Virginia & Jessica's FiDi Family Home

Virginia & Jessica's FiDi Family Home


Designers: Virginia Toldeo and Jessica Geller, id 810 design group
Location: Financial District, New York, New York
Size: 1,000 square feet

Not a straight stretch of wall to be seen, a walk-through kitchen, a floorplan fit for a family, but without any designated dining area, and windows only at the outer edges of a layout that would challenge even the most experienced interior designer. Virginia and Jessica used paint, flea market finds, inspirational textiles, styling ingenuity and an arsenal of adjectives to turn this list of challenges into a family-fit, graphic and colorful home.

Virginia and Jessica, of id 810 Design Group, were one pair of five designers (or design teams) tasked with taming the quirks of a commercial building-turned-residence, creating believable, economical model apartments for the 116 John Street building by downtown developer MetroLoft. And wow, their floor plan was a doozy… angular and zig-zagged, with a LOT of internal space, some of which had to function as a Pullman kitchen and main circulation into the heart of the apartment.

Imagining a starter home for a young family, the ladies turned to flea markets, high-personality draperies, and the graphic punch and insta-architecture paint can provide. Counterintuitively, they added angled graphics like zippy camouflage on that entry/kitchen/hallway, and darkened the interior hallways for moody drama, carving out seating areas wherever they could along the way, all proving that a little ingenuity, some color continuity, and personal touches make any angle work.

What floorplan did you get and what was the square footage? 2 bedroom, 1,000 square feet

What was your decorating budget? $10,000, all inclusive.

Who's your fictional client/resident? This project didn't have a program, which proved challenging in that form follows function. So we set out to imagine the client. It was important to us to create a client and situation that supported MetroLoft's company motto, so to speak, which is all about developing long term living spaces in the FiDi area. Members of MetroLoft's team are integral people in the FiDi community and their Facebook fan page continuously has updates about community events for families, etc.

However, we all know that post 9/11 it was almost unheard of to want to raise a family in this area of Manhattan for possible health reasons and the obvious emotional reasons that followed that tragic day. However, after speaking with one of the owners of the project and finding that he not only sells the idea of family life in FiDi, but actually walks the walk and has raised his family here in one of the original MetroLoft buildings, we felt that imagining the client as a young family needed to be at the core of our program. With that in mind the second bedroom turned into a nursery instead of a home office or den. We got a lot of "Oh, you made that a nursery, huh??" comments from naysayers.

We drew from our past client experiences of young families and what their furniture collections tend to consist of — typically an assemblage of family hand me downs, some of significance and others not so much, combined with their eagerness to define their own style. A newer practice that we're coming across more frequently is a desire for more classically styled pieces in lieu of very contemporary pieces, and that drove our furniture selections, which came from everywhere: flea market finds that were in great condition and others that required a bit of love and elbow grease, to major box stores and some of our own hand-me-downs.

What was your inspiration piece or first decision made? The green chair in the library nook within the Living Room. We were at the Brooklyn Flea "on the hunt" for some of our imaginary clients' heirlooms when we saw a man hauling a different chair into his truck. We loved that chair, and asked him where'd he'd gotten it, not knowing that he was an owner of a booth. He informed us that he had only one more similar one to it, and we sprinted across the school yard to his booth before it was gone!

What was your biggest splurge? Why? The Loring sofa, by Room and Board, was our single most expensive piece in the apartment. We were certain that the tightback styled sofa with its curvaceous arms would step up the design factor in this room. Plus, you can notice a cheap sofa a mile away.

What "usual suspects" were on your shopping list? Crate and Barrel, Home Goods, IKEA, West Elm, Lamps Plus, Home Decorators Collection.

What source will people find most surprising, given the budget? The Claude étagère by Jonathan Adler in our hallway and the custom floating shelf in our Living Room would probably be the most surprising. However, we acquired the étagère at Adler's most recent annual sample sale for a steal. By using mdf instead of "real wood", our millworker was able to make and paint the floating shelf for a couple of hundred bucks.

What were the biggest "builder basic" challenges in the unit? Oh lord! Those ANGLES! They were everywhere — not a straight wall in sight. Jessica and I moved furniture back and forth so often trying to create a visual linearity.

How did you decide what and where to paint? We spent some time wandering the neighborhood and the adjectives we took back were urban, historic, Gotham city, and eclectic. And, for the most part, that is where our color and pattern palette developed from. We noted that the first half of the apartment was extremely dark when we first viewed it, even while painted in the standard 'apartment white', and so we decided on going with a deeper taupe. We wanted to embrace the apartment's cave-like architecture and then create a rhythmic linear design in this foyer that repeated in such a way that it would pull the visitor though this tunnel of sorts and out into the areas of natural light.

We found that the natural colors of the environment were what was lacking in this urban Wall Street neighborhood, and these colors tend to be a natural human need, so we took that idea and applied it in a bolder way. In our Master Bedroom, blue is used on the ceiling in a very dramatic way and greens are used in their most citric form throughout the space.

