House Tour

Before + After: Union Square (New York, NY)

Good morning from springtime Brooklyn! After a ham and history filled trip to Spain, we're back with a big announcement and a "Before + After" from the archives.

AFTER | The living room. 

AFTER | The living room. 

If you follow us on social media, you might have seen the big news: Wayfair, an e-commerce leader in the home space, named us their "Designer of the Month" for April 2016. Think of Wayfair as Amazon for home furnishings and decor: you want it, they've (probably) got it, and it's almost certainly listed at the best price around. Not sure what you want? You can sift through an overwhelming breadth of options with relative speed, thanks to their user-friendly search and filter tools.

We've relied on them as an important source for clients for many years for those reasons and another: their commitment to customer service and transparency. Wayfair shares our philosophy that good design should be accessible to people with all kinds of budgets, but that there's an obligation inherent to advocating for affordable design: the consumer should understand why they're paying less. What trade offs are implied by the price point? To that end, Wayfair's products come with public and plentiful reviews; a detailed breakdown of construction and material quality, eco impact, and country of origin; and, an easy to digest info graphic that they call "Manufacturer Insights," essentially a cheat sheet to where the product falls on the cost vs. quality scale.

For more on Common Bond Design as Designer of the Month, you can read our recent interview with Wayfair

In the interview, Wayfair asks us to reflect on our first major project – a project that was published in Rue Magazine, but that we never delved into here on the blog. So, in recognition of our third anniversary, we're sharing a "Before + After" from the archives! 

AFTER | The bedroom.

AFTER | The bedroom.

Back in 2013, shortly after Common Bond Design’s founding, we tackled a 1 bedroom / 1 bathroom rental apartment for a young attorney in downtown Manhattan. Recently graduated from law school, our client moved into his apartment – selected on the basis of its location, skyline views, and the convenience the building’s amenities promised – immediately before commencing his professional career.

He had the foresight to purchase barebones furnishings before his start date. He brought with him a bed and coordinating bedroom storage set, a sofa, an armchair, a desk, a coffee table and a media stand. 

BEFORE | The living room.

BEFORE | The living room.

Though, strictly speaking, these items met his functional needs, as his demanding job ramped up, he developed an acute awareness of his apartment’s failure to meet other needs.

In his precious hours outside the office, the client craved:

  • unwinding  eating takeout while catching up on TV, listening to his vintage vinyl collection while nursing a glass of scotch, or sleeping in on Saturday mornings; and,
  • entertaining – inviting friends over to mix cocktails, dabble in amateur DJ’ing and watch sports.
BEFORE | In the living room.

BEFORE | In the living room.

The space felt spatially awkward, worn and sterile. The “shotgun” style layout made you feel a bit like Han Solo in a trash compactor; the walls ever inching in. A prior tenant left the bright white paint job marred with scuffs and stains. The naked expanse of parquet floors and inexpensive plastic roller shades felt vaguely institutional. The latter two features struck him as oppressive reminders that he was merely visitor here, not a man at home.

BEFORE | The bedroom.

BEFORE | The bedroom.

While many clients who hire in an interior designer seek aid in identifying their personal aesthetic, our client really only needed a translator. As a sartorialist and avid collector of photography, he was intimately familiar with the exercise of exploring his own aesthetic proclivities – and accustomed to the pleasure of self-expression that is the exercise’s reward. The home, however, was terra incognita for him.

BEFORE | In the living room.

BEFORE | In the living room.

A contract in hand and an in-depth consultation behind us (i.e. an interrogation along the liens of “walk us through your average weekday morning”, “now your weekend morning,” “how many people do you typically entertain at a time, and how do they currently interact with the space?; how would you like them to?” etc.), we prepared to map the terrain together. Soon after his start date, the pace our client's work intensified and our post-consultation contact was limited to harried emails exchanged during the workday. Our role changed.

AFTER | The entry.

AFTER | The entry.

BEFORE | The entry.

BEFORE | The entry.

