A Chic and Cheerful First Apartment
Much of what I post on Habitually Chic can be described as “aspirational” design. I know this doesn’t always translate to real life which can be frustrating to those without unlimited budgets. When my very sweet public relations friend Current D’Ignazio asked me to help her pull together her first grown up apartment in New York, I thought this would be a great opportunity to give some practical advice for others just starting out or who can’t spend a lot to decorate. I also think it’s a great example of how you don’t have to immediately go to Ikea to buy everything. Although, there’s nothing wrong with Ikea, I think it’s more interesting to mix furniture and accessories you’ve found from different sources. Current had actually already ordered some furniture before she asked me for help so my job was to figure out how those pieces would work with what she already owned, as well as how to make the apartment reflect her personality, which is incredibly sunny, just like her namesake.
“My name is Current and I’m named after a town in Eleuthera, Bahamas where my parents met, romanced, and became engaged. While growing up my family had a home in Current and the island really informed much of my childhood – including an appreciation for beauty, solitude, and adventure. If you haven’t had a chance to visit Eleuthera it’s an absolute must – the beaches, seafood, vibrant colors – so much to explore far from the grid! Happiness and good vibes guaranteed.
When I was born my godfather wrote “may Current always be up-to-date, swift moving and high voltage.” It’s turned out I’ve embodied these words in all parts of my life including professionally. I’m the PR Manager at La Prairie North America and I’ve been with the company for 5+ years. Public Relations seemed to be the right fit for me early on and I think I’ve started to carve out a nice space for myself in the industry. I love skincare, art and luxury and La Prairie has been the perfect blend of all three.
This spring I was finally able to move into my first single apartment. A bright space on the Upper East Side that’s become uniquely me. When you step inside you almost feel like you’ve left Manhattan. I love the city but I think it’s nice to be able to remove yourself from the chaos, especially after a business day and evening activities.
My apartment decor is a real mélange – modern Lucite nested tables, knick knacks from consignment stores, vintage Chippendale chairs mixed with island treasures, Androsia fabric, stacks of Assouline books, photos from tropical excursions, a zebra rug from my grandparents last trip to South Africa, matchbooks to remind me of favorite restaurants around the world, and a Bird of Paradise plant. Taking care of my first living organism also makes my apartment feel more grownup.
I was honored when my dear friend Heather agreed to “spruce up” my apartment. She helped keep my eclectic, island vibe while adding accents of contemporary style throughout. Seashells I found over the years placed in modern dishes, mirrored frames with minimal nonfigurative artwork, gold and marble inflections and a ceramic garden stool. Nothing super cohesive but it all seems to have come together quite nicely. ”
“A periwinkle blue vintage side table that has traveled with me from boarding school, college in Virginia and all 5 apartments in Manhattan, welcomes me when I walk in the door. The table could use a paint job but Heather thought the scrapes and dimples gave it character. An Eleuthera map framed in island driftwood, hand carried back from the locale, sits on top. Along with a giant seashell from a recent bacholorette weekend in Colombia, acts as my catch all when I get home.”
So many people have furniture, art, and family heirlooms that really make a home feel special. In this case, we used what Current already had including the wonderful map that just needed new glass. It also hides the electrical panel that would be the first thing you saw as you entered the apartment. Because it’s so lightweight, it can be easily moved if she ever blows a circuit.
“The living room area is inviting with comfy seating and lots of natural light. A large Safavieh Natural Fiber sisal rug grounds the space and an oversize oatmeal couch speckled with Roller Rabbit patterned pillows add a pop of color. A few White + Warren cashmere throws add more texture and color.
I’m most proud of my gallery wall – a mix of abstract and photographic works from Society6. A few pieces from Artfully Walls and Gray Malin are also incorporated into the mix.
A funky geo-metric gold side table edged by two driftwood club chairs all from Bungalow 5 sit self-importantly below the art wall. It makes for a really chic reading nook. The chairs are particularly beautiful and have a South Pacific/ Indonesian vibe. Lavender pillows from Roller Rabbit sit on top of the chairs for a subtle hint of color.
The Bungalow 5 Burma Bamboo side table is stylish and also helps convey the tropical vibe in the room. More seashells housed in a shell dish, agate coasters and my favorite candle from The Webster sit on top.”
