When it comes to pursuing her dreams, Tiffany Leigh is a girl after our own hearts. Case in point? After waking up and realizing that nothing would compare to her dream of becoming a full-time interior designer, Tiffany packed her bags and moved to Toronto to pursue her second bachelors degree — this time in interior design. Soon after moving to her new city, Tiffany took a part-time position as a design consultant, and after eight months of hard work was promoted to kitchen designer — a true testament to both her skill and work ethic.
Truth be told, Tiffany’s home had us at bamboo chippendale chair and hand woven vintage rug. Turning student-style housing into a sophisticated, charming abode is no easy feat, but Tiffany manages to make it seem easy. With amazing vintage finds and plenty of creativity on her part, this basic apartment transformed into a home full of life and character. To find out exactly how she did it, keep reading for all the gorgeous decor details!
Full name: Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski
Location: Toronto, Canada
Current title/company: Student
Educational background: Bachelor of Arts, Honours English, University of Guelph; Currently: Bachelor of Interior Design, RCC Academy of Design
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
Right after earning my first degree in English I enrolled in a Bachelor of Interior Design program, so I am still in school!
You recently moved to Toronto to pursue a second undergraduate degree in Interior Design. Tell us about this decision.
It was almost an overnight decision, although I’m sure that my heart had been whispering to me for a long time. One morning I woke up determined to be an interior designer. It has always been my dream, and finally it just hit me that I wouldn’t be satisfied long term in any other career. I chose Toronto because it’s less than two hours from my family, and I chose my school because it offers a Bachelor of Interior Design degree in three years instead of four. I finished up my first degree and started packing!
What has been the most challenging part of moving to a new city? Any advice for Everygirls who find themselves trying to start over in a new area?
The biggest challenge has been forming deep and meaningful friendships, especially since my school is so small. The big city can be lonely! Blogging has helped to me to connect with so many great Toronto ladies, and I am very grateful for all the new relationships that I have formed. My advice would be to just put yourself out there! Don’t stay cooped up in your apartment, explore your new area, go out on weekends, and make an effort to connect!
You’re currently working as a part-time kitchen designer while in school. Take us through your job search process. What advice do you have for other women looking for a new position?
My main goal was to find a part time job that was related to my field of study and that was close to school and home. Originally, I landed a flooring consultation job with the company I’m currently with. I worked very hard for eight months in that position and was promoted to kitchen designer. My advice for other women looking for a new position is to look for opportunities with room for growth in relation to your end goals. You might not start exactly where you want, but if you prove yourself, you will get there!
What was the process of finding your apartment like? What sold you on your current studio?
My apartment search was fairly unique because the buildings that I was looking to rent were student housing and had shared kitchen accommodations. So although I have my own separate studio style apartment and washroom, I share kitchen accommodations with the five other girls in my building. When I found my current rental, it fit my main priories of budget and location, (I actually bike to school and work every day, even in the winter!) and I loved the size and light of the space. The big soaker tub, large separate shower and huge walk in closet didn’t hurt either!
What was your approach to the decorating process? Did you start with a budget in mind and buy things at once or did you slowly purchase items as you could afford it?
My decorating process was very organic; I didn’t really plan my space. I moved in without much of anything (other than the main furniture pieces) and added to it bit by bit. The key is that I love each piece, so the mix came together naturally. It works.
What challenges did you overcome in making your apartment feel like a home?
The boring bones. The actual box lacks character, and while I dream of beefy baseboards, generous crown moldings and herringbone floors, it’s just not in the cards with this place. Instead I’ve tried to select pieces that add charm and personality to the space. The other main challenge that I still struggle with is sharing a kitchen.
Your place is full of amazing thrift store finds and DIY projects. What’s your favorite?
I absolutely love my hand woven wool rug, which was an estate sale score for only $90. It was recently appraised at over 40 times that price, but even if it wasn’t, I love the color and pattern of it and will never part with it. I also love my bamboo Chippendale chair. I actually got four of these plus a bamboo table for $80 total off Craigslist. The rest are in storage (aka my parents’ basement) until I get a bigger place.
