Erin & John Paul’s Stylish Studio

published Sep 26, 2015
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(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

Name: Erin Lyons and John Paul Doguin
Location: Georgetown; Washington, DC
Size: 525 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; Rented

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Meet Erin and John Paul. Erin’s a writer and JP works on a design team at a federal agency. I shot their studio one week before they moved into a larger one-bedroom apartment downstairs; I had seen their place for the first time a few days earlier and insisted we do a House Tour before they packed up!

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These two. (Image credit: Natalie Grasso)
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

I’ll tell you why. Here’s a small space that didn’t feel cramped: the “bedroom” felt distinct from the “living room,” and both felt distinct from the “office”. It didn’t feel stuffed with, well, stuff, either. And yet, they’ve managed to fold in so many things that complement their rich and varied interests: Erin’s books, JP’s vinyl, and lots of meaningful art and objects from talented friends and family members.

Technically, it probably works because they’ve edited hard and placed it all on a muted, light canvas. But actually I think it works because JP and Erin are a little bit magic. Their little household is so much more than the sum of its parts; Erin says their secret to success lies in “supporting each other’s passions and interests generously.” For example, it’s important to her for JP to have an awesome turntable setup since it’s totally his thing, and he always encourages (or at least overlooks) the rate at which she accumulates paperbacks.

And doesn’t that kind of confirm something you’ve always suspected? The best design advice is good marriage advice, too.

(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style:
Erin: Functional, Usonian (how pretentious is that? I just wanted to use that word), my sister says “minimalist, relaxed, art-based, sentimental (since everything has meaning attached)” — I like that. Nothing gets in without a purpose or a story.
JP: Comfortable, organized

Erin: The Gropius House in Lincoln, Mass.; the design blogs of my sister (Raised by Design) and mother (House Wren Studio); houses of family friends; the Ikea catalog; Apartment Therapy
JP: Bauhaus, Chicago School (First and Second), Prairie School, Midwest, Great Lakes, Gropius House

Favorite Element:
Erin: All of the art and objects that our friends and family have made: the domino set made by my dad; the shadowbox made by my mom; the owl my uncle carved; Nicholas Nixon’s photographs; the art by JP’s MassArt classmates; our collection of Jay Ryan posters.
JP: Hard to pick one — turntables and artwork.

Biggest Challenge:
Erin: The small kitchen. It has taken some of the joy out of cooking, for sure. I’ve burned myself many times. It was all charming at first to make do with four plates, four bowls, one tiny countertop, and no microwave, but now I’m over it. And related, entertaining: our whole social life used to revolve around having friends over for lavish meals. I’ve read all the articles about entertaining in a small space, but it’s just not the same.
JP: Natural light

What Friends Say:
Erin: “It’s small but it’s comfortable — you’ve really made the most of the space” and “Why do you have an anteater under glass?” The biggest compliment was when our 12-year-old niece came to stay with us and she said she’d like to live in a place like ours when she grows up — but she was also on her way back from her second trip to the vending machine in the basement.
JP: “I thought your apartment was going to be smaller.”

Biggest Embarrassment:
Erin: Not being able to give houseguests some privacy. Despite that, we’ve had tons of visitors. We put an air mattress where the coffee table is, which kind of makes that area feel like a fort. The dressing room at least allows people to change and get ready in private. And we’re lucky to live in such an amazing location that we’re able to be out all day with our guests, enjoying DC.
JP: Visible cords and cables (electrical, audio/visual, technology).

Proudest DIY:
Erin: My hanging job of the artwork around the TV — that required some tricky maths. I wish we had more space for DIY projects. I grew up in a total DIY house: my mom is a professional textile artist (sewing, wool-dyeing, rug-hooking) and my dad is a woodworker and my sisters are super crafty. But where would we get the tools and the space? I’m trying to work up the nerve to ask if I can spray paint clay pots on the loading dock.

Biggest Indulgence:
Erin: Books and records.
JP: Professional frames with museum glass on some pieces.

Best Advice:
Erin: Support each other’s passions and interests generously. Make space for each other. It was important to me for John Paul to have a turntable setup, because mixing is a big outlet for him. And he wanted me to have a nice space I could write in, and he never complains about the constant influx of books (or the lack of a steady second income).
JP: If you haven’t used it in six months, put it in a box. If you haven’t opened the box in a year, donate, recycle, or throw it out.

Dream Sources:
Erin: Vitsoe shelving, Room & Board, Design Within Reach, Etsy, Shiprock Santa Fe, my dad’s woodworking
JP: Knoll, Wright Chicago, Vitsoe, Shiprock Santa Fe


(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Couch: Bob’s Discount Furniture
  • Coffee table: Conran for JCPenney
  • Lamps: Conran for JCPenney
  • Bookshelves: Ikea
  • Media cabinet: Ikea
  • Dressers: Ikea
  • Record storage: Ikea
  • Speakers: Focal CMS 50
  • Speaker wall mounts: K&M 24470 from B&H
  • Rug: West Elm
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Bed: Room & Board
  • Bedspread: wedding gift from Rajka
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • His and her desks: CB2
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

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Thanks, Erin & John Paul!