When I tell people that I lived my first two years in Philadelphia in a trinity, most people look at me blankly. But Philadelphians look at me in disbelief and ask “How did you do it?” Here’s the secret — both what a trinity means, and how we made it work.

Me & Crystal on the steps of our first Philly apartment.

Trinity houses, also called Father, Son, and Holy Ghost houses, are mostly found in Philadelphia. The name comes from the fact that it has three floors. Each floor is one room, like a shotgun apartment turned on its head. Traditionally, the first floor is the kitchen, the second is the living room and bathroom, and the third floor is the bedroom. All of the floors are connected by tightly winding spiral staircases.

When we were first apartment hunting in Philly, I was determined that we’d live in a trinity. Down to the wire, we found one. In our trinity, the kitchen was in the basement, putting the living room on the first floor and a small office on the second. The entire place clocked in at about 550 square feet, but the multiple floors make it feel like far more space.

In the two years we lived in that apartment, I learned a lot about trinity living and how to make it work. Here’s my advice, should you be thinking about living in a trinity yourself:

  1. Buy flat-packed furniture. Getting furniture to the upper floors of a trinity is the biggest challenge you’ll face while living there. The easiest way we found to furnish our third-floor bedroom was to buy all our furniture at Ikea, and take it upstairs one piece at a time. We also scoured garage sales and thrift stores for furniture that folds up. Our best find was a Pier 1 bookshelf where the shelves fold down flat. Strategizing on furniture made it easy to decorate, and easy to move out once the time came.
  2. Hire movers. We hired movers to help us move out of our trinity, and they were worth every penny. Find a local company that’s familiar with trinity houses — we went with Old City Movers, and have only the best things to say about them. They moved us out by hoisting our furniture out the upper story windows like it was the easiest thing in the world. It was pretty amazing to watch!
  3. Implement a one-up, one-down rule. Fighting clutter is the biggest challenge while living in a trinity, because it can be a pain to carry things up and down the stairs. We implemented a rule that we always had to carry something with us when we went up or downstairs. It made a huge difference in helping keep our house tidy.
  4. Have a holding space for things that need to go up and down stairs. If you don’t have a designated space, stuff ends up piling up on the stairs and can cause a tripping hazard. (I speak from experience.) Having an attractive basket or box in each room for collecting things that need to move elsewhere can be a great safety trick.
  5. Downsize as much as possible. Living in our tiny trinity was one of the main reasons we tackled the konmari method. Being forced to change the way we lived with stuff was one of the biggest things we gained from living in a trinity.
  6. Get creative with storage.
    Custom Shelving DIYSince trinity houses are usually short on closets (ours only had two!) you have to get creative with storage space. We tried to use the walls as much as possible, like the reclaimed wood shelves we installed into this nook in the wall. Ikea Expedits and a large wardrobe were also indispensable.
  7. Think small scale. Our leasing agent described our place like a “dollhouse,” and she was totally right. While living in a trinity, it helps to keep everything small-scale wherever possible. Sticking with small appliances, smaller furniture, and smaller-scale decor saves space and makes everything look cohesive. Midcentury furniture is great for trinity homes, since it’s usually built on a smaller scale than modern furniture.

Living in a trinity might sound like an ordeal, but we loved it. It was the perfect place for us to start our lives together, and we’ll always be grateful for the time we spent living in that piece of Philly history.

Credit for my early trinity education goes to this blog post at CasaCara. Engagement photos by Olya Vysotskaya. 

 

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One of my goals for our house is to create a tranquil bedroom retreat, where we can relax at the end of the day, read, and wake up refreshed each morning.

Remember when, months ago, I blogged about the beginning of our bedroom mini renovation? Well, the whole room is still coming along slowly. Fun fact about me: I take ages and ages to finish projects, mostly because I am completely unable to make decisions without a lot of laborious debating.

