Tracy’s Vintage Modern in Manhattan

House Tour

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Name: Tracy Steele
Location: West 14th Street, New York, New York
Size: 800 square feet
Years lived in: 15 years; rented

In Tracy Steele’s apartment, things are not always what they seem: a drink set hides inside a bowling ball trophy, a rotary telephone lamp base is a clock that used to be a cigarette lighter, and the narrow slice of a drawer inside a midcentury modern buffet opens vertically and holds sewing supplies. But one thing is certain: Tracy’s Manhattan apartment is full of vibrant color and beautiful style.

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Tracy is an interior and furniture designer who specializes in kid's rooms and custom made upholstery. In addition, she has a collection of furniture called Little People, Big Design, which is "high-styled furniture for people with dwarfism or short stature."

The attention to detail she brings to her work with her clients is reflected in the style of her own NYC apartment, which has evolved over 15 years of renting. Her dedication to vintage is so strong that she has unintentionally developed a clock collection. After hunting for the same Westclok Big Ben she regretfully left behind in a thrift store, an ex-boyfriend sweetly kept surprising her with clocks off eBay ("Is this the one? How about this?"). Now there are beautiful vintage clocks everywhere, with great stories, and she did finally get that Big Ben piece after all.

To see more of Tracy's interior design, check out her website Tracy Steele Designs or visit her on Facebook

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Cheerful Vintage. 

Inspiration: I love the romantic idea of Hawaii in the 60s. I’m a sucker for bamboo & barkcloth.

Favorite Element: My vintage clock/lamp which looks like a phone but aside from telling time lighting up, also lights cigarettes. 

Biggest Challenge: Window treatments. I look directly into the neighbor’s apartment but also get a peek at the sky, so I didn’t want conventional curtains that block the top of the window. I used window film to cover the windows and what I call 'summer curtains,' which block the sun when it gets too hot.

What Friends Say: That it's feminine without being too girly. Everyone loves the exposed brick and high ceilings. 

Biggest Embarrassment: The humidifier got pushed up against the bedroom dresser, warping it and blanching the finish. Ugh!

Proudest DIY: I once would have said the wooden key that I made in 7th grade shop, but I’m pretty impressed with myself for reupholstering the green chair. It’s not perfect, but I surprised myself by doing it at all.

Biggest Indulgence: I had the sofa made at my factory, so it wasn’t exactly an indulgence, but having a good couch is worth every penny. I’ve had this sofa for nearly 14 years and I still love it. 

Best Advice: Clarify what it is that you love and just bring home those things that really touch you. Never get a piece of furniture just to have it. You’ll choose the wrong thing. 

Dream Sources:  Palm Springs. 

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Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS

  • Benjamin Moore - Lighthouse

LIVING ROOM

  • Sofa – Tracy Steele Designs 
  • Occasional tables – Haywood Wakefield
  • Standing lamp, side chair – Las Venus
  • Barkcloth pillow – Pippin Vintage Home
  • Art over sofa – Grandmother’s painting (signed by “Carlo”)

DINING ROOM

  • Buffet – Las Venus
  • Hanging lamp with custom wooden base – Tracy Steele Designs

BEDROOM

  • Wall unit, custom designs – Tracy Steele Designs 
  • Lamp – Ugly Luggage
  • Paint – custom mix
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Thanks, Tracy!

(Images: Andrea Sparacio)

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