any of those these days). One of my favorite activities it to walk around the neighborhood and pick out my favorite porches and gardens.

Laurel Bristow – Virginia Highlands in Atlanta, Georgia

Who do you share your home with: My cat MoonPie and my Axolotl, Rose
Occupation: Infectious Disease Researcher
Type of home: Apartment
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? I just recently signed my lease again and decided to celebrate by hanging more art and nesting a bit more. I love buying art but a lot of it ends up in packaging waiting for some wall space. I think this year I’ll just hang it all. Blank space serves no purpose and art is meant to be admired.

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home. What I love most about my home is the memories from raising our teenage boys here. Not all memories are the happiest, but they are ours and we were able to get through all situations as a family. We live in a 3800-square-foot two-story and four-bedroom home. This is the first home that we have ever owned, but it met all of our needs when we first started looking. When we came to view it, they were still building it, but I saw this one detail and all is history. It has this circle breakfast nook in the open concept area that I immediately fell in love with. I recently gave it its own spotlight by painting it green.

Laquita Tate – Memphis, Tennessee

Who do you share your home with: I share my home with my husband of 23 years and one of two grown sons. I also share my home with over 40 plant babies. 
Occupation: My full-time career is an educator. I am an elementary school principal, and I am the principal stylist for Laquita Tate Interior Styling & Designs.
Type of home: We live in a two-story house. 
Do you rent or own your home? Own

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? I am more intentional about how I live in my home, especially now during this season. My decor definitely changed in the bathroom and I am currently updating my patio space so that it can be an extension of the inside. Most recently I’ve been purchasing items for that area such as a new outdoor rug, baskets, and outdoor plants. This year has affected me personally by being an elementary school principal and trying to navigate learning for our scholars through this virtual platform. It was a challenge for many of my scholars who don’t have access to technology. It has all been very interesting, but I’ve also kept busy with my interior styling business. 

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: When we first visited our home I was taken with its bright red front door, original glass and brass doorknobs, thick plaster walls, built-ins, and a massive pine tree in the backyard that is overrun by wisteria vines and what we call our "Jack and the Bean Stalk tree". Since moving in we have remodeled the kitchen and laundry area as well as our bathroom; there are certainly other projects we hope to undertake but we love our house and its old home charm.

Daniel and Griffin Carrick – Haymount neighborhood in Fayetteville, North Carolina

Who do you share your home with: My husband, Daniel (currently deployed), our three children, Frances, 9; Teddy, 5; Benjamin, 1, and our Border Collie Maggie 
Occupation: Artist
Type of home: Colonial Revival Single Family home
Do you rent or own your home? Own

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? I am an artist, trained as an interior designer, and I stay home with our three children, so not only do I spend most of my time at home but I think a lot about making our home as livable as possible. COVID-19 and my husband’s deployment, now extended, have intensified the experience of being home this year. The normal activities like trips to the park, visits to museums, as well as other outings, and time spent with friends and family (in person) that we normally rely on during deployments are not available to us, so making our home life as enjoyable as possible has been on the top of my mind.

I broke out the bouncy house we were gifted a few years ago, invested in a big inflatable pool, and have tried to relax when it comes to letting the kids jump on the furniture during dance parties and games of “floor is lava” to give them some more novel experiences while being home every day. I have also made a point to maintain my art practice during the quarantine. The time I spend in my home studio is less predictable, but by being flexible to dive into the work when the time presents itself and accept that interruptions are inevitable (and frequent), I’ve been able to keep taking commissions and work on some more ambitious personal projects that have actually been inspired by this increased time at home.

I’m working on large scale quilled paper doilies that explore how homemakers, mostly women, through much of our recent history, have invested a lot of time and skill into making decorative objects that enhance the beauty and enjoyment of home life. These objects, like the lace doily, hold little monetary value and are no longer “on trend,” but the immense creative labor invested into them by their maker is certainly worth celebrating. While it is a luxury to have the time to make these items, I can attest to the fact that it is also essential both for the maker and for the making of a home.

