Fargoan's elaborate 'cat condo' gets 1.4 million views on TikTok
Only after her mom encouraged her to do so, Emily Bloom posted the video of the 'cat condo' she built inside an old TV set on TikTok. She woke up the next morning to find her whimsical work had racked up 37,000 views -- and that was just the beginning.
FARGO — Emily Bloom had spent weeks working on the elaborate kitty condo for her four cats, Big Boy, Meatloaf, Cinnamon and Buggy.
After removing the innards of an old, wooden TV console, she decorated the interior with marble flooring, a mid-mod couch for catnaps, itty-bitty plants, pocket-sized books, a toy Victrola and a wee wicker chair.
One Sunday night, after a birthday dinner during which her mom urged Bloom to post her cat castle online, Bloom decided to go for it. She posted the video on TikTok, watched TV for a bit with her husband, Dienul Paramarta, then headed off to bed.
“I was hoping I would get maybe a couple thousand views at most,” Bloom says. “I was mostly posting for my friends and family on my account.”
The next morning, when she checked her TikTok, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The post had racked up 32,000 views. And each time she refreshed the post, the number climbed.
“I immediately showed my husband and we started freaking out,” she recalls. “I could not believe how many people were looking at this little TV house that I made.”
The views kept growing. So did the comments, reflecting words of praise in languages all over the world. “It’s crazy to think someone halfway across the world saw our cat TV house,” says Bloom, sitting in her living room while Buggy, a pretty, round-eyed tabby, greets visitors.
Meanwhile, Marshmallow, an 8-pound, lop-eared rabbit with ice-white fur, calmly sits in the rabbit litterbox, for cats and rabbits peacefully co-exist in this whimsical world.
That viral tour of Bloom’s posh pet pied-à-terre would ultimately snag more than 408,400 likes and 1.4 million views — and led to attention from national pet-lover sites like the Daily Paws.
Since then, Bloom has built a second home for Marshmallow and her two other bunnies — Gibby and Monsieur Skippy III — by turning a corner kitchen cabinet into a giant toadstool, which is furnished with the same eye for whimsy and detail.
Now Bloom is channeling her artistic flair, love of all things vintage and penchant for thrift-shopping into the business of creating similar tiny TV homes to sell to pet-lovers far and wide. She has built another cat-condo and bunny-galow, which she hopes to sell through her business, 9 Lives Vintage , from which she also sells vintage furnishings. And if the demand is there, she’ll keep on building more.
“I do enjoy it,” she says.“It’s like literally building a miniature of a midcentury house.”
The Fargo native grew up surrounded by creatives and collectors. Her grandmother took her antiquing and thrifting, which is where she developed a knack for finding treasures on the cheap. Her mother, Camille Brandt, who has taught art and autism courses at the Plains Art Museum, always had an eye for arranging interiors so they looked exactly right. And she still remembers the first time she saw the St. Paul home of her aunt, Lora Lee, who filled her living spaces with creative, fascinating, meaningful objects.
“It was very self-expressive,” Emily says. “I remember thinking, ‘This is what I want my home to be like.”
When she and Paramarta bought their 1922 bungalow along South 10th Street in 2020, Bloom immediately envisioned how she would decorate it.
She painted the walls a dark green, then balanced out that deep, rich color with vintage bamboo-print drapes, light-colored accessories and delicate Thai renderings on white paper.
Every inch of their home is artfully curated and arranged with items that mean something to Bloom and Paramarta, who is a software engineer from Indonesia.
“I’m always adding stuff,” she says.”About 90 percent of what I find is from the thrift store.”
But it’s also designed with her furry roommates in mind. French doors open into a small sunroom, which is filled with a mix of real and faux plants to bring the outdoors in for her pampered menagerie.
This window-lined space is adorned with a wicker teardrop-shaped bed, blankets and pillows tucked here and there for cat or bunny naps. An aromatherapy mister disperses soothing scents into the air and star lights overhead give the impression of a starlit sky at night.
The animals’ drinking station also gives her furbuddies a taste of the outdoors. An illuminated picture, which depicts a moving waterfall, is another thrift store find. It’s set at cat-eye-level and forms the backdrop for an elaborate Asian-style fountain, which Bloom cobbled together from various second-hand finds.
Bloom transformed a deep window ledge in the dining room by sewing cushions to turn it into a padded window seat. It allows the cats to jump up and gaze out at the outdoors. Over these windows hangs a string of rabbit-shaped lights.
Joyful project springs from grief
The decision to add specialized cat and bunny houses, however, actually sprang from a low time in Bloom’s life.
Bloom attributes her emotional downturn to the death of Sona, the beloved rabbit she had owned for 12 years. The bunny had been with Bloom since she was in high school and was the “alpha bun” who taught the cats their “p’s and mews” when, as kittens, they got too rough with their rabbit roommates. His fluffy companionship also kept Bloom company during the isolation of the pandemic.
