[ the great indoors ]
Since its inception as an online column, The Great Indoors has largely featured richer designers, shops, tastes and tours — more so out of lustful awe than blind support. But as the school year beckons and many renters are on the move, proverbial purse strings are getting tighter. So we thought it was about time to look at how Philly design functions outside of a professional's dreamscape.
That's where Ashley Hannan comes in. The Connecticut/New York transplant is all about creating and finding rather than buying. Her design blog, Meet Me in Philadelphia, takes readers through a series of DIYs she's either spotted around town or done herself. Hannan has a penchant for adopting high-end looks for less with just a few craft supplies and a little ingenuity. She sews, spray-paints and even papier-mâchés — anything to stay away from designer price tags.
But more than the accrued monetary savings, Hannan's motivated by the feeling of accomplishment that comes from creating a fabulous, one-of-a-kind product. "The reaction — the 'wow, where'd you get that?' — is what I aspire to," she says. "A rug or piece of art that is uniquely mine, [something] I pulled out of a dark, dusty corner of a thrift store, [will] inevitably generate conversation from anyone who visits our apartment."
Take, for instance, her West Elm-esque side tables. When she and her husband first moved in to their Society Hill apartment, they didn't own enough furniture to fill it. As anyone who has upgraded to larger digs knows, empty spaces can be expensive problems to solve — so Hannan had to improvise. One such resourceful plan started with a set of side tables by Stray Dog Design that she had spotted in a West Elm catalog. Each 15-inch-round table was $150 — a pricey indulgence for a blogger on a budget. So, like many items in her home, Hannan decided to replicate them using large cardboard tubes, newspaper and tape. The final product? Two side tables for only $12.50.
This project is only one in a long list of self-made indulgences or thrift-store finds. Her living room features a Craigslist-scooped Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa, a midcentury TV table, an ottoman passed down from her husband's parents that she will soon reupholster, and one of the few store-bought items in her collection — a Crate & Barrel coffee table turned media cabinet. The master bedroom is a preppy-chic collection of red, white and blue accoutrements such as a reupholstered chevron-print armchair, vintage red-lacquer dressers, custom-knit pillows and a modern take on lighting that uses Home Depot Y-socket splitters. Downstairs, the ultra-modern kitchen is balanced out with a hand-painted, rich green colonial console table, and the family room sports a repurposed curved loveseat that sat in Hannan's parents' home.
Hannan's stylish abode is a testament to the investment in a sewing machine. The guest room uses a sewn fabric "drape" as a headboard, and the room's window panels were made by combining white IKEA curtains with red pom-pom trim. Yet while Hannan shows us how a few sewing jobs can save you from a splurge, she also realizes not everything can be a successful DIY project. For furniture redos outside the realm of a paint job, Hannan has mastered reupholstery. For the majority of her projects, she's relied on Chairloom, an upholstery shop in Ardmore. Spending a little bit more for a professional job has given her the best results on major pieces; the high-end-looking finished products are still considerably cheaper than catalog finds.
Entering Hannan's home, you get the impression that you're entering the space of one of few Gen Yers with a six-figure income. But the richness has actually been created through her love for the lost art of in-home creation and the revamping of everyday hand-me-downs.
As most of us keep a heavy eye on our checkbooks, it's important to remain vigilant about our purchases but not lose our creativity or wishful thinking. Hannan has shown us that with just a little motivated creativity, designer looks can be achieved for a fraction of the cost while transforming your home into a unique showplace of DIY design.
See how Hannan does it all on her blog, meetmeinphiladelphia.blogspot.com. The Great Indoors, Meg Augustin's Philly home and design column, appears weekly at citypaper.net/criticalmass. Want to be featured? Let us know.