Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home (2015)
living in your home
Judy Kameon + Erik Otsea
Landscape Designer + Outdoor Furniture Designer
the out-of-africa living room
Lots of entertaining happens here. It’s the brightest and breeziest spot in the house, with high ceilings (11 feet) and a beyond-comfortable mix of versatile seating and classic, rich textures: well-worn leather, chrome, glass, and wood all float on a shaggy wool rug.
But the true star of this glowing space is the row of extra-tall windows that wrap the room on three sides. Outlined in beautiful Victorian window casings, these details could very easily have faded into the all-white walls. Painting the frames black, however (a project that can be done in a single Saturday afternoon), makes them pop against the very chic, very restrained, neutral palette in the rest of the space.
The furnishings are mostly vintage or secondhand, but the homeowner smartly chose these items in materials such as leather and chrome, which only get better with wear. A vintage springbok skin from Africa is layered over the armchair (instead of the floor) to heighten the pattern on that side of the room. And a DIY coffee table completes the look: a simple glass top supported by two stacks of vintage W magazines.
MAGAZINE STAND. Got a bunch of magazines you can’t bear to part with? Sarah turned hers into a makeshift coffee table by creating two equal-size stacks of magazines (it works best if they’re all the same title) and placing a piece of cut glass on top.
ONE-OF-A-KIND FIND. This wooden lamp was found at a thrift shop. It’s got beautiful, hand-carved bas-relief patterns and, as it turns out, was once a wallpaper-printing roller.
SEASONAL COLOR. Yellow accessories and a pop of teal add a summery splash, but come winter they can be swapped out for something rustic and plaid to curl up in.
the modern green den
Mary + Lou Castelli
Mother + Private Equity Manager
daughter, Sienna + sons Colton, Rex, Bo
Within this traditional suburban home beats a bright new modern heart. The four-story house was renovated a little at a time over an eight-year period with the help of interior designer Kristina Rinaldi. Each room is filled with upbeat energy and color while remaining open and spacious. Proof in point: this pop-y living room.
The first thing you spot, of course, is the supermodern green sofa. But the real surprise of this formal-looking room is how well it works for a family with four children under the age of six. There is plenty of play space, nothing to knock over, and all the furniture is easy to clean.
Part of the delight of this room is how traditionally the untraditional furnishings are arranged. The sofa and chairs are centered on the fireplace, while the immense green rug defines the sitting area. Clean white walls (note the seamless transition between walls and ceiling) set off the spectrum of green, while black and gold accents add a graphic sharpness. A friendly ceramic pig holds court above the mantel (the perfect vantage point to take in all this bright fun), cementing this space as the happiest room in the house.
GOOD EGGS. Great rooms tell stories and here, two Egg Chairs, originally designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958 for the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Germany, add a nice bit of design history.
ONE BOLD THING. This great Ruché sofa by Inga Sempé is the focal point of the room and shines among the calm, white surroundings.
HUMOR WINS. When a room is serious about design, a little tongue-in-cheek humor takes the edge off. Designer Harry Allen’s resin cast “piggy bank” is the perfect example.
the dipped-in-gray living room
NEW YORK CITY
This cozy living room sits at one end of an old walk-up apartment. As in all railroad-style floor plans, the rooms are connected via one long hallway—and they, too, are long and supernarrow.
To balance the “bowling alley” flow, this homeowner played up the width of her living room (the apartment’s widest point). The sofa is placed in front of the windows, with two soft chairs guarding the entrance, creating a lovely, meandering flow around the coffee table.
Adding to the perception of space is the design inspiration. The homeowner wanted the room to seem as if it were “dipped in gray.” The painted walls were left bare, so light could reflect off them (a trick that makes the 11 × 13-foot space seem larger). And the gray notes continue around the room—a light shade on the sofa, darker on the chairs—with dots of gold and wood tones tossed in for warmth.
RAW MATERIAL. In very soft, upholstery-heavy environments, adding something raw and rustic, like this carved tree stump, as a counterpoint works really well.
NEXT LEVEL RUG LAYERING. The patterns on the rugs get bolder as the rug’s size gets smaller, so even with multiple colors and prints, this trio feels like one beautifully textural compilation.
the moroccan game den
Lulu Powers + Stephen Danelian
The Entertainologist + Founder, MeeLocal
Mixing warm and cool colors can be tricky to pull off, but this living room does it stunningly well. Deep bluish-green walls wrap the space, cooling the bright sunlight streaming through the windows. The dark color contracts the large area, making the walls appear closer (and the room cozier)—something you might not want to do in a smaller space with smaller windows.
