This Art Director Thought She Loved Neutrals — Until She Started Decorating Her Sunny San Juan Apartment

Homes Around the World

This Art Director Thought She Loved Neutrals — Until She Started Decorating Her Sunny San Juan Apartment

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Name: Valentina and Rafael, with cats Taco and Coco
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Size: 644 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years Lived In: 1 year, renting

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We found this apartment on FB Marketplace a year into the pandemic, which felt like a miracle. What I most love about this space is how bright and welcoming it is thanks to the big windows. Our apartment is located in a very urban area of San Juan, so having this serene and spacious apartment really feels like a breath of fresh air from the busy surroundings. My partner and I both work from home, which is why we decided to move somewhere spacious, where we could really separate work and home.

I am an art director for the local leading interior design and architecture magazine, Modo de Vida. I’ve always been into interior design, but was focused more on my photography and graphic design work, so working at an interior design magazine has really combined everything together nicely. My partner works in advertising and is a musician, which is why our space has those creative touches around each room.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My style of home decor has changed a bit since I moved in this apartment. I thought I was more into neutrals, but working from home has really been an eye-opener about how much I craved pops of color around the apartment. I would say my style is minimal eclectic.

Inspiration: My inspiration has been creators like Alexandra Gater on YouTube, Chango & Co., and the colors of our tropical island. Being in warm weather yearlong really inspires bright and warm colors.

Favorite Element: My favorite thing about our home is our gallery wall with the wavy “stairs” painted behind. It’s the first thing you see when you come through the door and it always puts a smile on my face. The prints chosen for this wall were all thought out and hold a special meaning to us. Most of them are from local artists we love.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was figuring out our style; it’s the first time we both moved in with a partner. There were a lot of moments at first where we weren’t sure what to do in each space, but doing happy mediums has really helped us become closer and truly makes this space feel ours.

Proudest DIY: My proudest DIYs are the litter box pieces of furniture, which were inspired by Alexandra Gater. We have two, one in the living room and one in our bedroom. It’s the perfect piece of furniture to hide the mess and smell that comes with having litter boxes. I was so proud of them, I used to show our friends and family when they visited. It’s not just an IKEA locker, it’s a cute litter box!

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Our apartment has three bedrooms, which were originally intended to be a primary bedroom, a guest bedroom, and an office space for both of us. As we started to live in the space, we decided to make the guest bedroom my office, with a sofa bed if anyone needed to stay over. It’s the best decision we’ve made! Now my partner has his office filled with instruments and recording equipment and I have a cute office space to take video calls and get inspired to work.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? We have Renaissance portraits of our pets on our bedroom shelves (Taco, Coco, and our dog Tini, who passed away last year). I love having a quirky way of displaying them, and the outfits they have really represent their personalities. I also really enjoy our set of spice jars and how organized they are, which is perfect for our daily cooking.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: For our mini bar, we originally were looking at bar carts, but quickly realized that we didn’t want to compromise space in our dining area, so we opted for a wall mini bar with shelves from IKEA. It’s been very practical and cute to decorate through the seasons. So, my tip is to use wall space as much as you can!

Does your home reflect your home country/city in any way? Our home is very bright and has pops of colors, which I feel reflects Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a sunny and vibrant island, which are elements we made sure to incorporate in our space.

What are your favorite places to shop for home décor that can only be found in your country? I love to buy things to decorate our apartment from small shops like Luca, Manzana Studio, candles and room sprays from Palm Shade Studio, and flowers from AO Studio.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? My absolute best decorating advice is follow your gut! As I mentioned before, I was originally going for an all white and beige space (which can be beautiful) but my gut insisted on color and I really love it. The colors in my apartment really make the space feel happier.



  • Shoe Storage — IKEA
  • Mirrors on wall — IKEA
  • Bench — IKEA
  • Green Pillow — Bought locally by artisan Fernando Sosa


  • Sofa — Viva Carpets
  • Coffee Table — Versanora Kingston Coffee Table
  • Area Rug— Urban Outfitters
  • Mustard Throw — Urban Outfitters
  • Coffee Table Book Luca
  • Vase Manzana Studio
  • Bookshelf — IKEA


  • Table — Viva Carpets
  • Chairs — Alyss
  • Lamp — Luminarte
  • Wall Tapestry — Society6


  • Spice organizing set — AOZITA


  • Bedframe — IKEA
  • Lamps — Globe Electric
  • Pillows & Throw — Marshall’s
  • Bedside Tables — Alyss
  • Floating Shelves — ​IKEA
  • Floor Mirror — IKEA
  • Locker made into litter furniture — IKEA


  • Sofa bed — ​Marketplace
  • Pillow — ​Urban Outfitters
  • Side Table — West Elm
  • Magazines Modo de Vida

Thanks Valentina!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity. Share Your Style: House Tour & House Call Submission Form