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This warmly industrial loft is full of renter-friendly ideas

This apartment in a converted factory is uniquely spacious for Philadelphia, but it boasts lots of original architectural elements and some pretty great views.

Name: Vijay, Anita, and Vihaan Nathan
Location: Philadelphia
Size: 1,000 square feet
Year lived in: Three

Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean you can’t make your space truly feel like home. Vijay and Anita have taken this to heart in their Philadelphia loft, which strikes a lovely balance between elegance and practicality. It’s a beautiful, soaring space — those windows! that ceiling! — but for Vijay, Anita, and their son, Vihaan, it’s also a cozy family home.


Video Transcript

When looking for an apartment, Vijay and Anita knew they wanted a space that was larger than their previous loft — and they found it on Craigslist. Their seventh-floor apartment in a converted factory is uniquely spacious for this part of Philadelphia, but it also boasts lots of original architectural elements and some pretty great views.

Vijay and Anita have done a lot to make their apartment feel like home, from hanging art to painting the upstairs bedrooms to investing in furnishings that are just right for the space. Ceilings as high as theirs are definitely a blessing, but choosing furniture that stands up to that scale can be tricky. To help define the living room in the open-plan space, Vijay and Anita chose a sectional sofa — a big purchase, but one that was perfectly proportioned. Together with a spacious rug and the two midcentury chairs, it helps to set the living room area aside as a restful haven within the larger apartment.

Decorating the dining room was another challenge (you can see a Before & After of its transformation here). Vijay and Anita worked with an online interior designer from Havenly to achieve the modern look they dreamed of. One of their favorite pieces in the dining room is the oversized rug. This was another big purchase, but it sets the room’s tone with its personality-filled pattern and happy colors. Plus, “It surprisingly hides baby food stains,” says Anita.

And Vijay and Anita can enjoy the investments they’ve made to their space thanks to renters insurance. The average renter’s personal property is worth more than the average car. If anything unanticipated happens to your apartment — an electrical fire, say, or a burst pipe — you, not your landlord, are on the hook for replacing all your possessions. State Farm offers® renters insurance for pennies a day. That could cover your custom sectional sofa, your WFH equipment, and even your artwork so you don’t have to start over from scratch.  

When you don’t own your home, your options for settling in can feel limited. But customizing your space with carefully chosen furniture and art brings in a warmth that makes a house — even a big open box of one — into a home.


Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our home’s style: Industrial and comfy with a touch of colorful glam. We live in a factory that was converted into apartments about 10 years ago, but they left a lot of the original architectural elements like the cement floors, exposed brick, and steel beams, which we love. With an open floor plan, we really wanted to create defined spaces that were unique, but cozy at the same time. We love pops of color so we have tried to incorporate that without going too overboard or covering up what the building already has.

Favorite element of the home: The tall windows — we look straight east and are on the seventh floor, which means that we get to see beautiful sunrises in the morning and sunsets in the evening. It’s also great for watching fireworks without leaving the house.

Biggest challenge, and how you overcame it: We loved the bones of the space, but it definitely felt “cold” when we came in. We needed a way to warm it up (both literally and figuratively) and also to create defined spaces.

What friends say about your home: Their eyes usually open wide when they first walk in. To find a space with so much natural light and high ceilings in the middle of the city is really unique for a historic place like Philadelphia, so we’re really lucky to have found it. Also, they love how we’ve used the space to create different areas.

Biggest embarrassment: The fact that we haven’t baby-proofed the stairs! (And the only thing we’ve done in the master bedroom is paint….)

Proudest DIY: We are definitely not DIY people. We did an IKEA hack on our master bedroom side tables to cover the legs in copper foil. That was the first (and last) DIY we did. 

Biggest indulgence: The rug under the dining room table. It was recommended to us, but we were hesitant about the price. After weeks of debating, we pulled the trigger and are so glad that we did. It defines the space, especially with a large dining table, and the pattern makes it a statement piece in and of itself.

Our custom couch from Interior Define (bought through Cyber Monday sales) was another indulgence. We wanted a cozy couch that also had a good design aesthetic, and going custom was the best route we found.

Best advice: Don’t wait to make a rental your own. So many people figure that since it’s a rental, it’s never really permanent; they don’t invest in personalizing it. Instead, they live with cobbled together pieces that they’ve accumulated over the years, making it always feel temporary. (We were as guilty as anyone of this — it took us a year to finally bite the bullet and make changes.)

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your landlord about making improvements or changes. We were so lucky that our landlord was totally fine with us painting the bedrooms and hanging items on the wall because, in the long run, it improves the overall rentability.

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