July 24, 2024

From constantly rearranging her childhood bedroom to now owning her own interior decorating business, Cassandra Noel’s passion for design runs deep. With every client she works with, one of the first questions she asks is, “How do you want your home to make you feel?” The answer helps her design a space that is not only visually beautiful but also makes you feel something. In her own rental, that overarching feeling is a serene, romantic energy that puts you at ease. Having floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning downtown Chicago views doesn’t hurt, but it’s truly the personal touches that have made the biggest difference. Cassandra transformed the blank canvas apartment into a stunning sanctuary through renter-friendly DIYs and thrifted finds, proving that renting does not mean limiting your decorating possibilities. Read on for the full tour of Cassandra’s gorgeous apartment and her best tips for customizing a rental.

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Cassandra Noel’s Chicago Apartment Tour

Source: @cassandranoelhome

The details:

Name: Cassandra Noel
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Square Footage: 1,075 square feet
Rent/Own: Rent

Source: @cassandranoelhome

You’ve been living in your current apartment for coming up on three years. What initially drew you to the unit?

All of the natural light! The two apartments I had rented previously did not get much sunlight, so lighting was a big priority. Also, my best friend and I happened to be apartment hunting at the same time, and we had dreams of living in the same building. There were two units available on the same floor, so we got to live down the hall from each other for two years and live out our Friends sitcom dreams.

Outside of curating your own beautiful apartment, you also have an interior decorating business where you work with clients to help them create their dream spaces. When did your interest in interior decorating start?

I’ve been interested in design ever since I was a little girl! I was particularly obsessed with older spaces. I loved pouring through old copies of Architectural Digest at the library. I was also constantly rearranging my bedroom and making new murals on the wall. As I grew older, it became a hobby and, eventually, a career.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

The huge floor-to-ceiling windows are obviously one of the most eye-catching features of your apartment. How did you design your space around these stunning views and still make it feel cozy?

All of the windows can definitely create the feeling of living in a glass box, so making it cozy was super important to me. I leaned toward pieces with warm colors and lots of texture. My budget was pretty limited at the time, so I almost exclusively thrifted my furniture. These pieces provided some much-needed character and warmth. Lamps, vases, and coffee table books are all pieces that are easy to find at the thrift and provide a cozy feel.

Your space doesn’t fit into one style box but instead mixes a wide range of vintage and modern pieces. How do you strike a balance between old and new while maintaining a cohesive look?

When I’m designing a room, either for myself or a client, I always start with the feeling I want the room to evoke (i.e., serene, cozy, bright, romantic, quirky, etc). When I’m picking pieces for the space, I don’t necessarily focus on if it’s old or new but if it evokes the feeling I’m going for.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

You live with your husband (and adorable puppy, Daphne). Do you have any advice for merging design styles with a partner?

Communication! Talk about what you both want the space to look like, feel like, and be used for, then figure out what you have in common and go from there. Most likely, you’ll both have to compromise. Having a pink couch in the living room wasn’t exactly on my husband’s bucket list, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for him and he knew it made me happy! We do both love records, books, and vintage furniture, so we’ve included lots of those in our home.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

“When I’m designing a room, either for myself or a client, I always start with the feeling I want the room to evoke.”

Source: @cassandranoelhome

Speaking of Daphne, puppies aren’t always the best roommates. How have you puppy-proofed your space to accommodate your new family member?

Oh, this was a tough one! During potty training, we lifted all of the rugs. This was super helpful because potty training in a high-rise apartment is not ideal. Also, just making sure everything has a place and is put away. Even now, if we leave things out (shoes, keys, remotes), Daphne LOVES to get her paws on them.

How does your approach to decorating change when working in your own space versus a client’s?

It actually doesn’t change much! I always start by asking my client the feeling they want the space to evoke and what they want the space to be used for. Then, we work together to find pieces that fit their style and evoke those feelings.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

It’s the small knickknacks and accessories that really make your apartment look curated and unique. Where do you like to shop for these items, and what tips do you have for styling them?

Aside from antique stores and estate sales, my favorite places to look for accessories are Soho Home, CB2, H&M Home, Anthropologie, and Lulu & Georgia. I try to be intentional and choose pieces that have a unique shape, texture, or color. I also just look for pieces that make me smile or would be a fun conversation starter.

Source: @cassandranoelhome
Source: @cassandranoelhome

You always seem to have at least one vase of fresh flowers on display in your home. Do you have any tips for creating beautiful arrangements and making them last?

