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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 “While the price was in my budget, it was quite outdated with stained carpet, old linoleum and bad paint.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. 

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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“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.”

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Copper details mingle cheerfully with fresh white and turquoise paint.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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

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

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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.

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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.”

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

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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.

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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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