Because Current is such a beach girl, much of the art in her apartment has a beach theme. Choose artwork that speaks to you, whether it’s pieces collected during your travels or from flea markets or new works from online and it will make your space feel more personal. Since her budget was small, I helped her layout the gallery wall and hang it. Don’t feel like you need a professional to help you. Start with one center piece and work your way out. Move things around if necessary but keep some drywall putty on hand to fill the nail holes.
You’ll also notice there are no photos of the sofa in Current’s apartment. Her current sofa is a hand-me-down from her parents that is a placeholder until she can afford to upgrade. Don’t worry if you can afford to buy everything you need at once. Make a list of priorities and a budget of where you can splurge and where you need to save. For some people, a new sofa might be the priority and then other chairs and accessories might be added in later. It’s ok to take your time and live in a space to get a better feel for what you need before you start decorating as well.
“The wall opposite the living area includes two shelves filled with books, candles and other memorabilia that flank a skinny console table and two vintage red bamboo style chairs. Chrome lamps from West Elm add light to the side wall and sit along side with my favorite Assouline and Rizzoli books. Two large prints from Helo Birdie and a giant sea fan art piece perfectly spaced within the shelving – thanks to handy Heather!”
This wall was a clean slate when I first saw the apartment. The only thing Current had was the vintage console with a piece of glass with a frame around it on top and the two lamps. I had her order a better sized piece of tempered glass for the console which is an easy fix. She found the red bamboo chairs herself which added a nice pop of color. The two bookcases were smushed on one side of her sofa so I convinced her to try them on this wall. Once they were in place, we moved the two large pieces of art from Society6 to better relate to the new configuration. If you don’t have a large budget for decorating, ask a friend to come over to help you. Sometimes all it takes is an outside pair of eyes to help move pieces to better places.
“I was told a blue door is calming/ reduces stress so I painted the door the same Farrow and Ball Hague Blue as the kitchen. The jury is still out on its soothing influence, but I like the color pop in the living room, and I like the thread of consistency from the kitchenette area.”
Painting doors black is a popular design idea but I think that can be harsh for most people so a dark navy blue is a great alternative. It adds a nice focal point to an apartment and looks chicer than a plain white one. Current’s mother gave her the small photos of Eleuthera that hang next to the front door and always remind Current of her favorite place. The vintage zebra rug came from her family as well. Also, it might look like the front door is going to bump into the shelves but they are narrow and don’t impede entry at all.
“The kitchen was very outdated when I moved in. I grew up in a restaurant family and so the kitchen was always a staple in my life and a place for gathering, big feasts, and happy memories. I can’t say I use my kitchen often but I do feel like it’s more conducive for all the above now that it’s been tweaked.
Heather helped me with small updates which gave the room a big upgrade. The top cabinets painted in Farrow & Ball Cabbage White paired with Farrow & Ball Hague Blue for a modern and elevated feel. A self-adhesive “marble” floor was purchased on my sixth trip to Home Depot. I’m not typically a DIY gal but this stuff is great. A Bahamian woven basket + vintage bamboo bowls from our family home in Ocean Reef to hold fruit and vegetables. A West Elm runner with blue and orange accents. A mini cocktail bar setup always stocked with my favorite tequila drink, Casa Dragones. Tropical artwork from Housing Works and Saatchi Art makes the room feel coastal and bright.”
Current’s kitchen is actually big for a New York apartment but it was pretty sad when I first saw it. The black oven was the first thing you saw and it really stood out next to the brown cabinets. Luckily, Current was allowed to paint and I convinced her that if she painted the bottom cabinets a darker color, the oven would blend in with them. The lighter top cabinets that now match the walls help to lighten up the space too.
The empty space above Current’s stove is usually where a microwave would be housed. Since she doesn’t have one here, we added another piece of art. Don’t be afraid to hang or place art in the kitchen. Just make sure it’s not priceless and choose pieces behind glass so they can be easily washed off if they get dirty.
“My dad, a chef and restaurateur, may be slightly dismayed with how little I’ve prepared home cooked meals, but I think he’d be happy to know there is now potential for a spread to be cooked and served here! Cowry shell napkin rings, cloth serviettes from Harbor Island, Zalto wine glasses and Year & Day plate ware anticipate dinner parties coming in 2020!”
