Location: Alexandria, Virginia
Size: 620 square feet
Years lived in: 4
Dayana's apartment in Alexandria may look traditional from the outside of the building, but come on inside and you find a style that's not traditional at all. The beige brick and cobblestone sidewalk belie the eclectic wonders inside, such as the many doll parts, the orange chandeliers, and the pillows with rhinestone cross skull appliqués. Venture through the rabbit hole to find a home worthy of Lewis Carroll's imagination.
Dayana bought her condo four years ago, and has been collecting and rearranging goods ever since. Last summer, when she realized it was the once-a-year trash pick-up day in Alexandria where one could put anything out on the sidewalk for the garbage trucks, she and a friend drove around with flashlights, searching for the unwanted gems. (She found a wonderful set of unglazed, unpainted ceramic vases, among other things.)
She also rearranges on a seasonal basis— the heart drawing on the chalkboard was for Valentine's Day. And in the summer, she rolls up the layered black-and-white carpets on her wood floor.
Dayana has such as eye for finding the odd trinket and making it beautiful, that friends have asked her to come over and help them rearrange or cast a vision for their homes. They may not want the hand molds she retrieved from a glove-making factory, but they want her eye.
Her home has also been spotted on HGTV's Small Space, Big Style.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Freestyle-bohemian-Mod-macabre mash-up (with a nod to farmland punk and the Old Country) anchored by curbside and Craigslist cast-offs and modern-day comfort splurges, featuring a rotating assembly of half-assed crafts, bandmates and fine family art. Or, Bubbe chic with an edge.
Brilliant retail window displays, Anthropologie (everything they do, but particularly the sets they build for catalog shoots and the wacky fantasy stuff they do for in-store installations, like the giant chicken-wire bird with feathers made from old book pages), U.K. décor pubs, such as Living Etc., and Elle Décor U.K., Apartment Therapy House Tours (particularly the offhand vignettes people create in their spaces), WPA-era art, OCD Craigslist searches, a pile of stuff no one's yet picked over at Ruff & Ready in D.C.
The light. No, the art. Or the black floor. Wait … the dog. Definitely the dog. Okay: the artful way the dog's nails are adding "character" to the painstakingly varnished black floor—when the light hits it just right.
Arranging the living room furniture. It's a tough room— the fireplace is off-center and there's a wall that juts out in the exact spot you'd want to put the couch or a chair. Every couple of months I attempt a new arrangement then end up moving everything back to where it was in the first place.
What Friends Say:
"What the …?" Or, "Let's hang out at your place. But put away that baby doll head."
Renovation-wise: Kitchen sink placement. There's no counter space between the sink and the stove. Oops. My bad. (Simple solution: Putting the wood cutting board across the sink.)
Décor-design-wise: The abandoned projects, i.e., the half-finished tack design on the dining table, the wooden beads strung on just one of the kitchen chandeliers (a much bigger PITA than anticipated), the remnants of a failed glue-gun reupholstering attempt along the arm of one of the green wing back chairs.
The renovation was hardly DIY (although I did chip away the plaster to expose the brick wall on my own!). But I'm proud of what I came up with on graph paper—reconfiguring the entire layout, opening walls, moving doorways, turning a hallway into a closet, ripping out dry-walled-in ducts, working around the HVAC and pipes plopped in the center of the place. All with only one rookie mistake. (See "Biggest Embarrassment" above.) My contractor then took my amateur blueprint and brought it to life.
My couch from Red Barn Mercantile. First, a bit of background: I have a long and storied history of purchasing style-rich/comfort-poor couches. The museum of misfit sofas is documented on TV (the scratchy houndstooth sleeper featured on Small Space, Big Style), online, (the short-lived Knoll impulse purchase from Eastern Market) and in my basement storage (the back-breaker Moroccan day bed I'm saving for the screened-in porch of the home I'm never going to be able to afford). And that's only the last three. There have been more, may they RIP.
I thought I'd never find The One… and then one day I walked into Red Barn Mercantile in Old Town and sat on a Cisco Brothers sofa. Game over. I was finally ready to shell out grown-up money for a grown-up piece of furniture. Given the commitment, I wanted everything to be perfect, so I tweaked the design of the Catalina love seat—nixing the rolled arms, going with a bench cushion instead of separate seat cushions, adjusting leg height and style. Because it's manufactured in the U.S. with eco-kosher wood, soy-based earth-friendly stuffing and upholstered in hemp, I'm pretty sure that I've canceled out my carbon footprint for at least a couple of months.
"So what if there's a wall there now. Make it a doorway." That's what a friend said to me when I was struggling to come up with the best layout for the place. Basically, the advice is this: Go nuts (on paper) as if you have no design constraints. Free your mind to consider any and every possibility. (And not just when you're tackling big projects, either: Why not use shelf liner as a fluted glass substitute on the bookcase doors? Broken bass amp? Could be a great coffee table base.) When you come back down to earth you'll likely have a few new ideas to explore—ones you wouldn't have considered if you hadn't let yourself imagine a wall as a doorway. Of course, before you wave your magic sledgehammer for real, remember to consider things like budget, gravity, re-sale, and whether or not that's a load-bearing wall.
Kelley Wearstler's cast-offs, Evolution in SoHo, Paris flea markets. And a shopping excursion with Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie buyers, and anything designed by/touched/glanced at by Tom Ford.
Resources of Note:
Desk: Craigslist (handmade by a guy's grandfather)
Bookcase: the long-gone secondhand store, Cielo
Mirrors (top to bottom): church sale, Look Again Resale Shop in Old
Town, GoodWood in D.C.
Ceiling fixture: Chinoiserie in Old Town
Peacock wall sculpture: Assembled from four separate peacocks from eBay; spray-painted and held together with white zip ties.
Black pleather woven rug: Overstock.com
Curtains: Tablecloths from Bed, Bath & Beyond
Shelves: Ikea; microwave shelf from a restaurant supply store while
shopping for theater props
Coral chandeliers: Lowe's, originally silver and then painted "safety orange" (unintentionally) and toned down with a light coat of red craft paint
Metal backsplash/wall tiles: Miles Kimball
Drop-leaf table: Ikea (dressed up with nailhead trim to be completed after I get more tacks)
Chairs: vintage Stakmore folding chairs (set of four plus card table in my basement) from Look Again Resale (snagged 15 minutes after they were dropped off)
Sofa: Red Barn Mercantile
White stool: the "Spool Stool" from House Eclectic
Wing chairs: $50 for the pair on Craigslist
Tulip table: Eastern Market
Metal lamp: Mt. Vernon Antique Center
Bench/ottomans: Crate & Barrel Outlet in Alexandria, Va.
Coffee table: Base from Look Again; glass from Pier One Imports
Console/entertainment/buffett: Church sale (painted it white)
Lucite fireplace tools: eBay
Metal pedestal table: Marshall's
Fireplace mantel: Brass Knob Warehouse
Rugs: Cowhide from Ikea, black ground from Urban Outfitters
Picture frames: Large pieces framed at the Principle Gallery. Most of the black frames are from Ikea fitted with custom mats from the Principle Gallery.
Pillows: Black/white birds from Ikea; Skull pillows,covers from Crate & Barrel Outlet and stud skull iron-ons from Michaels
Hands: Flea markets, thrift stores.
Images: Lindsey Roberts
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