Tag Archives: apartment living

Apartment Tour – The Living Room

The first room you enter in my apartment is the living room. There’s a little foyer area first, but the double archway makes you feel as if you enter right into the living space. Here’s the view as you walk in the front door*:

*Same as last time, links take you to close-up of images or to item in the store

I do love my living room. Despite some faults (sloping floor, only window is in the corner), it’s a good-sized space.

A look to the right:

A few friends have commented that my living room looks like it was art directed. That’s what 10 years of HGTV, movie sets, and an addiction to Domino Magazine (RIP) does to a girl.

Audrey Hepburn canvas print was a gift from my grandmother (Ikea, $50 No more Audrey, but they have Garbo!). Light over picture is also from Ikea ($4). Couch is Pottery Barn ($1100 with a discount). Yes, pricey, but after two Ikea couches that arrived with smashed wood frames, it was time to upgrade. The PB Comfort line lives up to its name and beyond. Fun fact: Pottery Barn couches are manufactured by the same company as the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa. Essentially, you’re getting the same quality couch for about half the price. Mirror is a hand-me-down from my sister (Ikea, $99). Throw pillows on my couch were pilfered from my parent’s basement, but solid blue velveteen pillow covers from Pottery Barn (sale, $10 ea). Patterned blue silk pillows Tracy Porter (I stalked them for a year till they went on sale from $150 ea to $35 ea). Rug is also Pottery Barn ($250, but got it on sale for $195). I had this rug in blue first, but it shed unbelievably. This one is a chenille and jute mix, so it’s flat enough for the wheels on my ottoman, but comfortable enough for floor seating and does not shed.

Opposite the couch is my TV area/cookbook shelves and my Christmas tree(!):

Vizio TV is from Costco ($200!!), as is Sony DVD/VHS player left over from my days at the Rachael Ray Show (free with work reimbursement). Roku (little black box) is most genius invention ever ($50). Black storage shelving thing is actually an Ikea bookcase turned on its side ($70). Here are a few close up shots of the items on the shelves. Pottery on shelves is from Jonathan Adler’s Utopia collection, all gifted from friends and family. I love J.A.

Reverse view:

Chair is from Ikea ($349) but I scored it at a set sale for $100 and bought the white slipcover for it (Ikea, $29). Pillow on chair is from Home Goods ($12). Photos on wall are from my travels. Frames are Ikea. Here’s a close up of the pictures. I’m slightly obsessed with my ottoman/coffee table. I spent four years searching for the perfect one. In New York, you never know if your next apartment will be bigger or smaller, so all the furniture I own was bought with the thought it might one day need to perform double duty as something else, or it was snagged from my parent’s basement where it could easily be returned. The ottoman doubles as a coffee table, additional seating and storage. Apart from the couch, it’s the most expensive purchase in my apartment. It’s a custom piece from Ballard Designs ($420, with coupon). It took me a year to work up the courage to spend that much money on something design-related, but it was worth every penny. Watch how beautifully it closes! I told you, obsessed! The chandelier is also from Pottery Barn ($275, with friends & family discount). Another purchase that took me a year. It also took me three hours to screw all of those crystals in each arm. In the end, I think the chandelier makes the room.

This is my primary workspace. My parents brought home this desk from an estate sale when I was 11 years old. They bought it for my sister’s room, but I had my eye on it from day one and was determined to make it mine. When they were striping and painting it, they came across a folded piece of paper, it was a limerick about the desk from “Herman the Poet.” We, of course, saved the poem.

The only thing I did to this desk was swap out the drawer pulls on the three drawers (not pictured) with glass ones from Anthropologie ($12, ea). I don’t recommend the ones I purchased if you have drawers that stick, as they break easily. I scored the mirror from the “It’s Complicated” set sale ($40, incredibly heavy to haul back from Brooklyn). Candles from Aedes De Venustas (stupidly expensive habit; $60 ea — but cheaper & less harmful than cocaine!); “Writing” postcard is from John Derian ($1.50); wooden hand (Lee’s Art Shop, $5) The hand holds one of my favorite quotes, from the film director Sally Potter: “Every long journey starts with a practical step.” So true, Sally, so true. Oh, and the Stephen Sondheim autograph = free (but PRICELESS!) as is the framed index card from Lynda Barry. Not pictured here: Ergonomic chair from situpstraightforcheap.com or something ($120).

As you see from my desk and under TV shelf area, I like to create little tableaux whenever possible. It’s hard to do in a small space, but wherever I can group things together in a nice or surprising way, I do. One example is on the other side of my couch at the base of the full-length mirror:

I originally intended for the birdcage (Etsy, $40) to be turned upside down and used to cover an ugly light fixture in my bathroom, but it might hang a little low in there, so I placed it here for now. The soft jute basket (West Elm, $39) holds my collect of Domino magazines and some plays. I placed the framed vintage program (free, from the Maysles!) from the Paris Theatre premiere of Grey Gardens back in 1976. It felt fitting to pair with the birdcage. By the way, it took two years to find the exact soft jute basket I wanted. Two years. I am aware of my craziness. Blue throw blanket on sofa is from Pottery Barn (discontinued; was on sale, softest blanket ever, $25).

Lastly, I’ll take you back to the corner where the couch and chair meet and cuddle up to my end table. Another find in my parent’s basement (free!). It was originally red, but I painted over it with a flat black. I don’t recommend flat black paint. It attracts every speck of dust in the room. The lamp base is from Target (on clearance for $11!) and I scored the Restoration Hardware silk lampshade from the “Lipstick Jungle” set sale for $15. The wooden frame (free) is the companion piece to my “It’s Complicated” mirror, also from the set sale. Message in the frame is priceless & hilarious. Close up pic here. And yes, it’s from that Meryl.

