This Brooklyn Home Shows How to Add Color and Pattern to a Rental With Textiles

published Nov 18, 2020

This Brooklyn Home Shows How to Add Color and Pattern to a Rental With Textiles

published Nov 18, 2020
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Name: Erin Blank and husband Ben Kulo
Location: Brooklyn, New York City
Size: About 900 square feet
Years Lived In: 5 years, renting

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Erin Blank is an ethical, sustainable designer of her own label, Erin Elsie (you can also find her pieces on ErinElsie on Etsy), where she crafts handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces from reclaimed materials. Repurposing materials gives each one of her fashion items a rich story, and this is a philosophy she’s applied to the Brooklyn home she shares with her husband, Ben, who’s a photographer and artist.

Credit: Erin Derby

Though there is some paint color on some of their rental apartment’s walls, most of the color and pattern in their small-ish home comes from the gorgeous curtains and pillows sprinkled around, nearly all made by Erin herself. Erin says her motto is “live in color,” and she and Ben are clearly living that out!

Credit: Erin Derby

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Living with a partner who is also a creative artist—I realize that my style in a fun way is ever-evolving, but my constant motto is “Live in Color!”

Inspiration: I’m so fortunate to work in creative spaces and to meet so many artists that inspire me on the daily. Textiles are my all-time absolute favorite thing. I’m super sentimental and it influences the things I buy and the pieces I create for my online shop. I upcycle with thrifted goods and create new pieces with recycled/vintage fabrics. I love when pieces have a story behind them. I also love traveling and learning about artisans in different cultures. So many patterns you see in mainstream fashion were probably taken or inspired from a talented artisan from a small or indigenous community.

Credit: Erin Derby

Favorite Element: Our outdoor space! It was a blank cement canvas when we moved in and we’ve tried to bring it to life with plants. Ben creatively built some plant boxes with all found materials. We grow lots of herbs, veggies, and flowers. Gardening involves constantly learning and working with your hands, which I love. Vines from the two neighboring spaces have creeped in and I’ve tried to plant more to completely cover the space in green. Walking into our outdoor space feels like an escape. The plants are such a mood booster and there’s nothing better than walking out and seeing butterflies and bees flying about. I also pick and arrange my flowers that I’ve grown all over my apartment and I love it! Ben built a storage shed using all found or gifted materials. We love to host and entertain in our backyard or just enjoy a glass of wine, coffee, and a good book.

Credit: Erin Derby

Biggest Challenge: We work from home a lot. My dining table and kitchen counter doubles as my sewing/designing space and I’m really good at making a huge mess when I create! I’m trying better to keep my projects organized and to find a healthy balance so we can shift at night and also relax in our space.

What Friends Say: The biggest compliment I’ve ever received was, “Thank you for having us in your warm and cozy home.” It’s simple but it’s the best feeling and exactly what I want guests to feel while they are here! I grew up in Louisiana and my whole family can cook the yummiest food. There’s no better welcome than walking into a place where someone is cooking up something special. I want to pass that feeling on! 

Credit: Erin Derby

Biggest Embarrassment: Hmm… I embarrass myself often taking pictures of myself for my ErinElsie Etsy shop in my backyard or all over my neighborhood. I’m sure my neighbors are use to it by now but it’s still embarrassing because most of my pieces require movement on my part to fully show the styles!

Proudest DIY: My throw pillows and curtains! Ben came up with the great idea that we pick out a piece of fabric on our travels and I make throw pillows for our home. Now the eclectic pillows in our space have a story and remind us of these wonderful trips. I made the curtains out of vintage fabrics, and they really brought our space to life and made the bedroom so cozy. Also, we partnered with our landlord and renovated the kitchen! We are cookers and we love it.

Credit: Erin Derby

Biggest Indulgence: Lately my biggest indulgence is candles! Being self employed, we’re crafty and very responsible with spending, but I’ve learned to reward myself! My current fave candles are Voluspa. I also try a bunch of different small candle shops on Etsy.

Also, always vintage clothing and textiles. I treat myself to a few new vintage pieces every season—I’m good at bargaining but I’ll splurge on a major piece once in a while. 

Best Advice: Don’t feel rushed to perfect your space! Let it evolve with you and collect things you love that make you happy. Your space should reflect who you are and truly be your refuge. If you’re someone that loves color, don’t be afraid to use it in your home! For renters, if you can’t paint to warmup your space, use textiles—curtains or wall hangings do wonders!

Dream Sources: Shopping for vintage and textiles (vintage and new) all over the world! I miss planning travels during this Covid quarantine time. Perhaps a USA thrifting road trip will have to be next.


Credit: Erin Derby


  • Sherwin Williams — 6509 Georgian Bay
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Dresser — Vintage
  • Lamp — Vintage
  • Mirror — Vintage
  • Cafe table — Vintage from a coffee shop that was closing
  • Flower pot — Tanya Doody Ceramics
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Gray Burrow Nomad Sofa — West Elm
  • Blue Sofa — Originally from Room & Board
  • Blue Chair – Polv Dinesen, bought in NYC but best resource for pieces can be found on 1stdibs
  • Small Moroccan Rug — Vintage from 1stdibs
  • Large Pink Moroccan Rug — Vintage
  • Orange Chairs, Ottoman — Secondhand, but originally from A&G Merch
  • Floor Cushions — Handmade by me from recycled/vintage fabrics!
  • Lemons  Sicily Barkcloth Pillow — Handmade by me, with fabric from Sicily
  • Green Mapuche Wool Pillow — Handmade by me, with fabric from the Mapuche tribe artisans in Chile
  • Hawaiian barkcloth Pillow — Handmade by me, with vintage fabric from Hawaii!
  • Colombian Batik/over-dyed Pillow — Handmade by me, with hand-dyed fabric from Colombia
  • Framed Map — Vintage
  • Framed George Harrison Poster — vintage (from his boxed set – All things must Pass)
  • Art in Fireplace — From collection by Ben Kulo
  • Credenza — Vintage
  • Dresser — Vintage
  • Blue Record Player — Project Debut Carbon
  • David Bowie print — taken by photographer Geoff MacCormack
  • Abstract Painting — Brian Kauppi, Nomadic American Artist and friend! @kitbarrio
  • Chilean Volcano Landscape Photo — Ben Kulo
  • *All picture frames handmade by Ben Kulo
  • Bar-cart — Vintage
  • Side Table — Vintage
  • Indoor Plants — Our plants are all hand-me-downs
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Table — Secondhand from Pottery Barn
  • Chairs — All founds vintage
  • My sewing mannequin — Vintage gift from my mom 20 years ago! I still use it today to make my clothing for ErinElsie
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Butcher Block counters — IKEA
  • Art — Dean Dass, frame by Ben Kulo
  • Step stool — Vintage from Furnish Green
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Dresser — Vintage
  • Mirror — Vintage
  • Portrait of Tomas — by Ben Kulo
  • Glass candelabra/candle stick — Vintage
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Art Deco Headboard — Vintage from Furnish Green
  • Dresser — Vintage
  • Glass candelabra — Vintage
  • Floor Lamp — Vintage
  • Bed Lamp — Vintage
  • Sheets/ white blanket/ duvet — Christy of England
  •  Artisanal hand sewn blanket and pillow  — from India

Thanks Erin and Ben!

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