Planning a wedding and undergoing a total gut renovation at the same time is a feat for anyone. I recently had the pleasure of visiting my niece Amy (complicated family tree, we are almost the same age) and her wife Sammy at their oh-so-cool, newly renovated apartment in Philadelphia. They relocated from Amy’s hometown of LA, so to say it was a big move is an understatement. They tackled the the challenges of completely renovating and decorating a charming 750 sq. ft. apartment in the established Fairmount/Art Museum area.
I was so taken with all of the details of their newlywed pad, I knew I had to share it. I took the opportunity to interview Amy…
This is your first place together and a renovation on top of that! - how was that experience?
It was a miraculous experience. We moved to Philly with very little so we really started from scratch. Sammy first found the place while I was still in LA. She was very excited and exclaimed that all we had to do was change the bathtub. When I first saw the apartment I could see it had great potential, but knew that it would need a lot more than just a new bathtub!
Was it hard to convince Sammy of this?
We have never lived anywhere that was “new” and it was small enough that we could take on redoing every part of the place. I really wanted a home that felt clean and fresh. We have always lived in older rental apartments.
I definitely took the lead. But I made sure she was onboard with all decisions. I have some strong opinions when it comes to design, and know what I like immediately. Sammy doesn’t always know what she likes, but she does know what she doesn’t like. We definitely worked together on making it a home we both love though.
What exactly did you do renovation-wise and how long did it take?
The whole project took about 6 months. Every surface was touched. We renovated the kitchen and bathroom, put in new floors (thanks to your insistence), reconfigured the bedroom space, added the French doors (to make the space feel bigger) and made the bathroom opening to be off the main room instead of from the bedroom.
How was the process of merging your tastes?
As strong as my design opinion is, I don’t want her to be unhappy with anything in our home. I did have to persist with some key things though, that now Sammy loves. I was hell-bent on having a mid-century credenza. We searched and searched and found a local woman who specializes in mid-century furniture. It turned out to be a really fun shared experience to find the perfect anchor piece for the living area.
That’s so great to have that experience! Were there any other pieces you had to push a little harder on?
I found the vintage dining chairs at a local thrift store. They were shiny brass and Sammy hated them! They were being sold as a set of six chairs and matching glass dining table. Sammy was definitely not on board with the table or having two extra chairs, so I had to let it go. But I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Months later I called the store just to see if they were still available. For some lucky, but odd reason someone had bought the table and just two of the chairs. I knew that was my chance. I suggested changing the bright gold finish to a rose gold instead. I took them apart and painted them and now we both love them, so all ended well.
You mixed you vintage purchases with a lot of retail and online sources, what was that like?
We needed everything! There is quite the mix of thrift store finds and new items. Many of the bigger pieces we had to try several iterations to get it right, like the sofa and bed. When your place is this small, the scale of every piece is crucial!
What are your top three favorite items that you purchased?
1. The Swivel Chairs: I love the small scale of them, yet they are still so comfortable. And they enable us to be part of the sofa area or dining area.
2. The Mid century Credenza: I love the warmth that the wood adds and the whole vibe of that era.
3. The Round Mirror: It opens up the whole space and is dimensional.
Any “tricks” for living together in a small space?
We have headphones for the TV and there are blackout shades on the french doors. This way one of us can be watching TV in the living room and the other can be in the bedroom without being disturbed. Most of all though, being respectful of each other is most important.
Why a wood bed?
I never would have thought that I would have a wood bed. I have always loved upholstered beds. But, this bed is so solid and is made from reclaimed wood. It is a high headboard and feels like an art piece for that wall. I can’t believe I have a wood bed, but have grown to love it, especially the pattern on the headboard.
Wall cube “nightstands”?
The bedroom is space challenged! That was all we could fit, but I actually like the whimsy that they add to the room.
Swivel chairs? Hard to find that scale?
I am obsessed with these chairs. We first bought a bunch of things that weren’t right so had to return or sell them. We lived without chairs for a while because it is really hard to find a comfortable, small scale and pretty swivel chair. I kept looking online until I found these.
Gallery art wall?
We wanted one wall that was very personal and represented us. Since I am an artist, I knew I wanted some pieces that I made, like my rainbow drip painting as the large piece. We also have pieces from LA and the dancer is for Sammy, who teaches dance.
I adore that ceramic pie tray with color samples – tell me about that and where it is from?
I know, right?! I found it in a rundown Goodwill in South Jersey. I got it for $3.50! It is from Portugal. My guess is it was a color wheel for a ceramics factory.