Amanda Risius’ Iowa College Apartment Tour

Amanda Risius has come a long way from her days of flipping through a JC Penney catalog imagining what her “future home” would look like. The 22 year-old marketing student has managed to create an abode at a fraction of the price of what her imaginary JC Penney home would cost, even with post-1990s inflation. While many people looking to furnish a home may spend $500 on an investment piece, Amanda managed to spend just that on total purchases for her entire home.

From sewing her own couch pillows to stumbling upon a bar cart in the trash, she never underestimates her talent to make just about anything her own. Even the name of her blog, A Hammer and Heels, accurately describes her knack for DIY projects. This full-time Iowa State University student also works as marketing assistant for the creative marketing boutique, Social Stylate. While she plans on graduating this spring, we know this ambitious undergrad will have plenty of opportunities coming her way. Today, she shares with her college studio, and all of the many thrift store finds that accompany it. 

Full Name: Amanda Risius
Age: 22
Location: Ames, Iowa
Current Title/Company: Marketing Assistant at Social Stylate, full-time student, blogger behind A Hammer and Heels
Educational Background (College/Degree): Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing at Iowa State University

Let’s talk about your path to choosing a career! After a couple of internships you gained great experience, but realized the work you were doing wasn’t something you wanted to do in the future. So, you created a blog! How has blogging helped to narrow down what you want to pursue as a career?
I needed something to fuel my creativity and passion for fashion, beauty and decor during my internship, so after reading many blogs I started my own. Reading and blogging gave me access to all sorts of information on different careers and industries so I started exploring options. I researched a lot, read many blog interviews, e-mailed a lot of great women for questions and they were gracious enough to give me some helpful insights on their careers. Being part of the blogging community I discovered so many amazing businesses and successful entrepreneurs that I was inspired by their hard work and go-getter attitude. That’s when I decided small business was the right direction for me. I guess you know you made the right decision when you are excited to get to work every day!

You mention that there isn’t a large blogging community in Iowa. You even taught yourself photography and Photoshop! As a newcomer, where did you find inspiration and tips for starting your own?
There are tons of classes and tutorials out there that teach Photoshop and photography, but I did a lot of researching. Since I didn’t know anything about Photoshop beforehand, I spent days looking up information and e-mailing professionals that use it to get their advice on how they use it and if it’d be worth my investment. My blog posts were suffering visually because I didn’t have a program to make graphics, so that’s why I got Photoshop. Now I use it almost every day! If I need to do something in Photoshop I don’t know how, I Google it. This semester in school I’m taking a graphic design class which will be even more helpful.

Tell us the process you went through while looking for your place. Do you rent or own? How long have you been there?
I actually went through a really strange process when looking for my place! I was working full-time at my internship in another city so when it came time to start looking for new rental apartments in Ames, I couldn’t be there to tour during business hours. I knew I wanted a one bedroom apartment so I started looking at listings online. Once I found a few I liked, my sister who lived in Ames actually toured the apartments for me. She took videos on her phone and sent them to me. When I moved in early August it was actually the first time I had seen the apartment! It ended up working out, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

How would you describe your decorating style? Where do you look for inspiration?
My decorating style is constantly evolving. When I first started thinking about apartment decor back in January, I was really into pastel pinks, bows, and lace. Then I shifted towards brighter colors and mid-century modern designs with natural elements. I don’t like labeling my decorating style as “eclectic” because it’s such a broad term, but I like mixing and incorporating many different styles and elements. I think evolving and changing out pieces throughout the year is what makes it fun. I am guessing my next place will have less pink.

I find myself turning to Pinterest and travel for inspiration. My parents also have a great collection of unique items they have collected over the years. Every time I visit I end up taking something with me!

The most expensive purchase you made for your home was a shag rug for $100! How did you manage that? What made you splurge on that piece?
I actually first spotted the rug at West Elm, but it was a little pricey for my budget so I started looking for cheaper alternatives, naturally. I ended up getting mine during a Memorial Day sale so it was 70% off! $100 is pretty cheap for a shag rug, so I couldn’t pass it up. I already had my bed, table, dresser, and shelf, and my boyfriend was kind enough to give me his unwanted couch and side table so I didn’t have to get much furniture. I got my coffee table for $6, my desk for $50, and my bar cart was free! My mom found it laying next to the dumpster the day I moved in. 

What are some of your favorite places to shop for affordable, unique pieces?
Target and thrift stores are definitely a couple of my favorites which make up the majority of my apartment. Target has a great clearance section I check every time I’m in the store! I also go to IKEA for basics and when I’m looking for DIY projects. There are tons of IKEA hacks I want to try. Etsy is another great one filled with unique pieces and it’s super easy to shop.

Do you consider yourself a DIYer? If so, what items in your home are DIY?
Absolutely! I’m a huge believer in DIY. It’s an easy way to save money and give it your own spin. The mirror and piece of art above my bar cart, safari canisters on my shelf, TV stand drawers, couch pillows, and my fur desk stool are all DIY projects. I’m looking to do more DIYs on my blog in 2014.

What was the biggest challenge in decorating your home? How did you overcome that challenge?
My small budget was the biggest challenge. Decorating my apartment would have been easy if I could buy anything I wanted! Honestly, I love the challenge of decorating on a tight budget. It forces me to get creative and be resourceful. 

I frequent thrift stores often so I’m always on the lookout for great items. I also pride myself in being a bargain shopper. Almost everything was bought on sale. 

Tell us more about your blog! What can readers expect to gain from reading your posts? Do have any tips for others who are just beginning to blog?
When I started my blog, A Hammer & Heels, my only intention was building a creative outlet for myself and something to call my own. I have been blogging for a year, and I certainly haven’t perfected my blog and every other detail and decision that goes along with it, that takes time. I once heard someone say that it takes 500 posts before you find your voice and direction. However, I am grateful for the wonderful people I have “met” and the opportunities that have come through my blog. You always hear people say they never dreamed what blogging could bring, but it really is true. I had no idea what to expect when I first started my blog. I didn’t even know if people would read it. But that did not bother me, and if that is what you are worried about when you first begin, you will probably be disappointed. As backwards as it sounds, I started my blog without any real direction. The month before I started H&H I was brainstorming blog names and topics to blog about and felt like if I chose one topic I was limiting myself. I was so hung up on defining it before even starting. Finally I realized that I don’t have to have everything figured out right away and that part of the reason I wanted to start was to help me identify what I wanted to do.  Once I changed my mindset and started blogging for myself, I didn’t worry about results or disappointment.

My blog is a true reflection of me. It evolves as I evolve. I blog about life, interiors, fashion, beauty, and DIY projects. I try to only include things I could actually purchase myself, so you won’t be seeing any designer duds right now! Except when it comes to home decor.

You’re planning on graduating with your bachelor’s degree in a few months. Congratulations! How do you plan on searching for a job? Do you have a specific plan in mind?
Thank you! I am currently working with my advisor building my online portfolio and that process is helping me identify potential employers and develop a plan of action. It’s like creating a marketing campaign for yourself. If anyone is looking for a passionate marketing guru, I’m your girl!

What advice can you give to other career-focused women who are looking for a creative outlet?
Start exploring areas that interest you and learn something new. Even if you don’t think you are the “best” at it, keep working and I guarantee you will surprise yourself. 

Amanda Risius is The Everygirl…

Aidan or Big?

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Get out of you comfort zone! Push the limits. You never know what you are capable of until you try.

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Jennifer Lawrence, she is ridiculously funny and has a good head on her shoulders. I would order drinks and we would become best friends.