Color and Pattern Add Character to This Plain, Conventional Condo

Color and Pattern Add Character to This Plain, Conventional Condo

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Name: Allison Malafronte
Location: Somerset Hills, New Jersey
Type of home: Condo
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I live in the suburbs of New Jersey in a two-bedroom condo, but I worked in New York City for more than 10 years and always wanted to live in a Brooklyn brownstone that I envisioned decorating with boho flair. I love living out here with so much open space, and I enjoy being surrounded by the beauty of nature, but condos can be pretty uniform in their layouts and architecture.

I knew I could add character and color through the decor, and I started by keeping folders on my phone or Pinterest of styles I loved. A few choice paint colors really helped set the tone. The pink in the living room is “Rose Blush” by Benjamin Moore and the yellow in the kitchen and office are “You Are My Sunshine” by Benjamin Moore. I layered in eclectic furniture, rugs, pillows, paintings, plants, wallpaper, DIY decor, and artful objects to create that artsy style I had always dreamed about.

I am a writer and editor who has always been an artist at heart. I write about fine art and design as my profession, but my own artistic side fully came to the surface when I had the opportunity to design and decorate this apartment. It was like having a blank canvas and clean state to write my story and style on. The process has been a real blessing, and little by little, I put myself together as an artist as I worked to put this place together. I call it my humble, artistic abode — it’s not huge or full of expensive things, but it’s an expression of the artist and designer in me. “Home is where the art is” has been my motto!

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Boho, maximalist, colorful, cheerful, and collected.

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room to look at is probably the living room, but my favorite room to be in is the corner dining area by the window, which has a full view of the living room and which I turned into a makeshift artist studio and little sanctuary over the last few years. Early in the morning, I sit at the dining room table and do my scripture reading and prayer time in front of the open windows (where the same bird, or so it seems to me, comes back every spring and perches right outside my window, singing loudly and beautifully). On the other side of the table I work on my art and DIY projects.

Over the last few years I started painting with watercolors, learned to make hooped embroidery to hang on the walls, began hand-painting and decorating pieces of furniture, became slightly obsessed with decoupaging fabric and paper onto various surfaces, started making decorative paper flowers out of old literature and art history book pages, and so on. All of these little projects helped add personal, handmade touches around the apartment.

This is how my house was growing up: My mother was very creative and resourceful, and she made many things by hand. I love following in her footsteps in that way. The other reason the dining area is my favorite place in the house is because it’s also where I host little get-togethers and enjoy the company of family and friends.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? One of the last pieces I bought to finish the living room was the Kalie curtains from Anthropologie Home (I would include the link, but they’re sold out!), which I first saw five years ago and put in a folder on my phone before I even moved in here. I also got brass bird tie-backs from Anthropologie to complete the look. Birds are a recurring theme here — my two-year-old niece calls it “The Birdie House.” It was also a small victory step in DIY because I was forced to learn how to hang curtains and use a power drill for the first time!

Any advice for creating a home you love? I think something I have learned over the last couple of years is that home is a haven. It’s a place you should enjoy spending time in, and also a place where others feel comfortable and welcome. I had no rules for myself when I started decorating — I simply filled the rooms with everything that I love and visually respond to.

For me, that’s florals, botanicals, birds, bright color, bold patterns, anything with script on it, paintings, music, art and design books, anything that reminds me of Italy, objects or textiles from independent artists I admire, and some of my own handmade touches.

If you follow your heart in your home, it will be an honest reflection of who you are! Don’t worry about it being on trend or even matching. Bring it home and play with it. Mix and match colors and patterns, and try out arrangements and combinations in different, unexpected ways.

I would also like to recommend exploring your creativity and DIY spirit! There are so many things you can do to make your home your own on a budget, and so many online sources and tutorials to help. Lastly, try to enjoy the process! When I first moved in, I was pretty overwhelmed, and it probably took me three full years to get every room done the way I envisioned. I had to take it one step at a time, and really pay attention to what resonated with me so I could figure out my design style.

Some things flowed easily (like the plate wall in the kitchen) and other things took multiple tries to get right (like the gallery wall over the living room couch). But the experimentation, playing, searching (for me that was Anthropologie Home, Opalhouse, World Market, Rifle Paper Co., Etsy, HomeGoods, HGTV Magazine, and few really great bloggers), DIYing, and even the frustrations and setbacks were all part of the process. If you think of it as an ongoing creative challenge with no rules, the steps you take can be as fun and fulfilling as seeing the final result!