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: When we started our home search, we knew we wanted a craftsman bungalow with as much original character as possible. We love dark woodwork, moldings, built-ins, etc. When we opened the front door we knew this was our house. Out of the 60 homes we saw during our search, this home was definitely the most intact and had the most original charm. We couldn't be happier with our decision to purchase this historic home.

Shane Humphrey and Taylor O’Brien – Macalester-Groveland neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota

Who do you share your home with: We share our home with our two-year-old wirehaired pointing griffon, Barley! 
Occupation: Shane is a consultant and Taylor is a photographer.
Type of home: 1922 Craftsman bungalow
Do you rent or own your home? Own

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? So much has changed with our extra time at home. We’ve started cooking meals at home, Taylor has picked up gardening and bonsai, and we both are training for marathons to get out of the house and keep our sanity. This time at home has allowed us to finish up all of our decorating and home renovation projects. Taylor loves hunting for incredible vintage pieces and has found that with people organizing their homes and purging years worth of stuff, there is a TON of amazing vintage for sale on Craigslist and Marketplace. His notable purchases are a mint condition 1970s plaid couch and loveseat for $60; a pair of 1960s crocodile skin embossed calfskin and brass cantilever arm chairs; and the weirdest 1980s hand spoon-carved dining table. The amount of time Taylor has spent on Craigslist and Marketplace during this global pandemic is embarrassing, but the finds have been worth every minute!

Credit: Erin Shirley
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What is your neighborhood/community/area like? My neighborhood is always busy, especially on the weekends. People love to come down and walk the boardwalk and sit in the grass to enjoy the view of the water and sometimes we have events and/or concerts! There are so many buildings down here and in DC in general; it's nice to have a spacious community yard on the water.

Erin Shirley – Washington, DC

Who do you share your home with: I share my home with my 7-year-old dog, a Cockapoo named Aster, my cat, Szutt, and 10 plants! They all have different personalities.
Occupation: Pet care
Type of home: Apartment
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? I have definitely changed the decor in my place just a bit by switching out a rug, adding things in, and moving furniture around. With the pandemic going on, I was very grateful to have my space to work in; it’s a place I can stay in forever!

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: I initially passed up seeing this home. The photos were dark and dingy, it had been on the market for months on end, and was being sold as-is. Seemed like too much work for a first-time homeowner. However, once I stepped through the door and noticed how high the ceilings were, the beautiful trim work, and the wonderful openness of the space, I knew I was home. I adored the other charming touches such as the historic pink bathroom, the unfinished basement brimming with potential, and the two sunrooms—perfect for a reading room and office.

Jackie Bevilacqua – Field Club Neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska

Who do you share your home with: Currently living with my pup, Mabel, and my cat, Rex
Occupation: Marketing Account Executive, Freelance Interior Decorating
Type of home: This is a brick craftsman house built in 1915
Do you rent or own your home? Own

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? As with most, I found that my home and the areas within it became absolutely crucial to my well being and productivity. I worked from home for about two months and found that having a specific area to work during the days was important. As the days passed, I looked forward to finding new areas to work for a change of scenery. My patio and porch became extensions of my office. My dining room table offered areas for me to spread out. My kitchen became my mental break where I could make pasta or homemade scones. This year has changed much, and not only with COVID. I also went through a separation this year and decided to keep the home. While this house has always been connected deeply in my heart, I have found that the last year this home has brought me more focus and peace.

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: My apartment complex is very unique; it's one of the oldest standing historic landmarks in Los Angeles County. I had always admired the distinctive hybrid architecture, and I'd heard the property was used for events like weddings, proms, and film shoots, but I never knew people lived inside until I saw a listing on Craigslist! I inquired immediately, was approved by my landlord, then moved in two weeks later.

