At only 21 years old, University of Cincinnati student Caitlin Brown has already lived in five states, took a year off to move to a new city and pursue her passion, made the daring decision to switch career paths, and managed to decorate a cute, comfortable home for herself on a student budget. We caught wind of her well-styled apartment when she applied to be an intern for The Everygirl a few months back and submitted photos of her darling kitchen and entryway. It was clear she had a keen eye for styling, and when we learned the space was her college apartment, we were doubly impressed and immediately asked if she’d be interested in sharing it with Everygirl readers. Fortunately for us, she was thrilled at the proposition.
Despite not getting the intern position back in February, Caitlin’s excitement over design, the world of blogging, and The Everygirl pervaded. Her name frequently popped up in the comments on features and she was regularly sharing articles on Twitter and Facebook, helping engage readers with the site. Appreciative and humbled by this young woman’s enthusiasm, we reached out to Caitlin to see if she’d still be interested in helping our small team. In the two weeks since she’s come on board as our newest editorial assistant, Caitlin has already lifted a huge weight off of our shoulders and we feel comforted having a kindred spirit like hers on the team. Like most young women who will soon be transitioning from school to the real world, Caitlin readily admits she is unsure about where her career path will lead after graduation. But given her work ethic, genuine enthusiasm, talent, and persistence, we are expecting great things from this blossoming stylist.
Full name: Caitlin Brown
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Major/University: candidate for Bachelor of Arts in Communications in 2013 from the University of Cincinnati
What are your plans for the summer?
I’m heading to Chicago at the start of June to intern with Jess Constable of Jess LC/Makeunder My Life, as well as Alaina and Danielle of The Everygirl! I don’t think I have ever felt luckier or been more excited about anything in my life. It’s a dream come true. Other plans include plenty of dancing, browsing museums, window shopping, sipping white wine, days at the lake, and hanging with the wonderful family that I’m staying with!
What are your current career aspirations?
It’s hard for me to completely define my aspirations because I see potential in so many directions. A year ago I never would have been able to say that. I really would like to delve into the world of interior design and styling. I spend every single day that I have free browsing flea markets, reading shelter magazines, or rearranging my apartment. I’ve never clicked with anything the way I feel like I do with this. I don’t know exactly what that means yet, but I know I want to see it blossom.
You deferred your college admission, took a year off after high school, and moved to Chicago to pursue a career in the theater. Tell us about that, and how it felt when you eventually decided to drop the theater dream and pick up a new major.
I decided to take a year off before college because I wasn’t ready to commit the next four years of my life to one place or thing. I had received a substantial scholarship to a great conservatory, and yet, something didn’t feel right. Looking back, I think a part of me always knew that acting wasn’t the perfect fit. But it was my first love and my safety net. It was the only thing, at that point, that I had true confirmation I had potential in. I hoped to spend my year in Chicago auditioning, taking acting classes, and working. Some of that happened, and some of it didn’t. I learned a lot in that year. I had my heart broken, made some less-than-stellar decisions, along with some good, and ultimately ended up going back to theater, but to a different conservatory than I had originally deferred from.
About six months into the school year, I knew I had to make a change. I had been in performing art schools since I was 11. I knew nothing else, and yet, it just didn’t fit anymore. Even though I was relieved after switching my major, I was also devastated. I felt like a failure. I think we all have building blocks that we define ourselves with, and when you lose one, it throws you off balance. What I’ve learned is that you can rebuild them. When something is not encouraging you anymore, when the joy in your work is gone, you owe it to yourself to make a move. Find the joy again, wherever it may be. Change doesn’t mean failure. It means growth, and most important, bravery.
When and why did you start your blog?
Aside from my embarrassing livejournals of yore, I began blogging in February of 2010. It was right before I switched my major to communications. Originally, I started because I needed something that was just for me, outside of theater. Now, I blog because of the daily inspiration that I get from the blogging community. One of the things that I started to miss the most about theater after I left was the community and collaboration. Blogging offers exposure to other creative, inspiring people in the design world that you can bounce ideas off of and who encourage each other. I love that it’s a way to offer credibility to people who don’t necessarily have design degrees but are gifted and talented in what they do.
When most people hear “college apartment” they think beer pong tables and posters taped to the wall. Your home obviously doesn’t fit that description. What inspired you to make a temporary place so homey?
My mood is really influenced by my environment, so I knew it was important for me to make the space somewhere I wanted to come home to, even if I didn’t plan on staying here forever. A lot of people assume that because they’re in college they can’t live in a comfortable or well-styled place, but that’s not true. I just sometimes opt to spend my money on a throw pillow instead of a case of beer. Your home is your haven.
In searching for your apartment, what was most important for you?