The warm touches (tangerine chairs, canary yellow sofa, splashes of red in the accents) add to the coziness, while unifying the eclectic style: a little Moroccan, a little Spanish, and a little Art Deco with an endless supply of lovely small objects. The combination makes for a rich sanctuary that’s unpretentious and instantly welcoming.
This is due in large part to the low-sitting, versatile furniture (you could plop down anywhere, even the floor, and be comfortable). Essentially, the room is divided into three parts: the game area, the gallery wall, and the fireplace—each with its own chairs, poufs, or stools. All the seating can come together to center on the immense coffee table and fireplace (for large parties), or it can split off into more intimate arrangements (for smaller gatherings). Clearly, this is a room for entertaining.
BETTER THAN TELEVISION. Having a game constantly at the ready sends a very relaxed and inviting signal. In fact, a neighbor popped by to play a quick round of backgammon during our shoot.
PHOTO-MAT-IC. Typically, people hang dark frames on light walls; here your attention is grabbed by the reverse: black and white photographs surrounded by silver or black frames.
BLUE HORIZONS. In a room so full of wonderful, rich design moments, it’s smart to choose art that’s not overly busy but still makes an impact.
the soft traditional living room
NEW YORK CITY
Apartment Therapy Founder
At first glance, this living room may look traditional, but it isn’t really. While the shapes fit that mold, the textural blend of the furniture and sunny pops of color are modern in every sense of the word.
Now, if you were to strip this room back to its bones, you’d have nothing but Sheetrock walls, cheap wood floors, and an echo-y large space. In other words, there are no architectural details to add character—all the soft warmth and welcoming comfort you see here are the result of strategically chosen (and laid out) decor.
The large magenta rug defines the area, separating it visually from the open dining room it connects to. Two identically shaped sofas flank the rug: one in a soft white fabric, the other in contrasting dark velvet. Solar shades and white linen curtains filter the sunlight and improve the acoustics, and art finishes the space, drawing your attention up the high walls.
Balance is what really makes this glowing room come to life. The Ancient Greeks believed that a balanced room promoted good health. At the very least, it creates a calming and comforting—and visually cohesive—space.
STACKED ICONS. Variations on the Apartment Therapy logo fill the corner of this room. The organic shapes and pops of color draw the eye up, emphasizing the tall walls.
OLD MEETS NEW. This antique coffee table (a rescue that once belonged to Maxwell’s grandmother) speaks of time gone by, something a room of mostly “new” furniture needs.
AN ELEPHANT STOOD HERE. This Elephant Table, designed by Mark Sage, is modeled after those you see at the circus.
HARD LINES, SOFT FINISH. Energy is created between the bright, white elements and the rich, dark ones. The movement between hard and soft, dark and light, color and neutral is what makes this room wonderful.
the dramatically different country den
Tim Cuppett + Marco Rini
Architect + Garden Designer
Inside this historic cottage sits a warm, masculine living room that will flip everything you’ve ever thought about country decor on its head. All the traditional hallmarks are here: plank walls, pine shutters, original light fixtures. And while these homeowners embraced the authentic details and country-cottage aesthetic, every other design choice brings this room racing from the 1850s into the present day.
The first thing you notice are the dark gray, high-gloss walls. They’re not only dramatic; they serve a purpose. When the Texas temperatures start rising, this space is a cool respite from the heat. Likewise, come winter, the dark walls and wood-burning fireplace become a warm and cozy place to hide from the chill.
The eclectic seating (which reads like a history of handsome furniture) furthers the old-meets-new mix. Modern elements like the Florence Knoll sofa set off the more traditional choices in the room. When things start to get too match-y, they’re intentionally mixed up. For instance, the leather armchair’s footstool was re-covered in velvet to break up the pair. The result is a room that embraces the fact that its furnishings were collected over time.
UNLIKELY INSPIRATIONS. It’s always smart to steal design notes from a favorite restaurant or bar. The idea to paint these walls such a deep, dark, glossy shade came from a small East Coast pub the homeowners once visited.
the chinese-red retreat
Ruthie Sommers + Luke McDonough
Interior Designer + CEO, AirMedia
daughters Eloise, Bailey, Posey
This small jewel box of a room beckons you toward it—and doesn’t want you to leave.
It is the work and home of interior designer Ruthie Sommers, who calls it “Ruthie on acid.” The main focal points as you enter are a pair of lovely green chairs sitting in front of the bright French doors. But once you’re inside, the corner banquette hugs the room, refocuses your attention on the coffee table, and envelops you in the rich, red moodiness of the space.
In truth, the room is awkwardly shaped, with a number of doorways and windows puncturing the walls. But you hardly notice all those architectural details, thanks to the offbeat but expert utilization of color. The use of one shade across the most prominent elements in the room (carpet, walls, banquette, trim, and doorways) draws your eye seamlessly around the space, so you take in the rich details without noticing every crevice in the wall.
