Interiorssneak peeks

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy’s Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment

by Quelcy Kogel

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

For more than a decade, I, Quelcy, have been a loyal Design*Sponge reader. For more than a year and a half, I’ve been on the other side — a contributor. I’ve been inviting myself into people’s homes, both physically and figuratively, to bring you the stories and spaces that inspire many a Pinterest board, your dream homes, and your very real renovations. It is about time I return the hospitality. Today, I invite you into my home, so come on in!

Dubbed a “handyman special” by the local developers who own my building, the apartment has its fair share of quirks, but it checked off several items on my wish list: cheap rent, tall ceilings, architectural character, and lots of natural light for photographing recipes for my food blog, With The Grains. Above all, the “handyman special” granted me permission to do whatever I wanted to the space (as long as I didn’t hack into its structural integrity), so I promptly signed that lease.

I piled all my belongings into a corner, and I got to work. I ripped up carpet, cleaned the deathly-looking ash and cat smells that lurked below said carpet, painted EVERYTHING, possibly [probably] inhaled lead paint and made this place feel like my own. For nearly nine years, this place has ebbed and flowed with me, from a job I hated, to a layoff, to a major leap into self-employment as a food & prop stylist, photographer, blogger and event designer.

I’ve celebrated heartbreaks and immense milestones here, but what really made this labor of love feel the most like my home was filling it with fur and dirt. First came my most diligent kitchen assistant, Julep, then came a farmer. As luck would have it, I met Kyle, an organic farmer/graphic designer/pet portraitist at Lili Cafe, our neighboring coffee shop (another perk of my location). I felt a whirl of butterflies and admiration, and before long, he too became a member of this home.

This old building we call home feels like its days are numbered. The neighborhood has changed so drastically around us, Pittsburgh housing prices have soared, and I fear this building will soon sell beneath us. In the meantime, I’m so grateful for this home. It’s a cozy, cost-effective space that has enabled us to take creative career risks. The seams are usually bursting with produce, beekeeping equipment and a fair bit of dirt amongst the props and backdrops, but this space is hugely personal. It reflects my story, so I’m thankful you stopped by to visit. —Quelcy

Photography by Dave Bryce

Image above: Kyle’s foraged stinging nettle (an antidote to allergies when made into tea) and curing garlic mix with my collection of vintage props in our entry. I lean very rustic — if I’m not risking tetanus, I’m usually not interested. We both consider Julep, our Aussie-Lab mix, to be our muse in all our endeavors. 

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

Even though my dream kitchen would probably be dark and rustic, I let the bones of this kitchen, mainly the cabinetry and the enamel sink, inspire the design. It’s very kitschy, and I painted the cabinets and accent wall with a very 1960s vibe.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

The kitchen has a large footprint but not a lot of practical storage or work surfaces, so I put the window and walls to work to make kitchen utensils and spices easily accessible. The lemons on the walls are decals from Urban Walls and tied together the sunny yellow door and mint green cabinets.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

The kitchen features a collection of working vintage mixers, toy kitchen sets and cake tins, which I do put into rotation. When you blog about cakes as often as I do, you can’t show up to parties empty handed.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

I blog about whole grain baking on my site, With The Grains, so our pantry overflows with grains (several gluten free ones too) and baking provisions. I painted the mint green framed menu for a seafood boil photo shoot, and it matched the kitchen perfectly. We screen-printed the Hazelwood Urban Farms print as a nod to the urban farm Kyle founded.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

Welcome to my favorite room- the dining room! As much as I love styling and blogging, there’s nothing quite like cooking and baking for people. I love hosting friends and family in this room, or simply celebrating special occasions with Kyle, while Julep lurks under the table hoping for scraps. This room reflects my affinity for aged and worn surfaces and the many layers of a building. I painstakingly removed paint from the doors and fireplace tiles but purposefully left the chippy accent wall and exposed lathe.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

What I love most about my home is…

…it tells my story. I love sharing our home with friends, family, and my fur baby. I enjoy watching the way guests interact with my collections and the associations they make, whether it be glassware their grandmother used or a fascination with the mechanics of a typewriter.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