Miki Carter – Pasadena, California

Who do you share your home with: Me and my ghost (the ghost hasn’t told me its name yet!)
Occupation: Production Lawyer
Type of home: Studio apartment
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? In the simulation that is 2020 (uggggh), I’ve been extremely fortunate to still have a job. However, I’ve gone from working in an office to working from home. I’m still in the process of updating my office corner. So far I’ve rearranged some chairs and bought a computer monitor and printer. It’s not the most visually attractive set up, but I’m hoping to get a longer desk eventually. I’m still waiting on the perfect desk to find me! Until then, I’ll be drafting contracts at my kitchen table, on my couch, on my bed, on the floor…

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: It is an amazingly creative and unique home. The openness and wall of windows upstairs allow for the natural light to fill the entire space including a hidden skylight along the back wall of the house. Also it being a stand-alone home gave me comfort knowing I wouldn't be disturbing my neighbors or be disturbed. Because of the great use of space and tall ceilings, the home feels much larger than it is. The beams and cement floors create an industrial feel but the wood that lines the wall upstairs and the downstairs hallway really make the space feel warm and comfortable.

Jamon Johnson – Columbia Heights, Washington, DC

Who do you share your home with: My home was featured on Apartment Therapy in February 2018. I was living here with my beautiful partner at the time. We are no longer together (although we still love each other dearly), but I have remained in the space
Occupation: Home goods and fashion accessories designer. I also started a brand with my brother and two other partners called Journacy (Journey/Legacy) to create a community for Black Fathers to receive support, resources, and inspiration while on their individual journeys.
Type of home: Loft home
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? Over the past few months with the spread of COVID, my home was redefined. Previously, I consistently opened my home to artists, musicians, and creatives to host pop ups, concerts, dinners, etc. My home was in a state of constant repurposing to fit the needs of the event. It has been nice to have it just be my home again. While I love connecting with other creative people and appreciate seeing people visit and be inspired by my work and the energy here, it has brought a certain peace to the space that I think it needed as much as I did. I began to paint more and create different types of art from what I traditionally had created.

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Tell us about how and why you chose this home: I’ve moved around a lot in New York and so I was excited to find a place I could settle in. I loved this apartment for its potential. It was pretty much a white rectangle when I moved in and so I felt like I could make the space my own. Also, layout is key when choosing a small space, and this apartment has one feature I really wanted—a slightly alcoved area, so I could more easily separate the living room from the bedroom.

Esi Agbemenu – Downtown Brooklyn

Who do you share your home with: My dog, Turkey
Occupation: Attorney
Type of home: Studio apartment
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? This year has seen huge change for basically every community across the country. My neighborhood has been an incredible hub of protest—with many taking to the streets to express the need for real change as America yet again grapples with its past and present of racial injustice and police brutality. This Fourth of July, rather than the usual BBQs and celebrations, I’ll be reflecting. Reflecting on how to celebrate a country that doesn’t celebrate all of its citizens and residents, and reflecting on all the opportunities we have to force meaningful systemic change.

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What is your neighborhood/community/area like? Perfect! It's very quiet, which throws some people off but I love it. Right now all I can hear is the quiet hums of ACs and birds chirping. I recently discovered there are many cardinals here... or maybe I keep seeing the same one over and over haha. My favorite aspect of the neighborhood (aside from the impressive variety of trees) is how walkable it is. I don't own a car so it's very important that everything I need is close by. The only thing that's missing is a shopping area, which is probably a great thing for my bank account. However, I'm very close to Andersonville, which has great shopping.

Tola Akinbiyi – Ravenswood Neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Who do you share your home with: My beautiful cats, Célene and Maximus!
Occupation: Founder of Bon Femmes
Type of home: Apartment
Do you rent or own your home? Rent

What has changed about how you live in your home this year? This is the most I’ve actually “lived” in my home so it has been very interesting. I’ve learned working in bed is not fun at all and if I’m laying on my sofa for more than 10 minutes an unwanted nap will happen (I can’t take naps, I wake up confused about what time, day, and year it is). Decor is constantly changing. Previously the focus was more on aesthetics but now I’m very focused on comfort and functionality. I’ve had to change the layout of my bedroom because I’ve had to make room for inventory and a packaging area.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

These responses were edited for length and clarity.