before and afterInteriors

Before & After: A Baker’s Dingy Rental Becomes a Joyful Ode to Color

by Kelli Kehler

You could say that Miriam Rieder has always been a go-getter. A self-taught baker, Miriam opened her first shop when she was 20 and now owns two bakeries in Connecticut’s Avon and South Windsor. But with a high cost of living in Connecticut and the operating costs typical of a small business owner, Miriam chose to live at home with her parents until she was 24 so she could save on rent. Two years ago Miriam was ready to branch out on her own and hopefully land in the West Hartford area — ideally located between her two shops. She joined forces with her sister, Angel, who works as a shop manager for Miriam, and the hunt was on.

“I stumbled upon my apartment via Craigslist,” Miriam shares. “While the price was in my budget, it was quite outdated with stained carpet, old linoleum and bad paint. I knew I would not be able to find anything else in that range and also a space that big, so my sister and I went for it.”

With a very tight budget, Miriam updated the dingy apartment over the span of 18 months, planning one project for each paycheck. She leaned heavily on the power of paint to both transform each room in the 1920s apartment and put a fresh spin on thrifty secondhand finds. “I absolutely love flipping furniture and turning trash into treasure. All of the furniture, decor and lighting except for the dining room sofa and chairs [were] all found on Craigslist, Goodwill or secondhand shops. The thrill of the hunt and being able to transform pieces was definitely my favorite part of it all.”

After gauging the laid-back nature of her landlord — and considering the value renovations would add to the apartment — Miriam made bigger moves like ripping up carpet to reveal hardwood floors underneath and painting over the dated brick fireplace. “I’m thankful to be able to come home to a place that is true to my personality and taste. Being a small business owner and having [my] first apartment be the space of [my] dreams makes me happy,” Miriam shares. The best reward, Miriam laughs, is probably getting to continue to live amongst her hard work. “I’m also thankful that when the landlord found out I renovated the whole place, he didn’t throw me out.” —Kelli

Photography by Chrissy Racho / @lilycameliastudio

Image above: Over the course of 18 months, Miriam combined bold paint colors, secondhand finds and DIY renovation tricks to rehab her dark and dated rental apartment. In the living room, Behr’s “Fresh Water” serves as both an accent to bold pops of pink and a neutral to scores of collected ephemera. 


After Miriam ripped up the old carpeting, painted the walls and gave the dated fireplace a facelift, the 1,400-square-foot apartment’s living room is nearly unrecognizable.


“Knowing that the house was from the 20s, I was pretty certain that there was wood flooring under the terrible carpet — and I was right,” Miriam shares. “The week before we moved in, I decided to rip up a corner and it was all downhill from there. That night, I called my sister over and we ripped all the carpet out… I went on YouTube and learned all about how to refinish floors.”


Miriam painted over the existing linoleum flooring with a bold stripe pattern in the kitchen to create a space that’s fit for a baker.


“The most challenging part of the project was my budget,” Miriam says. “I did it on an EXTREMELY tight budget, which is why it took me 18 months to renovate and decorate. I had to plan a project each paycheck and do it as thrifty as possible. Thankfully, I have some very talented friends and boyfriend so they helped with things here and there so I didn’t have to hire any outside help.”


Copper details mingle cheerfully with fresh white and turquoise paint.


Paint comes to the rescue again to revive the existing lower cabinetry; open shelving replaces the dated upper cabinets and offers more opportunities for styling.


“I’m thankful to be able to come home to a place that is true to my personality and taste,” Miriam shares. “Being a small business owner and having [my] first apartment be the space of [my] dreams makes me happy.”


Another kitchen design moment reveals Miriam’s love for transforming secondhand pieces, like this console table she painted in a peppy pink. “While baking is my career, I love all things design and fashion.”


The butler’s pantry can be spied just beyond this kitchen wall. “While the wood floors were definitely not an easy feat, repainting the butler’s pantry was terrible. So many doors and little window panes. It took about two weeks but when it was done, I was beyond happy.”


The crisp white butler’s pantry serves as a palate cleanser to Miriam’s colorful and pattern-filled dining room.


