Come on in! There’s coffee, snacks, and a cute dog awaiting all your attention. Welcome to my apartment tour!
Welcome to my Apartment Tour!
Photography by Erin Kelly
It feels like a lifetime ago, a different world ago, but with the dawning of 2020, a new decade, and a symbolic “fresh” start, I found myself, like many, in an introspective state. Perhaps it was the effect of the calendar change, or perhaps it was wanting to make sense of a tough season of stretching myself too thin. Either way, cozied under the blanket of dark, winter nights, I spent a lot of time reflecting. I reviewed a decade of photos and social media posts. I journaled the heartbreaks, the milestones, and the lessons learned. I reevaluated my relationships, my work, my values, and the backdrop for the whole decade: my home.
I felt my priorities shifting, and my home needed to reflect that growth. So, like a caterpillar, I spun myself into a protective cocoon in an effort to re-emerge with more clarity and a new look. Painting walls, investing in a new couch, updating light fixtures, and truly refining my style became the sort of obsessive project that kept me burning the midnight oil in my Polish Hill rental (you can see the former iteration here). I wasn’t just making design choices. I was making life choices. I was practicing the mantra I had put in place for the new decade: less to have more.
I didn’t mean less in the very Instagrammable sense of the word – a muted wall, a fiddle leaf fern, a sharp shadow, and only a hint of furniture in sight. I meant “less” as a lens, as a means of evaluation to have more energy, more focus, more fulfillment, and more calm. I do, after all, love things. I love flea markets, antique shops, and surrounding myself with storied objects.
As a commercial food and prop stylist, there’s a certain justification for my maximalist leanings. My apartment is like Mary Poppins’ magical carpetbag. An art director will make a request, I’ll root around and reemerge with a piece to fill negative space and round out a composition. Yet, the line between “necessity” and overwhelming was becoming blurry, so I somewhat subconsciously revisited Marie Kondo, the now-household name behind the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Her “KonMari” brand of minimalism asks the simple yet profound question, “Does this [object] spark joy?” Minimalism is about living with less, but Marie’s method champions living with what you cherish. It’s a process for honoring the person you are becoming, not the person you were in the past, and it looks different for everyone.
Personalizing the method, even more, I like to evaluate in terms of, “is this [object, opportunity, relationship, etc] a ‘hell yeah!’ or a ‘hell no?’” In this way, I can protect my energy for what truly brings me joy and fulfills my purpose. It may start with a forest green, velvet sectional, but this philosophy extends to life and makes strides toward sustainability too.
“THIS PROCESS OF HONING THE HOME IS NOT ABOUT LIVING WITH LESS. IT’S ABOUT LIVING WITH WHAT YOU CHERISH. IT’S ABOUT HONORING THE PERSON YOU ARE BECOMING, NOT THE PERSON YOU WERE IN THE PAST, AND IT LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE.”
Following the KonMari method, if we truly respect the objects we amass, we desire for them to be valued. This means investing in more quality pieces that will grow with us, not buying into trends for trends’ sake. For my style, that means aged, vintage pieces. I debated newer coffee tables, but my gut landed on paying a little more for an antique wooden trunk from Rustfarm (via Etsy). Picking up the trunk led to a beautiful exchange, a shared appreciation, and a piece that brings me joy every time I use it. (It helped that the owner had two Aussies. Herding dogs always bring me joy.)
Valuing objects also means releasing them to someone who will value them rather than hoarding them in an unseen corner or trashing them. I’m a huge proponent of Goodwill and feel so fortunate to have a resource in Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, which is now a near-daily errand for me. In short, buy less, buy better.
There was extra, unforeseeable magic that emerged from this process. When I began my home refresh and my pursuit of simple joys, I had no idea what was in store: a global pandemic, forced stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and lots of time spent alone and reflecting. I’m forever grateful for the nurturing space I created for myself as I entered a season of immense introspection and growth. Taking the time to love our homes is important. Everyone deserves a home that’s a “hell yeah!” As fall settles in, as a season of hibernation looms, I hope you’re able to take the time to nourish your space and yourself.
Thanks for joining Julep and me!