Are You Ready to Meet the Grand Prize Winner of the Small/Cool Contest?

updated Jul 27, 2023
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"What we absolutely adore about this space is its vibrant, colorful nature that speaks volumes about what I do," Castellanos wrote in her entry. "The abundance of natural light during the day fills the space, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. We love to watch the sunset from here and hang out with our friends."

The 2023 Small/Cool Contest kicked off just about four months ago, when we put out our now-annual call for the smallest, coolest homes in the entire world. So many people entered, sharing the most gorgeous homes filled with the most brilliant small-space solutions. 

We narrowed all of those submissions down to 71 final entries (it was very hard!) spanning 11 countries (and featuring a whopping 24 disco balls!), and put them to our readers for a public vote. You had the chance to vote once a day every day for your favorites, and we heard you loud and clear…

The 2023 Small/Cool Contest Readers’ Choice Grand Prize Winner is Luisa Castellanos for her 980-square-foot apartment in Colombia!

"As a creative person, it is essential that everything reflects my fun and eclectic personality," Castellanos wrote. "The dining table is thrifted, and the chairs and bench are colorful rattan woven by Colombian artisans, which perfectly complements the artwork we chose for this room."

“My home’s style is an absolute eclectic [mix], filled with my own illustrations and vibrant colors,” says Castellanos. “As the owner of a fashion brand that specializes in printed clothes (@Eloisa Studio), you’ll find graphic elements and fabrics adorning every corner and furniture piece in my home. It’s a true reflection of my creative essence and soul, and I absolutely adore it!”

Castellanos’ space — which she’s only lived in for six months — is a master class in thoughtful curation. “I have no reservations about mixing patterns and colors,” she explained in her entry. “Artwork adorns every corner, and I have made a conscious effort to decorate using only local brands and thrifted furniture.” 

Just a few stunning examples: restored living-room furniture that started its life in a ’70s-era hotel, a gallery wall filled with Castellanos’ own art as well as pieces made by her artist friends, and the thrifted dining table that’s complemented by chairs and a bench made of vibrant rattan woven by Colombian artisans. She calls that dining room “hands down my favorite part of the house,” and says its colors and textures “just make me happy every time I step in.” 

"The mid-modern furniture in my living room is my absolute favorite, as it once graced the halls of an iconic '70s hotel," Castellanos explained. "We found and restored, adding a touch of nostalgia and charm. I created a gallery wall with my artist friends' artworks alongside mine to give the space a unique touch."

Castellanos, a graphic designer and illustrator who’s currently working with her team on a forthcoming home decor line that will feature her fabrics, called her personality “fun and eclectic” in her entry, and she wanted her home to match. Our readers clearly decided that it totally does just that!

For her big win, Castellanos will nab a cool $1,000.

"I work as a creative director and illustrator, and this is where all the magic happens," Castellanos wrote in her entry. "So, it was very important to have a calm yet colorful and bold space that reflects my work and personality, especially in terms of color. I also wanted to create a print clash between the chair and my artwork."

For our 2023 Small/Cool Contest, we also brought together a three-judge panel — including Apartment Therapy Media’s founder and CEO, Maxwell Ryan; Emmy-nominated TV host and design expert Bobby Berk, of “Queer Eye” fame, whose debut book, “Right at Home: How Good Design Is Good for the Mind,” releases Sept. 12, 2023; and therapist-turned-interior-designer Anita Yokota, author of the best-selling book, “HOME THERAPY,” who uses her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT) as inspiration for her work in Southern California — to select four winners in the categories of Vibe, Cleverness, Creativity, and Functionality. They’ll each win $250. (Read all about them at those links!)

While the judges gathered, we asked them for their thoughts on Castellanos’ winning apartment. 

"I love my bright workspace!" Castellanos wrote in her entry. "It boosts my productivity and relaxation. As a fashion brand owner specializing in printed clothes, I turned a favorite fabric into a unique office chair. It adds personality and creates a striking contrast, giving the room a cool and captivating vibe."

Ryan said the home was “excellently done,” while Berk called it “beautiful.”

“I love the simplicity of it but also the maximalism of it,” Berk added. “I think they’ve done a great job of bringing in lots of color and texture and pattern and interest without it being overwhelming.”

Yokota pointed out that beyond the home’s gorgeous aesthetics, “the functionality is there as well. Thoughtful placement of the furniture — I can see that instantly.”

How both form and function come together is what Castellanos cherishes about her home, which she shares with her partner and cat: “To make my home truly functional for me, I focused on creating a space that boosts productivity and keeps me connected to my creative journey,” she says. “Natural light plays a crucial role in elevating the atmosphere of my apartment, and that’s one of the reasons why I love it so much.”

"We really like the layout of our apartment, perfect for two people and a pet," Castellanos wrote.

For anyone else hoping to design a home they love, Castellanos’ advice is “to embrace the uniqueness and buy those quirky pieces that truly resonate with you and your style. Let your inner child guide your choices and create a space that brings you joy!”

Luisa, congratulations on your big win!