I get this question a lot. Fresh flowers can be expensive, so I’m not afraid to mix fresh and faux flowers in an arrangement. To make my fresh flowers last longer, I fill my vases with warm water and dissolve 3 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart of water.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

Your apartment features so many unique thrifted pieces. What tips do you have for sourcing secondhand finds?

My #1 tip is to not rush yourself. It can be tempting to try and fill a new or empty space immediately, which usually results in buying things that aren’t worth the price or that you don’t actually love or need. Thrifting furniture takes a lot of patience. I usually check out local thrift stores, antique markets, estate sales, and, of course, Facebook Marketplace. I usually find estate sales near me by typing in my zip code on estatesales.net. They have pictures of the items that will be included in the sale, so I can look ahead of time before deciding if I want to make the drive. When I’m searching on Facebook Marketplace, I use keywords such as post-modern, Hollywood Regency, neoclassical, and French provincial to find pieces that fit my style.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

“It can be tempting to try and fill a new or empty space immediately, which usually results in buying things that aren’t worth the price.”

Source: @cassandranoelhome

One challenge of renting is the limits on the changes you can make to your space. How did you work within those parameters to make your home feel so personal?

There are so many renter-friendly ways to make a space feel like home! Paint, peel-and-stick tile, light fixtures, and hardware are all reversible ways to customize your rental. I save all of the original hardware and lighting somewhere safe, so I can replace it before we move. I’m also lucky because my building lets me paint. For me, it’s totally worth the time and investment to make my home feel cozy and intentional.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

When you first moved into the space, what were your top priorities for making it feel like home?

I am a huge reader and books bring me so much comfort, so my first priority was unpacking all of my books. We didn’t have a bookshelf yet, so I ended up stacking them on a bench in my bedroom. It instantly made the room feel like home, and I ended up keeping the books there permanently.

Of all the DIY projects you’ve undertaken in your apartment, which has been your favorite?

My favorite DIY is definitely the bedframe in our primary bedroom. I had been on the hunt for something like it, but everything I found was either thousands of dollars or just didn’t look quite right. I drew a sketch of what I was thinking, my husband Peter drew up the plans, and we built it! We had so much fun working on it, and it’s one of my favorite memories. Oddly enough, it’s the most asked-about piece of furniture in my apartment.

Do you have a favorite thrifted find? If so, what’s the story behind it?

I love them all, but my favorite is probably the gold vintage shell candle holder in my bedroom. When I found it at an estate sale, it was tarnished and at the bottom of a bin full of other items. I wasn’t even sure what it was, but I loved the shape. I took it home and polished it and then googled what it was originally used for. I found out it was intended to be a soap dish, but I used a bracket to hang it on the wall next to my bed and now it holds my prettiest candles.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

We’re obsessed with the gorgeous green limewash paint in your guest bedroom. How did you decide on the color, and what was the painting process like?

Thank you so much! I wanted an earthy, organic color, so I ordered some samples from Portola Paints and instantly fell in love with the color Shelter. It was my first time lime washing, and I was super nervous, so I watched a YouTube tutorial about 10 times and then just dove in! It was intimidating at first, but it’s doable, and I would definitely recommend giving it a try!

Source: @cassandranoelhome

Source: @cassandranoelhome

“For me, it’s totally worth the time and investment to make my home feel cozy and intentional.”

Source: @cassandranoelhome

Your guest bathroom packs a ton of personality, from the terracotta walls to the magazine rack toilet paper holder. What was the inspiration behind this transformation?

I love creating cozy spaces for my guests, so that was the initial inspiration. When I redid this space, it was late August, and I was feeling all of the Italian summer vibes, so I gravitated toward terracottas, greens, and gold accents.

Source: @cassandranoelhome

You’re so lucky to have a balcony with such amazing views. What are your favorite ways to spend time in this space?

Agreed—the balcony is one of my favorite spaces. It’s west-facing, so you can see the sunset. I love reading a book out there, having friends over for a glass of wine, or snuggling with Daphne.

You’ve mentioned on social media that the harsh Chicago winters have tempted you to move. What parts of the city convince you to stay?

I think every Chicagoan questions their choice in location once winter hits, but ultimately, I love it here. It’s walkable, people are friendly, the food is amazing, and there is always something to do. The lakefront, architecture, museums, and all of the fabulous shows and performances are some of my favorite reasons to live in the city.


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