A punk-bohemian curl-up-and-read rental in Lawrence, Kansas

Guest post by Alexa

Alexa, Sean, Max the cat, and an unborn child of an unknown gender live in a one-bedroom in Lawrence, Kansas. Just judging from the pics I’d say they’re a classy representation of Lawrence, which is one of the Midwest’s secret art cities.

View through the kitchen.Our home reflects us because it is full of the things we love. And, it turns out, we love a lot. Sometimes I wish I was more of a minimalist so that introducing this child into our home wouldn’t be such a challenge, but every tchotchke on every shelf has a story for us — downsizing further is simply not an option. We are both, shall we say, very in touch with our inner children, so toys, a tricycle, and other silly objects reside right along with our wedding photos, art, and souvenirs from our travels abroad. We’re maybe a hippy-punk artsy-nerdy hybrid breed of offbeat? All I can say is that when I peruse Offbeat Home, Offbeat Mama, or Etsy, I feel right at home the same way I DON’T when I somehow end up at Walmart or the mall.
buffetWe love bright colors (hippy) and skulls (punk) equally, and we don’t have a lot of money, so most of our furniture was procured through friends, relatives, or the annual large-item trash pickup day.

For us, the most challenging aspect of our apartment — other than the obvious size issue — is the lack of an outdoor space. We are both nature-loving camping-type people who would love to have a yard for a garden, for grilling, for summer entertaining. Sadly, beyond a tiny, enclosed back porch fit for little other than storing recycling bins, this apartment, just like most others, has little outdoor space.

To deal with our limited natural space, we participate in a CSA for fresh veggies, frequent the farmer’s market and nearby park, throw our huge windows open wide whenever weather permits, and do most of our entertaining in the colder months when people don’t mind being stuck inside.


Being a rental, there is little that we can do with the space. In the past five years we have already done most of what has occurred to us to do. That being said, we have to accommodate a whole other person any day now, so our grandest plan is to learn how to fit a baby into our home and our lives.

Bedroom Baby Crib

That’s pretty grand, huh?

Bedroom Baby Shelf

According to our landlord — possibly one of the coolest landlords in Lawrence — our building sprang up around 1890. We live on the second floor of a two-story, a massage and wellness collective occupies the first floor. The antique features of the apartment itself have made it easy to create a beautiful, warm living space.

View through french doors

We love the dark woodwork and original built-ins found throughout the place, as well as the circa 1940s kitchen fixtures.

<Kitchen Sink and Stove

I can honestly say that this apartment is naturally “homey.” Cheesy as it sounds, the place just has a warm cozy feeling about it — which was simple to accentuate with furniture and art.

View through the transom.

Lawrence is by no means a big city, so the term “downtown” is relative (referring to about eight city blocks), but that’s where we live. We are close to the student neighborhoods as well, which is a mixed blessing. Our apartment is two blocks from tons of great restaurants, bars, and shops, one block from a huge city park, and just down the hill from campus museums. The public library, a grocery store, and the farmer’s market are also quite close. We can even walk to a movie theater!

Living Room PlantsThere is an old country song that includes the refrain “Love grows best in little houses;” these words perfectly express the way I feel about this apartment. During the five years that we’ve lived here, I feel that Sean and I have gotten to know each other as intimately as two people can.

Sharing a small space means that you can’t avoid each other for long, so messes must be cleaned up, arguments must be resolved, farts must be smelled. Even if we were to suddenly strike it rich (and unicorns would take over Congress and forgive our student loans and give us all universal healthcare and rainbows every day), I don’t think I would move our family into a McMansion. Because how would we keep track of ourselves and each other in all that space? …Though one or two more rooms might be nice.


  • Color is your friend.
  • Some of the coolest stuff can be found at garage sales, flea markets, your grandma’s basement. Decor is so much more interesting when you have a story to go along with the object in question, and “I bought it at Target” makes for a pretty short conversation.
  • And skulls. Subtle reminders of the inevitability of death make this short life feel more vibrant by comparison. I just made that up, but it sounded good.

One of our favorite decor haunts is The Antique Mall on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence. We also love Etsy (but you already knew that), Saffron Marigold has cool printed textiles, and large-item trash pickup days in any college town (seriously, these kids throw out EVERYTHING! Perfectly good laptops! Just check the rugs for urine smell BEFORE bringing them into your home).

Don’t forget to check out the tchotchkes!