While the color is intense (yes, that’s a yellow lacquer ceiling), the quietness of the room is even more notable. The wall-to-wall carpet combines with the amazing, silk-upholstered walls to dampen the acoustics, increasing the intimacy and retreat-like feeling in this corner of the house.
GO FAUX. Good decorating does not have to be fancy. Look closely: the green, marbled top on this vintage coffee table is not actually marble, but a cool, faux-painted rendition.
FOCAL POINTS. Every room should have a “moment,” big or small, that is eye-catching and special. Seen from the adjoining living room, this set of delicate green chairs demand your full attention in the study.
COLOR OVERHEAD. While the whole room is exceptional, the true surprise is the yellow high-gloss ceiling. Most accent walls are actually walls, but for a real lift, painting the ceiling is a high-impact alternative.
the fairy-tale living room
Michelle + Dave Kohanzo
CEO, Land of Nod + Banker
daughter, Emily + sons Connor, Henry, Everett
Take two steps into this whimsical living room, and you can’t help but wonder if the Mad Hatter has taken up residence in a Chicago suburb. The dark formality and playful accents are so perfectly dreamlike, you immediately want to be submerged in this fairy-tale universe.
This room is cozy and stylish but also tough; everything is meant to be loved, used—and not worried about. (When you have four kids, that last part is very important.) Classic armchairs have been perked up with a clever upholstery solution—wool blankets—which wear well and are easy to clean. After a run-in with nail polish remover, the top of the coffee table was covered in a decoupage map (an “uh-oh” that turned into an “oh, wow”). And a Lucite trunk does double-duty as a side table and storage for the family’s movie night blanket collection.
The practicality of the furnishings, however, doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of dramatic style. As is the case with all great rooms, this one comes to life through its details. A statement wall covered in Orla Kiely wallpaper showcases a cherished painting. And an abundance of furry throws, paper streamers, and custom touches, like matching wallpaper-patterned lamp shades, add a splash of design magic everywhere you look.
CUSTOMIZE IT. Plain white blinds wouldn’t have been in keeping with this homeowner’s stellar style standards, but these geometric ones most definitely are. When buying window treatments, forget basic and put your own stamp on it.
PERSONALITY PEEKS. An absolute truth in decorating: always let a little bit of the real you shine through. This mom proudly lets her eccentric flag fly with giant antlers draped in a hot pink garland and a throw pillow shaped like a fawn.
the scandinavian living room
Anne Ziegler + Scott Mason
Trend Forecaster + Entertainment Executive
Scandinavians love their clean-lined rooms and whitewashed floors that reflect light and keep interiors bright during the long, dark winter. Now, Los Angeles winters are neither long nor dark, but the pine floors you see here do bounce around a tremendous amount of sunlight. Pickled white and sealed with a pearl finish, the bare floors have a softly textured wood grain that shines.
The walls, too, are left a flat white, flowing right up to the gorgeous beamed ceiling. Within this glowing expanse, however, the homeowner has created a handful of simple, dramatic moments. Twisting wrought-iron ties are left black, illuminating this decorative element. A cerulean blue side table and vintage German botanical poster become a major statement, as do the armchair and scattered throw pillows covered in Josef Frank’s remarkable fabric.
In a busier room, these small elements would disappear. But this space perfectly follows our 80/20 Rule (see chapter 4 for more on this), injecting just enough color to punctuate without overwhelming.
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE. A vintage educational poster is just the bold statement these white walls need. Originally created in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, this poster (and others like it) are still being made by the same company today, Hagemann Wall Charts.
FRANK FABRIC. Anne is a huge Josef Frank fan. She inherited this love from her mother, who passed down two armchairs covered in Frank’s cartoonish, remarkably colorful floral fabric.
CURATED COLLECTIONS. All good collections hew to a common thread. Here, a gathering of Astier de Villatte ceramic bowls and bottles are pulled together by their glossy white finish.
the hot & cold living room
Brenda + David Bergen
Graphic Designer + Digital Media Consultant
The swirling sculpture floating across the back of this stunning room is not the largest piece of coral you’ve ever seen. It is, in fact, a fantastic use of Algue, modular pieces created by French designers Vitra Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.
Hung with fishing line, the DIY art installation began as a simple grouping above the fireplace, but it has grown up and out to become a room-defining moment. The fluidity of the sculpture is balanced by the crisp geometry of the furniture in the rest of the space. Choices here lean toward modern classics, like the Womb Chair, but the bold embrace of color, from opposite ends of the spectrum, is where things get really interesting.
