Colleen's Sunny DC Studio

Colleen's Sunny DC Studio

Nicole Crowder
Jun 20, 2013

Name: Colleen Kelly
Location: Capitol Hill, Washington DC
Size: 400 square feet
Years lived  1 year; renting

One quick glance at Colleen's stylish studio in Capitol Hill and you'll rethink the possibilities of a small space. The amazing thing is that in this hyper visual culture where photos are ubiquitous and often crucial to selling/buying a place, Colleen picked this studio almost entirely sight unseen. She answered a brief Craigslist ad that didn't include photos but did mention those magical words, "French doors," and the rest is history.

The lovely polished parquet floors and french doors instantly lend themselves to a European aesthetic. When she's not contributing articles to the publications and outlets she writes for, Colleen retreats to her other love: painting. She crafted a painter's nook that doubles as a dresser and armoire for her trinkets and family photos, and also as a mini office space.

Although the studio is only 400 square feet, the ample sunlight that streams in from the two windows makes it seem lighter and larger. Colleen has also become a bit of a pro at enhancing the space by simply readjusting the placement of her couch or table. Every so often, she rearranges the room to sway the eye in a different direction and play with the layout.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style:  My style is eclectic and evolving. I find inspiration everywhere (for example, Google-imaging phrases like 'Cool Studio Apartment'), but having my own space is my main source — I grew up with five siblings and shared a room for 18 years. A place that is all mine is something I consider a luxury, and it motivates me to make it a reflection of me, a place where I love to be and where others love to come.

Favorite element: The balcony and French doors! It reminds me of a Parisian apartment, and I love sitting out there with a glass of wine or my coffee in the morning.

Biggest Challenge: It goes without saying that living in a small space comes with some challenges! I love to cook and have people over for dinner and drinks, and it was really important to me to have a space where people could relax. The furniture in this studio has probably been rearranged 20 different times before I got it to feel right.

What Friends Say: "It's so you!" or "Where can I plug in my hair dryer?" (See 'Biggest Embarrassment.')

Biggest Embarrassment: The bathroom has no outlets! Luckily, my beauty routine is pretty minimal (nonexistent?) so this is really only a problem for my Panasonic toothbrush that loses power at inconvenient times (say, when I've just finished a glass of Shiraz and am running late to meet someone).

Proudest DIY: Does putting together the IKEA DACKE kitchen island count? It was a lucky Craigslist find and even if it counted as DIY, it technically doesn't qualify in my case because it wouldn't have made it up the three flights of stairs to my apartment without the help of an extremely kind DC Yellow Cab driver and his Toyota Sienna. I put it together with hope, ambition and (a lot) of blood, sweat and tears. And I actually mean blood.

Biggest Indulgence: Probably the calfskin rug. And the loveseat – I bought it secondhand from an interior designer and probably paid more than most would for a used couch, but it was so classic and the perfect size for my space!

Best advice: Don't be afraid to make holes in the walls. This wasn't actually advice, but knowledge gleaned from years of observing my father's paralyzing fear of messing up the drywall. As a result, he has an amazing, dusty collection of photographs and art leaning against the wall in his office.

Also, I was once told not to be snobby about my sources – that style can't be bought and you can find it anywhere. This was fashion advice from a friend, but it also inspired my apartment décor philosophy.

Finally, my mom told me not to invest in expensive furniture until I own a place. She meant so that I wouldn't ruin it by U-Hauling it across the country, but its most valuable application is that it makes you free to change your mind, experiment, and play with your space, which ultimately ends up refining your style.

Dream Source(s): Flea markets in Saint-Ouen and furniture showrooms in High Point, NC.

Resources of Note:


• Duvet and pillowcase: Home Goods
• Chairs: goodwill and reupholster
• Calf skin: Sam's Club
• Table and bowl: market in south africa; table: Home Goods
• Table: Home Goods
• Couch/Loveseat: Macy's Home.
• Pillow: Eastern Market
• Turkish towels: Eastern Market
• Brass Bar cart: Craigslist
• Lamp: Tarket
• Orchid: Home Depot
• Sundry items on tray: Various sources
• Mannequin: Amazon
• Bedding: Ralph Lauren
• Side table: home goods
• Chandelier: Ikea
• Lamp: goodwill
• Lampshade: Target
• Assortment of frames and hanging umbrella lamp: Goodwill (lamp was redecorated and stripped and painted)
• Wicker table: goodwill

• Rug: Home Goods
• Kitchen table: Ikea


• Bistro chairs: bought from neighbor
• Ceramic table: Home Goods
• Plant and lantern: Home Depot


• Bag: Cannes, France
• Framed mirror: Home Goods
• Antlers: Fiance's uncle
• Dresser: Craigslist
• Jewelry holder Plate: Goodwill
• Horseshoe: Texas
• Pictures frames: Target and 
• Palm: Palm Sunday
• Easel: Amazon
• Tables: Ikea, but purchased through Craigslist
• Armoire: Purchased from former tenant
• Initials: Michael's
• Bag: Fiance's father's camera bag
• Yashica Camera: Gift from fiancé's father
• Art supplies: Utretcht
• Apple: Home Goods
• Drawing figure: Utrecht
• Cigar box: Gift from fiancé
• Sheep skin: Gift from fiancé's mother
• Stools: target

Thanks, Colleen!

(Images: Nicole Crowder )

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