Wednesday... From The Outside In

We often spend a lot of effort focusing on what goes into our homes, but what about what's on the outside?

Home should be a place you feel happy to come back to. Somewhere you can lay your head and rest your boots.

And what better way to greet a tired traveler than with flourishing leaves or flowers by your door?

When people put effort into beautifying the outside of their homes the inside becomes so much more inviting.

In the city, it's really nice to see when someone do just that. The residents of this local Philly home get it, when will everyone else? :)

Let There Be Light, A Sunny Fishtown Loft

After occasionally running into them around town, I really started to get to know Jessie and Deanna through our mutual interest in motorcycles. My boyfriend, Dan, and Jessie met through the Cast & Salvage guys a few years back and Deanna recently got a bike of her own. When I met them, they were living together in an apartment complex at Ridge Ave and Spring Garden St in Philly, an area that doesn't really feel like a neighborhood because its in an annex where a few different neighborhoods collide. From the moment I met them, they both talked about wanting a different place with more space and it seemed only natural to me that they were looking for more community too.

Before I shot their place, we met at the La Colombe in their neighborhood, Fishtown's newest addition to Frankford Ave. Jessie and a friend also met us there and Dan trickled in about an hour later. As we were leaving, we ran into at least two more people that we know. By the looks of it, they were already more at home and happier being in the mix of things. And when we got to their place, I saw Deanna practically skip out of the car in excitement to go open her door.

Their place is a little slice of fresh air. Philly doesn't really scream loft the way that New York does, but if there's a loft worth seeing, it's theirs. And it's right where you would least expect it-- in an old church on a quiet street in the heart of Fishtown.

Q: You and Jessie recently moved to Fishtown from the upper downtown area. What did you look for when hunting for your new home and why?

Space. We were living in a "garden apartment" which is a fancy name for a basement. It had huge windows, which helped open it up, but it was cramped and had little storage. We wanted something open, large, and with lots of character. Basically, something that would echo our personal styles. A functioning kitchen was also important, because I love to cook. We got lucky and knew Dom, who owns the place, and after a quick tour, we knew it was for us.

Q: Your new digs are in an old church. Tell me more about that and the owner of the building.

We don't know a ton about it, but several locals have told us they used to attend services there back in the day. Amazingly enough, the building as it stands today is pretty similar to the way it was built (at least from the outside). Dom, a local photographer, got the place about 15 years ago, gutted it, and made the main building into his home where he lives with his family. The stained glass is all original, and he's done an amazing job preserving the art-deco details in the design. We live in the converted rectory, which is still connected to the main building on the first floor.

Q: What is your favorite part of your new space? What was the biggest challenge/surprise?

The windows. I've never lived in a place with so much light. They have screens, but we hardly use them. They're a statement in themselves. The biggest challenge for us will always be storage. We just have too much stuff. The place has no overhead storage in the kitchen and only one closet, but we've made due utilizing other pieces of furniture and significantly downsizing.

Q: As you guys continue to get settled in, what are some of the home projects you are looking to take on?

We've been in the space for about 7 months and we're already itching to change it up. The great thing about living in a studio-esque environment is that there aren't any designated rooms, and we can set it up however we want, and change it again if we get tired of it. Our next project is to rearrange the whole living space. We're saving up for a new spindle bed frame, and we have a ton of reclaimed wood from the old church they just demolished on Belgrade. The wood is going to eventually be pipe and flange shelving next to the safe, and the bed is going to be caddy cornered where the work bench now is. Throw in some vintage rugs and a ton more plants, and we'll be in a good spot until the next idea pops up.

Q: You both seem like you are constantly collecting and creating new things. How do you keep your space so interesting and ornate, but clutter free?

An advantage of having such an open space is that it never feels too crowded. We've focused on finding some funky storage solutions, like the metal bookcase we keep our motorcycle ephemera in. It gives us a place to store and display our knick-knacks without crowding shelves and filling boxes. That, and I'm just the biggest neat freak you'll ever meet. 

Q: If you could build your dream home, what would it absolutely include and why?