A Designer’s Condo Has Maximalist 1970s Vibes, Vintage Furniture & Disco Balls

A Designer’s Condo Has Maximalist 1970s Vibes, Vintage Furniture & Disco Balls

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

Name: Giovanna Macejka, partner Deanna, and pup Desi
Location: Ridgewood — Queens, New York
Size: 1,300 square feet
Type of Home: Condo
Years Lived In: Almost two years, owned

Giovanna Macejka is an interior designer and owner of Dream House, a full-package design studio, as well as the owner of Dream House Vintage, a vintage and secondhand Instagram shop. These business names are quite appropriate, since Giovanna considers this condo, shared with partner Deanna and pup Desi, as a dream home.

“I was on the hunt for the perfect apartment as I was a first-time homeowner. I had a friend who was in a similar situation just a few months prior who gave me the advice to look for apartments just outside of my dream neighborhood because it’s likely they’ll be closer to my price range. So, I did just that,” Giovanna explains. “One morning, while searching StreetEasy, I came across a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo in Ridgewood, Queens, a neighborhood that I’ve never explored. But it was close to Brooklyn and there were rumblings that it was the next hot spot for people who could no longer afford Williamsburg or Bushwick. The fact that it was a two-bedroom was ideal, but what was even more of a dream was the massive terrace that stretched the length of the entire apartment. Outdoor space is so hard to come by in NYC so the moment I saw it I knew I would be moving in in no time.”

 Giovanna says the space felt small on the first viewing, but at the final walk-through, the potential of this blank space became obvious. After figuring out how each room would best function, Giovanna tackled the home’s style, which is best described as a “maximalist 1970s retro vibe.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I like to describe my style as a representation of my inner world; eclectic, playful and full of color.

Which time periods/decades inspired your home’s design the most? The goal when designing the apartment was to make it feel like guests were entering into a time capsule when they came over to visit. To do that, I leaned into a maximalist 1970s retro vibe that relies heavily on mixing patterns and textures, going bold with color, and creating movement throughout the space. I like to call the design of the apartment controlled chaos, and that’s essentially what maximalism is, always giving the eye something to look at and making it all make sense at the same time. And by sourcing mostly vintage furniture, it allows for that ’70s retro feel to be even more apparent. Oh, and the disco balls.

Favorite Element: My favorite thing about the apartment is that almost all of the furniture is vintage or secondhand.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest design challenge was that the living room and kitchen are open concept so I had to make sure that I was designing the space in a way that made the areas feel separate while also remaining cohesive and functional. I did this by opting for an island instead of a dining table to save floor space and give extra counterspace and although a sectional is often cozier, I opted for a three-seater sofa so that I could add an accent chair, allowing for more conversation in the living room area.

Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY project was my coffee table. I found an S-shaped coffee table on Facebook Marketplace just a few miles from my apartment. The table came with two round stools that doubled as storage bins and fit right into the curves of the table, but I knew that it would make more of a statement without them. The table was originally black with silver hardware but when we brought it home, we removed all of the hardware and spray painted everything using Rust-Oleum paint in “Heirloom White.” The final result is the most epic coffee table that fits perfectly in our living room.

Biggest Indulgence: Our couch has been one of our bigger investments, especially when we bought it without seeing it in person first. Desi had just destroyed our last couch and I saw our current one listed on Dobbin St Co-Op’s Instagram for less than five minutes. I had one of those “if I don’t buy it now, I will regret it for the rest of my life” moments and sent them a DM with a deposit.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? The most unique aspect of the apartment is that we conceal out TVs by covering them with fun blankets. There’s nothing that brings the vibe of a room down more than a big black box when the rest of the space is bursting with color.

Where are your favorite places to buy or find vintage home decor? Omg, where to even begin. I have found incredible vintage and secondhand decor on Facebook Marketplace but being part of the vintage home decor community on Instagram has to be my favorite. Craigslist is also an oldie but a goodie. And I can’t forget about the brick-and-mortar shops like Dobbin St. Co-Op, Dream Bait and Tackle, Mother of Junk, and The Swan’s House.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Don’t be afraid to take risks! What we think we want and what we actually want are usually very different. So, if something is bringing you joy that you wouldn’t typically be drawn to, think about what it would feel like if you followed that feeling. The best homes are ones that we feel excited to be in.  

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

This piece is part of Throwback Month, where we’re revisiting vintage styles, homes, and all kinds of groovy, retro home ideas. Boogie on over here to read more!

Jendayi Omowale

Contributor

Jendayi Omowale is a Caribbean-American writer focused on amplifying marginalized voices regardless of platform, engaging in print, photo and broadcast journalism. Being hyper-aware of the reciprocal relationship media has with what we prioritize as a society, they desire to be a demotic voice.