I am constantly drawn to old books, but before moving into this apartment, I vowed to put the books to better use (because boy, were they heavy to move!). I had two photography books depicting French life in the city and the countryside, and those pages became the collaged mantel accent. I studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence and worked as a jeune fille au pair (a nanny) in Paris after college, so these vintage prints bring back so many pleasant French memories.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

The tall windows and views were another selling point to this apartment. You can see hints of the ghost sign painted on the neighbor’s house across the street (I photographed it here). It reads “Mother’s Bread 100% Pure.” As a baker, I took this literal sign as a symbol that I should live here, but sadly, developers are going to build a condo over it in the coming year. I’m still mourning this careless disregard for the city’s history.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

I’m slowly building a collection of botanical prints, starting with these framed vintage pieces from Friday Cheer Co, one of my favorite Pittsburgh vintage vendors. I bought the basket at a flea market, specifically thinking, “a wine picnic basket!” only to learn it’s actually meant for fishing.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

You know how collections go… you buy one item, find another, and then suddenly, you’re a collector. That’s how it went with vintage ironing boards in the dining room, with this one serving as our bar cart. I collect any glassware or plates with grains on them to use for my blog and am building up my copper collection.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

I may have been hungry when making paint choices. The dining room color is “Chipotle Paste,” and the living room’s yellow is “Belgian Waffle,” appropriate since I always want grainy pancakes or waffles on weekends. I scored the antique couch at a flea market for $20, after I had already painted the yellow walls, but it fit perfectly.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

The gallery wall sums us up: food still lifes, beekeeping and farming scenes, dog portraits, old cameras, French cityscapes and Q’s (because you’d be surprised how frequently that letter is omitted from alphabetical merchandise!). The wooden frame highlights a Kenyan ekichilong, a small wooden stool the Turkana shepherds use for sitting and sleeping, which I purchased on a trip to rural Kenya. You’ll even find the small velour hat from my childhood Samantha doll. I parted with the doll, but I had to keep one little memento.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

We spend a lot of time in this room, whether we’re entertaining or simply nestling in to watch a movie projected on the far wall. I love having a projector because unlike a TV, when it’s off, it’s camouflaged amongst our collections.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

Older me gives younger me major props for purchasing these baskets. I bought the handwoven baskets on a trip to rural Kenya in college. The baskets all fit in one another like nesting dolls, down to the very smallest, which fits in one hand. I bought the block-print fabric (the curtain) on the same trip. I was born in Nebraska, the cornhusker state, so the corn pattern was symbolic. I snagged the praying couple portraits at the PGH Vintage Mixer. So many friends have told me the prints bring back memories of their grandparents’ houses, which is exactly why I bought them. In between the baskets is a wooden drum made by Kyle’s uncle. Kyle adds a lot of music to our lives.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

The bedroom is my maximalist self’s attempt at minimalism. My goal was to create a really calming space where I would want to unwind.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

The mantel decor is minimal by my standards — a few classic gold pieces and a plant that belonged to Kyle’s late grandmother! With a legacy like that, I make sure he is the one to care for it. The fireplace isn’t functional, so I used it to display a map of France.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

I collect old photos when they remind me of moments in my own life or aspirational moments (like a granny showing off a garter). The frame features a quote I hand lettered for a bride, for a very intimate beach wedding I styled. I related so much to the sentiment it lives on our mantel.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

I illustrated and screen-printed the wooden chalkboard frame, which features a quote Kyle likes to say, “Feast every damn day.” Rather than a call to be gluttonous, it’s an intention to live and eat well while appreciating how much work goes into the growing and making of a meal. The Arc de Triomphe print is a framed postcard exchanged during WWII, and the mirror features an agriculture pin from my late grandfather, who was also a farmer.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

When my best friend saw this wall, she asked, “are you done?” and quite poignantly addressed the differences in our aesthetics. The first time I saw the chipping paint, I thought it looked like a map of Europe, and I loved it. Maps and travel have played a significant role in my life, so I left the chipped layers and added a dark accent wall. However, the single accent wall made the room look very disjointed, so I hand brushed the “Pencil Point” color around the “map of Europe,” chipped the edges, so it’d look natural and fudged the history of this room a bit.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

I originally kept the bed on the floor as part of my pursuit for minimalism in this room, but the decision turned out to be quite advantageous for Julep, too. She can often be found snoozing on the bed.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