A garage for Jessie's growing motorcycle collection and a sun room so I can exercise my green thumb. An outdoor space of our own would be cool too, because after 3 years together and 3 different apartments, we've never had one.

What's what: Couch - Craigslist score. Coffee Table - passed down from Jessie's grandmother. Peacock Chair - Phantastic Phinds Furniture Consignment. Desk - hand-built by Deanna. Entry Table - the pieces were purchased from @oldschoolfinds on Instagram, assembled by Jessie. Safe and kitchen pew knook - original to the space. Bed - Ikea. 48 Star Flag - flea market find.

Deanna works as the lead on Social Media Strategy for Sailor Jerry Rum. Jessie is a designer and artist as a part of True Hand Society, a private design & tattoo studio. Thurston & Shermie are their resident fluffballs.

Follow Jessie and Deanna on Instagram: @deannarama @jessiejaytlp

Finding the Old, Unique and Unusual

I met Megan and Tommy for the first time through mutual friends at The Race of Gentleman earlier this year. When I saw photos of Megan's home pop up in my Instagram feed, I didn't just start following her because we had mutual friends. She has an eye for photographing just about anything - from landscapes to interiors, to all the little knick knacks she has found in between. So as soon as I got the blog up and running, I asked her to shoot her and Tommy's place.

I will say that I was a little nervous because I've never shot a home I haven't been to in the past. But, they did not disappoint! My favorite element of their place is the lighting and the contrast that it creates.

Q: You are originally from New Orleans, what brought you to Philly?
Megan: I moved to Philly to be with my boyfriend, Tommy. It was never a city I considered living in, but I'm glad I did it. Pennsylvania is awesome.

Q: When you were home-hunting, what did you and Tommy look for and why?
Megan: Initially, we just wanted a place of our own after living with his roommates for a while. I was definitely more picky about the house than he was. I've lived in so many places, and with each new apartment or house you tend to acquire more stipulations for the next. I won't budge on a yard, washer/dryer, hardwood floors, and bathtub. 

Q: Now that you are all settled in, what do you love most about your home? What was your biggest challenge/surprise?
Megan: I don't have any particular favorite things about the house itself. I mean, I'm really glad that some of the original doors were kept, I like the banister, and the fact that the bathroom isn't too small. The folks that renovated the house did a lot of stuff that I'm not too crazy about. For example, they covered up the entire fireplace/chimney, the overhead lights aren't all lined up with the right architectural features of the room, the kitchen is awkwardly designed, etc. My favorite thing about our home is how we navigate the more troublesome aspects of it. The biggest challenge was deciding how to arrange the living room. There isn't a single good wall to put a couch against, which had a domino effect with the rest of our furniture. I think we did the best we could given the space.

Q: You have so many trinkets, photos and mementos. Where did they all come from and what inspired you to collect them? Which piece is most special to you?
Megan: I've always had an affinity for collecting anything old and unusual, books, and things found in nature. A good deal of what I have came from searching thrift and antique stores, whether in Louisiana or just traveling. An even bigger portion of what I own has come from where I work, Jinxed. Prior to moving to Philly, I had a lot of stuff. I had a bunch of cool old books, photos, and ephemera. However, working at Jinxed definitely allowed me to obtain more of what I sought out because I'm immersed in it on a regular basis. It's also made me a much choosier person. You see the same stuff come in day after day and you start to realize that it's not as rare as you once thought it was. That's why my favorite things (I can't choose just one) are my photos and any hand-written notes and letters. They capture unique moments and emotions.

Q: If you guys decide to own one day, what would your dream home absolutely include and why?
Megan: A throne room? I don't know, it's tough! We would love to buy something soon. My dream home would absolutely have a grass yard (none of this concrete slab nonsense), a ton of original fixtures and details, high ceilings, a big kitchen, and a garage. I'm torn between a castle and a Victorian mansion, but either will do. 