“My bedroom is pretty straightforward. The room is painted Farrow & Ball Wevet which the brand describes as “clean, understated and incredibly easy to live with.” I thought that made sense for a bedroom. Two gold shadow boxes with painted oyster shells hang above the bed. My headboard is a vintage bamboo frame from Dobbin Street Vintage Co-op in Brooklyn. My friend actually found the headboard on Instagram and I traveled to Bushwick and back by UBER to make it my 1960’s reality. That was an entertaining trip!
My yellow lamps were also purchased at Dobbin Street. They are funky and fun and add a sunny disposition to the room. The two side tables are from Bungalow 5 – they are simple yet sophisticated. I especially love the grasscloth finish which makes for a super chic look. More books and shells fill the bottom area of the tables. I will swap these pieces out seasonally for a new look. There is always a candle by my bedside (when feeling fancy a Diptyque Baies Candle) as well as a gold catch all for whatever rings and earrings are worn that day.
My bed is an absolute cloud. The sheets, shams and duvet are all from Annie Selke. I love their Pine Cone Hill Trio White Set. They are classic and very soft. There is truly nothing better than getting into bed when you have fresh, crisp sheets. I also have SlipSilk pillowcases on my bed. They are so luxurious. These paired with La Prairie’s Skin Caviar Luxe Sleep Mask is an anti-aging dream.
My quilt and decorative pillows are from Roller Rabbit – greys, purples and flecks of marigold to tie in my curtains and different items in the room. Sunlight pours into my bedroom through two big windows – photos of friends and family, trays of trinkets and beauty products line the window sills.”
Current sent me photos of everything she saw at the vintage store and I talked her through what to buy and what to leave. I was so proud of her for finding the headboard, lamps, and artwork. They all work perfectly in her bedroom and reflect her personality.
“I particularly love a clip on earring – I inherited lots of costume and vintage jewelry from my grandmother and great-grandmother and I try to keep them in rotation when I’m not wearing my signature pearls.
Summer may be ending but my bright and cheery apartment makes for a sunny destination all year long.”
“I did not expect to have my very own dressing area at age 29! Dresses and jumpsuits hang in color coordination thanks to Heather’s fashion-forward suggestion. Wicker baskets holding clutches and colorful pareos line the top of the shelf. Not pictured: a coat closet, linen closet, beauty closet, utilities closet and a closet in my room with shirts, skirts, pants and shoes. My apartment is essentially one giant closet and I love it. I swapped out all of the old plastic door pulls for marble/ brass knobs. A small detail that makes the apartment feel imperceptibly better. I’m very thankful for the space and the ability to spread out. Space is an undisputed luxury in Manhattan.”
The first time I saw Current’s apartment, I was so jealous of the walk in dressing room closet area off of her bathroom. This is a rarity in New York and since one entire wall is open, it also had to be styled. Current already had the artwork with mirrored frames that worked perfectly in this area. My other suggestion for this wall would have been a large inspiration board filled with favorite photos and post cards.
“Heather suggested a shade of pink for my bathroom would be delightful and so I obliged. I went with Farrow & Ball’s Middleton Pink. It’s light and fresh. I never had a pink room growing up so I figured why not? White accents including scalloped towels from Aerin and Serena & Lily shower curtain make the room feel delicate & feminine. Two limited beachy prints from Saatchi Art hang on the wall beside marble CB2 shelves. I line up all of my potions, elixirs and creams on top so I can pick and choose what I’m in need of that day. As one can imagine, I’ve become quite the beauty enthusiast – a few of my favorite items right now include: Byredo Mojave Ghost Eau De Parfum, La Prairie Platinum Rare Cellular Life Lotion and Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation, Marnie Nussbaum MD™ Glow Pads, Oribe Impermeable Anti-Humidity Spray, and Deborah Lippmann’s Naked – the perfect nude polish.
Current has been a lovely friend for years so it was a pleasure to assist her. I hope this look at her apartment helps you too.
Photos by Joanna Graham for Christian Oth Studio except for the photos of the stove and front door.