Instead of translator and local guide, we redefined ourselves as design sleuths. We hunted for clues to his aesthetic, mining the richest resource available to us: his closet. From it, we derived a textile plan and color palette: grey pinstripes and herringbone, navy blue canvas, chestnut and saddle stained leather. We noted his habit of pairing a starched white shirt with a textured sweater.

BEFORE | The bathroom.

BEFORE | The bathroom.

 Before we could execute our decorative plan, though, we needed to address the apartment’s physical plant.  Given that the apartment was a rental, albeit one he intended to occupy for at least 3 years, our mandate was to minimize spending on assets that couldn’t move with him.

AFTER | In the bathroom.

AFTER | In the bathroom.

The classic NYC rental bathroom required the most assistance. We painted over the yellow walls with bright white paint, replaced the outdated faucet with a $75 chrome plated one from Home Depot (the room’s top expenditure, taking into account the plumber’s fee), changed the door pulls on the undersink cabinet, concealed the bulky glass sliding door with a tension rod and white shower curtain, and replaced the globe bulbs in the vanity with chrome-tipped ones.

AFTER | The bathroom.

AFTER | The bathroom.

Outside the bathroom, we limited our improvements to the following:

  • bifold closet doors, which showed the most abuse, received a fresh coat of white paint and inexpensive new hardware – stainless steel t-pulls from Home Depot, priced at $2 ea. (All other scuffs were thoroughly scrubbed with a Mr. Clean Eraser.)
  • custom window treatments in the bedroom, to block the 24/7 ambient light emanating from the buildings outside his window.
  • a painted half-wall in the bedroom in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue, to add architectural interest and create the illusion of a higher ceiling.
AFTER | In the bedroom.

AFTER | In the bedroom.

Our next objective was to ameliorate the trash compactor effect. We started by rearranging the furniture, carving the living room and bedroom into two distinct zones each. The living room acquired a home office; the bedroom a dressing area. By splitting the space crosswise, we were able to create four individual zones, each with more comfortable proportions.

AFTER | In the living room.

AFTER | In the living room.

In the living room, we further diminished the narrow feeling by installing a FLOR rug with stripes running across the width of the room – a visual illusion, but an effective one. The bedroom was outfitted with a viscose rug by Loloi, to lend warmth.

The client needed additional clothing storage, but we were wary of bringing an outsider into the matching bedroom set. (Though generally advocates for non-matching furniture, we suspected that a single misfit would look like an oversight.) Instead of trying to coordinate with the material on the other pieces, we ordered a custom dresser from Wonk NYC, color matched to blend into the wall behind it. A vertical photograph from the client's collection was strategically hung above it, to create a moment of impact where it breaks the consistent line of sight.

AFTER | In the bedroom.

AFTER | In the bedroom.

To provide small item storage – like cufflinks, belts, etc. – we sourced a vintage valet chair for $50 on eBay and reupholstered the seat (which lifts up to reveal a compartment) in a grey pinstripe cashmere, inspired by the client's suiting collection. The valet chair, in concert with a full-length mirror, also serves to delineate the dressing area.

AFTER | In the bedroom.

AFTER | In the bedroom.

Our instructions weren’t to scrimp – the total budget was accommodating – but rather to curate a high-low mix, mindful of the temporary nature of a rental. To that end, we reached a strategic decision early on in the project: lighting would be our most significant splurge. Quality lighting, so long as it’s plug-in not hard-wired, is often a wise area in which to invest. It’s less subject to trends, easy to move, and imminently flexible.

AFTER | In the bedroom.

AFTER | In the bedroom.

In the bedroom, we paid a small surcharge to have David Weeks modify his sculptural two-headed sconce to a plug-in version. On the other side of the bed, to mitigate the “matchiness” of the bedroom set, we purchased a two-tone concrete lamp from Comerford Collection that mirrors the graphic contrast of the photograph, yet playfully reverses the dark-to-light concept in the painted half-wall behind it. In the living room, we invested in an adjustable Workstead floor lamp to provide ambient light (the linen shade taking cues from the client's wardrobe) and a task light by Marset.

AFTER | In the living room.

AFTER | In the living room.

