This content creator reconfigured a shoddy rental into a pastel accent paradise

Peep the pink appliances!

Stylish living room with couch and throw pillows
(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

Second best is never as good, at least that's what we're always told. But there's something to be said for a rebound. Maybe not in your dating life, but it's very much true for your living situation — even if you get stuck with a tiny apartment. This is something content creator and freelance copywriter Lexi has proven. Her uplifting home is a case study on why you shouldn't be disappointed if the first thing on your list doesn't work out.

"This apartment was a total backup choice for us," she says, after living here for a year and a half. "We had our hearts set on another apartment that actually got rented out by someone else while we were still touring it, so we settled for this one. The apartment hunting scene in Boston is super competitive and unfortunately we were looking in October, which is a month later than you want to be looking in this area because of all the colleges here!"

We caught up with Lexi about her space. We also developed some major interior envy (and wildly applaud her for the work she put into her rental). See the pastel-coated home, below.

What's your home like?

Kitchen in Lexi's apartment

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

I live in an attic apartment of a classic old New England-style house, which means the third floor.

How did it look before you redecorated?

Desk work area in Lexi's apartment

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

Oh my God, SO rough! When we were touring it, the landlord was actually there repainting and retiling the bathroom floor, which was urgently needed. Luckily, once we actually moved in, the bright primary wall colors were all repainted to a neutral gray-blue, which I don’t love but I don’t hate either. But I will say, it was not a cute apartment when we moved in — it needed a lot of TLC. And still does!

(Editor's note: Lexi shared the Zillow listing with me and talk about magical transformation — we're talking a Mia Thermopolis-level glow-up).

What is your personal interior design style?

Purple squiggly side table with cups stacked

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

My interior design style is kind of all over the place. I feel like the word “eclectic” is totally overused, but I think it is the best word I could use to describe it! I like a mix of mid-century pieces alongside some Danish pastel, and then I find myself really drawn to pieces that I don’t really have a term for — just things that are designed simply, functionally, and beautifully. I’m an aesthetics-first girl, so I don’t bring anything into my home that I don’t think is cute, but a marriage of form and function is ideal. I like a colorful and quirky space!

 How did you choose your color palette and decor?

Total instinct! I know I just went on about taking my time and being choosy, but often I’ll know right away if I’ve stumbled on the right thing for my place. Take my little Wiggle Room side table for example — I knew the moment I saw it that I needed it and that I wouldn’t find one that I liked more, but at the time that I purchased it, I didn’t really have a lot of similar colors in my bedroom. It didn’t matter to me though! In general, I just follow my instincts and operate under the belief that if I feel strongly about a piece, it belongs in my space, even if it’s different from the other stuff I have. I don’t mind having things that don’t match.

What's important to you when it comes to designing your home?

Record player and shelves with decor

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

Beauty. It’s kind of a bad answer, really, isn’t it? Because I think in the mind of a rational person, functionality is number one — and it should be! — but I’m just not a rational person, and for me, being surrounded by cute things is always my first priority.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned since moving here is not to rush things; when we first moved in, I was so desperate to cover up the ugly-duckling bones of the apartment that I brought in pieces quickly just for the sake of having them. Now, if I feel like my home is missing something or there’s a specific thing I need, I take my sweet time in finding the perfect version of it for my space so that I’ll love it for a long time (and not Facebook Marketplace it within a few months).

Where did you get all your cute decor and inspo?

Kitchen appliances in Lexi's rental

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

So as far as appliances & paint are concerned, both came with the apartment. None of it would be what I would have chosen, but when you’re living in a city apartment, sometimes you have to accept that stuff. The only things that qualify as appliances that I picked out are my Fellow Stagg Kettle and my Smeg milk frother, both of which I’m very obsessed with. 

Where do you get inspo?

Everywhere, but mostly Instagram! I save posts that really inspire me to a folder I have called “home” and I refer to it often to give me direction when I’m looking to bring in a specific something. Some of my favorite accounts for inspo are @anothachoppaand @nella.beljan, both of which curate posts from designers and creators from all over the world. As far as specific people’s homes I adore, I love the relaxing minimalism of @tatiananbodner ‘s home, Kayla Blanks’ sunny Brooklyn apartment, and everything going on at @anotherflat__.  

Biggest challenges with decorating your apartment?

Living room with leather couch

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

The space itself. Living in a converted attic comes with a LOT of challenges — the ceilings come down at weird angles, the rooms are oddly shaped, and the living area, in general, is very cramped. Another challenge has been the floors. They’re original hardwood from when the house was built, which is so cool, but they haven’t been well maintained at all and the wood has stripped in some places. We’ve gotten splinters just from walking around, and have to wear slippers or thick socks in the apartment at all times!

Were there any obstacles or frustrations when putting it all together?

So many! Where to even start… If I had to boil it down to one major obstacle, it was the shape of the living area. Due to it being a converted attic, there’s a wall that juts out into the living area that shortens the room significantly and makes it really hard to style. For me, a sofa, coffee table, media console, and TV are a must in any living room, and just fitting those basic building blocks into that space was really challenging. I still don’t think it’s a great fit, but we’ve done our best with it and I’m content with how it looks considering the space we’re working with. 

Advice for other apartment dwellers and renters?

Table with game controller and candle

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

My first piece of advice is a total Marie Kondo-ism, but give everything a home. Every object in your place should have a home, and when you’re not using it, it should be in that home if possible! That’s the number one way I keep myself sane while owning a lot of “stuff” in a really small space. I have a specific place for my remote control, my stationery, my extra candles, my teas — literally everything. 

My second piece of advice would be to take it one thing at a time! Like I said earlier, I’ve made the mistake of buying a bunch of cheap, poorly made pieces just to decorate a space and try to make it feel “homey” as quickly as possible, and I really regretted that. And as a result, I ended up having to get rid of a lot of stuff over the course of several months as I replaced those pieces with more thoughtfully chosen ones. Don’t do what I did; if you’re eager to decorate a space quickly, take a deep breath and remind yourself that there’s no point in decorating for decorating’s sake. Choose your pieces carefully, and choose ones you really adore, ones that make you smile. If you do that, you can’t help but love how it turns out!

What does home mean to you?

Bedroom with bed and cat on top

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

I’ve struggled a lot with both mental illness and chronic illness/chronic pain for most of my life, so for me, home is the ultimate sanctuary. It’s where I recover, it’s where I rest, it’s where I can curl up with a cup of tea and my heating pad and an 800-page fantasy novel. My home is the only place where I know I’ll feel 100% comfortable, both physically and mentally, and that’s everything to me. 

What projects are next?

Details on top of Lexi's desk

(Image credit: @lexibel.irl)

If I’m being completely honest, the thing I’d like to do most is move! There’s a lot I love about our current apartment, but all of my favorite things about it are things I brought into it, things that would come with me into my next space. I do kind of like the wonky slanted ceilings of our converted attic apartment, as they present some fun design ideas for hanging things, but overall I think this specific space comes with a lot more limitations than it does opportunities, and I think I’d really be able to spread my interior design wings in a different apartment. 

So for now, no future projects planned at the moment for this apartment. I think I’ve done with it what I can, and I’m happy with how far it’s come!

Melissa Epifano
Former Global Editor in Chief

Hi, I'm former editor of Real Homes. I cut my teeth in New York City, covering fashion and beauty but eventually made my way into the world of homes. I've spent several years writing and editing for The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, Forbes, MyDomaine, People, InStyle, Real Simple, Lonny and more. I track trends like it's a competitive sport but am equally excited about covering products and style ideas that stand the test of time.