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Behind the Before & After: The Clever Choices That Inspired this Colorful Makeover

published Jun 30, 2023
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Credit: Photo: Armando Rafael; Props: Margaret Ward

When engineer-turned-comedian Ayanna wanted to add some color to her white-box Brooklyn studio apartment, we jumped at the chance to play with paint. Ayanna wanted to let her “controlled maximalist” style shine without taking over the 487-square-foot space,  plus she needed a photogenic backdrop for recording videos and auditions. The result was dramatic, cozy, and as full of personality as the performer herself.

We all love an after moment — but what choices get us there? In Ayanna’s case, they involved a cohesive color palette, playful patterns, and some smart strategizing. Here’s a closer look and some tips for doing the same in your space!

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Credit: Photo: Armando Rafael; Props: Margaret Ward, Photo: Armando Rafael; Props: Margaret Ward

Let Your Own Decor Inspire You

You know who has really great taste? You. When you’re not sure which paint color to choose, let a favorite piece of existing decor narrow things down. Repeating a color found in a piece of art or beloved chair will help create a unified theme. For Ayanna, we took our cue from her stunning cheetah wallpaper, painting the three non-wallpapered walls Frosty Pink 2010-70 by Benjamin Moore to match the paper’s background.

“Painting Ayanna’s walls to complement the wallpaper is a classic design choice,” said designer and visual artist Sara Weissler. “Using the background color carries the eye all around the room and creates a cohesive statement, while allowing the pattern to be a feature.”

The color also hit the emotional note that Ayanna was after. “My goal was to make this my sanctuary for healing post-marital separation,” she said. “The pink adds an extra layer of femininity while not being TOO PINK.” And since Ayanna often has to reorganize her space for work, we opted for Benjamin Moore Regal Select Interior Paint. Its superior durability and washability will let most scuffs wipe away easily.

Credit: Photo: Armando Rafael; Props: Margaret Ward

Choose the Correct Finish for the Ceiling

Perhaps the biggest dose of drama came from Ayanna’s ceiling, which we coated in rich and inky Black HC-190 by Benjamin Moore. Don’t be afraid to go big with color on the ceiling — they call it the fifth wall for a reason!

There’s only one must: Use a matte or other flat finish. You want the ceiling to reflect as little light as possible, unless you’re into the whole wearing-sunglasses-inside vibe. Plus, the higher the gloss, the more obvious the flaws, from uneven areas to smudged paint. (The exception to this rule is a smooth ceiling with a glassy lacquer finish — totally stunning, and best left to the pros.) When done well, a colorful ceiling is a one-of-a-kind showstopper.

“It’s better than I expected, and my expectations were high,” Ayanna says. “And it makes the space feel bigger.”

Credit: Photo: Armando Rafael; Props: Margaret Ward

Create a Seamless Final Effect

To give the new ceiling extra visual impact, Sara incorporated matching black hardware and fixtures, like plant hangers and a gorgeous chandelier. This monochrome look creates an unbroken effect, as if the lights and plants are simply growing out of the ceiling. It’s a low-effort trick that makes for a more polished result.

“I love how all my hooks blend in so it feels like the ceiling never ends, which is much needed in a space this small,” Ayanna says.