Kevin's Cool, Collected Studio Cocktail

Kevin's Cool, Collected Studio Cocktail


Designer: Kevin Dumais
Location: Financial District, New York, New York
Size: 475 square feet

The players are familiar, but the play's the thing, in a surprising studio that manages miles of style in barely a piéd of terre. Kevin's assembled cast is vintage, transparent, fine-lined and good-boned, coaxing a ridiculous amount of function (and style) out of — and into — a 475 square-foot model apartment.

Pulled and polished from flea markets, and mined from familiar retail sources with a sophisticate's eye, the pieces in designer Kevin Dumais' model studio apartment at 116 John Street, in the Financial District ("FiDi" if you're Tweeting) are a lesson in how to pull off a cool, calm and collected look, and proof that even in the wake of a cash-draining move into new digs, you've still got enough dough left over to craft and curate a look that's anything but basic.

He's also made smart, smart use of paint, not just covering walls but using it to define transition, expand space, or tame scale. With can, roller and brush, he's made sense of the builder's bewildering brew of soffits, jogs, zigs and zags. Steps inside the front door, Kevin creates some modern camouflage with hand-painted lines that pitch a crafty tent, and suddenly those low ceilings seem by choice and not default. The chic night- or day- bed hides in plain sight, in an alcove defined by a cloak of midnight-inspired paint.

But Kevin's choice of super dark paint in the sleeping alcove and (not pictured) the standard kitchen never weighs the space down. Cooler colors, a glass table/desk, see-through wire-framed chairs, and the warmth of a vintage credenza give the tiny space a crisp refreshing air, like a swanky swig of an ice-cold vodka martini.

Kevin was one of five designers working with one of five different floorplans for MetroLoft, a downtown developer. His little piece of heaven garnered the praise of Deborah Berke, called in to pick the best of the five. Deborah bent the rules and awarded Kevin with a shared first-place prize, proving (as Apartment Therapy readers have long known) a tiny footprint is no obstacle when you've got well-heeled style up your sleeve.

(See the three other models here, here and here. The other first place is coming up later this week, and is a name familiar to Apartment Therapy readers… stay tuned!)

What floorplan did you get and what was the square footage? The 475 square foot Studio

What was your decorating budget? $6000.

Who's your fictional client/resident? I was designing for the young financial district sophisticate that has a relaxed downtown lifestyle and an appreciation for vintage furniture and modern art.

What was your inspiration piece or first decision made? The first decision was to create an impactful entrance in the small foyer space. Referring back to some of my favorite artists, I was inspired by Franz Kline, a New York based artist known for abstract expressionism in the 40's & 50's. The angular hand-painted treatment on the foyer walls and ceiling distract from the predefined borders of the foyer and create an energetic open space in the windowless room.

What was your biggest splurge? Why? The biggest splurge was the vintage rosewood chest of drawers that I found while hunting through the immense inventory at Horseman Antiques in Brooklyn. Not only was I looking for a cabinet with height to play off the verticality of the studio, it also had stunning carved wood details that complimented the collected artistic approach I was taking with the design.

What "usual suspects" were on your shopping list? First, the local flea markets: you get the best prices for unique finds that make any interior interesting and personal. Then of course those go-to places like West Elm, CB2… and you can't move into a new apartment without a trip to IKEA!

What source will people find most surprising, given the budget? The most surprising source with my minimal budget was the custom upholstered daybed I designed, made by one of my go-to workrooms, Emanuel Decorators. In this industry it truly helps to build good relationships with your vendors.

What were the biggest "builder basic" challenges in the unit? Size!

How did you decide what and where to paint? When two or more colors are used in a room, I always stop and start the paint at a return in the wall or a beam so that the change in color creates a monolithic volume. I wanted to define areas of the studio to give the feeling of separate rooms. Painting the far wall a dark grey color and wrapping it onto the ceiling created an intimate sleeping alcove. The kitchen also received the same dark paint color to balance out the bold pattern of the foyer and tie in the dark wood cabinetry.

What's the one idea someone should steal from your design? Go bold in the entryway of your home; create an over-scaled bold pattern on the walls.

Don't miss: The all-over freehand entry stripes; custom daybed; paint parameters; fresh vintage mix; the curated approach to retail sources; the D-shaped canvas, found at a flea market and then over-painted.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My aesthetic combines the classic lines of mid-century modern design with an updated sensibility and a subtle color palette to create an atmosphere of casual luxury.

Inspiration: I frequently look back at design legends and modern artists. For this model apartment challenge I looked back at Jean-Michel Frank and Franz Kline.

Favorite Element: The 1970's black leather lounge chair purchased at the Brooklyn Flea. I'm a pushover for unique vintage chairs.

Biggest Challenge: Creating a functional layout in a one-room apartment.

What Friends Say: Beautiful work!

Biggest Embarrassment: Hmmm…

Proudest DIY: Restoring the condition of the wood on the vintage chest of drawers. When I purchased it, the original finish had been stripped away, leaving it dry and brittle. A little elbow grease and linseed oil made the chest look new again, and worth far more than what I spent.

Biggest Indulgence: The vintage rosewood chest and custom daybed.

Best Advice: When decorating a small space, keep the color palette and furnishings to a tight cohesive collection. It will create a comforting environment.

Dream Sources: Wyeth, a museum quality mid-century modern furniture showroom. I can never afford it but go all the time for inspiration.

Resources of Note:


    • Foyer, studio walls, and ceiling: Benjamin Moore Apparition 860
    • Kitchen walls, ceiling and sleeping alcove: Benjamin Moore Iron Mountain 2134-30
    • Bathroom walls and ceiling: Benjamin Moore Willow Creek 1468
    • Doors and trim: Benjamin Moore Black Beauty 2128-10
    • Foyer wall pattern: Benjamin Moore Twilight 2058-10


    • "Element" console Table: CB2
    • "Expedition" mirror: Arteriors Home
    • Vintage ceramic lamps, Brooklyn Flea
    • Black linen lamp shades: Just Shades
    • Photography (not shown), Hector Sanchez Photography
    • Frames, A.I. Friedman


    • Vintage black Leather lounge chair: Brooklyn Flea
    • Glass waterfall desk: Wisteria
    • Silver metal arm chair: Lostine
    • Wood blinds: Distinctive Window Treatments
    • Papier-mâché tortoise shell: West Elm
    • Totem floor lamp: West Elm
    • Vintage side tables: Hell's Kitchen Flea
    • 2 table lamps: Hell's Kitchen Flea
    • Bedding: IKEA
    • Decorative pillows: Canvas Home
    • Custom daybed: Emanuel Decorators
    • Upholstery fabric: Zarin Fabrics
    • Cowhide rug: IKEA
    • Collection of paintings: Hell's Kitchen Flea and The Mystery Shop


    • Rooster photograph: Hector Sanchez Photography
    • Ice bucket: Hell's Kitchen Flea
    • Cutting board and glasses: IKEA
    • Bowl and napkins: West Elm


    • Shower curtain, Restoration Hardware
    • Side table: West Elm

Thanks, Kevin!

(Images: Patrick J. Hamilton Portrait: Jack Berman)

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