At that time, Bloom had also reexamined her life’s path and placed plans to study pre-med at MSUM on hold. Sona passed away in winter, which only fueled Bloom’s sadness.
“It was the middle of winter, it was depressing, so I think that feeling just kind of fueled this idea of, what am I doing with my life? I was like, I can’t handle this grief. And I had to go back to one of my basic coping skills, and one of those is art.”
Some time earlier, Bloom had acquired an old tube TV set in a wooden cabinet from the ‘60s or ‘70s and had wondered what to do with it. Friends suggested she remove the innards and turn it into a bar cart.
But Bloom envisioned something more unique to her household: a mid-mod room for her fur buddies.
“Creating these spaces, I tried to think of the cat personalities," Bloom said in an earlier interview. "We wanted them to look nice. We wanted them to be cozy, and it was just really important to make them look like their own little houses [while] also kind of matching our house."
She covered the interior walls of the TV in vintage wallpaper samples from her grandmother and aunt. She built the couch herself, upholstering it in an orange fabric with an atomic-style pattern and accessorizing it with fish-shaped throw pillows. She added a floral area rug. She used thrift-store finds that could double as decor: tiny paintings in gilt frames, thumbnail-sized bottles, wee fake plants in thimble-sized pots.
She threw herself, body and soul, into the project, laboring over every detail until it was perfect.
“I needed to see more beauty at home and in general,” she says. “It just felt refreshing.”
The cats liked it too, although it took some bribery with kitty treats and catnip spray to acclimate them to their new pad. “Cats like that cave feeling,” she says. “Cats love boxes.”
Once her TikTok post hit, her little home project was seen and appreciated by people across the globe. “Honestly, when I posted that video I was pretty depressed,” she says. “But then I saw all of the viewers commenting on such kind and supportive things, and I just started crying. I think the love and support that my video received worldwide was, and is, extremely encouraging and hopeful. I remember searching and translating some of the comments because I didn’t know the languages they were in.”
The video continues to get likes and comments, “almost daily,” she says.
That viral post brought Bloom to the attention of editors at the Daily Paws, who wanted her to send in photos of her projects. At the time, her rabbits’ future toadstool hutch was still just a leftover kitchen cabinet, complete with lazy Susan.
Their two-week deadline to send photos helped Bloom kick into high gear. With the encouragement of her husband, family and friends, she proceeded to create a "rabbit-tat" with the same laser-focus that had helped her perfect the cat condo.
She used cardboard and flour plaster to shape the cabinet into a rounded stem, then painted it with a non-toxic acrylic white paint. She topped it off with a red-and-white-spotted mushroom head of cardboard, foam and fabric.
For the interior, she transformed an old, wooden jewelry box with multiple drawers into a bun-sized dresser. She covered the interior walls with a botanical vintage wallpaper, postage stamp-sized paintings and a hand mirror-turned-vanity mirror.
Overhead, she created a ceiling of greenery and white string lights.
She wanted the rabbits, who are litter-trained, to be able to walk on a soft surface vs. a wire cage, so she bought carpet samples for $1 apiece, then cut them, dyed them and attached them to an old area rug.
The end result is a space of whimsy and magic, which looks like it could have come straight out of a Wes Anderson film.
More pet palaces for sale
Since then, Bloom has designed and decorated two more pet palaces for sale.
A second TV has been renovated into a bedroom outfitted in the height of ‘70s chic, with parquet floors, plants, a secretary-style desk, shag area rug and a round bed with a green satin floral bedspread.
Look closer and you see that the filigreed gold headboard with the attached reading light is actually a napkin holder and an upside-down, doll-sized candelabra.
Her fourth TV home is even fancier, featuring a tiled fireplace with electric flame, mirrored ceiling, bed with green-velvet bedspread and matching twin “murals.” Bloom left the clear glass screen in the set, so pets can enter or exit through a back door.
Bloom has brought her DIY dwellings to some of the outdoor markets where she staffs her 9 Lives booth, and several people have shown interest. However, she plans to ultimately post them on her 9 Lives website ( https://www.9livesvintagefm.com/ ) for sale.
She also offers general tips on her Pinterest site for others who might want to try a similar project.
Although Bloom hasn’t given up on a medical degree, she has enjoyed rediscovering her artistic side. She’s sent her portfolio to a couple of art collectives that specialize in immersive, interactive art, such as MeowWolf , to see if she could collaborate with them.
In the meantime, she continues to view her pet abodes as works in progress, frequently adding new items, subtracting others and moving furniture around.
"It will never look the same," she says. "I'm always adding. It's done — but is it?"
Check out Bloom’s work at: emilybloom7 on TikTok, 9_lives_vintage_fm on Instagram or emilybloom19 on Pinterest.