Julep does have her own bed and her own furry pals. The floors were originally covered in disgusting blue carpet, but I ripped that up and painted everything white. There’s been a lot of wear and tear, but I like the aged look they have now.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

I never understood the rule against painting dark colors in small spaces, so I disregarded that completely in our awkwardly narrow bathroom. I relied heavily on paint, from floor to ceiling, to update the original wood paneling and carpet (!). Since I take so many photos, I made a point to print and frame many of my favorites, then added pieces that were meaningful to Kyle. The central piece is a painting of the house where he lived in Hawaii, by his friend, artist Anne Wertheim. Kyle’s brother painted the landscape when he was in middle school (shout out to Dr. Pattison – ha!), and it makes his mom so proud to see us display it.

D*S Team Tours: Quelcy's Eclectic Pittsburgh Apartment via Design*Sponge

The office wall features my analog to-do lists on painted frames, as well as working prints for Regal Collars, Kyle’s pet portrait business. The Julep portrait on the desk was a Christmas present from Kyle. A woman with a thick Pittsburgh accent referred to Julep’s eyebrows as “punkin’ seeds,” and the nickname stuck, so Kyle painted them sprouting. There’s also a photo from the time I met Bob, of Bob’s Red Mill, and as a whole grain blogger, I fan-girled so hard.

Source List

Rug- secondhand
Park bench & table – craigslist
Flour Grinder, Tin Bucket & Rolling Pins – flea markets

Mint Paint Color – Glidden Minty Green
Door paint – Behr Honey Locust
Lemon Wall Decals by Urban Walls
Rug – Ikea
Pendant light – vintage
Light Bulb – Ikea
Toy kitchens & Cake Containers- flea markets
Vintage Kitchen Mixers – Zerrer’s Antiques
Artwork- made by Quelcy & Kyle
Coke & Pepsi crates – flea markets

Dining Room
Wall Paint- Behr Chipotle Paste
Floor Paint – Glidden Stone White
Mantle wallpaper- collaged by Quelcy from a vintage book
Table – refinished antique
Chairs – Ikea
Trunk, Ironing Boards, Typewriters – Trader Jack’s flea market
Cake stand – vintage & Ikea
Still Life Painting – WildCard
Botanical Floral Prints – Friday Cheer Co
Vintage Light Fixture – a grain sifter from a flea market
Vintage desk – secondhand

Living Room
Wall Paint – Glidden Belfian Waffle
Floor Paint – Glidden Stone White
Couch – flea market
Pillows – Target & Ikea
Coffee Table – Ikea bookshelf
Desk & Shelving – Ikea
Cowhide rug – Ikea
Vintage camera – from my Grandfather
Gold standing lamps – Target
Bees & Honey Print – Cavallini Paper Co.
Bee Print – Trohv
Octagonal Framed Dog Photo – Pittsburgh Furniture Company
Tennis racquet – The Ardent Forager
Riding Helmet – Flea Market
Small velvet hat – American Girl Dolls
Baskets – purchased in Nairobi, Kenya
Corn Print Fabric Curtain – purchased in Nairobi, Kenya
Daily Bread Photo Pair – PGH Vintage Mixer
Wooden Drum – made by Kyle’s uncle

Wall Paint – Behr Pencil Point
Floor Paint – Glidden Stone White
Mantle – Glidden Crisp Linen White
Bedspread – Target
Pillows – Ikea
Bedside light – Target
White Sewing Desk – gift from friend, refurbished
Antique Sewing Table – Turn Key Liquidators
Globe – flea market
Chalkboard frame – made by Quelcy

Wall Paint – Glidden Botanical Green
Floor Paint – Behr Flat Top
Frames – Ikea & Vintage, painted gold
Horseshoe – Friday Cheer Co.
Landscape Painting – by Kyle’s brother
House Painting – Anne Wertheim
Candles – Target
Vintage pharmacy & cigarette tins – flea markets
“Q” hook – Anthropologie

Calligraphy Chalkboard – Jessi Evans
Frames – Goodwill, painted Gold
Paper (in frames) – Artist & Craftsman Supply
Gold Lamp – Target
Gold bulldog tape dispenser – Target
Clay pot – made by Nina Barbuto
Julep portrait – by Kyle
Industrial desk – purchased second hand from a church
Locker – Ikea
Gold & White Curtain – Target
Rug – Costco
Pet Portrait – Regal Collars

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  • Love this apartment tour!! So refreshing to see spaces that are unique, cozy, imperfect (in a good way), and lived in. Like a home, vs a pinterest showroom. (I mean I LOVE white interior pinterest house porn, but I get the most inspiration from spaces that are clearly inhabited, and used, and loved.)