Comments on A punk-bohemian curl-up-and-read rental in Lawrence, Kansas

  1. I’ve heard about these ‘trash days’ at American universitites before…surely people are not throwing away good working laptops! At my university in England the types of things thrown away were old fifth-hand sofas from the shared living rooms…if it wasn’t being passed to the sixth occupants!

    • Sadly, it is true. Of course, the fifth-hand sofas can be found in abundance, but if you check the dumpsters behind the frat houses, you can find REALLY nice stuff. A friend of mine did, in fact, find a working laptop!

  2. This is a great home! You’ve done a great job of displaying a lot of neat things without it looking cluttered. Good luck in the coming months with your little one!

  3. Wow! I love this… I actually had to look at the pictures closely because if I had not known better I would say this was my Nana’s house. Except she still has it (family is from Lawrence!)! Lovely, lovely home!

  4. I went to school in Boston and scored a tv (32″ flatscreen), a huge old high backed sofa, a coffee table, and a red dining room table on the street. Then the former tenants left two beds which we used as additional sofas (huge living room). I don’t remember buying any furniture.

  5. I love this home tour. I’m from Topeka, KS which is about 30 minutes west of Lawrence. I have loved Lawrence my entire life and this apartment reflects the city’s artistic vibe wonderfully. This is one of my favorite home tours to date.

    • Love your blog… Always nice to see the Kansas pride! If the baby-wearing band you are thinking of is bluegrass, I bet it is Prairie Acre. One of my personal favorites, and very nice people, too!

      • When I saw “Lawrence, Kansas” in my RSS reader my heart went up a bit.

        I realized that Lawrence pride is a very, very real thing. Browse this blog – how many posts have their town in the title?

        I have a friend who has Lawrence tattooed over her heart even. This place rocks!

  6. First: your apartment is amazing. The longest I lived in a place was two years, and that apartment was just starting to get that lived-in, this is more than just somewhere we keep our stuff look.

    Second: HOMG I also live in Lawrence! We’ve only lived here since June 2010; we were in Manhattan for seven years before that. I love your assessment of it. I’m still learning my way around, but I really love the whole vibe here. <3

  7. Lawrence love! Not sure we should share the secret though, otherwise our cost of living might go up 😉
    I’m not surprised to see so much of us who follow Offbeat Home from Lawrence. Its an amazing city.
    Love the apartment too. I’m curious how you found the gem amongst all the crappy college rentals.

    • We totally just got lucky. Saw an ad in the paper (not even a particularly enticing ad) and called up the landlord. It was actually the first place we looked at. We were sold the moment we walked in the front door. There are a few gems in town… I lived in another place about a block from here that was also great. You just have to look REALLY hard and call ALL of the ads.

      • We got lucky too! My FIL is a realtor and he showed us our house before it was officially on the market. We made an offer before it ever got listed. $25,000, cheaper than rent! So it’s official, we’re here for the long haul!

  8. Thanks so much for all the nice words! It’s great to be able to share our place that we love so much while getting such great ideas from others.

  9. Thank you for sharing–it’s amazing! We are looking at moving to Lawrence next year for my husband’s doctoral studies and I have a really, really good feeling about it (despite having never been there before). Thank you also for sharing how you found your place.

  10. This what I hope for my home to look like some day! Unfortunately when I try to arrange all my little knickknacks it looks more like clutter, where as yours is organized awesomeness.

    And WOW on the baby mobile! I’ve never seen one as colorful (or that has spiders on it!). Definitely going to have to keep it in mind when we start a family!

  11. Lawrence is the best place on this planet! Glad to see you have captured the spirit of this wonderful town. I live in KCMO now and anytime anyone mentions Lawrence I want to just jump on the highway and stroll Mass. Good luck with the upcoming beginning-of-school-year Dumpster dive-a-thon!

  12. I think I know exactly where you live. (In a a non-creepy, non-stalker kind of way.) I’m from Topeka, too. We ought to do an Offbeat Meet-up.

  13. I absolutely love your place! I’m hoping mine will look just as eclectic and comfy once I finally finish not getting paid for lots of work and can move out of the parent’s house. 🙂

  14. I really love what you say about how living in a small place helps your relationship grow – my partner and I live in half-a-house and don’t have a bathroom door – we have a relatively open plan bedroom/ensuite and I’d like to think our relationship grows stronger with every midnight poop we have to live through.

  15. Congrats on the birth of your son! I was excited to find this while looking at old post (new to me) here on offbeathome. I’ve lived in Lawrence for 6 years but been a fan since I was little. Lawrence is a real “diamond in the rough”. Love the pictures! Its an amazing looking apartment.

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