Secondhand Masterclass Treasure Hunting Vintage Finds

Secondhand Masterclass: Decorating Small Rental Spaces with @hotsundayhome

The amazing thing about meeting people online is that sometimes they end up living just a mile from you like my new friend Lowe (@hotsundayhome). As the design editor for a popular home design website, Lowe is just as charming and adorable as her beautiful apartment. We sat down together on Instagram Live to discuss her tips on decorating a small rental space with secondhand treasures.

As usual, all my IGTV sessions are archived in my profile. Lowe’s episode can be found here.

All photos kindly provided by Lowe/@hotsundayhome

Tell us how you became @hotsundayhome. It’s the cutest name!

It’s really not that great of a story, I wish it were better! A few years ago, I was headed to church and it was a hot Sunday. I remember looking up and thinking, “Wow, it’s a hot Sunday, but it’s nice.” That’s been my name for everything, ever since. There’s just something about a hot Sunday that really works for me.

How did you discover your knack and passion for interiors and home design?

I’ve always been into interiors and decorating. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I had a really tiny apartment that I shared with a roommate. We were trying to make a tiny box feel not like a tiny box. I started going to the thrift store and DIY-ing stuff, and it stuck with me since. 

What is your current space like? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you have?

I have a one bedroom, one bathroom. It’s not the largest by any means, but it’s pretty sizable after coming from a space that was 400-square feet. It feels a lot bigger, the layout is better and there’s a long hallway. 

You’re definitely a pro at maximizing small spaces. What drew you specifically to this rental unit?

This apartment has full features like a huge wall of windows and crown moulding throughout. Even the building itself is so beautiful. When I first walked in here, I was really shook. It was going for a steal, and I actually found it on Craigslist. I walked in with little expectations and wasn’t expecting anything nice. The walls used to be yellow but I was able to look past that. 

I also fell in love with the small details of my place, our apartments can be cousins! What are people’s first reactions when they walk into your beautiful home?

It depends on the day and if I tidied in here! Some people walk in and think, “Oh my gosh, you have a lot of stuff!” I do tend to collect a lot of things, but a little while ago I had someone come over, and as soon as she opened the door, she said, “Wow!” She thought my space was really interesting but also calming.

That’s what I want: I want it to be interesting but not too chaotic. 

You do such an amazing job mixing organic elements and vintage items. What inspired you to start using secondhand finds in your designs?

When I first started decorating, I was pretty broke to be honest with you. I didn’t have a lot of money to go to my favorite stores like CB2 or Crate and Barrel. I was balling on a budget. I spent hours and hours going through thrift stores to look for hidden gems. 

Even now, I have more financial freedom, but I think secondhand finds have more character. I started secondhand shopping because I didn’t have a choice, but I think it’s just better this way. 

There’s definitely a sense of uniqueness that comes with finding vintage pieces that you won’t find at a CB2.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still go to CB2 when I can. Sometimes I get inspired just by looking in there, and I might try to find something similar secondhand or vintage.

Well, that’s where those designers are getting their ideas from!

It’s funny how people look at things that are dusty and old at thrift shops and then those become trendy again and mass produced. It’s such a big cycle. 

People who rent think they’re staying for the short-term so they’re hesitant to change anything in their apartments. How long did you wait until you started changing things in your rental or did you always plan to change things?

I started things before I even moved in! My landlord gave me my keys early. Before I moved my furniture in, I was already at Home Depot trying to pick the best white paint. I even sealed all the baseboards with caulk. 

I scheduled a birthday party here less than a month after I moved in which meant I had to have all my boxes unpacked and have everything set up within a month. I was just very ambitious and somehow it got done. I really didn’t waste much time.

What’s a big challenge for you decorating a rental?

There are a few challenges. Luckily with this apartment, my landlord is a little flexible. There are some things you can’t change without spending a lot of money or losing your security deposit. 

For example, my bathroom is a remnant of the past. The tiles in there are yellow and brown, the paint is chipping off things I didn’t know could chip off of…I can’t change the tiles, so I just had to learn to love it.

Some things in a rental you can’t change, so you just have to make peace with it and decorate around it. With the yellow and brown, I just had to trick my mind into thinking it’s a cool, vintage aesthetic. 

The biggest challenge in my rental is working my way around things that just can’t be changed. Then there’s small things like weird light fixtures and faucets, but those are easier fixes.

What is one of your best small space hacks?

I focus on storage and adding more storage where there isn’t any. I have hooks everywhere, I have like a thousand peg hooks. Beyond that, the layout here is very important. Instead of pushing a lot of small stuff together, I used big furniture that’s not necessarily apartment-sized furniture. 

I went with pieces that take up a lot of space but are functional. I have storage consoles, and baskets everywhere to hide my clutter. I designed my layout to be more open.

