I first caught up with Marie Shafer at her sprawling two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Raleigh, NC.  Shafer shares the apartment with her boyfriend, Bob, and their dog.

“We wanted to really make this place our own, when we first moved in,” she says, gesturing toward the living room, with its traditional white walls and high ceilings.  “When we signed the lease, though, it said no painting and no holes in the walls, so we kind of let that dream die.”

Still, the pair has installed a small shelving unit in the bathroom, and there are several posters in the guest bedroom which have been tacked to the walls.

“It’s kind of hard to do any real decorating without using thumbtacks,” Shafer concedes.  We’re hoping we can maybe patch over any holes when we move out.  This place did require a deposit, though, so I guess they can withhold it if they don’t like the way we leave things.”

Shafer invites me to have a seat on a wide, comfortable brown couch that sits opposite the television in the spacious living room.   A timely acquisition from some friends who were moving and no longer needed it, it is draped in a faux-suede cover which is sagging down a bit on the backrest, revealing the couch’s original material-which is rugged beige corduroy.

“They originally got it off of Craigslist,” Shafer notes, patting the couch.  “When we brought it up to the apartment, a T.V. Guide from 1984 fell out of the springs in the bottom!”

She adds, “It was kind of gross, but funny.”

The black painted coffee table sitting front of the couch is an unusual structure, with interesting shelving and unique lines.  I ask whether it is a re-built antique hope-chest, which seems possible, but learn that it is in fact a repurposed TV stand.  Shafer explains:  “When we got a wall-mounted TV we didn’t need that stand anymore, but we didn’t want to have to lug it to the curb, so we figured it fit right where it was.”

The cheerful dining room is decorated in a style Shafer refers to as, “Early Parent Castoff”.  A small butcher-block table is framed by upholstered chairs acquired from Bob’s family.  A sentimental Shafer family heirloom, the table is the perfect size for intimate meals for two, although Shafer admits that “it’s covered in our junk most of the time.  I cleared it off before you got here.”  An upright desk sits against the wall in the dining room, a uniquely modern touch.  According to Shafer, it wouldn’t fit anywhere else.  It is piled high with cook books and souvenir beer cozies.

The couple’s bedroom is dominated by a queen-sized bed-the frame of which was purchased from another friend who was moving; the mattress was a gift from Bob’s grandparents.  Shafer’s concept for the bedroom was simple yet elegant.

“I wanted to make it an open, inviting space,” she said, “And I think I kind of pulled that off, except that there’s not that much space between the bed and my dresser when you’re walking to the bathroom.  I bang my shin on that damn bed frame all the time. ” Shafer adds that in order to enhance the ‘openness’ of the room, she refrained from putting up curtains on any of the windows.

“Also, we didn’t have any when we moved,” she adds.  “My parents gave me some a few weeks ago, but I have to install the rods myself, and I just haven’t gotten to it yet.  Meh.”