The Small/Cool Contest Vibe Winner’s Home Is Like a Little Jewel Box

published Jul 27, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
"My golden arches! I love how these etageres relate to the wallpaper, the curves of the furniture, the gingko leaves on the wall, and even the ceiling lampshade," Mayer wrote in her entry. "The acrylic coffee table is actually two C tables on casters so they can move as needed. Usually one has my dinner and the other has my laptop!"

One look inside Madelaine Mayer’s 616-square-foot New York City apartment and it’s clear to see that the space is a total mood. It’s bright, balanced, and teeming with color and personality. Intended to be a place where she could be “reborn” on both a “personal and professional level” after a difficult year, Mayer’s main goal in creating her “re-starter home,” as she calls it, was to make it feel as full of as much joy as possible. As the founder and Design principal of her company AD:ROIT, decorating her space also served as an opportunity to practice what she preaches when working with clients. 

“[I always tell my clients to] start with what brings you joy,” Mayer says. “Figure out what you feel is missing in the space and what you want to bring into it,” and for her, that meant finding pieces with the right aesthetic and shapes that felt harmonious with the mood she was trying to create. As you can see, it worked. This year, Mayer is our first-ever 2023 Small/Cool Contest Vibe Category Winner, and we couldn’t be happier!

"I think every lady should have a proper dressing table, and you can't go wrong with a rich navy with gold accents," Mayer wrote. "I wanted to surround myself with beautiful pieces from women artists, and this collection of originals and prints perfectly complements the statement drapery (also by a female artist)!"

When Mayer was first designing her apartment, one big challenge stood out from all of the rest: How do you create a space using joy as your backdrop that also doubles as an office, a place to recharge, a place to host and entertain, and a place to rest and feel restored… all in less than 650 square feet?

“I work from home, so it was [about] finding a way to organize all of the furniture to create distinct zones for relaxing, entertaining, resting, working while all still feeling cohesive, but with distinct personalities,” she says, while also identifying lots of opportunities for “sneaky storage.” 

"The living room entry is across from a large angled window, providing tons of light and open city views, so it was a no-brainer to highlight it with floor length drapery," Mayer wrote. "I wanted the space to feel feminine and luxurious, with gentle curves, soft textures, glamorous brass accents, and thoughtful details."

This year, for the first time, our 2023 Small/Cool Contest brought together a judging panel including Apartment Therapy Media’s founder and CEO, Maxwell Ryan; Emmy-nominated Queer Eye TV host and design expert Bobby Berk, whose debut book, Right at Home: How Good Design Is Good for the Mind, releases September 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. Together, our three judges picked four winners in the categories of Vibe, Cleverness, and Creativity, and Functionality, with each category winner taking home $250.

In the Vibe category, our judges looked for the space they felt exemplified the best design and aesthetic, and when they came across Mayer’s submission it wasn’t only her creativity and smart selections that stood out to them — it was the home’s overall energy. 

"Whenever possible I take drapery wall to wall," Mayer explained in her entry. "It makes the window, and by extension the whole room, look larger and brighter. Hanging them 15 inches off the wall aligns them with the DIY air conditioner cover and creates more sneaky storage. I have shelves and a hamper back there — instant linen closet!"

As our panel deliberated, Yokota said the energy in Mayer’s space created such a strong pull for her that she wanted to “go visit her, like, I want to go explore every room [and] I want to be a guest there,” while Ryan said while the vibe for the space was “absolutely off the charts,” Mayer’s accessories — like brass finishes and bold colors — made the space feel “grounded” and welcoming. “There are just nice little touches where everything feels balanced and calm.”

"I work from home, so an adjustable desk with great lighting and room for an oversized monitor was essential," Mayer wrote in her entry. "The carved wood screen provides sneaky storage for large items and shifts to be a Zoom background for meetings. I call it my office door and love how well it complements the rug and TV credenza."

Berk called the space “a little jewel box,” with a “consistent vibe,” fueled by a “common thread of color that ties every aspect of the space together.”

Mayer’s use of blues, greens, and golds are familiar go-tos for the designer, who says she’s “never met a shade of teal, turquoise, aqua, or blue green that I didn’t love.” Using so much color could derail the vibe of the space, but Ryan says Mayer’s space shows off “lots of restraint.” 

She’s made plenty of room for joy to shine through.

This year, our readers also voted for one grand prize winner — who will win $1,000 — out of 71 entries that made it to a public voting round. Want to see who it is? Get to know our 2023 Small/Cool Contest grand prize winner

"To make every inch count, I sourced pieces to exactly fit the space, replaced closet doors with curtains, and created pockets of sneaky storage wherever possible," Mayer wrote in her entry. "Most pieces do at least two jobs, like storage ottomans, so the space can easily transform between working, entertaining, and resting."

Congratulations to Madelaine and all of our winners!