Though the living room was largely furnished before we arrived on the scene, we did make a few adjustments to adapt to his lifestyle. We replaced his coffee table, for example, with a warm wood one that flips up to create a sofa-height surface – ideal for dining in front of the television. Auxiliary seating was purchased to accommodate guests, but kept light and easy to move out of the way in the event of a full house or dancing. We specified a pair of navy and walnut armchairs from ABC Home (armchairs tend to be more inviting for lounging) with arms low enough to slide under the desk, so that it could double as his office chair. The armchairs, with a standard dining seat height of 17-19", were designed to have a second life as dining chairs, should he move into an apartment with a dedicated dining space in the future.

AFTER | In the living room.

AFTER | In the living room.

We also replaced a chrome and glass occasional table with a bar cart, enhancing practical value (liquor storage) and aesthetic value (warmth, via the walnut.) The set of trays on the coffee table and the red paper collator similarly achieve both practical and aesthetic aims: the trays protect the mango wood coffee table from scratches and stains, while injecting color and geometry into the room; the paper collator turns the client's record storage into a multi-dimensional display of cover art.

AFTER | In the living room.

AFTER | In the living room.

Of course, a few items were largely decorative. As a unique aesthetic signature for the client, we commissioned a line of leather and felt accessories (a blanket basket, a set of coasters, a pencil cup, mouse pad and planter sleeves) from leatherworker Sonia Scarr. His sofa, though already abundantly pillowed, picked up two throw pillows for color and textural contrast: a burnt red mohair and an indigo canvas. A drooping philodendron in Steel Life’s Matchstick Planter snuck a small dose of greenery to the urban space. And a Brahms Mount alpaca herringbone throw blanket, again inspired by his suiting, softens the masculine edge of the furnishings.

AFTER | In the living room.

AFTER | In the living room.

The end result is a space that supports the client in his solitary recovery from the workweek and in his enthusiasm for sharing his passions with friends. Through strategic furniture placement and some slight of hand with paint, we improved the architectural comfort of a rental property. And most importantly we aimed to imbue the space with an aesthetic stamp that the client could recognize as his own.

THE SOURCE LIST

Bathroom

  1. Waffle Weave Shower Curtain, Target (No longer available, identical here.)
  2. STRAPATS Pedal Bin (Matte White), IKEA
  3. IDEAL Candle Dish, IKEA
  4. Small Porcelain Mason Jar, Heyday Design
  5. Teakwood & Tobacco Candle by Pommes Frites, Steven Alan Home
  6. Chrome-Tipped Light Bulbs
  7. Glacier Bay Dorset 8in Widespread Faucet (Chrome), Home Depot
  8. Liberty 3 in. Steel Bar Cabinet Pull, Home Depot
  9. Flax Line Organics Hand Towel by Morihata, Steven Alan
  10. Leather Planter, Scarr

Bedroom

  1. 1960s Valet Chair, via eBay (reupholstered in pinstripe cashmere; and with custom leather pant rail by Scarr)
  2. Liberty 1-1/2 in Steel Bar Cabinet Knob, Home Depot
  3. Stonewashed Linen Pillowcases (Graphite), Restoration Hardware
  4. No. 203 Two Arm Sconce, David Weeks Studio
  5. Nomade Queen Bed, Structube
  6. Nomade 6-Drawer Chest, Structube
  7. Leather Planter, Scarr
  8. Contemporary Luxe Rug (9’3” x 13’ Grey Mist), Loloi
  9. Banded Concrete Table Lamp, Comerford Collection (not available online, but similar here.)
  10. Flat Roman Shades w/ blackout liners (Basket Sheer - Steel), The Shade Store
  11. Le Feu Bleu Phthalo Candle, Le Feu de L’Eau via Steven Alan Home
  12. Clermont Console, WONK NYC (custom color matched to Hague Blue, Farrow & Ball)
  13. Paint color (half-wall): Hague Blue, Farrow & Ball

Entry

  1. Mid-century wall-mounted shelf, Baxter Liebchen (not available online)
  2. Mira, Organic Modernism
  3. HAY Kaleido Trays (XS), Design Within Reach