Follow Jendayi
A Small Virginia Condo Is a Little Cozy Jewel Box Retreat

A Small Virginia Condo Is a Little Cozy Jewel Box Retreat

Name: Lauren Maxey and rescue dog Little Orphan Annie
Location: Arlington, Virginia
Type of home: Condo
Size: 660 square feet
Years lived in: 8 months, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I purchased this one-bedroom condo after renting the unit directly below it for a few years. My home is a little jewel box that serves as a cozy retreat. The unit needed an overhaul, so I spent several weeks renovating the condo before moving in. A big part of the renovation was building the mantel and shiplap wall above the fireplace that houses my Frame television.

I love color! Bright colors bring me joy! Although the walls are white, I incorporate color through furnishings and in the finishes, such as rugs, pillows, lamps, art, and accessories.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Minimalist, grandmillenial traditional

What is your favorite room and why? I love my bathroom! The floral wallpaper makes such an impact in the smallest room of my home and the pendant lights pop against it. My new vanity provides so much storage, and I like the gray color.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last big item I purchased was a vintage mid-century credenza from Vintage MC in Frederick, Maryland. I also recently found two framed mid-century rubbings at the thrift store for a steal.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Embrace what you love, even if it’s not trendy or in style. You should be surrounded by furniture and items that bring you pleasure.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

This Small, Plant-Filled Condo Has a Cool Faux Brick Kitchen Wall

This Small, Plant-Filled Condo Has a Cool Faux Brick Kitchen Wall

Name: Melanie Joseph and family
Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Type of home: Condo
Size: 985 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year 1 month, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I’m a single mom; I live with my two teens. They’re the youngest of my five children. We moved here during Covid and it was an adjustment as it was the smallest space we’ve ever lived in.

I carefully chose pieces to maximize space and storage. Then layered in all of our heritage with artwork, plants, and decor. I love the way our space feels and although my girls hate all of my plants, I think it makes the space warm and not just stark walls.

Eclectic maximalist is definitely how I identify. I love my heritages and love to display them all throughout my spaces. I change things around usually every two months to freshen the spaces. Sometimes pops of color will enter during spring/summer and then in winter I will add textures of knits, furs, and wools.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: A welcoming, eclectic maximalist paradise

What is your favorite room and why? The living room has got to be my favorite because it overlooks the building’s courtyard and the natural sunlight that comes in is amazing. I have a neutral color story with the pop of color being all of my green plants. Wood pieces balance it all out.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The latest thing that I bought was a mask from West Africa from an Etsy vendor. I wanted to add it to my art/artifacts wall in my living room.

Any advice for creating a home you love? The one thing I believe is fill your home with things that YOU love. Don’t worry about the opinion of others and their advice on design. Make it work for you and also make it functional as much as possible.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

A Cozy Condo Makes the Most of an Unusual Shape

A Cozy Condo Makes the Most of an Unusual Shape

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

Name: Hannah Mestyanek and family
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Type of home: Condo
Size: 725 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years 8 months, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: My husband and I live in a high rise in the middle of Chicago. Our complex was originally built in 1967 and has quite a few unique design details. For starters, our unit is actually pie-shaped! The entry is quite narrow and gradually fans out as you move through the kitchen and into the main living space. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room gives us a lot of natural light and stunning views of Chicago’s north side.

I love sitting on our balcony (even bundled up in the winter!) and watching the city go about its day. One of the details I love most about our space are the two carved arches in the living room and bedroom. They’re very ’60s, but I love the visual interest they give the space.

Both my husband and I are originally from Southern California and we’ve tried to incorporate elements that remind us of home. We gravitate towards neutral tones, lighter woods, and natural textures like rattan and linen. My husband is a fourth year medical student and I work in the non-profit health field, so it’s important our home is calming and peaceful after long work days. Our home is definitely our refuge, a warm and welcoming place to escape the high energy of downtown Chicago.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Clean lines, intentional, cozy, bright

What is your favorite room and why? It has to be our main living area! It truly is the heart of our home and where most of our life happens. It’s a small space, but we’ve managed to create zones with the help of rugs, lighting, and strategic furniture arrangement. The view from our floor-to-ceiling windows also can’t be beat; it’s the perfect backdrop for early morning coffee or evening happy hours.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? We are expecting a baby in the next couple of months, so the last thing we bought was actually a dresser for him! We aren’t planning on moving to a bigger place just yet, so the corner of our bedroom has been transformed to what I’m calling the nursery nook. We went for a simple IKEA dresser, but swapped out the knobs for these cute rattan ones I found on Etsy.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Curate your space! Really think about the colors, furniture, textures, and patterns that you’re drawn to. You don’t have to like what’s trending at the moment; choose pieces that feel like you. It may take a bit longer to complete, but the end result will be so much more authentic if you take your time.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.