Briana’s Salvaged Sanctuary

published Apr 6, 2010
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Name: Briana Horrigan and Teddy (her dog)
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Size: 500 square feet, 1 bedroom
Years lived in: 1

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A small apartment filled to the brim with a collections ranging from records to shoes to taxidermy could mean catastrophe at the hands of someone less skillful, but Briana Horrigan, an artist, vintage clothing dealer and self-proclaimed “curator of junk” has created a charming space that overflows with personality and a quirky sense of humor.

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

The apartment is a mere 500 square feet, but the ceilings rise at least 14 feet in the air, providing a sense of spaciousness and plenty of wall for decorating — of which Briana doesn’t waste an inch. Everywhere you look, her home is full of thoughtfully composed vignettes, making it feel like a museum, or at the very least a fascinating installation of curiosities — each with its own compelling backstory. She sells many of her finds at flea markets and in her Etsy shop, The Pigeon Chest, so making room for her acquisitions is essential to her livelihood. She maintains that the key to living with such abundance in a tiny space is keeping it all organized so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. I was especially in awe of her impeccably ordered double-decker “closet” which takes over her bedroom wall while adding warmth and color to the room.

Briana is off on a new adventure soon, packing up and moving to a bigger place where she’ll finally have some room to spread out, but that certainly doesn’t mean she’ll forget the valuable lessons learned from wrangling her possessions into such compact quarters.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My style: I’m torn between “impromptu backyard circus”, “nature walk for the pseudo-scientist”, and “post-apocalyptic treasure map”.

Inspiration: New England landscapes; 18th and early 19th century book illustrations, especially of animal adventures, flying machines, and edible fungi; the art of Sophie Calle and Miranda July; the junk-filled garages and crazy collections of all the quirky characters I meet in my journeys

Favorite Element: My favorite element of the house itself is definitely the remarkably high ceilings. We sure didn’t have those back in Boston. They have rescued me from being overtaken by all my treasures in this tiny space, and got me thinking in a whole different way about decorating. The height really helped me to breathe, once I’d tackled the logistics of hanging clothing twelve feet in the air. My favorite element of the home I’ve created here is an atmosphere that’s really all mine, and both relaxes and excites me. My eyes are never bored, but everything is in its place. I’m truly always happy to walk through the door, and it’s a place that I enjoy inviting the people I love into.

Biggest Challenge: This space would be small for anyone, I think, but trying to consolidate both a home and a business (especially a business that depends on the nonstop accumulation of crazy old treasures) into it was a rigorous exercise in organization. Still, I think I’m better for having managed it, despite all odds, and now I am very ready to move into a new space three times this size, come May! I know that I’ve earned it.

Biggest Embarrassment: With so little room to spare, I can’t allow anything through the door unless it’s going to either make me incredibly happy or perform an essential function. Everything in here has got to earn its keep. With these guidelines, I don’t think there’s anything terribly embarrassing, unless you count my high school yearbook, which is around here somewhere.

Proudest DIY: I’m pretty proud of all the little vignettes in my home, and every bit of organization was a challenge of thinking outside the box, but maybe the mile-high clothing storage in my bedroom gives me the biggest sense of accomplishment, as well as the most relief.

Biggest Indulgence: To be honest, there’s almost nothing in here that cost me any significant amount of money. My biggest indulgence might be that I allow myself to go totally overboard in every sense, and I’m not going to be afraid of how crazy my favorite things may appear to other people. They don’t have to come over for cocktails if they don’t want to, but they’re the ones that’ll be missing out!

Best advice: Let yourself be emotional and irrational and passionate, more often than not! If something really calls to you or a wacky DIY project sounds enticing, no matter how you may fear explaining to your friends about your rapidly accumulating collection of stuffed poodles or your homemade bathtub-turned-aquarium, live a little! Whatever keeps you interested and inspired in your space is all that matters. Not to suggest that everyone fill their every square inch with oddities, but allowing yourself to take joy in your home, having a sense of humor and occasional reckless abandon about it, is the best feng shui I can think of.

Dream source: My favorite part about my job as a vintage dealer is that I am continually amazed, sometimes horrified, and always intrigued by the things I find in the most unexpected of places. My dream source would be an all-access pass to every garage, basement, and barn, everywhere.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:

Furniture, Appliances, Lighting, etc.: My favorite resources for virtually every material thing in my life are antique stores, estate sales and flea markets off the beaten path — places where the journey is as inspiring as the destination, and the hunt is at least half the fun. I love the history and mystery behind all these things, and I like to know exactly whom I’m handing over my money to in exchange.

Artwork: The artwork in my home is predominantly antique maps and book illustrations, my own drawings (all the animal parties, obviously), and the work of my incredibly talented friends — Scott Alario, Marguerite Keyes, Adam Katseff, and Evan Widhu, among others.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Briana!

Images: Sarah Rainwater

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