The dining room is defined by a vibrant wall covering by Brewster, inspiring a cohesive mix of styles through decor and furnishings.


The colorful wallpaper, fresh trim paint and exposed hardwood floors make this space a far cry from what Miriam first saw when she moved in two years ago.


Miriam’s bedroom is joyfully awash in Benjamin Moore’s “Coral Gables.” “My two favorite design people are my friend John Robshaw and Eddie Ross. John has a way of layering patterns and colors together that I love. All of my bedding and pillows throughout the house are by him. Eddie Ross is also the same way but with so much color and the use of antiques.”


The coral wall color and brass accents lend a warm, cozy vibe to Miriam’s bedroom.


Miriam used black paint to update the bathroom’s vanity, hung a new mirror, and freshened the walls up with white paint and black trim. A bold pattern on the shower curtain modernizes the once-dated room.


The changes Miriam employed to make-over this bathroom can easily be used by any renter to update their space (just ask your landlord first!).

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  • Oh my I could come home to this daily and smile smile…..I know a lot of work and effort was put into every room, but it shows and it’s absolutely brilliant!
    Thanks for sharing-

  • This is a showstopper! I’m so impressed! I wonder how many careers Miriam could have!

  • Wow, she put a lot of work into that place, but it looks fantastic!! I hope your landlord appreciates the great job you did to his property!!! You definitely could be an interior designer if you wanted to be!

  • Pretty amazing transformation for a rental. A creative eye with a nice use of color and texture. I’m pretty impressed by this transformation.

  • Not sure I’d be thrilled someone painted over a brick fireplace if I were the landlord.

    • compared To the before pic the landlord should be grateful someone cared about where they live and increased his value!

  • Why would you renovate someone else’s place? Looks great but wouldn’t the $ be better used to save for your own pad? Once you’ve got that you can go all cray cray with the colour.

    • Because in a lot of places home ownership is out of reach to many, and the money you’d “save” by not fixing up your rental wouldn’t appreciably contribute to buying a place, anyways. I’ve had to find ways to make rentals “home” for my entire adult life. The money I would have saved had I not done that would be a drop in the bucket in my current housing market, where modest “starter” homes sell for over a million dollars. Some of us make the choice to feel at home now, instead of waiting a decade or two for when we might own something.

      As for the post, this transformation is unbelievable!

      • Absolutely! And really, painting is so inexpensive. My landlord let me paint what ever I wanted, to what was a funky little cottage. I was one of his favorite tenants and my son and I lived in that colorful cottage for seven years. Live now, don’t wait.

  • This is amazing! It’s a rental? I’d never know from the after pictures. Hope the landlord is ok with all of it because it’s stunning! If only mine would let me do stuff like this. I’m lucky enough to have original hardwood floors in great shape, but would love to paint my dingy beige walls white and my kitchen cabinets navy or teal.

  • Gorgeous! I have seen several posts on Design Sponge recently where people have painted over tile and/or linoleum. Does anyone know what kind of paint they used? Did they use primer first?

    I love the color, style, and obvious ambition this home showcases! Nice work!

  • It is a cold day in Ct,and Miriam has just put a big smile on my face!Wonderful job.So happy for you that you didn’t wait until you could afford your own space to create this wonderful environment!

  • I see that you’ve done a remarkable transformation on your rental and Turning it into your cozy home. Great job. I’m always looking for inspiration and found that today. Thanks. Kaisha

  • Rental or owner—-is besides the point that this home is gorgeous and the occupant has made it super comfortable for herself! Well done! This is such a happy space. Would I’d rather be a happy renter or happy owner? I’ll take either one as long as I’m happy! I’ve bookmarked this home! Thx for the inspiration!

  • What a lovely, cheerful place! I’m very inspired by the paint colours – what’s the turquoise shade in the kitchen? Thanks :)

  • Wonderful to see this renovation. I only wish she had a blog and could post tips on how she did things… it’s such a great transformation

  • Such an AWESOME transformation. Unbelievable. So great to see this change. The theme chosen is excellent and completely filled with colours. Each room has a different vibe and looks bright and dreamy. No words to explain this flawless renovation. Looking forward to more from you. Good work.