What items for your home would you say are most important to invest in? What items do you recommend saving on?
Invest in anything you really love and know that you will never tire of. Save on accessories, especially if it is something trendy. Anything vintage is probably worth the investment, as is art. In my next place, I’ll definitely invest in a great sofa (something I skipped in my current rental).
Other than solely relying on IKEA, what is your advice for creating a home on a budget that still feels grown-up and sophisticated?
Thrifting has been my ticket to finding grown-up pieces on a tight budget. I’ve found bigger pieces like my bamboo chair, rug, and bar cart that really help to anchor the space, but I’ve also found some great accessories (like my zebra and Staffordshire dogs) which allow me to create sophisticated and layered vignettes. Mix old and new, and don’t be too matchy-matchy.
What are your favorite things about living in Toronto?
I love the art and music scene here. In June I went to a concert every single week! The Art Gallery of Ontario, redesigned by Frank Gehry, is another of my favorite things for both the architecture and the exhibits. I come from a smaller town so I also love the cultural diversity and the hustle and bustle of the big city.
You also have a blog, Tiffany Leigh Interior Design. What can readers expect to find when perusing your blog? What have you learned from blogging so far?
My blog is a mixture of my adventures in decorating my tiny studio apartment, thrifted finds and DIYs, decor inspiration, and a documentation of some of the more fun projects that I have done in design school! Blogging has taught me the importance of networking both online and in person — the connections I have made through blogging are truly inspiring!
You’re also an incredibly talented artist, and are responsible for the beautiful painting above your sofa! How did you start painting? Did you take any formal classes or are you completely self-taught? Oh, and where can we buy some of your work?
Thank you! I have loved arts and crafts since I was a little girl, but I only recently started getting into art more seriously when I started design school, where we are encouraged to draw and sketch every day. I am self-taught, although I did take a few marker and watercolor rendering for interiors courses in school. I am hoping to open an online shop in 2015 that will sell both original works and prints, but I currently do custom commissioned pieces through e-mail consultation.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Most of my day is taken up by schoolwork — whether it be site visits, sourcing materials and furniture, space planning, researching building codes, working on AutoCAD, or rendering a perspective. When I’m not at school you can find me either blogging, painting, or at work. When I do get a spare moment, I enjoy catching up on my shows and spending time with the important people in my life.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
I would like to own a home, and my own small-scale residential design firm.
What would you tell your 23-year-old self?
I’ve only been 24 for a couple of months, so I think I would tell myself to just keep believing in myself, just keep pushing towards my dreams.
Tiffany Leigh is The Everygirl…
Check e-mails, make the bed, try to eat a good breakfast.
Go-to chick flick?
Can I say Sex and the City reruns?
Favorite way to blow off steam?
Antiquing – I find it so calming!
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Probably Kelly Wearstler. I love the way she pushes the boundaries of design and creates such dynamic, creative spaces – I’d love to pick her brain! I would order sushi.
Dream purchase for your home?
How about dream home? I have my heart set on a century old fixer upper.
Black and white pillow, IKEA
Leopard pillow, Stuck on Hue
Coffee table, DIY, Fabric from Tonic Living
Abstract painting, Painted by Tiffany Leigh
Rug, Estate Sale
Shelf, IKEA (similar)
Lips / OUI / Loafers, The Aestate
Butterfly taxidermy, HomeSense
Oil Landscape, Aberfoyle Antique Market
Small watercolour painting, Painted by Tiffany Leigh
Gold T, Chapters/Indigo
Yellow Radio, Tivoli
Paris prints, Anna with Love (DIY frames)
Sequin camera strap, Sam and Kate Design
Chippendale chair, Craigslist
Inspiration board, DIY
Tortoise Shell Frame, Target
Small nude painting, Painted by Tiffany Leigh
XOXO pillow, Chapters/Indigo
Leopard is a neutral print, SS Print Shop
Astrological hand, Urban Outfitters
Gold pillows, Chapters/Indigo
Carrie/Kelly/Audrey pillow, Custom designed by Erika Brechtel and Michelle Dwight
Gold Chanel perfume art, I See Noise