A Historic Jersey City Rental Is Open But Cozy, Spacious But Also Full of Nooks

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A round table with a long white table cloth draped over
Credit: Dana
Living room vignette — corner table

Name: Dana and husband
Location: Historic Downtown — Jersey City, New Jersey
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 1000 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

Credit: Dana
Original Late 18th Century Globe-Wernicke filing cabinets repurposed as dresser

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: We live in a duplex apartment within a brownstone built in 1852. We moved here (from right around the corner) smack in the middle of the pandemic. My husband is from Scotland, and something about this home reminded us both of some of the flats there. Aged but timeless. It had space, but so many nooks. It’s open, but cozy. It’s an apartment, but because it’s a duplex, it really feels more like a house. I never felt I could realistically find a home like this in the city.

Credit: Dana
Sleeping nook

It still feels like such a gift. Our apartment is in downtown Jersey City. I’ve lived here for nearly a decade, and I love it. We are a 15-minute walk to the best views of Manhattan, can reach Tribeca and downtown NYC via the Path train or a 7-minute ferry ride. Yet this city still feels smaller, and more neighborhood-like than its far more famous neighbor. I really appreciate that Jersey City has its own identity.

Credit: Dana
Kitchen corner with original 1920s tiling

Travel is a huge inspiration. The pieces within these walls have all been on a journey too. I like to think they bring good energy!

Given our proximity to the park, the color palette reflects a lot of earth tones and textures — cream-hued chenille throws, vintage woven baskets, stoneware, 1920s deco church chairs from North Jersey, terracotta vessels, and more.

Credit: Dana
Styling treasures found

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Storied, Personal, Collected, European

Credit: Dana
Living room view

What is your favorite room and why? Our living room. The couple before us utilized the space as a bedroom, but it just felt too good not to share. So instead we converted the office space into our bedroom/sleeping nook. It’s front facing, and from spring to fall, we get the most magical light that dances across the space. Our TV is centered on some custom shelving between two large windows facing the park and admittedly, regardless of what we’re binge watching. I’m often distracted by the allure of the trees.

Credit: Dana
Vintage sourced terracotta Trinacria

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I’ve found about 95% of what furnishes our home. My day job is in travel, but I also have an Instashop here in Jersey City that curates and sells antiques/ home vintage that I source both locally and globally. It’s hard to keep track, but my most favorite recent piece is a vintage map of Sicily I sourced in Palermo. Also a vintage terracotta Trinacria I picked up in Erice. I’m Sicilian American so this shape has been familiar since I was a kid. The symbol is known as Trinacria, a Greek word that means ‘three pointed;’ it recalls the shape of the island, which resembles a triangle. Trinacria was the earliest known name of the island of Sicily. The head refers to Greek mythology. It is said to be Medusa, a gorgon (monstrous creature) with a head of snakes, a beautiful woman seducing men who, upon looking at her, were turned into stone. In the past, it was customary to place a Trinacria behind the home’s door as a symbol of protection for the house — the Medusa would have turned to stone whoever wanted to hurt the family living inside.

Credit: Dana
Treasures amongst an early 1990s Ballard Designs gilded floor mirror

Any advice for creating a home you love? It’s a pretty obvious one, but don’t rush. Don’t put yourself in a box with a palette and hard-lined concept. Create that mood board, but be open to diverging from it. Take your time, layer around different pieces and vignettes — have fun. If you think it looks good, it’s good. And don’t be afraid to change it up. When we originally moved into this space, we had been spending so much damn time at home. I still find a change of scenery (even indoors) can work wonders for your mood. Prior to this home, I lived in a railroad apartment that I quite literally used as a personality canvas. It was chock full of treasures, color, contrast, and often clutter. I wanted this space to feel a bit more grown up and bare. I wanted to give it room to speak to me. I think we’re still in that chapter of our relationship, although I’m finding it hard not to fill the space with treasures!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity. 
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