I noticed that your dining room is also your living room. You can move your dining chairs towards the couch when you have guests over.

Exactly. I used to have my dining table in a corner and while it wasn’t taking up a lot of space, I felt like visually it made everything a lot tighter and cramped. Nobody ever sat at the table when it was in the corner because it felt uninviting. 

I moved things to where they didn’t really belong but it just made more sense to move my dining table to the middle of the living room. 

Sometimes you just need to live in the space for a little bit and experiment with different layouts and shuffle things around.

Because I started decorating immediately after moving in, I was able to notice what didn’t work. As more time has passed in this apartment, I’m able to realize how to live better in here.

When you moved in, how did you approach the space? How did you start, and what did you focus on first?

I actually make flat lays, mood boards and room layouts. I’m not a pro by any means and nothing is to scale, but I start with a room layout and I go from there. I don’t buy my furniture from big stores so sometimes I just have to guess and hope that I find a dining table that matches my vision. I try to envision things and then I go shopping.  

I’m obsessed with masking tape so I’ll mark things on the floor before I buy anything. I measure everything twice or three times. I’ve brought things in before that didn’t fit, so I’ve learned never again. 

One thing I have to consider when living on the second and third floor is how things are coming up a stairwell, and especially in an older building with narrower door frames.

I’ve had three refrigerators in this space and they’ve all been a pain to move! Have you seen this video of how furniture is moved in Paris? They have furniture elevators that they attach to windows. So if you’re trying to get a huge couch upstairs, you can pop it on this machine and it comes in through your window!

Do you have any design regrets or anything you wish you had done differently?

I wish I had taken more care when painting certain things. I have this reckless abandon when I paint, I don’t tape or put a drop cloth down. I have these beautiful wood floors that are original so you’d think I would take better care of them. But nope, I was painting my front door black, now I have black paint on my nice wood floors. That’s more of a technical mistake, I think…

Have you tried to scratch off the paint with your fingernail?

I tried. But maybe I need to put more elbow grease on there…

Somebody posted about the “85% club.” It’s a club for people who start a project and only get 85% of it done.

That’s me – guilty! I’ve never heard of this club, but I’m definitely part of it. 

Tell us about some of your favorite secondhand finds. Tell me about the gold Greek statue. Did she come like that?

She did! That’s one of my favorite secondhand finds. I got that little lady from Facebook Marketplace. One of my friends lives in Long Beach and the statue was in Hawthorne, which is pretty far from me in Koreatown.

I actually don’t drive so I had to beg my friend to go to Hawthorne and pick up the statue. I don’t know what it’s made from, but it’s super, super heavy. The statue is as tall as my friend is, so she’s this tiny girl trying to lug this statue around. She managed to do it, and it took me about a month to get her from Long Beach and then drag her up the stairs. 

All of my statues have funny stories like that…I found a bust also on Facebook Marketplace and it came from Compton. This was before everything shut down, but I took two buses to Compton and then I had to walk a mile to get to this woman’s house. I had my little cart, and I dragged the bust in my cart and took two buses back to Koreatown.

That is SO impressive! 

People are always impressed when I tell them I don’t have a car, and I’m always finding things on Facebook Marketplace and at thrift stores. I’m just very determined.

I have a tiny car so I get FOMO when I can’t pick up larger pieces, but you don’t have a car at all, that is amazing.

I have a pretty good network of friends that help me out. I found this amazing marble lamp in Glendale. I had my friend and her boyfriend go pick that up for me. I get creative! 

So you commit to buying these things sight unseen. You find them, then say, “Hey, friend, go get it.” How do you look for something that you know is a quality piece?

A lot of it is just good luck. I have a little bit of an eye now so I can tell if it’s real wood or just laminate. I tend to get lucky. One time I was not lucky, I had my boyfriend drive me to West Hollywood for a vintage, French-inspired cabinet.

I begged him to pick me up to get it, the seller wanted it gone within a day. I went over there and it was dark so I couldn’t really assess it properly. I brought it home and realized it was fake wood, there was tons of cat hair all over it, maybe cat excrement.

Wait, so what happened with the cabinet?

It’s still in my house, I cleaned it up. But between you and me, and now everyone on Instagram, sometimes it smells a bit wonky. It’s so beautiful, I don’t want to get rid of it! But I definitely got taken for a big one – it’s not even real wood!

Generally, I have pretty good luck with Facebook Marketplace though.

Lowe then turned the tables on me and asked where I like to shop for vintage in Los Angeles, how I started dressing in wallpaper patterns and the origins of Gloria, the infamous dressing gown. Soon after our IG Live session, we met in person at Recess’ grand opening party for their home decor annex.

I’m so happy I made a new friend and look forward to spending more time with the lovely Lowe. More to follow! xx

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