What's what: The shelf that my shoes are on is made from an old table with the legs taken off. I found the framed portrait of the woman (in the dining room) in a Catholic thrift store in Louisiana. They were hesitant to sell it to me because they felt it was inappropriate, but I convinced them to. I've seen the image before, but I have no idea who made it. The eerie framed photo of the old man (Uncle John) came from Jinxed and there is an accompanying photo of a church. In that one you can faintly see Uncle John standing in front of the church. I love those two photos so much. The portrait of a woman reading (in the curio cabinet) was also part of that set. They're three of my absolute favorites! My coffee table is special to me because my dad made it. Even though it doesn't perfectly go with the rest of our furniture, I'll always use it. It makes a great bench, too! Since I didn't take much large stuff with me when I moved to Philly, most of our other furniture is from Jinxed.

Megan is computer science major, lover of the Middle Ages, and vintage slinger at JINXED. Tommy loves wrestling, music, and works in the film industry. In their spare time, they both like to explore and go on adventures with their dog, Stella.

Follow Megan and Tommy on Instagram: @meganacosta & @tommymanson

Eternal Sunshine in Echo Park

I met Heather and Chachi for the first time in L.A. when my boyfriend, Dan, and I stayed with them before driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Fran. Dan has known Chachi through skating in
Philly and had nothing but nice things to say about their place when they lived in Philly together.

When we arrived at their house, I immediately fell in love with their space. At the time, I had never lived with anyone that I dated and I didn't know any young couples with beautiful homes. Heather and Chachi's was the first place I walked into and thought wow, this is their home. I found it really inspiring.

That was a few years ago and there place has only gotten cuter since. Here's a peek at their unique L.A. home in Echo Park.

Q: When you guys moved from Philly to LA, what was the home-hunting process like? Was there one thing in particular that you guys had to have when searching for your new place?

Heather: We had about 2 months to find a place when we moved to LA. We were looking for a place that was light and airy, had a small yard and a lot of character. We love the 1920’s stove and original tile work. The original details were important to us. 

Q: Once you moved in, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What was the biggest surprise?

Heather: The biggest surprise when we moved here, coming from Philadelphia, was that our place did not have heat! We definitely didn’t expect it and have space heaters to keep us warm during our 60 degree winters.

Q: Now that you are all settled in, what do you love most about your home? What piece in your home is most special to you?

Heather: The most special thing about our home to me is our kitchen. I have really learned to cook since I’ve been living in LA. We love making vegan food and sharing it with friends.

Heather: The pale yellow 1960’s Barcelona Chairs are really important to me. I inherited them from my grand mom when she died. She had amazing taste and those chairs became the focal point and inspiration for how we chose to decorate our home. We love midcentury furniture because of her and look for it when we are scouring flea markets in LA. All of the details in our place were found at flea markets. Any Sunday you can always find a different flea market in and around LA to pick up vintage planters, wall hangings, and pottery.

Q: If you guys decide to own one day, what would your dream home absolutely include and why?

Heather: My dream Los Angeles home would include an enclosed back yard area where we can entertain friends, a pretty porch to hang plants and watch the sunsets, more counter space in the kitchen to spread out a little more, and lots more light beaming in through the windows! I could go on and on!

What’s what: The striped planter on our cocktail table is a hand-me-down… from the same grand mom who gave me the chairs. She gave it to my mom and my mom gave it to me. It’s so old and the colors go well in the apartment. The vintage wall hanging above our desk was found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. I love the different textures and size of it. It brightens up the brown wall. The Bull Skull was gotten in New Mexico when we were driving across the country. One of the many momentos from the best road trip we have ever had! The Record Player is one of our favorite pieces in our apartment. We love listening to records and are constantly buying new old records whenever we find them. We have been listening to a lot of Waylon Jennings lately.

Ryan is the International Sales Representative for Baker Skate Boards and I am a wardrobe stylist. Both of us work in Los Angeles. We have a sweet 3lb Chihuahua named Ruby who we can't live with out!

Follow Heather & Chachi on Instagram @heatherfredrck @flyupsidedown

Shop Heather's Etsy Store : VintageConnectionLA

all photos by Heather*

Jim and Kelli Bought A House!

