Kate Shen invites us into Apartment 301, her downtown Vancouver condo, decorated with bold furniture pieces, objects, and artwork. It’s the complete embodiment of a maximalist. Shen is the founder of vintage shop Apartment 301 (aptly named after her own unit) and browsing through her store feels similar to visiting the home of your friend. It’s familiar, accessible, and you want everything they have.
Launched in October 2020 as an outlet for her creativity, Shen curates a collection of vintage home objects sourced from all over metro-Vancouver. She noticed her friends purchasing expensive decor pieces and wanted to create a more sustainable way for people to decorate their homes. “It’s nice to have more affordable options if you’re younger, and [through thrifting], you end up finding these really great unique pieces for your place that nobody else has. I wanted to create a platform that allows people to access all of this in one spot” she tells us.
With sustainability at the heart of her business, she aims to provide a platform that allows customers to find treasures in the second-hand objects she sources while sharing DIY tips for decorating the home (check out her story highlights to find out how to repurpose those Aritzia shopping bags).
Many of her design tips are integrated into the way she’s approached her own home. Shen moved into her own place last year and has been able to have full reign over her own decor for the first time. She has curated three key pieces that set the tone for her living room, an ochre couch, a wooden media stand, and a cowhide ottoman and uses smaller accessories to add vibrant pops of colour.
Similar to decorating her own place, she sources all of her objects with one thing in mind, can she imagine it in her house? “I know there are a bunch of different aesthetics out there that are popular in their own way, but if it doesn’t match my own aesthetic, I won’t put it in my store. I’ve found that specifying objects in this way also helps build and cater my audience” she recounts.
Apartment 301 is a personification of Shen herself. As a sustainability educator, she has elevated her business to be more than a shopping channel, creating a community around doing good.