Living Room

  1. Bix Bar Cart, Crate & Barrel
  2. Cotton/Alpaca Herringbone Throw Blanket (Natural/Slate) by Brahms Mount, via Steven Alan Home
  3. Rustic Storage Coffee Table (50” Raw Mango), West Elm
  4. Bina Armchair (Navy/Walnut), ABC Home (not available at ABChome.com, but available here.)
  5. “Made You Look” Carpet Tiles (Navy & Chalk), FLOR
  6. Leather & Felt Coasters, Scarr
  7. HAY Kaleido Trays, Design Within Reach
  8. 24sq Mohair Pillow (Curry), Room & Board
  9. Indigo Pillow, ABC Home (not available online)
  10. Accordion Collator, Anthropologie
  11. Shaded Floor Lamp, Workstead
  12. Stefan Swivel Armchair, Structube
  13. Short Matchstick Planter, Nannie Inez
  14. Tokyo Desk, Structube
  15. Yellow Potato Basket, ABC Home (not available online)
  16. Letter Tray by Ferm Living (Citrone), AllModern
  17. Scantling Table Lamp by Marset, Lumens
  18. Belize 3-Seater Sofa, Structube
  19. Marsh (Laugarvatn, Iceland) 2011 by Tommy Kwak via Artsicle
  20. Large Utility Basket, Scarr
  21. Mini Stacked Shelving System by Muuto, Design Within Reach
  22. Photograph by Glenn Bydwell
  23. Bottleneck Hobnail Vase, Anthropologie
  24. Custom Leather Pencil Cup, Scarr
  25. Leather & Felt Mousepad, Scarr

Photography by Biz Jones. Styling by Common Bond Design.

 

House Tour: Annie | Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

I'm so pleased to share a House Tour - and Common Bond Design project - featured on Design*Sponge yesterday!

THE INHABITANT Annie, 31. Second year Obstetrics and Gynecology resident at NYU Langone Medical Center.

“I don’t like cute and I don’t like fun” were our client’s first words to us on the job. We quickly surmised that Annie, a young doctor and endurance athlete possessed of an uncommon discipline and decisiveness, would be deliberate about what objects crossed her threshold.

The Philadelphia native is very much a woman who knows what she likes.  Peek into her closet or medicine chest and you will discover a commitment to a "quality not quantity" philosophy that puts my own minimalist aspirations to shame. 


So when Annie, on the cusp of beginning residency and moving to Brooklyn, hired us three years ago, we understood that bringing in Common Bond Design was a collaboration born largely from necessity. 

Annie needed a fully functioning home in which to crash; cook healthy food as an antidote to hurried hospital take-out, eaten standing; research and prepare presentations for medical conferences; and, on all-too-rare occasions, host friends. She needed a home that would anticipate and accommodate her needs, and she needed it stat. 

But her demanding schedule at the hospital would preclude her from designing her own space, no matter how clearly defined her personal aesthetic. Her schedule was so extreme in fact, that it would even preclude the "user empathy" phase, in which we spend some time crawling into the minds of our clients to map out a design route. Out of the question too was the client-designer feedback loop that keeps us on course throughout the implementation.

Happily, Annie is one of my best friends. In place of the in-depth client consultation that typically serves to inform our design process, I was able to mine my pre-existing knowledge of Annie - a trove of intimate revelations under the influence of malbec and friendship, combined with an accidental manifest of her daily rituals, recorded in my text history (7:25 pm: "late for dinner - must fit in run first") to determine what she would require from her home.

In place of the feedback loop, we operated on trust, backstopped with a veto system - a slew of 4am texts reading, "yes!" or "nope, girl." 

THE LOCATION Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Close enough to the bridge that Annie can ride her bike to the hospital, close enough to a slate of subway lines that she doesn't have to do it in a blizzard.

THE SPACE A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom rental apartment on the top floor of a privately owned brownstone in Boerum Hill. 

