A Small Apartment Gets a Stylish DIY Makeover – Architectural Digest

August 6, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Uncategorized

As a writer for magazines and the New York Times, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting such design icons as Kelly Wearstler, Norman Foster, Axel Vervoordt, and Christian Lacroix. All are worthy role models, but I’ve never dreamed of living as they do. My base for almost two decades has been a 435-square-foot New York apartment, a space that I felt extremely lucky to find through an ad from a roommate referral service when I moved to the city from San Francisco in the 1990s. My roommate has since moved out, but I’ve stayed. The apartment’s exposed brick and sunny treetop view more than compensate for the cramped kitchen and worn oak floors.

For further distraction, I live with things I love, since the apartment is a rental, and I cannot remodel. Decorating for myself has offered the luxury of building my collection incrementally over many years. I vividly recall the road trip from New York to Georgetown, where I picked up my vintage Charles Rennie Mackintosh Hill House chairs. Once home, I spray-painted them white—considered by some an act of desecration—but these chairs were mass-produced, and many friends tell me they love the updated look for the iconic chairs, first created a century ago for a private dressing room in Scotland. I still remember the day I brought home a hand-knotted afghan rug. I was excited yet also concerned about the dialogue it might have with my chrome dining table. (A charmed conversation, it turns out.) Large-scale objects, such as my oversize antique chandelier, imbue even small spaces with presence and character.

The chandelier is reflected in a custom-made steel-framed mirror, helping to center the wildly asymmetrical living room. Mounting the mirror in the narrowest part of the room, on the chimney breast, gives the illusion of more breathing space. By contrast, the diminutive lamp on one side of the guest bedroom’s mantelpiece sparks illumination and detail in an otherwise overlooked corner. This hard-won balance—large with small, precious with deliberately imperfect—has made my admittedly limited space more relaxed, nurturing, and ultimately exceptionally personal.