A Costume Designer Transformed This “Plain White Box” into a Fun, Moody Space

published May 2, 2024

A Costume Designer Transformed This “Plain White Box” into a Fun, Moody Space

published May 2, 2024
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Bedrooms
Square feet
700
Sq ft
700

Costume designer Sue Makkoo calls her home “Lemonade,” and it’s a 700-square-foot rental apartment located in Southern California she moved into “after a trauma left our home on the East Coast unsafe to stay in. The family agreed that selling my little dream cottage was the best thing to do, so I moved to Lemonade,” Sue explains, who shares her home with her two dogs, Hudson and Huey.

Credit: Sue Makkoo

“As a costume designer I loved taking on the challenge of creating a moody, fun space out of a plain white box with two windows. This was a far cry from the neutral cottage I owned on the East Coast, with views staring lovingly into a creek and the woods beyond,” Sue explains. “My daughter challenged me to use color; I challenged myself to use pattern. How much pattern does it take to return a room to peace? After closing the door to my East Coast home and all its furnishings I began again using primarily vintage finds. Turns out this space makes me genuinely happy. I love Lemonade.”

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"I was recently in London and had realized more than any palace I wanted to see the House of Hackney," Sue explains. "A wonderful cab driver and I spent time trying to find the place as it had moved to an old church in a park. He was so invested in my seeing exactly what I wanted to see. When I walked in I cried. Literally. It was such a fun space and I felt home there."

“As a 58-year-old woman I feel the winds of change blowing. I have always done the ‘right thing’ and I think this apartment is a little rebellious. That is what I do now: challenge myself to be more rebellious and use the time we have here in exciting ways. Layering so much pattern was new and uncomfortable, but I loved the challenge. When the kids were young the only request they had was no ‘flower pictures.’ Now I indulge my love of little floral oil paintings, including one that was a movie prop from the 1940s. Green, blue, and lilac are my favorite color combinations. It always feels a bit like a rainstorm. So when I designed my sofa and also my bedroom, I remembered that this was really just for me and leaned all the way in.”

Credit: Sue Makkoo
"I used a peel and stick wallpaper in the living room and the bedroom," Sue begins. "During the pandemic I taught myself how to wallpaper, but much to my son's dismay, as he was living with me at the time, it takes two. I was able to hang this paper alone. I love the idea that if I get bored I can change the paper and change the room at very little cost. I chose to paper a small space with a darker paper because there is an ugly heating unit at eye level in the wall and I wanted to make it recede. Now you just don't notice it. I don't think I will ever go back to traditional wallpaper again."

Sue says she loves how her living room came together, and that thanks to layout it’s essentially a “great room that includes the kitchen, but the lounge space feels like it beckons you to come sit, have a bourbon, and talk the night away.” The star of the living room is the sofa, which is made up of three pieces of a Milo Baughman pit sofa that she says was in “terrible” shape. So she worked with @hilobrooklyn to recreate the sofa. “The best part of the day was when the latest stack of fabric samples would arrive and I could play. With Laura’s guidance and magic we created this sofa, and I am obsessed!

Credit: Sue Makkoo
"There needs to be a place for everything. If it is going to sit in a closet or a stack of things don’t buy it. I really do only have what makes me happy," Sue advises. "Your home is a reflection of your heart."

Other secondhand gems in the home are the 1970s-era teak live-edge coffee table Sue “bartered for in Hudson, NY. I kept texting the vendor at The Antique’s Warehouse that I was busy doing all kinds of crazy things to earn enough to buy the table. Eventually he wrote back that he thought I was so funny I just had to it. He asked what I could pay and we struck a deal.”

Credit: Sue Makkoo
"Over the years I have cleaned out the packed homes of my family as they moved to nursing homes and I vowed never to leave all that for another person to handle. I regularly purge items that no longer serve me to keep clutter at bay. I am a maximalist. I wanted to be a minimalist but that just didn’t work out so I vowed to keep things true to my spirit and nothing else," Sue admits.

She reports that the gentleman’s dresser is a “Kaiyo purchase and I had to drive to New Jersey to pick it up … only to immediately load it into a pod for the move. I guess some of these things could have been done once I got to California, but when you find a piece that moves you then you just go for it and figure the rest out later. The room feels like a collage of things that should not work together, but ultimately they do and they make each other better for it. If only we all did that.”

Resources

Credit: Sue Makkoo

LIVING ROOM

  • Leather Chair — CB2
  • Sofa — HiLo Brooklyn
  • Area Rug — Etsy
  • Little Black Chair — Cedros in San Diego
  • Marble-Top Table — My Great-Grandmother
  • Black Pendant Light — Amazon
  • Gentleman’s Dresser — Kaiyo
  • Yellow Woven Blanket — Hudsontricity
Credit: Sue Makkoo

KITCHEN

Credit: Sue Makkoo

BEDROOM

Thanks, Sue!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.