Sitting on the north side of the Sherman Hill neighborhood, the old brick building looks like all the other brick buildings. The prewar victorian style resonates up and down the street, giving you a sense of being in another era. Stepping inside the building time moves forward and you find yourself surrounded by original woodwork, mid-century modern furniture and natural light — the combination is a home design delight.
In the two years since Lauren Chorpening first moved in, she’s been adding her own modern touches to the apartment. You don’t feel like you’re in Iowa anymore.
“I think a California-modern is what I’m drawn to,” Chorpening says of her interior design aesthetic. “It’s transitional with being able to mix and match things without feeling too eclectic. Like, mid-century meets contemporary meets global.”
Chorpening started playing with interior design when she was young. Her mother would let her pick out the color of her walls and sheets, even when they didn’t work out so well.
That creativity turned into a passion which eventually led to a college major in housing with a minor in interior design studies. Her experiences in college honed her design skills, and the inspiration behind how she creates her living space.
“(My college major) was paired with architecture and interior design, but also had the psychology of housing, which is what I was really drawn to,” Chorpening said. “And in my home, I wanted to be inspired by it, so I would work to achieve other things. … Home design is important, it’s not just of luxury or to show off your style, it can really empower other aspects of your life if you have a place to come home and feel peace.”
That at-home feeling flows strongly in Chorpening’s apartment with its open space and interesting lines. Everything seems to have its place and everything has a story — including a small, glass-blown vase from her mom’s trip to Boston, a hanging string of petrified bones from her sister’s trip to the Badlands in South Dakota and a small log taken from a cut-down tree in the yard at her childhood home.
“I really like objects that tell a story,” Chorpening said. “Most of the things that I’ve got for decoration are things that have been given to me.”
Chorpening, like every good Iowan, has a good hunting story.
“When my fiancé , who wasn’t even my boyfriend at the time, went on a hunting trip, the dogs found this beheaded deer. The deer was dead and the head was rotting, and so he sawed off the antlers. They were pretty gnarly, but he brought them over because he knew I was looking for a pair,” Chorpening said. “We took them to the basement and put them in a salt bath for three weeks. Then, together, we (cleaned) them and bleached them. This was one of the first things he brought me when he was starting to court me.”
That hands-on transformation created a look that is all “Lauren.” The majority of her items were purchased on craigslist and redone or modernized — much like her living room couch and loveseat.
“The legs extended all the way to the floor,” Chorpening said. “It was a very ’80s hospitality look. They were such a good price that I bought them anyway. And I sawed off the bottom of it and added new legs. I paid $80 total.”
The craigslist remakes started in college, but the seed was planted long before that.
“I grew up with a single mom and she’s always been hands-on,” Chorpening said. “I just developed the mindset that someone can do it, so why can’t I learn? In college, I definitely had a tight budget and so when I was thinking about moving into my first apartment, I didn’t want it all to be hand-me-down things. I definitely have an aesthetic that I’m drawn to. So, I thought if I could build the things and save money that way, I could still start collecting items that I actually love.” ■