Credit: Erik Sanchez

When I arrived at Victor Wasserman’s house I was planning to write about the amazing garden and backyard living space I’d heard so much about. But when I walked into the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his partner, Rajiv, my plan changed.

Victor, 30, is an interior and urban garden designer, and Rajiv an architect. Their families are spread out all over the globe, and it’s obvious to any visitor that they’re a well-traveled pair. Every inch of their space is peppered with trinkets and curiosities from foreign countries, such as an ikat bedspread from Mumbai (where Rajiv’s family resides) and wooden animal masks from Guatemala. But my favorite assembled collection was the family tree created by hanging photos of Victor’s and Rajiv’s relatives. It’s an ongoing project with an organic vibe, very much emulating the growth of an actual tree.

The space also boasts some amazingly thrifty gems, like the gorgeous weathered folding chairs that Victor picked up at an antique market in Michigan for $75, or the set of four fiberglass shell chairs that were found at the Broadway Antique Market for $50 each. I lost count of how many times I asked him, “So . . . where did you get this?” and it turns out most of the objects were found in alleys during the decade that Victor has called Chicago home.

Credit: Erik Sanchez

Lighting is a key factor in perfecting the “bohemian farmhouse” vibe of the apartment, and upon moving in Victor swapped all of the boring (i.e. ugly) ceiling fixtures for pendant lamps accompanied by a rheostat. He mounted a budget-friendly Fado lamp from IKEA in the kitchen, which is charmingly inspired by Julia Childs’s famed cooking space. To achieve this organized yet exposed look, Victor removed the cabinet fronts and keeps everything arranged neatly in glass containers.

The kitchen opens onto a gorgeous back porch that’s filled with potted plants and overlooks the garden. This feature is what sold the couple on the apartment, and they’re constantly hosting friends for al fresco dinners.

I spent over two hours wandering through Victor’s home and garden and could have easily stayed all day. I was seriously inspired by his dedication to creating a thoughtful space both inside and out, while being mindful of his limited budget. He implied several times that his home was a constant project, but as a visitor I felt like I was on a tiny vacation. I can’t wait to book my next trip!