The 117-year-old building boasts an exposed brick wall, cast iron radiators, original parquet floors and arched windows. Her landlords, the couple downstairs, recently modernized the kitchen with IKEA high-gloss white cabinetry. The bathroom is simple and clean, featuring an overhead skylight that beams in sunshine even in the depths of February.

Fifteen seconds after walking through the front door, Annie told the realtor, with trademark certainty, “Yes, this is the one. I’ll take this one.”   

BizJones_204Wyckoff_Bathroom_web.jpg

THE PROBLEMS and THE SOLUTIONS For all the apartment's natural charm, the project presented challenges.

Problem: The layout has quirks. The bedroom is cavernous, but the living and kitchen area is small. The food prep surface in the kitchen is smaller still.

Solution: We considered treating the large bedroom as a hybrid public and private space, with a sofa and chairs arranged opposite the bed for conversation with friends, TV watching, etc. and a desk by the window for independent study. The idea was to dedicate the other room, a significantly smaller space with a kitchen, to cooking and eating only. But Annie was adamant that we respect the public / private divide. The bedroom needed to remain a refuge from 80 work weeks. Likewise, she wanted to be able to offer friends and family their privacy when they crashed on her couch.

Her veto on the hybrid concept was also an important professional check for me. I saw the opportunity for a large dining table and imagined the elaborate dinner parties I would like to throw, if I lived there. Of course, I don't. When Annie entertains, it's not about the mealtime production - planning the menu, setting the table, timing the courses; it's about catching up with friends, with food playing a supporting role. 

To comply with her direction, the smaller room needed to multi-task: kitchen, salon, dining room and study. 

We found a vintage farmhouse table petite enough to sidle up against the radiator adjacent to the kitchen. It both supplements the countertop space and function as Annie’s desk.

When she hosts dinner parties, the table slides in front of the sofa. Her heirloom bench – typically a coffee table – is re-tasked as a dining bench. Occasional chairs are commandeered as supplementary seating around the dining table.

The sofa, a mid-century inspired design with a shape that appealed to Annie, was ordered in a one-arm version to create the illusion of more open space and more comfortably accommodate overnight guests. (Annie's family members are, like her, tall and slender folk.)

Problem: A spacious entry gobbles square footage, but offers no hidden storage. The apartment's only closet is in the bedroom.

Solution: To maximize storage space, we rimmed the walls of the entry with inexpensive hook racks from Home Depot. A handyman mitered the racks that met in the corner to imitate a custom look. Annie’s heirloom trunk become a utility closet, storing her vacuum cleaner and space-efficient cleaning supplies, like a collapsible Swiffer. 

In the kitchen, Annie soon discovered her cabinets could accommodate either dishware or pantry goods – not both. It was an easy choice to display her enviable pottery collection, much of it vintage, the rest from Chilmark Pottery on Martha's Vineyard, where Annie once worked as a farmhand.

To balance old and new, we sourced a bright white bookshelf from IKEA that also incorporated drawers for flatware and napkins. Attractive cardboard boxes on the lowest shelf store her spare collection of paper goods and mementos.

Problem: Although a few interior walls allowed for nail holes, many of the old building’s party walls were masonry. As a renter, Annie wasn’t allowed to drill holes into the masonry, limiting our options for artwork.

Solution: To skirt the restrictions on drilling into the masonry, we used washi tape to display photographs and papergoods, including two vintage anatomy charts.

BizJones_204Wyckoff_BedroomSideTable_web.jpg

Problem: There were stylistic challenges too. Annie likes modern, she likes minimalist, she likes clean. She was committed to reflecting this aesthetic in her home, but equally committed to a sense of history and permanence.

Solution: I understood that Annie's move to Brooklyn wasn't just about convenient lodging. It was about putting down roots. 

Deeply clutter averse, Annie was clear that a feeling of home wouldn't come from knick-knacks. Only items with utility - books, ceramic storage and dishware - would be permitted as far as personal effects went. 

We imported an sense of history (an authentic one) by incorporating functional furniture pieces from Annie's childhood home. The move to Brooklyn was a homecoming 70 years in the making for Annie's wooden dresser, which belonged to her grandmother as a child.  We elected not to repair its slanted handle, declaring it a badge of honor for its three generations of service.