This room was put together over the course of six years. The only item I paid full price for was my Ikea shelving. Oh, and a filing cabinet from Target, which isn’t pictured (on sale for $110). If you’re in need of decor guidance, here are some tips to making your place look “art directed”:

  • If you’re low on cash but want to pull a room together, start with your parent’s basement and some paint
  • Stick with neutral colors (I chose white & black) then pull in a rug, pillow covers, and a throw in a color. These items can be easily swapped out, so there isn’t too much of a color commitment
  • With neutral colors, it’s important to remember to layer textures for added dimension
  • Candles are cheap (just not mine) and help set a cozy mood and add a nice glow
  • Books make a room feel homey and lived-in. Color code them for added dimension and design humor
  • Dimmers for lights are super cheap (I got mine for $10) and they completely change the look of room or can tone down a bad paint job/color
  • Frames are also inexpensive. Take your own photographs, if you don’t think you’re good, grab something you like off of Flickr and blow it up for about $4/print. In my hallway I have a framed cover from French Vogue that I’ve hung in every place I’ve lived since Junior year of college. Ironically, I recently read an interview with photographer Bruce Weber, who, when asked if he could own any photograph in the world what would he own, described that same image, but couldn’t recall where he had seen it (the answer hangs on my wall!)
  • Rip pictures out of magazines; frame and hang them artfully on your walls. For added interest, swap them out with when the seasons change
  • Create little tableaux
  • get basics from Ikea
  • Re-cover hand-me-downs
  • If you have a lot of stuff, keep it neat. Throw extra cords and office supplies in color-coded or front-labeled boxes
  • DON’T: display layers of pictures or tack things directly to the wall. It’s, uh, tacky
  • Lastly, WAIT. If you can’t find it right away or can’t afford it right away, wait until you find the right thing or the price drops. Patience is everything.

P.S. If you have a challenge in the room, like I do with my corner window, find the positive in it and work with that. I needed light. My window (sort of) provides me with some light, but I look almost directly into my neighbor’s living room and a corner window is just so awful. I bought the paper shade at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $30. It diffuses the light and is thick enough that I can’t see my neighbors. I also hung two thin, white panel curtains I first saw in Domino Magazine used to remedy a similar problem (from Ikea, $16 for set of 2) to finish the look & draw your eye up to the height of the room. I left the curtain bottoms un-hemmed, they hide my computer cord, power strip, and modem behind the billowing bottoms.

The apartment tour will conclude on Tuesday with the bathroom and bedroom. Stay tuned!


Rear Window

While replying to a work-related email, I noticed a company name and address in the sender’s signature line. After the business part of my reply, I wrote a P.S., “How’s your view?” I inquired. I knew the recipient received the email because the next morning there was a sign in the window of his firm reading, “Good morning, Ashley” in big black letters. I noticed the sign when I walked into my kitchen and looked out the window while making tea — it turns out one of my windows looks almost directly out over theirs (they are one floor down from me).

Every morning, from nearly every window of my five window apartment, I am greeted by a group of art students (the upstairs neighbors of my email recipient’s firm) who paint, sculpt, draw, and Papier-mâché directly across from my kitchen. The art teacher’s office, decorated in macramed plant holders and wall-hangings, is nearly within arm’s length of one of my bedroom windows. Above the art school lives a family with two small children — who love to look out their windows during thunderstorms. The family’s latest aquisition is a black and white painting of a leaping frog, which, after much debate, they finally decided to hang next to their Viking range, above the computer desk. I watched that whole scene play out from my kitchen window one Saturday afternoon, while I was cooking.

Nighttime is more exciting. My neighbors across from my living room window (we live in an “H-shaped” building, so our living room windows look out on to each other) come home around midnight, their bright lights (sans curtains) flood into my apartment. From their nocturnal activities, I’ve guessed him to be a restaurant manager and her to be a model. She’s always coming in late at night with rolling luggage and a suit bag (and leaving the apartment mid-morning) while he doesn’t leave till late afternoon. They’re definitely not married. They also fight quite a bit. And, his feet smell. The latest fight was about his looking at other woman, and his ridiculous gold sneakers. I have to agree with the girlfriend on that account, the sneakers are ridiculous looking. How do I know? Apart from seeing them first-hand in the elevator, he also airs them out on the ledge of his living room window, cracking the window open when he does this — a sign of odorous feet, perhaps?

I know I’m not alone in watching my neighbors’ lives play out like a television series. The New York Times found other people who freely admit to spying on their neighbors, either for folly, their health, or artistic/journalistic purposes. In New York, we learn to live in tight quarters. We stand closer to people in the subway during rush hour than we ever would allow during a conversation. Personal space is a whole lot less personal in a city. We become somewhat unwitting voyeurs, but curiosity sometimes overrules our manners. Our neighbor’s life may be entirely different than our own, more exciting, sad, colorful, happy, sex-filled, lonely … or perhaps it’s because their lives are exactly like ours. We come home, hang up our coat/throw it down on a chair; check the mail/answering machine/fridge; use the bathroom; relax on the couch/watch TV; have sex; cook dinner; go to sleep and start it all over again.

City living is a mash up of reality television and a really great novel. People are living in front of you, acting on their own accord, but you provide the dialogue of their lives; you imagine their personalities beyond those four walls and what makes their life worth living; then you turn the page to see what happens next.