Before and After: A Fiber Artist’s Rental Apartment Redo Features Gorgeous IKEA Hacks and Much More
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Name: Ben Cuevas, and my pet tarantula is named Thierry Spoodler (after famed fashion designer Thierry Mugler).
Location: Silver Lake — Los Angeles, California
Size: 850 square foot
Type of Home: One-bedroom apartment, with workspace
Years lived in: 2.5 years, renting
“I found my home at a wild time. It was the height of the pandemic, in April of 2020. My old building sold to a developer, and I was going through a bad breakup, right when it felt like the whole world was falling apart due to COVID,” begins artist Ben Cuevas. “This place became my safe haven. I was very intentional about creating a space that could be a place for healing, where I could nurture all the parts of myself I wanted to give space to flourish.”
“This apartment had great bones, including a large work area with beamed ceilings, picture-rail moldings, and high base-boards — rare things to find in an apartment! It was built in 1968, which is a perfect match for the kind of mid-century style I’ve always been attracted to,” they explain. “The floor plan is open, but with clearly defined separations between work, living, eating, and sleeping areas. I liked how the bedroom and bathroom are kind of in their own little wing, separate from the living/working/dining areas. It’s the ideal mix of open concept with clearly defined space.” But though Ben appreciated the apartment’s architecture, they also wanted to put their own spin on the space. Inspired by Amy Sedaris’ design advice, Ben added a tile backsplash in the kitchen, installed bookshelves in the living room, gave the whole bathroom an update, and more.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: My style is an eclectic mix of mid-century modern, Art deco, Bohemian, and luxe influences. I love the idea of lived-in luxury, using materials that feel rich but inviting, like worn-in leather, or plush velvet. I’m really attracted to geometric shapes, and like to draw connections between different design movements and cultures. For instance, in my dining room, I have a custom Art Deco mirror hand made by local stained-glass artist Harpal Sodhi, paired with a Scandinavian-designed Turkish flatweave rug from IKEA. While they come from totally different eras and parts of the world, they have angles and lines that reference each other, while playing with different scales of pattern. The geometric references carry throughout my apartment, from the hexagonal tile backsplash in my kitchen, to the modern abstract jacquard weaving on my duvet, and more.
I’m definitely not a minimalist, but I’m not quite a maximalist either. I live and design by a philosophy of just enough, always striving for balance between visual interest and ease. I find the transition from Art Deco to mid-century modernism especially interesting, and I love blending those two styles together. I love mixing metals too, especially brushed brass, powder-coated black, and chrome. Finding ways to mix metals that still feels cohesive can really add a bespoke feeling to your space.
Inspiration: My main influence for my home came from the earth (I’m a Taurus Sun), specifically the colors of malachite and azurite. I love rich gem tones, and green being the color for the heart chakra, I wanted to put emerald front and center to make this a space of heart-centered healing. I’m a bit of a witch and am sensitive to the ways that energies flow, so I worked with Mark Ainley of Sense of Space Contemporary Feng Shui to fine tune the balance of the elements. Mark’s insight via our Zoom sessions was such a valuable source of inspiration, and made everything come together beautifully and harmoniously.
Favorite Element: My favorite element in my home is my bookcase. I designed it myself and had it built by California Closets. I love curling up in the corner of the couch by my bookcase at the end of the day, surrounded by so many things that I love. Being near all my books, plants, art, and zines makes me feel like I’m living in my own little library nook of all my favorite things.
Biggest Challenge: My biggest challenge was the pandemic. Moving right in the midst of lockdown meant that everything took so much longer than expected — I waited a whole year for my velvet knot pillow to arrive! My couch was backordered for six months, and it took almost twice as long to get my dining room chairs delivered. Patience paid off though, and I was able to use all my downtime during the pandemic to really focus on making my vision for my home come true.
Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY is a toss-up between the credenza in my work area, and the kitchen backsplash. I installed that whole backsplash by myself in just two days, and I even bought a fun new little table saw for the project, to add to my tool collection.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Using my home as my art studio, it gets activated in some pretty unique ways. My workspace is very modular and my computer desk is on saw horses, so it can easily turn into more of a workshop type of space, with room to use my knitting machine, or mount textiles on large canvases. I do a lot of hand knitting on my couch, or at my dining room table, so the whole great-room area is my atelier as much as it’s also my living space. I really love the freedom that comes from being able to work on my art any time inspiration strikes, without the need to go somewhere far to do what I’m passionate about.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: For me, Feng Shui is essential to getting the most out of a smaller space. There are so many pragmatic principles that help maximize flow and enjoyment of your space. Mark Ainley’s Feng Shui consulting was such an incredible resource and font of inspiration.
Thinking of scale when mixing patterns is one of my favorite design tricks. You always want to pair patterns at different scales in the same area. For instance, in my bedroom the rug is a very large-scale abstract pattern, paired with the duvet that has a mid-scale woven pattern, and a smaller scale pattern in the texture of the knit blanket on top of that. Mixing pattern sizes creates visual interest and ensures that two patterns at the same scale aren’t competing for attention.
The idea of repetition, rhythm, and rhyme is another concept I find extremely helpful when designing a space. Around my apartment, you’ll notice emerald green repeated at various intervals that create a kind of visual rhythm. In the living room, the green velvet has a beat with the plants on the bookshelves and the green lamps on the end tables, allowing the eye to move from one moment to the next in a pleasing way. The velvety feel is carried through to the living room floor with layered rugs echoing softness from the pillows and upholstery. The idea of rhyming and rhythm continues with other colors and textures too, like the alternating white/brown leather furniture pieces throughout the space.
Also, consider swapping out any/all of your lighting. It’s not that hard to install a new a light fixture and it makes such a huge difference to upgrade from the standard fixtures most apartments come with.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? The best decorating advice I ever received came from Amy Sedaris in her home tour video for The Cut. In that YouTube video, she says that she viewed her rental deposit as her design fee — which I think is just brilliant. If you’re renting, but plan to stay put for a while and want to really make your space your own, consider your deposit the fee you pay for being able to live in a space you truly love and can call your own.
And lastly, my best home secret is where I hide my trashcans! There was nowhere to put a trash and recycle bin in the kitchen or under the cabinets, so I had to find a way to hide them in plain sight. It turns out that IKEA’s KNODD trash cans fit perfectly inside West Elm’s woven seagrass baskets. It was a wonderful coincidence that not only solved a design problem, but added to the overall aesthetic of my home.
PAINT & COLORS
- Bedroom accent wall — Benjamin Moore “Graphite“
- The rest of the place, I’m not sure. The apartment came painted already in this color.
- Woven Seagrass Baskets — West Elm
- Coat Rack — West Elm (out of stock)
- Shoe Rack — Wayfair / Williston Forge (out of stock)
- Timber Charme Tan Sectional — Article
- Green Velvet Club Chairs — Christopher Knight Home Store
- Velvet Green Pillows — CB2 (out of stock)
- X motif pillows — CB2
- Velvet Knot Pillow — Wayfair / Brayden Studio
- Yellow Triangle Motif Pillow — World Market (out of stock)
- Bookcase — California Closets
- End tables — West Elm (out of stock)
- Lamps — West Elm
- Blue rug — Wayfair / Union Rustic
- Faux Cowhide — World Market
- Media Console — vintage / estate sale
- Skull candleholder — Remy Gierke
- Skeleton Print — Ben Cuevas
- Knit Hearts in Bell Jars — Ben Cuevas
- Egg Chair — Pangea Home Collection (going out of business sale)
- Hexagon self-adhesive backsplash — Sunwings
- Bed & Headboard — Article (out of stock)
- End tables — Target (out of stock)
- Rug — World Market (out of stock)
- Dresser Wayfair (out of stock)
- Drawer Pulls — Rowzec
- Bench — AllModern (our of stock)
- Justina Blakeney Peace Love Plants Hook Throw Pillow — Paynes Gray
- Glass Gem Lamp — West Elm
- Hanging Globe Lamps — West Elm
This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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