Blending this heirloom aesthetic with a modern, minimalist one was critical to success. We started with the family heirlooms - mainly dark wood pieces - and brought in sleeker pieces, like the mid-century modern sofa, contemporary lighting, a steel platform bed, and white bookshelves to balance the space.  

The key was to distribute the heirloom pieces evenly throughout the apartment and furnish sparsely. The color palette was kept neutral, with sporadic use of mild blues and reds.

BizJones_204Wyckoff_BedroomDresser_web.jpg

Problem: Then there was the budgetary challenge. Fresh out of medical school, Annie tasked us with fully outfitting a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment for under $7,000. She brought only a mattress and her heirloom pieces: a dry chest, a trunk, a bench, a ladderback chair, dishware, a dresser, and a fussy armchair.

BizJones_204Wyckoff_Bedroom_BedsideTable_web.jpg

The $7,000 (admittedly not an insignificant sum on its face) needed to cover big ticket items like a sofa and bed frame, as well as the accumulation of sundry, like trash bins and shoe racks, which quickly add up. It also needed to extend to labor expenses, like paying the the handyman and upholsterer. Skilled labor in New York City, alas, doesn't come cheap.

But the real challenge was this: Annie wanted to invest in high quality pieces. She was on the edge of 30 when we began the project, just beginning her career as a doctor, and - following the protracted student life that the medical profession requires - she was eager to graduate from the environmental trappings of her transient 20s.

BizJones_204Wyckoff_LivingRoom_Detail_2_web.jpg

Solution: To help her build a collection of fine furniture pieces within her budgetary parameters, we cultivated a high-low mix, keeping in mind that her apartment was only a rental. Site-specific pieces, like bookshelves, and items that readily show wear, like bedsheets, did come from IKEA, but we steered clear of any of the super chain's instantly recognizable designs.

Other cost saving tricks include durable, well-priced cotton rugs from Dash & Albert; a collapsible canvas camp chair in the living room (a nod to Annie's love of camping and a practical option for springtime reading in the brownstone's curbside garden); a lamp from Sir Terence Conran's collection for JC Penney; a wool throw blanket and wool yardage purchased directly from the woolen mills, instead of via pricey local boutiques; using the leftover yardage from upholstering the wingback chair as a bedspread; and installing inexpensive faux wood blinds in the bedroom.

Even our "investments" were cost conscious. Annie's sofa was certainly a splurge in the context of her budget, though it's one of Design Within Reach's more affordable models. Upholstering it in Maharam's Milestone fabric also helped to keep the cost down. Before ordering an Eames Low Wire Base table, we waited for the annual Herman Miller sale. 

Each of the bigger ticket items (the sofa, platform bed and Eames side table) were selected for their flexible design - intended to accommodate Annie many years, and many homes, into the future.

For a complete budget breakdown, see the source list below.

THE SOURCE LIST

  1. Platform Bed, Room & Board - $1,099
  2. Bantam Studio Sofa, Design Within Reach - $2,200
  3. Nyponros Duvet and Shams, IKEA - $200
  4. Take! Bamboo Chair, Snow Peak - $159
  5. Metal Framed Oval Floor Mirror (Brushed Nickel)* and Ticking Stripe Shower Curtain*, West Elm - $278 
  6. Shoe Rack, Hamper, Hanging Sweater Shelf, 2" Faux Wood Blinds (x3), Bed, Bath & Beyond - $216
  7. Strapats Pedal Bin, IKEA - $9.99
  8. Farmhouse Table (vintage)*, Fork + Pencil - $295
  9. Handyman - $500
  10. Beep Table Lamp by Conran*, JC Penney - $260
  11. Peg Racks, Home Depot - $7 ea.
  12. Algot Wall-mounted Bookshelves, Cork Coasters, Storage Boxes and Wall Fasteners, IKEA - $159
  13. Eames Wire Base Low Table, DWR - $215
  14. 4x6 Woven Cotton Rug (Montana Stripe), Dash & Albert - $117
  15. 4x6 Woven Cotton Rug (Red and Taupe Stripe)*, Dash & Albert - $117
  16. 8x10 Woven Cotton Rug (Nimes Ticking), Dash & Albert - $399
  17. Taupe Tweed Throw Blanket, Maucausland Woolen Mills - $60
  18. Blue / Black Herringbone Wool, Dorr Mills Store
  19. Wingback chair re-upholstery - $1,000
  20. Iceland Photograph by Tommy Kwak
  21. Mixed Media Artwork by Tara Zabor
  22. Stag Head Fern and Macrame Plant Hanger, The Primary Essentials - $130
  23. Dishware, mix of vintage and Chilmark Pottery