Jim and Kelli are two  friends who also live in Philly and ride. They also just got married and took on a huge DIY project! They're renovating / revamping their newly bought home.

Right now they live in a small but picturesque, trinity-style South Philly home with fresh white everything and two cute little pups.

Naturally, their new place is completely different. It's a big, three-bedroom, two bathroom house with a huge by-city-standards backyard and lots of light. It's the perfect framework for a beautiful home. But, there's a ton of work to be done. In other words, the house was uninhabitable (by their standards) when they decided they would buy it.

Q: What did you absolutely love about the house when you saw it / what made you cringe? What was the biggest surprise?

Kelli: We were the one and only couple to see this home the day of showing due to crazy circumstances and sheer luck. It was 10 degrees outside and we were the only guys to stick it out in the cold to wait for the owner. We got in and I was immediately STOKED on how tall the ceilings were, and how spacious the entire house felt. The real fall-in-love moment was when we saw the large enclosed patio, and backyard with evergreen trees!

The scariest part? The house was very, very, lived in. Lots of smoke damage, carpet, vinyl, more carpet, and I'd say close to nothing had been updated in the past 15 years. I'm talking drop ceiling with florescent lights, lipstick kisses from who knows when on the doorframes, and faux wood paneling from the 70s. Everywhere. 

Kelli: The biggest surprise would have to be, of course, the floors. Before we closed on the house, we had no idea what was underneath that vinyl and carpet. The actual moment we got the keys we ran back to tear up the corners and voila, hardwood in every room. Hell yeah. We had it professionally sanded and sealed. When I saw them finished, I almost cried of happiness. That's when I knew my house was gonna rule.



Q: What do you feel has been the biggest accomplishment thus far and what is the next project that you're taking on?

Kelli: We're really just getting into it. It's been a whirlwind of trying to tackle big things, small things, prioritizing, packing, and then living our day to day lives on top of that. I'd say our biggest accomplishment so far is being able to work together as a team without losing it! It can feel overwhelming at times, but we're staying positive :) 

The bedroom, being completely gutted for renovation.

The bedroom, being completely gutted for renovation.

Kelli: Our biggest project is the kitchen at the moment. We don't have the dollars for a real deal renovation, so we're working with what we've got (painting the cabinets) and replacing the worst of it (countertops and backsplash!)

Before painting the cabinets....

Before painting the cabinets....

Future countertops.... Tile backsplash to come!

Future countertops.... Tile backsplash to come!

Q: What is your favorite space in the house and where do you see yourself spending most of your time?

Kelli: Every time we take a break from tearing down paneling, painting walls, or bagging up debris, we sit out on the patio, drink a beer, split a cheesesteak, and take a minute to breathe and enjoy the Spring weather. I can already tell it's going to be the best spot in our home, the part we fell in love with when we first walked in!

They plan to keep the trees and replace the faux-grass with some ceramic tiles.

They plan to keep the trees and replace the faux-grass with some ceramic tiles.

Sneak Peek: Their living room is coming along nicely.

What's what: Cabinet hutch and chair from JINXED. Ice Cream Cone Planter from Etsy. Concrete planter and plant from City Planter.

Kelli is a Jr. Artwork Consultant at Printfresh Studio and previously worked at Jinxed in Philadelphia as the GM. Jim works with me at RevZilla as the Contact Center Manager.

Follow them on Instagram: @shinyalien & @the_dusters

Obligatory photo of their rescue pups, Tiki and Frisco.

A Cozy Cave

Q: A woman's bedroom is a very personal place. How would you describe yours?

Tracy: I’d say the overall theme in my bedroom is cozy Mexican Cave. I like the use of vibrant color and romantic imagery in Mexican culture that manages to be bold yet not overly feminine. When I shop for home, I’m instantly drawn to things that are unique and I like the challenge of making it fit into my space instead of shopping with the theme in mind. My space is also filled with small trinkets and photographs from family and friends. I’m constantly inspired by the people in my life and I like to think my personal style is embedded with little pieces of each of them.

