See How This Designer Transformed Her Colonial-Style Apartment

bedroom with overlay in the Pittsburgh home of Esther Dormer

Esther Dormer

Owner: Esther Dormer, interior designer and owner of Esther Dormer Design and @dormerdesign.

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “[It’s] located on the slopes in the Southside of Pittsburgh. I love the incredible city views this area has,” says Dormer.

Size:  At 675 square feet, the compact size of this one-bedroom apartment is something that appealed to Dormer. “I loved the small cottage feel of the home ... it’s a true gem of a space.”


“I would describe my design aesthetic as modern with a bohemian flare,” says Dormer. Though the one-bedroom, colonial-style space was in poor shape, Dormer bought it with the vision to transform the space into something she truly loves. 

“I was attracted to the challenge of the house. It was a complete gut renovation so I could make it completely my own,” she tells us.

City Views and Outdoor Space

While the idea of a gut reno was appealing, this wasn’t what first caught Dormer’s attention when she toured the home. 

“The city views and outdoor area are what initially drew me to the property and its potential,” she says. “There is a large back deck off of the kitchen that makes for a cozy outdoor oasis. The backyard is also fenced in, which lends some privacy.”

Balcony in the Pittsburgh home of Esther Dormer

Esther Dormer

Mini Bathroom, Maximum Storage

Anyone who has lived in a home with one small bathroom knows the most important feature. “The large storage is key for such a small bathroom,” says Dormer.

But that’s not the thing she loves the most about this space. “The light fixtures are my favorite part of the bathroom. I just love how they play off of the slanted roof,” she says.

Bathroom in the Pittsburgh home of Esther Dormer

Esther Dormer

Contrasting Floors Throughout

“The flooring in the bedroom, kitchen, and bathrooms is tile and the rest of the house is wood,” Dormer says. “I chose a combination of tile and wood throughout the house because I love the contrast between the two.”

A Kitchen With a View

“The city view from the window is my favorite part of the kitchen,” Dormer tells us. But the window offers more than just a beautiful view, too. “The natural light that comes into the kitchen is very appealing and great for cooking and a great gathering spot for entertaining,” she says.

With the city itself on full display, Dormer notes that she incorporated the room’s external views into her interior design.

“The glass table floats in the room and gives it an airy and spacious feeling,” she says. “[I combined] the coolness of the city with the warmth from all of the wood. We used pallets and broke them down to get the wood, which comes in a lot of various colors, and added that rustic element to soften all the tile.”

Kitchen in the Pittsburgh home of Esther Dormer

Esther Dormer

One Perfect Bedroom

“The bedroom is my favorite room because of the fireplace, the hanging lights, and various wall elements,” Dormer says. “It took the most time to get the bedroom right, with the large vaulted ceiling and the copper lights, combined with some interesting rustic artwork and collages. It has everything that you need—including a desk overlooking the city.”

The ceiling might have presented some initial design conundrums, but now, Dormer’s most grateful for this special accent: “The most unique feature of the house is probably the vaulted ceiling in the bedroom. [This] is unusual for a house that size.”

Bedroom in the Pittsburgh home of Esther Dormer

Esther Dormer

The Best View

While the home’s interiors look out onto the city, Dormer says that she most appreciates the view from one special place: “The best view is sitting on the exterior deck of the house, looking out at the twinkling city lights,” she says.