* Items no longer available.

House Tour: Alex | Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

January 16, 2014 | Alex

It's time for another CBD House Tour. Be gentle on this one, please. It's the funny place I call home.

Inhabitants: Me, a 26-yr-old blogger and 1/2 of the design studio Common Bond Design. (My roommate, Linzee, shares the apartment, but this tour features my bedroom and bath.)

Location: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

Specs: 2-bed, 2-bath. Top-floor rental of a privately-owned brownstone. N and S exposure.

Space: Linzee and I moved into this bright, modern apartment 3 years ago. Gut renovated before we moved in, it's pretty much the greatest. The kitchen and baths are both 100% Ikea, as is the overhead lighting. The neighborhood is magical, the sunlight gushes through our windows, and our landlords are the kindest family. We hit the NYC renters' jackpot.

There's only one thing I would change if I had design super powers. The walls are "linen white" which helps to hide scuffs, but makes a poor photo backdrop. (I know, I know. The tiniest violin in the world plays for bloggers with off-white walls. But it is pesky when I'm trying to shoot DIY projects at home.)

Everything else is perfecto! Hats off to the architect. Sometimes, I can almost feel him/her a step ahead of me when I'm interacting with the space. My greatest "aha" moment was when I was curled up in my butterfly chair and marveled at how the window (lower than most) was perfectly positioned for taking in the street scene below. Likewise, the sill is proportioned at just the right height and depth to accommodate my book and mug of tea. It's a small, lovely detail that turns any standard-height seating into a virtual window seat.

Decor: This one's tricky. I've been sitting on these photos for almost 8 months, wavering on publishing them. I love my bedroom. It's warm, sunny and filled with objects I care about. But it's not an honest reflection of my aesthetic. I like clean, modern, uncluttered. As a young self-employed person, though, the budget for my own home is non-existent. Everything in my bedroom falls into one of three categories:

  • scavenged from my parent's basement (or carried with me from my teenage bedroom);
  • purchased for under $20 at a stoop sale;
  • purchased for under $30 at Ikea, Target or K-Mart.

The only blanket exception I can think of are travel mementos. When I find something I love while traveling, I find a way to justify the indulgence. I'm proud of how I've made disparate items play nice, but in finding a formula that works, I've veered away from the stark scandinavian look that's in my heart. Instead, my bedroom is colorful and eclectic. Even a little busy.

Happily, my bathroom offers some solace. It's everything my half-Danish DNA craves-- clean and cool. Bordering on sterile, but with a few splashes of personality and color via my ceramics collection. Think of it as a small preview of the decor in my someday-home.

Until then, here's a peek into budget-driven, hodge-podge 'right now' home:

