Interiorssneak peeks

In Canada, a Dog Lover’s Century-Old Rental

by Garrett Fleming

By day, Brittany Shmyr is a Visual Manager for Anthropologie, overseeing “…all aspects of presentation, display and merchandising within the store.” By night, at their shop The Nested Owl, she and a close friend give new life to old furniture. So it comes as no surprise that Brittany’s home in Vancouver, British Columbia is a cozy and stylish retreat.

Built in 1912, her building’s one-bedroom rental wasn’t easy to snag. The competitive Vancouver housing market had Brittany resigned to the idea that a not-so-ideal studio was the only thing she would be able to afford. Not to mention her pup, Stella — while adorable and charming — wasn’t welcome in many of the city’s buildings. Three months into her search, and just when she was beginning to feel a bit desperate, Brittany’s coworker told her to check out this pet-friendly, vintage complex a few blocks from Anthropologie. The first time Brittany stepped inside the pretty brick building, she knew it was right. Unfortunately, many other potential renters did, too. Three times she showed up to viewings only to be beaten to the punch by a scurry of eager applicants. Her resolve, however, didn’t go unnoticed. One day, the landlord, determined to help Brittany move in, let her view this unit before the listing went public — just the advantage she needed to win this rent race.

Overlooking both ocean and mountains, the corner unit features original details such as a clawfoot tub, bay windows and hardwood floors. Since moving in, Brittany has decked out the rental in vintage finds as well as some of her own artwork; the latter being a clever way for her to save money on sprucing up the space. “I believe it takes time to allow your home to become you,” she says. “I don’t like to rush things, or buy items just to fill my home. I want to love each piece that comes through my door.” Whether that piece is Scandinavian-inspired, vintage or new, each one comes together in what Brittany calls her “no style” style. This decorating strategy is basically strategy-less. It’s more focused on crafting a cozy home that inspires, as opposed to working to achieve a specific look. The technique has proven to be a glowing success, as you’ll see when you virtually step inside the home that Brittany shares with pup Stella. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Emily Santi

In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Since Brittany's IKEA sectional is a neutral hue, she can mix and match pillows from Anthropologie, IKEA and Urban Outfitters without having to worry about whether or not they'll perfectly match her furniture. In such a small space, storage is key. With additional storage, this sectional was a no-brainer. The metal bunting is from Urban Outfitters.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Brittany and her dog, Stella, have called this rental "home" for a little over a year and a half. "When she was five weeks old, I bought [Stella] out of a shopping cart for $20. I was told she was a German Shepherd mix and thought she would grow to be 80 pounds. I'm not sure what kind of mix she is. She turned out to be only 50 pounds, a ball of energy with the funniest personality. The best $20 I have ever spent!" Brittany gushes.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
From the quaint kitchen, Brittany can keep her eye on her pup while taking in all of the wonderful decorations she's collected. Even though the space is small – 450 square feet – Brittany was determined to fit a dining table into her home. This vintage one from Canada's Stepback has turned out to be the perfect size for the nook. "A small bench is tucked away under the table, and I pull it all out when I'm entertaining. I've learned that you can entertain in small spaces, you just have to be open to moving furniture around," Brittany shares.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
"I love the natural light I get from the large bay windows. I often sit at my dining table, watch bicycles (roll) by and admire the beautiful trees and gardens that are nestled on my street corner," Brittany explains. The table's terrarium, by Graeme Owsianski, has lived in many corners of this home. It simply can't sit still. Her chairs have been collected from The Nested Owl and Stepback.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Since this is a rental, changes to the space have to be minor and temporary. Switching out the old light fixture with this streamlined IKEA pendant instantly modernized the home.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Brittany is constantly adding new memories and decorations to this area – her favorite wall in the home. "I managed to find the ladder on Craigslist for free – the paint splatters are the best part! I use it to hold plants and trinkets," she says.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Outfitting the apartment with new artwork and decor wasn't in Brittany's budget when she moved in. To save some cash, she took up painting as a hobby. It has given her one-of-a-kind pieces to spice up the rental's walls. This addax head from marymake sits amongst her own work, vintage finds and artwork by Leah Duncan.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
"I love bringing natural elements into my home. I attached cedar plywood from The Home Depot to the wall behind my bed, and it instantly added a warm, cozy feeling to the bedroom. Most days, it's really hard to get out of bed!" Brittany says. She picked up these throw pillows, ceramics and duvet from Anthropologie. Her bedroom's gallery wall is made up of works by She Hit Pause Studios and Tina Crespo.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Little touches of greenery throughout the bedroom and living area bring the outdoors into the apartment. This paddle illustration is by Minted artist Sachie Kohlman
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
The 1900s-era cabinetry is original to the home. The bottom drawer pulls out to hold a double bed, and the many shelves serve as Brittany's minibar when she's entertaining. To its left is the kitchen, and off to the right, a small changing room leads to the bathroom.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Pull-out beds are a fabulous way to accommodate guests when you don't have an extra room. Plus, they're such a fun, architectural surprise.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Another view of the hidden bed.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
The homeowner picked up this collection of 1960s canned goods at an estate sale.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Before Brittany moved in, her landlords had decided to install new cabinetry in the kitchen. Not too pleased, Brittany eagerly convinced them otherwise. She knew that keeping the small kitchen open and free from too much clutter would help it appear larger and brighter. The teal pans are from West Elm, and Brittany painted this art print.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
Of course, Brittany has an abundance of dinnerware. She does work for Anthropologie, after all. The store's collection of mismatched plates and cups are always finding their way into her home. They sit on shelving that Brittany painted with Minwax "White Oak" Stain and then distressed.
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
To the bottom right of the stove is Stella's food and water bowl. Brittany decorated the nook with some of the pup's favorite things, such as "a bunting flag created from sticks she would carry home, (a shadow box featuring one of her old toys), her name burned into wood and drawings of a squirrel and a cat that [my] friends made for her."
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
In Canada, a Dog Lover's Century-Old Rental, Design*Sponge
The 450-square-foot home's layout.