Bedroom Update Midway

Since then, we’ve made significant progress, but the room is far from being done. Most significantly, we had the historic floors refinished. They look brand new, except with lots of character — just what we wanted. We also exposed the brick chimney that was hiding in one of the walls. It feels like a completely new room.

bedroom before reno

The weirdness that was our bedroom before. Note the terrible shape of the floors! The chimney is hiding behind that weird gap in the drywall. 

I was generously sent on a shopping spree at Lowes by the new C by GE bulbs, and I got all the materials I needed to complete our bedroom refresh.  The C by GE bulbs are way cool, and are going to really help achieve my tranquil bedroom goals. I’m obsessed with the Sleep bulbs, which you can program to adjust the color of the light based on the time of day. I’ve been having lots of trouble sleeping through the night and I just know this is going to be a game changer.

bedroom color inspirationWhen we first started planning this room, I tacked up these paint chips on the wall. By complete coincidence, my friend Mairobi helped me pick out the exact shade, Indigo Batik, to paint the dresser which has long been waiting for a fresh coat of paint. (Seriously, it was my first real post on this blog and I still haven’t done it! Can you say indecisive?)

color swatch: indigo batik Color Swatch: Origami White

Our next big project is painting the room. We picked Origami White for the walls, which should provide a really warm, cozy feel while still contrasting with our already white trim.

On deck is refinishing the metal bar cart I bought back in college. I’m planing to use it as storage for my craft supplies, so I have a cozy creative nook right in my bedroom.

What I still have left to figure out is what we’ll hang on the walls in here. Some prints? Some of our engagement photos? A mix of the two? What do you think?

Here are some of the images I’ve pulled from Pinterest as inspiration:

Bedroom Inspiration 1

I love this cozy nook featured on My Scandinavian Home. My goal is lots of layered pillows and bedding — easy enough, right?

bedroom inspiration urban outfitters

I was surprised when a bunch of the images I kept gravitating towards were from Urban Outfitters. Simple, minimalist but cozy, just a few elements: plants, a nice rug, that gorgeous platform bed.

bedroom inspiration exposed brick

Our bedroom doesn’t have this much exposed brick, but I want to make sure it feels integrated and purposeful like it does here.

What interior inspirations have you been pinning lately?

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember me mentioning our wedding tablescapes. We decorated using silver trays, which turned into this silver tray gallery wall.

wedding tablescape

On some tables, we used midcentury metal frames lined with decorative paper in order to add some visual difference.

midcentury metal frame

I’ve been wanting to reuse these metal frames for ages. Like the silver trays, they’re beautiful, easy to find at thrift and vintage stores, and inexpensive. The only problem is that, while the metal frames hold up extremely well over time, the backings they come with are often disintegrating.

midcentury metal frame on gallery wall

The easy solution is to buy new backing boards for the frames. I bought backings from matcutter.com. Some of my frames corresponded to modern standard sizes, and for the rest I bought a size up and easily cut down the backings with an x-acto knife. Then I just slipped in my photo, and the backing boards made it easy to hang them on the wall.

cutting mat to fit midcentury frame

Some of these frames are being added to the gallery wall in our living room (a gradual work in progress), and some are going to be hung over my desk in my office. The photos above were both taken on film in London with my beloved Canon AE-1 Program. I love the way they looked mixed in with solid wood frames!

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A little over three years ago, I packed up my life in London and moved back to the United States.

Exactly three years ago today, Crystal and I moved into our first apartment in Philadelphia.

A lot changed for us all at once. We got engaged; we went from dating across to continents to living together; we moved to a brand new city; we both started grad school. Everything that was changing about our lives was amazing, but it wasn’t easy to endure so much change all at once.

One of the rules I live by: it’s time to leave the city when it stops taking your breath away. #nottoday

A photo posted by Lola • vintage blogger (@foundinphila) on

Looking back now, I can’t believe we thought all of that life change was a good idea to tackle at the same time. In retrospect, I would have done things differently — waited a year to get engaged, or waited a year to start grad school, or both. But we didn’t, and things worked out okay.

