Nearly two years ago, Chaucee Stillman was just a couple of weeks away from closing on her first home in Philly. Buying in the city wasn’t originally something the then-20-something had in mind at the time, but after some encouragement from her parents, she decided to take the leap from perpetual renter to homeowner.
Then, a home in Kensington that was just on the edge of Fishtown came on the market. “I remember thinking, ‘I have to have it,’” Stillman says.
Entering Stillman’s home is like stepping into a Colorado cabin or farmhouse in the Pennsylvania countryside. A quartet of furry animals—Stillman has a senior cat and three small dogs—greet visitors immediately, and there are warm blankets and large chairs at the entrance, just waiting to camped out on for the rest of the day.
The rustic vibes and details begin to make sense once Stillman shares that she grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and regularly visits her parents who now live in Colorado. But she admits that it took some time to figure out what to do with all of the space in her new home.
The 3-bedroom, 2-bath rowhome had been recently renovated from top to bottom by local developer Anthony Giacobbe of Red Oak Development Group. While some rehabs tend to be quick fixes with less-than-stellar finishes, Stillman says the builder’s style matched hers almost perfectly, from the dark wood floors and paint colors to the deep window sills.
“He had really good taste,” she says. “There wasn’t one thing I would do differently.”
Filling the home with enough stuff that proved to be Stillman’s biggest challenge. After years of renting small apartments in various neighborhoods throughout Philly, the Lancaster native wasn’t used to such high ceilings and the need to decorate multiple rooms.
She turned to her mom, whom Stillman calls “an awesome decorator,” for help. She helped Stillman lay out the gallery wall in her living room. “I had never used such big pieces because I lived in small apartments. So she helped me really fill up this space.”
Now, Stillman’s home is filled with antiques, rustic furniture, and hand-me-downs from her family. For example, that mounted deer head on the wall that immediately welcomes visitors to Stillman’s home? Stillman bought that at an antique store in Lancaster. Below it sits a red radio she found on Amazon.com, while a typewriter that’s been in her family for multiple generations sits on the other side of the living room.
But some furniture pieces that Stillman hoped to fill her home with were simply out of budget for the social media strategist. So she and her boyfriend did what any young adults without an endless flow of cash would do: They went the DIY route.
The tall, wooden island in the kitchen is the result of a trip to Lowe’s—so is the sliding barn door in Stillman’s bedroom. “The island I wanted was at least $1,500, and in the end I just couldn’t find anything I really liked in my price range,” Stillman says. “So we decided to build it and it probably cost $80 total.”
“We ended up building the barn sliding door and the kitchen shelves from the same wood. I just couldn’t find what I was looking for, but I do know how to do it cheap.”
Stillman rents out one of the three bedrooms uses the other bedroom as a guest room. She’s decorated it using a mix of IKEA furniture and pillows, as well as a some pleasant succulents and hanging plants. “I like having a guest room. If you come visit me, I like knowing that I can offer a bed you can sleep on,” Stillman says.
But the third floor is Stillman’s sanctuary, her master suite. She’s made it an incredibly cozy oasis, despite the fact that it also doubles as her home office. But Stillman, who runs her social media strategy and photography business from home, says having her work desk across from her bed doesn’t bother her.
“I’ve always heard that it was not a good thing to do, but it doesn’t bother me,” she says. “I sleep fine, I get to work fine. I think it might be good because it has its own cut-out area, so it feels a little bit separate.”
Where she goes to relax isn’t far, either. One of her favorite spots in her home is the reading nook in her bedroom next to a large window with a deep sill. “I’m a huge reader, and—this is me nerding out—but I started a book club on Instagram called @phillybookclub. So I read a ton and this is the perfect reading chair. You can curl up your legs and snuggle in there—and there’s room for my dogs, too.”
Stillman, who is in her twenties, acknowledges that this may not be her forever home—she’s eyeing a move to Colorado to join her family. But wherever she ends up, she’ll always have a piece of her first place with her. In her office nook, a wood-cut map of her neighborhood designed by Philly Love Notes features a heart in the center, the location of her home.
“That’s my house,” Stillman says, pointing to the heart. “It’s the first home I’ve ever owned, so it’s something special I’ll always take with me.”