Suggested For You


  • I like her way of not rushing things and buying things to just fill her home. It makes each piece she brings in to her home that much more special!

  • Hmm. This is a charming home– it looks like something I could move right into. But I’ve noticed the “strategy-less, no style” style always seems to work better for people like Stella, who already have a well-developed sense of color and proportion .

  • oh this home, absolutely perfect. And boy, do I know what it means to find a rental with pets (a cat and a dog), as lovely as they might be, it is assumed that they will tear the place apart… I am however very glad you’ve found the right place in 3 months, I’ve had to wait a whole year before I actually found a cozy apartment, and managed to convince the owner that it is all going to be alright :))
    You let your heart shine through your home, and it suggests you to be a splendid person! Congrats on the feature too! ;)

  • I’m so beyond intruged by the pull out bed under the cabinet. Is this original to the apartment or added later? Is it functional? This is just such an amazing solution to small space hosting. Beautiful apartment. Also loving the wood addition on the wall behind the bed. Very clever.

  • Most of us associate the living on rent as something that doesn’t deserve our efforts of making it looking like a home. Actually, you can never know if you can have your home. That why, I want to say Congrats! That rental looks amazing! Despite its small size, it looks so cozy, tidy and clean. Sometimes, with just a little effort a lot can be achieved :)

  • I love this place!!!! The bunting of her pup’s sticks is so great – I keep all of my pup’s found sticks too, he’s just so proud of them!!! This place looks so cozy and special, well done :)

  • Wow! You have taken a wonderful space (the built ins are amazing)and made it even better.And Stella’s “art area” is just adorable.

  • Hi Everyone!

    Thank you very much for the kind words about my space and Stella!

    I know everyone’s asking about the “pull out bed” under the cabinet. I’m pretty lucky, as its an original feature. The bottom is one large drawer with a frame on wheels. When it rolls out it fits a double size bed. At the moment I use it for storage. Plastic bins fit perfectly along the frame for easy access to art supplies or anything else I’m not using. It’s a great solution for an extra bed or for storage in such a small space. If my landlords updated my kitchen I would have lost it. I do not have any bottom cabinets, instead I have this wonder invention!

  • I love all of the plants! I’m wondering, though, are they all pet-friendly? I am trying to add more green to my home but the only plants that are non-toxic to pets (I have a cat) aren’t very fun.

  • Not sure how I just found this, over a year later! I also live in Vancouver and know the rental struggle. This place is just fabulous!!! I love it so much and you did such a great job of making it look great. So many clever and cute tricks!

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.