The only thing I know for sure we did right? Move to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is the first city where I’ve lived for more than a year since I was a child. Living here has challenged me to put down roots, to find my place in a way that I’ve never been able to before. If I could pick any place in the world to face these challenges, I can’t imagine a better place than Philly, with everything great it has to offer — amazing food, art and culture, a simultaneously big-city and small-town feel– along with its strong sense of place, and Philly natives’ pride in their roots. It’s the kind of place where it takes a long time to become a local.

I wrote about  this in the very first post on this blog, and it’s still true: even after living abroad in London and Warsaw, and spending time living in New York, staying in one place feels like my greatest adventure. People often ask me how I had the guts to move abroad, to move to cities I’d never even visited before, and I don’t really have an answer. I just want to ask: how do you have the guts to stay? Because moving and traveling come as easy to me as breathing; it’s staying in one place that’s the hard part.

Other cities that I’ve lived in have been quick-paced love affairs, love-at-first-sight kind of romances. Philadelphia was not like that, and I’ve had to reconcile the fact that it will never be like that. But Philadelphia and I have our own, different kind of love, a falling-in-love-slowly kind of love that’s been forged over the three years we’ve lived here, and continues to grow and evolve.

Philadelphia has challenged me to call someplace home. It’s challenged me to find my people, to build routines and traditions, to buy furniture and own more things than will fit into two suitcases. I’m so grateful to my neighborhood of Fishtown, my family at Christ Church, the friends I’ve made through PHLbloggers, and of course my grad school cohort, for being such integral parts of my Philadelphia. 

I still mourn the itinerant life that used to be mine, but I’m grateful to the City of Brotherly Love for facing me with all of these challenges I’ve been able to surmount. I’d like to say that they’re gifts the city has given me, but that wouldn’t be taking enough credit. Putting down roots, and everything that’s come with it, is an accomplishment I’ve forged myself (with Crystal by my side)– we just picked an extraordinarily wonderful, challenging, unique and beautiful city in which to do it.

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As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog (such as in this post), I live with severe depression, and 2016 so far has been a year spent back in recovery.

I try to say I “live with” depression, rather than I “suffer from” depression, because I do suffer on occasion, but I live with managing it and thriving because of it all the time.

January Project Life

Several months ago, I started writing a monthly recap post series. I mentioned at the time that my goal with those posts was to help me keep up with Project Life. Both my PL album and these posts were, at their very core, projects to keep me focused on the good and to prove to myself that my life was really happening, not just passing me by.

January Project Life Spread

(Project Life, if you’re not familiar, is a scrapbooking system where you fill small pockets instead of tackling whole pages, making it more manageable. The goal is to complete a couple pages for each week, regardless of how big or small the events that happen are that week.)

I recently flipped through my Project Life album for this year so far, and I was shocked. Not just because it was indeed proof that life has been happening this year, despite my depression. More than that, my Project Life album is a visual diary of my recovery.

Friday Tea Project LifeEarlier in the year, my Project Life spreads are very dark, and most of them were left unfinished. As the year went on, I could tell that the colors got brighter, I was more focused and creative, and I was able to finish spreads from start to finish instead of abandoning them midway.

I'm With Her Project Life
I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t do something as simple and silly as work on a scrapbook during those harder times. I had so much time on my hands, and yet I seemed to spend most of it trying in futility to enjoy the things I supposedly loved doing.

June Spread Project Life

I recently started going back and finishing some of the half-done spreads for earlier in the year. I want to have this record to look back on when things get hard again, because it will be proof that I can and have gotten better in the past.

NYC Project LifeThis scrapbook makes me certain of the power of memory keeping. It’s so easy for crafts and creative hobbies, especially ones primarily done by women, to be dismissed as insignificant and superfluous, even by those of us who do them. But for me, recording these stories of my recovery is powerful and empowering. There’s something self-revealing in cutting and gluing and writing down stories that is worthy of all the time I can give it.

Do you do Project Life? What does it mean for you?

 

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