Sources

Bedroom // Narrow-Leg 6-Drawer Dresser (White), West Elm - $699 | Cowhide Butterfly Chair Cover (Calma Chicha, Bs. As. Argentina) | Butterfly Chair Frame, Collapsible ($20 stoop sale find, similar here) | Lack Shelf (Red), Ikea - $16.99 | Leather Pouf (purchased when we lived in Brazil, similar here) | U.S. Navy Wool Blanket (family heirloom, similar here) | Task Lamp, K-Mart (discontinued) | African Basket (street fair find, similar here) | Umbra U+ Suspend Floating Clock (Walnut) - $60.02 | Indigo Vase, The Raging Bowl | Carved Wooden Horse (Bogota, Colombia street fair find) | Eyeball Sconce (Brass), Urban Outfitters (sold out) | Ball of Twine Print, 1963 by Roy Lichtenstein, Art.com - $7.99 | New York Magazine cover, framed | Vintage Desk (from parent's basement) | Leather Waste Bin, Ikea (discontinued) | Hotel Sheet Set (Red), Pottery Barn (discontinued) | Indian Duvet Cover, purchased from Hotel San Jose (Austin, TX) | Shibori Pillowcase (King), Vera Wang Bedding (discontinued) | Oak Wall Storage Cube, CB2 (oak discontinued. available in white 30"  here) | Whiskey Bottle w/ Wood Stopper, West Elm - $29 | Green Bikini (2011) Limited Edition Print by Nick Weber, via Tripoli Gallery | Black Leather Stools (borrowed from parents) | Enje Roller Blind, Ikea - $17.99

Bathroom // View of the World from 9th Avenue, by Saul Steinberg, via The New Yorker Store | Ekby Mossby Shelf, Ikea - $29.99 | Horn Mate Cup (purchased in Bs. As, Argentina) | Alpaca and Horn Tray (purchased in Bs. As. Argentina) | Robert Blue 9 ounce Tumbler, via Mociun - $15 | Vase by Michelle Mendlowitz Ceramics | Hammam Hand Towel, West Elm - $8 | Threshold Extra-Large Waffle Weave Shower Curtain, Target (discontinued, similar here) | Bamboo Waste Bin, Bed Bath & Beyond (discontinued, similar here)

Notes: 

Many of these items are now discontinued, because I've had them for ages! I've tried to find similar items, wherever possible.

I don't recommend the Ekby Mossby for use in a bathroom (and neither does Ikea!) Mine is badly stained after only a year. Their lacquer or veneer Ekby shelves will hold up better in a high moisture environment.  

Common Bond Design is an affiliate of Target, but all thoughts and opinions are our own. Read more about our affiliate relationships here.

House Tour: Margot | Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

September 11, 2013 | Alex

It's here! Our 1st house tour. I'm so happy to share with you this gem of a space. (How long have we been holding out on you? Just spot the anachronistic fresh blooms.) Here's the low-down on the inaugural CBD house tour...

Inhabitants: Margot! Late-20's art history grad. Alumna of a NYC architecture firm, and one of New York's most storied design institutions. Currently freelancing here and there in the field. Margot's many artistic and domestic talents find their ultimate expression in her homemade bundt cakes and Gunta Stölzl-inspired fuse bead creations. She totally digs the Bauhaus.

Cohabitating with Margot: various gnomes, ninjas and other miniature figurines that undoubtedly rise from their leafy homes to get funky each night.

Location: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Specs: 1.5 bedroom, 1 bath. Top floor rental of a privately-owned brownstone. NW and SE exposure. 

Space: Open! Bright! Sun and shadows all day long. Lovely moldings and marble mantle, both original to the turn-of-the-century construction. Wide-plank flooring with a rustic farmhouse vibe. Oh, and a volume of white exposed brick wall. Buckets of charm packed into a tight space.

Decor: A study in contrast. Treasured antiques-- some inherited from Margot's much loved grandmother, some discovered at Margot's favorite East End antiques shop-- co-exist with the modern designs to which she's devoted her studies and career. The contemporary elements are a composite of mid-century iconic (e.g. Eames. Noguchi.) and contemporary (e.g. Blu Dot. Ikea.) The character and sentimentality of the old plus the discipline and clean-lined minimalism of the new hits a sweet spot that so distinctly reflects Margot's personality. 

Crafts! Prominently displayed are Margot's aforementioned Bauhaus-inspired fuse bead coasters, DIY pom poms, needlework projects, and the perfectly imperfect works of Margot's ceramicist friend.

Quirky and fun collections, exquisitely arranged. Margot's talent for turning personal mementos and teeny-tiny things into a thoughtful vignette amazes me. Also, her green thumb. There is an abundance of plant life. No risk of oxygen deprivation here.

Ok, enough chit-chat. See for yourself.

Photography by Elizabeth T. Jones