  • You are so talented. This house is so beautiful and there is so much love put in it and you can tell!

    • Thanks JT. That is very kind of you. Writing about our home was a nice reminder of all the happy stories behind the collections and reminded me to be grateful.

  • This is a great house tour with gorgeous and not clichéd colours. Everything is interesting and elegantly styled. I especially like the French photo collage and the colours on and around the bed. And Julep.

  • Wonderful place! I so can relate to decor that “is risking tetanus”. You did a wonderful write up of our home that I conincidentally just reread yesterday as I failed to make progress on another house project. Boosted my spirits. I love what you do.

    • Andrew, that makes me so happy! I often think of your home and all that you and Neal do. There’s so much beauty there. I’m glad your spirits were boosted. One of these days, I’m going to hang in your garden, and we’re all going to feast!

  • Your apartment is beautiful!! And I also live in Pgh’s East End (hi!), and I share your sadness over rising house prices and some of the ways it’s changing.

    • Thank you! I bet we’ll run into each other in the real world now. Pittsburgh is so small. ;)

  • Your apartment is wonderful although I’m not sure I could live there – might just be a little TOO rustic for me and I fear tetanus. But it’s beautiful and unique and as someone else said not cliche at all. Well done and thank you for sharing. I love to see the homes of the design*sponge writers.

    • Thanks Margot. It’s probably good to have a healthy fear of the wrath of sharp, rusty metal. ha! :)

  • Thank you for sharing your home with us Quelcy. I love everything about it, especially the gallery wall above the sofa and, of course, Julep.
    Being a Brit, I don’t know about your state nicknames, but I love that you have honoured your origins in this way with the corn motif – lovely home!

    • You are quite welcome! Thanks for the kind words. There are so many nicknames. We Americans probably don’t know most of them.

  • Is that sink and cupboard set all metal and Sears and Roebuck? I lived with one once and these pics bring back memories. It takes talent to stack very many dishes on that little bit of counter.

  • What a fun, eclectic space! I love how you display your growing collections.

    Now about the lead paint line. People joke about ingesting lead, but it’s really not funny. My family had a real scare with elevated lead levels in our kids’ blood, and I’ve never been so terrified of the possible serious and permanent ramifications. Everyone in an older home should consider testing for lead paint and learn about how to safely renovate/repair those areas–it’s especially important if you have pets, if you plan to become/are pregnant, if there are any kids living in or near your building, or if you ever have any kids over to visit. Maybe a topic for a future article?

  • This is so so refreshing to see a considered home, but also a realistic one. It has love and tradition and quirks abound. You can tell people live here! I especially appreciated the sentiment about the kitchen- that her dream kitchen might not look like this but the existing elements of the room dictated the choices made. No current trends are forced onto the space; it’s the kitchen it’s supposed to be right now.

  • I love this aesthetic. The chipped paint and styling is killer. Also, I’m so happy to see that more Pittsburghers have been featured on this blog. Quelcy, I hear ya, sister—this city has certainly changed. I was pushed out of Friendship/Bloomfield due to crazy rent prices. It is getting harder for creatives to live in the city.

  • I love your style Quelcey!!! I throughly enjoy how you incorporated items from your childhood ( the American Girl hat) to yours & kyles pictures from your grandparents & his Home growing up… It’s so unique. The 🍋 lemons in the kitchen are the perfect touch along with the aqua cabinets. Two fireplaces ?!! How awesome is that. I especially love how it seems to tell a story. Congratulations, you have a beautiful home!

  • Quelcy! I love your home so much. It’s decorated so genuinely with such love. It feels completely, charmingly Pittsburgh in all the best ways. So happy to see so many shots of Julep, too! <3

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