Michelle’s Sweet and Eclectic Studio

updated Mar 10, 2020
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(Image credit: Liana Hayles Newton)

Name: Michelle Konar
Location: Upper West Side — Manhattan, New York
Size: 330 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5 years; Rent

As a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, Michelle learned to hone her creativity. As a graduate she has taken those skills and applied them to her work in advertising, as well as in her home. Unafraid to take on a project, she is always looking for ways to improve her space. Refinishing and repainting furniture that she brings home from vintage stores or flea markets, adding color to her walls and creating custom artwork are just some of the ways that she has personalized her studio on the upper west side of Manhattan.

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

If Michelle’s home looks familiar, that’s because she was part of Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool contest, charming readers with her eclectic style.

Part of that charm is the way that Michelle is true to her own style. Eschewing the typical advice given to those who live in a small space to buy furniture to match the size of the room, she prefers to buy pieces that she loves, regardless of scale, that she will keep over the long term. Carefully selecting items that will take on a new life with a bit of work and a new coat of paint, she often has a story behind any given piece of furniture. Items that she found in flea markets or worked on with help from her family or friends fill the home and give a sense of history and individuality.

An avid crafter and DIY proponent, interested in projects in the home as well as graphic design, printing and book binding, she did not hesitate to create a custom cork board for her kitchen to pin special items and to compliment the shade of paint she used in her living room. After measuring and painting the cork to match her wall, she installed it in her kitchen only to find that the cork responded to the conditions in a kitchen with quite a bit of expanding and contracting. Not to be deterred, she re-worked her idea, cutting the cork into rectangles inspired by subway tiles. The space between the pieces of cork gave the material the room it needed.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Graphic, layered, bold, patterned, classic, antique, customized.

Inspiration: While studying graphic design, I was constantly inspired by typography and patterns, and this apartment is very much the result of those passions. Glancing around, you discover a collection of typographic items, from letterforms to the antique letterpress and type trays, and layers of patterns — from the mats behind artwork to the pillows on the bed.

Favorite Element: My patio! Outdoor space is such a rarity in New York and I utilize the space as much as possible — from starting my day out there with my coffee, inviting a friend over for dinner or cocktails, or curling up with a book, a blanket and a whiskey after a long day at work.

Biggest Challenge: Despite being such a small space, surprisingly it’s not storage! I would say that it’s the size of my kitchen. I love to cook and I may be one of the few New Yorkers who use all four burners at once, even when making dinner for just myself! Luckily, I found a great buffet at the flea markets in Brimfield, Massachusetts last year which has doubled my counter space and provides storage for my massive collection of bakeware.

What Friends Say: It’s not so much what they say as it is about their interaction within the space. Since things are constantly being updated, they love coming over and trying to spot my latest DIY project or newest flea market find. I will never forget the first time my coworker Parker came over — he spent the first thirty minutes in my apartment pointing out of all my projects, from refinished furniture to découpaged storage boxes; it was fun!

Biggest Embarrassment: My curtains are too short and my pictures are hung too high; luckily, no one has ever called me out on that… though I just admitted it to the world, oops! And I can’t apologize enough for my neighbor and the state of his patio.

Proudest DIY: The kitchen backsplash, which is made from painted pieces of cork cut down to subway tile size. I came up with the idea randomly and I was so scared it would turn out to be a disaster that I never told a soul about the project until I had finished it. I’m so happy with the outcome — it was a simple task that helped my basic rental have a little more character.

Biggest Indulgence: Truthfully, just living in this apartment! I recently graduated from college and this is my first apartment, so I’ve had to make some financial sacrifices to live on my own. That and I don’t believe you can ever have too many throw pillows, potted plants or fresh cut flowers!

Best Advice: Don’t feel constrained by the space you have; adapt to the space and allow it to grow with you, and take your time putting it together.

And if you live in a small space, don’t think you have to paint the walls all one color or that you can’t have normal-sized pieces of furniture! Get creative and work with the space to create the home you’ve always imagined for yourself.

Dream Sources: Flea markets in Paris, Rome, and Brimfield as well as antique shops in small towns across the country; Olde Good Things; ABC Carpet and Home

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Accent wall: Martha Stewart’s Yucca Plant
    • Other walls:Martha Stewart’s Bedford Grey
    • Bathroom wall: Martha Stewart’s Seal


    • Curtains: Urban Outfitters
    • Dresser: inherited from a friend (who found it on the curb)
    • Linen storage bins: Container Store
    • Mirror: Ikea
    • Underneath storage bins: Container Store
    • Cardboard deer: Cardboard Safari, découpage-ed
    • Giraffe hooks: World Market
    • Type trays: flea market in NYC
    • Hooks: Anthropologie
    • Bookshelf: hand-me-down from family
    • Chair: found in Brooklyn, NY
    • Pillow case: DIY, made with Liberty of London fabric
    • Side table: Craigslist, refinished
    • Rug: West Elm


    • Couch: West Elm
    • Black pillows: DIY using napkins purchased at Target
    • Round pillows: Urban Outfitters
    • Typestache poster: Old Tom Foolery
    • Dinosaur Jr poster: Justin Walsh (http://www.resist-imposters.com)
    • Underneath storage bins: Ikea
    • Stool/side table: CB2
    • Rug: Crate & Barrel


    • Buffet: flea market in Brimfield, MA
    • Magnetic board: Ikea, découpage-ed
    • Table: Craigslist
    • Chairs: Room & Board via Craigslist, refinished
    • Pendant lamp: Urban Outfitters, refinished
    • Rug: Ikea


    • Bed: flea market in Raleigh, NC, refinished
    • Quilt: Target
    • Duvet: Ralph Lauren, purchased at TJ Maxx
    • Pillows: West Elm, Ikea, and DIY
    • Bedside tables: hand-me-downs from family
    • Knobs: Urban Outfitters
    • Lamps: lampsplus.com
    • Fan: Hunter
    • Artwork: self-made
    • Curtains: hand-me-downs from family
    • Curtain tiebacks: Urban Out


    • Shower curtain: Target
    • Towels: Canvas Home, World Market
    • Soap dispenser: Anthropologie
    • Map poster: Paper Source
    • History print: self-made
    • Folk-art print: self-made
    • Abstract pattern print: self-made, silkscreened
    • Rug: Ikea


    • TV stand: Ikea
    • Underneath storage: Pier 1 Imports, painted and découpage-ed
    • Artwork: self-made
    • Chair: World Market
    • Throw pillow: West Elm
    • Mirror: found in Brooklyn, NY
    • Type tray: flea market in Brimfield, MA
    • Suitcase: flea market in Raleigh, NC


    • Chairs: Target
    • Rug: Thom Filicia for Safevieh, purchased on Joss&Main
    • Lights: Target
    • Frames: found on the curb in Manhattan
    • Side table: West Elm
    • Plant stand: Ikea, painted
    • Flower pots: Home Depot

Thanks, Michelle!

(Images: Liana Walker )

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Re-edited from a post originally published. 6.13.14 – AB