Before & After | mainline rental

Today’s Before & After is about my friend Karen’s apartment in Wayne, PA.  In case y’all don’t know, Karen and I will be traveling to Paris next week!  Not sure if I’ve mentioned my Paris trip enough on this blog:)

If you followed my old blog Urban by Design, you may remember  a post I did about her apartment.  Karen moved into the apartment in 2008 and really has transformed it into a beautiful space that has a lot of character and feels really homey – which can be so difficult to do in a rental.  This is what she started with:








She was lucky and started with some nice features like the beautiful doors separating the kitchen and living room, the fireplace…and that’s pretty much it.  Those two nice things are definitley overshadowed by the carpeting, vinyl flooring, drop ceilings, paneling, etc.  Being a designer herself (we met in grad school), it was important to Karen to have a space that was not only comfortable but appealed to her aesthetically.  She worked her magic and turned it into this:








She did good, right?  Many people mistake being a designer as having a glamorous job.  If only this was true.  Unfortunately it teaches us to have expensive, high end taste, but does not afford us to live that lifestyle.  At least not as a young designer (yes, I just called us young designers!).  Okay, young-ish.  You have to be creative and know how to make something inexpensive look unique and worth a lot more than it actually is.  This is how Karen designed her apartment on a budget, in her own words:

Almost everything in my apartment came from either Target, Ikea, or Craigslist!   I was willing to negotiate for everything on CL and most of the people sold me the item for (or close to) my lower price.  If the seller wasn’t willing to meet the price in my budget, I walked away.  They are almost always more desperate to sell than the buyer would be.  I was also willing to drive a bit further to pick up a great find.   Then I refinished the pieces with a fresh coat of paint or a layer of polyurethane, re-upholstering, etc.

Painting can make a huge impact and 90% of my landlords have allowed me to paint as long as I would paint it back to off-white when I leave.  Off-white walls can be a great neutral palette if you can control your flooring, ceilings, built-in millwork, etc – but I had acoustic ceiling tile, terribly worn beige carpet and unfortunate, 70’s style vinyl flooring in the kitchen.  Adding paint in every room has made the apartment feel more like a home.  I only buy paint when it’s on sale – Memorial Day & 4th of July at Home Depot, every 3 months or so at Sherwin Williams.



  1. “Young-ish designer”?? I’m not sure if I should be offended or complimented! Haha. But, yes, it is sort of torturous to see all the amazing things money can buy for your job, then live on an Ikea budget!

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