Mixing bright red and crisp navy in an all-white space runs the risk of coming off as a little “Fourth of July.” That pitfall is avoided here thanks to a strategic separation of shades—red on one side of the room, blue on the other—and the addition of rich, textural components in shiny metallic and soft pink.
A contemporary space that’s warm and welcoming is not easy to pull off; this mix of clean lines, cozy textures, and interesting visuals has the perfect yin and yang balance.
CAN’T BEAT THE REAL THING. Initially, these homeowners purchased a (cheaper) replica of the classic Womb Chair but realized their mistake almost immediately (it was incredibly uncomfortable). There’s a reason this particular chair has been coveted since 1948!
the ’70s living room
Laura Jay Freedman
Shop Owner, Broken English
It takes skill to blend two decades’ worth of design influences in one room—but, wow, can it pay off when you do.
This living room belongs to a jewelry designer and boutique owner, so the fashion dial has been turned way up. The historic 1930s bungalow is situated in Franklin Hills, and the architectural details are all hallmarks of the era when it was built: the intricate dark-wood trim, the detailed mantel, the elaborate window frames. But the furnishings tell the story of another decade.
Inspired by the ’70s, plush armchairs topped with oversize furry pelts fill the room. A Lucite and glass coffee table adds sleekness while “disappearing” from view. And a rare Paul Evans credenza mirrors the fireplace on the opposite wall.
What brings it all together? Neutral brown tones that run through the wood, leather, and brass unify the space, while keeping the design eras from competing. Restraint also plays a big role. This furniture is large—there’s a sofa just off camera, too—and the additional accents are minimal, ensuring that the decorative woodwork remains a focal point in this lush, old-meets-older living room.
WOOLLY MAMMOTHS. Pelts made of wool are a great way to soften a room. These are seamlessly stitched together from smaller ones and super easy to find. (All of these were picked up on the cheap from Costco!)
LET THERE BE MUSIC. This immense, burl wood credenza opens to reveal a curated record collection. The other side contains the turntable and digital stereo that connect to speakers throughout the house.
8 WAYS to supercharge your style
1BE ABLE TO DESCRIBE WHAT YOU WANT … in words. When asked what you’re looking for in a mate or career, the answers come easily. If asked about the style of a room, however, what you want can be harder to define. Having accurate words to convey your likes and dislikes is an important starting point. This extends beyond the things you put in the room (chairs, sofa, etc.) to how you want the room to feel.
2DO YOUR RESEARCH. Scan decorating sites, magazines, and books, and pin or clip photos that appeal to you. Even if they’re unrealistic for your space, you can get an idea of the colors, textures, and patterns you like. Finally, spend some time browsing stores to get a feel for what’s out there—and what it costs.
3CHANGE THINGS SEASONALLY. Style is not static. It’s always shifting to reflect new experiences and interests—and your home should mimic that. At the beginning of every season, try putting away a few things. Then sprinkle a couple of fresh finds into the mix. They don’t even need to be new! “Shop” from your bedroom for your living room—and vice versa.
4ANALYZE YOUR SPACE. Spend some time sitting in different spots around your home to gain a new perspective on areas that might need work. Observe thoughtfully: Do you like the lighting from here? Is that space overcrowded? How would that art look with a wider mat and frame? Slowly making improvements will help you refine your style over time.
ANALYZE YOUR SPACE. This may seem like an unlikely spot for an armchair, but it was shimmied into the tight corner in order to take full advantage of the lush garden views it overlooks.
5EMBRACE SAMPLES. Even the most confident decorator benefits from living with colors, patterns, or fabrics for a little while before pulling the trigger. Paint a few big squares on your wall, pin up wallpaper samples, and drape fabric swatches over furniture—then just let them be for a few weeks. Maybe you like them. Maybe you don’t. But slowing down long enough to find out guarantees that you’ll make better decisions.
6THINK ABOUT SCALE. Envision a blank room. First, picture that room filled with a few large-scale pieces of furniture. Second, picture the room with more pieces of furniture that are smaller. Third, picture the room split evenly between the two: a few big pieces, a few smaller ones. Even without taking into account any other decorative elements, the first room you pictured will feel modern; the second, traditional; and the third, more eclectic.
7TAKE PHOTOS. If you see something you like, snap a photo of it. Taking quick pics of design ideas as you encounter them is a great way to gather inspiration for future reference. Snap individual pieces or vignettes. Don’t be shy about putting your camera phone to good use!
8SHOP VINTAGE AND SECONDHAND. Sometimes it’s easier to take a bigger style risk when an item is a one-off: a unique lamp at a thrift store or wildly printed pillows in a secondhand shop. Buying this way feels personal compared to encountering a wall of nearly identical pillows at a big-box store.