Q: Your bedroom is half underground, what issues have you had to work around?

Tracy: I had a few issues with the space that I had to work around; mainly the carpeting and also a strange cement wall that made the room look even more sterile when it was empty. Still, I think I’m managing to fill it with items that make it feel warm with a little creativity and strategic decorating.

Q: Which part of your room are you most fond of?

Tracy: My favorite part of the room is the accessories counter within a built-in bookcase. I've had an affinity for costume jewelry my whole life and when trying to figure out what to do with the bookcase, I took the opportunity to put some of my collection on display.

Q: Did anyone inspire your knack for decorating? If so, who?

Tracy: I think I was inspired by you, Alessandra! I always liked gawking at beautiful spaces but always assumed it had to cost a fortune to make my own space that beautiful. As we became friends, I spent more and more time in homeware sections of my favorite stores when we went shopping. Now, I think I look forward to hunting for home more than clothing shopping.

Q: If you could build your dream home tomorrow, what is the one thing it would undeniably include?

Tracy: It would have to have a porch with a tiled floor and a hammock surrounded by lots of greenery! My favorite part of visiting family in Puerto Rico was laying on my godmother's hammock on her porch, right under a Quenepa tree. If I could just get a Quenepa tree to grow in Philadelphia, it would be a dream home for sure.

What's what: Anthro-inspired duvet and sheet sets from Target. Ivory throw, elephant hook and rabbit vase from Anthropologie. String of butterflies, Frida painting and bird shelf from Eyes Gallery. Desk, chair, wicker baskets and trunk from IKEA. Red rose night table from a thrift-shop on Mt. Carmel Ave in Glenside PA. Rose mirror and framed corazon print from JINXED.

Tracy is a Philadelphia resident who was born in Puerto Rico but raised by her Mexican mother. She currently works for Project Home, an organization that seeks to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty in Philadelphia.

Follow Tracy on Instagram @cunting_season

A Portrait Of A Vacant Home

Oh, Italy. I wish I could accurately express in words how I feel about this country. But, let me start by saying that I only know a small portion of it. While I have been to Rome a few times and I have been to Venice, Florence, Naples and the neighboring islands, there is so much ground that I still haven't covered.

With that said, I have fallen in love with where I have been. Take Procida for example. Procida is a small island, namely known as a quiet place to go for the summer with young children. In comparison to somewhere like Capri or Ischia, there really isn't a whole lot to do. But there is something beautiful about that, especially if you are just there to relax. An interesting concept, I know. Who goes to another country to relax?

That's why I feel so grateful to have family abroad. You get to go somewhere and actually see what it's like to live there (sabbaticals and study-programs work too!). I was fortunate enough to grow up coming to this house in Procida each summer as a child for a month or more at a time. Half of this villa was first bought by my Grandfather and his sister's husband about forty years ago. When my grandfather got too busy to come back to see his family, he sold his half of the house to his sister's three sons. They still own their half of the building, to this day.

As you can see, the house does need a lot of work. It's super old and needs some structural support- as well as some fresh paint! So, it's been sealed up until it can get all of the attention it deserves. I'm sure my family will cringe at the thought of me sharing these photos, but I still think it's beautiful and this place reminds me of summer memories growing up.

Apologies for the crappy iphone photo quality!

Happy Home

After living in an overpriced shoebox in Queens Village, a bug-ridden house in Graduate Hospital and a tiny  efficiency Downtown, the space that we now have in Fairmount is a breath of fresh air.

Last May, I threw a birthday bash for my boyfriend and our friend Mac sent us some photos that he took while visiting our home. Our apartment is definitely a work in progress, but this photo (and all of the empty space in it) makes me happy.

What's what - Coffee Table and Horns from Jinxed, Couch and IKAT pillow from IKEA, Mexican Blanket Pillow from Eyes Gallery, Side Tables from the Franklin Flea, Chunky Throw from West Elm. Lamps inherited from Tracy's sweet Grandma