Safety, cleanliness, and character. Also, the ability to paint.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about your home?
My favorite things about my home are the slanted ceilings (except when I forget and occasionally hit my head), and the open floor plan. I also really love my kitchen. It’s small, but I love the open shelving I put up for storage. My least favorite thing is this doggone carpet. Yuck.
What was the decorating process like? Did you bring most of your furniture with you? When you move, do you tend to start over with furnishings or bring things with you on the moves?
I came here with very little furniture because my last apartment was shared with roommates who owned most of the living room furniture. The summer before I moved in last year, I started collecting some things for the apartment. I found things over time because I searched thrift stores, Home Goods, Big Lots, dumpsters—you name it, I searched through it! When I move again, I’ll probably take a lot of things from this apartment with me, but leave behind the things that either aren’t unique or aren’t good quality.
How would you describe your decorating style? Where do you look for inspiration?
Relaxed, simple, and feminine. I don’t like anything to look too perfect.
One of my favorite ways to get inspired is to browse a great flower shop. Seeing a ton of colors and textures in mass is a sure way to get my creative juices flowing. If all else fails, sitting down at a coffee shop with a stack of magazines will get the job done.
What advice would you give to a girl who is starting to furnish her first place?
Ask family members if they have any furniture that they want to get rid of, and keep an open mind! Even if a few items don’t seem like your taste all on their own, if you put them in the context of other things that are your style, you’ll be surprised at what will work! Take advantage of thrift stores and visit them often because they’re hit or miss. Every once in a while treat yourself to something small that you really love. It will make your day every time you look at it.
How did you save money when decorating your apartment?
I saved money by shopping almost exclusively at thrift or discount stores. Again, I’m in college, so if I buy anything over $40 it’s kind of a major life decision. I go with my gut but not my impulses!
What is your favorite budget-friendly piece in your home and why?
It’s hard to pick! Everything is budget-friendly, and I love a lot of it. Recently, though, my boyfriend picked up the bistro chair in my living room off the street from a café that was getting rid of it, and he gave it to me because he knows I have a thing for bentwood chairs. We recovered the ugly vinyl seat with toile fabric that I got on sale at JoAnn Fabrics for $7 a yard, and sanded the frame down a little so it wasn’t super glossy. I think the toile fabric plays really nicely off of the trellis rug (which was $35 at Big Lots, by the way!).
Considering your age, you’ve lived in quite a few cities: Houston, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chicago, and now Cincinnati! Can you share your story with us? What prompted all of the moves?
My friends always joke that they can’t keep track of me. I have moved a bit for my age! I was born in Houston, Texas and lived there until I was about 5. Then, my family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a couple of years. My mom, my sister, and I moved back to Texas for another couple of years, and then my mom got remarried to my stepfather, which took us to Baltimore, Maryland. I grew up there, mostly.
After high school I deferred my admission to college and went to Chicago for about a year with my sister. Before I became interested in design and blogging, I was in theater, so I spent my year in Chicago taking acting classes and nannying. It was a great learning experience. I applied to the University of Cincinnati to attend the College Conservatory of Music for Theater, got accepted, and off I went! I later changed my major but stayed in Cincinnati.
After graduation, I can see myself returning to Chicago or perhaps trying out somewhere new. There are so many places I’d love to live, including New York, Boston, San Francisco, and London. I’m a bit of a tumbleweed.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about each city?
Baltimore will always have my heart. I attended high school at the Baltimore School for the Arts, and it completely shaped the person I am, so I have a strong attachment to it. It’s such a unique city with so much character. I love all of the different, walkable neighborhoods, and the easy access to other great places on the East Coast like D.C. and New York. My least favorite thing about it is, of course, the crime.
Houston has some really pretty tree-lined neighborhoods like River Oaks and Montrose, and it has the most amazing consignment shop I’ve ever been to: The Guild Shop. Plus, the Mexican food is baller. My least favorite thing about it is that everything is so spread out.
My favorite things about Chicago are the beautiful lake, the public transportation, the culture/theater, and the holiday train around Christmas time. I wish the winters weren’t quite so long.
As for Cincinnati, my appreciation of it has grown more and more. I’ve made amazing friends here; the cost of living is really low, which makes it easier to enjoy the neat neighborhoods and restaurants that it has to offer. I love the Mt. Adams and Hyde Park neighborhoods. I think it would be a great place to raise a family, but I don’t plan on staying here after I graduate.
What are the biggest challenges when starting over in a new city?
The biggest challenge for me is making new friends. I definitely struggled with that in Chicago. It’s kind of like dating but worse. You don’t want to be too forward or come off too eager. Eventually, you just have to put yourself out there and hope for the best!