We conquered all of the angled walls and obtrusive soffits by using dark colors on walls AND ceilings that create shadows, "erasing" some of the weird undulations.

What's the one idea someone should steal from your design? The drapery. What renters of apartments with tall ceilings learn very quickly is that there aren't ready-made drapes in the lengths they need. The prices jump significantly when you have to customize drapery. Because we didn't have the budget for that on this challenge, we sourced our palette-influencing drapery fabric from at a bargain price and had them hemmed at a local dry cleaner for a few hundred bucks. BAM!

Don't miss: The living area's floating shelf; the blue ceiling in the master bedroom; the nursery's pom-pom window treatment; the paint stripes in the entry/pass-through kitchen; personalized styling and family photos; the ribbon "moldings."

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Virginia: Old and new and fresh. Jessica: Classic and clean.

Inspiration: Virginia: Architecture and nature. Jessica: I love history, so I draw inspiration from what was done well in other eras

Favorite Element: Virginia: Wallpaper. Jessica: Leopard print! I think it's a neutral that every room can benefit from.

Biggest Challenge: Virginia: Indecisive clients. Jessica: I hate talking about budgets.

What Friends Say: Virginia: Works too much! Jessica: My smile and laugh are infectious.

Biggest Embarrassment: Virginia: Trying to get through the turnstyle in the subway without having swiped my metrocard — people were looking at me like I was as a tourist, but I am born and raised in NYC… I was just a regular NY'er in a big time rush, lol. Jessica: TBD :)

Proudest DIY: In my first apartment out of college, I painted the entire apartment (funky stripes included) and assembled all of my furniture. Wouldn't ever do that again, though :) None the less, I felt like a real grown up at that point. Jessica: Not gonna lie, I don't like DIY. I'll do it when necessary but I don't enjoy it, and would much rather pay someone else to do it and oversee them.

Biggest Indulgence: Virginia: Cake. I don't believe in depriving myself from cake. Jessica: I find myself constantly purchasing pillows, dinnerware, bedding, trays and trinkets.

Best Advice: Virginia: Listen to your inner voice. It usually tells you what you really need. Jessica: In decorating — display things that make you smile. In life, surround yourself by people that make you smile.

Dream Sources: Virginia: Profiles in the New York Design Center, Oly Studios and 1st Dibs. Jessica: This is weird because Virginia and I filled these out separately, but we said the same thing — we've always said we should move in together since we like the same things — and now I guess it's really true!

Resources of Note:


    • Foyer and Main Hallway: Walls: Eagle Rock 1469 Flat: Trim: Eagle Rock 1469 Semi-gloss; Ceiling: Stone Brown 2112-30 Flat
    • Master Bedroom: Smoke Embers AC 28 Flat; Trim: Smoke Embers AC 28 Semi-gloss; Ceiling: Evening Blue, 2066-20 Flat
    • Nursery: Bleeker Beige HC 80 Flat; Trim: Eagle Rock 1469 Semi-gloss; Ceiling: Eagle Rock 1469 Flat
    • Living Room: Walls: Stormy Sky, 1616 Flat; Trim: Stormy Sky, 1616 Semi-gloss; Ceiling: Stormy Sky, 1616 Flat


    • Bench: West Elm
    • Chain Installation: Gracious Home
    • Artwork: HomeGoods
    • Pillows: West Elm
    • Coatrack: Grandin Road


    • Sofa: Room and Board
    • End Table: Housing Works
    • Dining Table: West Elm
    • Dining Chairs: Brooklyn Flea Market
    • Bookcases: Home Decorators Collection
    • Sconce In Reading Nook: Pottery Barn Teen
    • Wing Chair: Brooklyn Flea Market
    • Cane-top Table: Brooklyn Flea Market
    • Black + Brass Nesting Tables: Home Goods
    • Blue Floating Shelf: Custom, Eberaf,Llc
    • Ledges On Window Sills: Ikea
    • White Lamp On End Table: Brooklyn Flea Market


    • Floating Shelves In Various Finishes: Ikea
    • Barware: Home Goods
    • Bar Cart: Brooklyn Flea Market
    • Mirror: Crate And Barrel


    • Headboard: West Elm
    • Nightstands: Home Decorators Collection
    • Dresser: West Elm
    • Window Shade: J.C. Penny
    • Lamps: Home Goods
    • Overhead Light Fixture: Shade From Ikea and Ribbon From M&J Trimming
    • Ceiling Medallion: Home Depot, sprayed black


    • Crib: Ikea
    • Dresser: Housing Works
    • Area Rug: ABC Carpet
    • Lamps: Ikea
    • Window Treatment: M& J Trimming
    • Wallpaper Panels: Osborne & Little

Thanks, Virginia and Jessica!

(Images: Patrick J. Hamilton)

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