When fashion editor Taylor Harris found this one-bedroom apartment in a hip, family-friendly neighborhood just steps away from Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum, she knew the search was over. It was perfect, save a few design flaws. Think generic laminated surfaces and outdated, stuffy wallpaper. So to ensure her new home lived up to its full potential as a creative, stylish oasis, she enlisted designer Michelle Zacks to take on the project.
The goal was to create a home that reflected Harris's style-savvy eye, amplified the existing space, and felt as liveable as it did sophisticated. This meant completely rethinking the layout, renovating both the bathroom and the kitchen, and replacing every single piece of décor Harris had accumulated over the years. Though the process wasn't without its pitfalls, we have to say the finished product is pretty incredible. Get a taste of her new digs below along with Zack's tips and expert advice throughout should you be setting out on your own redesign project.
In the Entryway
"Literally not even one" item was here before Zacks stepped in, she tells us. "Everything you see in these photos was purchased during my time working with Taylor on her renovation and décor," which means that she got a completely fresh start.
"At our first meeting, I could see that her apartment had really great bones, but the kitchen and bathroom were dated, and the décor seemed to reflect a different version of the person I met that day, and the décor was reflective of 'post-college' Taylor," explains Zacks. So they both decided that "it needed to re-imagined in a way that matched her current vibe and lifestyle."
In the entryway, you can still get a sense of her bold, youthful style, thanks to the textured custom-made wall-hanging, colorful decorative objects, and sprawling plant. To give the sense more balance and order, they opted for a translucent table and kept clutter to a minimum, both of which also allow the bolder pieces to really steal the show.
In the Living Room
The same sense of energy and love of color is evident in the living room area. And while it's very true to Harris's personal taste, it also reflects the designer's eye and background. "I've lived in New York for over 20 years, but I'm originally from Southern California, so I think that those two states of mind constantly appear in my designs," says Zacks. The exposed brick peeking out in the corner paired with the bohemian layered rugs and warm colors speak to this fusion.
You have your bones that speak to the "classic pre-war 1920s" New York architecture, and then there are the decidedly California elements. "I like beachy feels and tropical vibes that are contrasted with edgier, more considered pieces. In design terms, it might be described as 'organic modernism," she expands. This little sitting area also happens to be Zacks's favorite accomplishment in the apartment. It features a gorgeous "leather Paulistano chair with large-scaled artwork behind it."
In the Kitchen
Because "the apartment itself hadn’t been renovated in quite some time," it was definitely due for some updates, both in terms of form and function, says Zacks. So they decided to completely renovate the kitchen and bathroom. Before the design, "the previous kitchen was all black-and-white laminate—very '80s looking." Since that wasn't quite Harris's style, "We went for a cozy" look instead says Zacks.
In the end, they decided on a "black, white, and brass [color] story in both the kitchen and bathroom, which ties the two spaces together nicely." This room also feels more traditional and understated than the others since it's where all the cooking and action has to happen. This means there needs to be more usable space. But they still had fun with it by introducing a modern-meets-rustic and retro feel.
And while it does feel more neutral than the other spaces, there's a sense of cohesion thanks to the "mix of different textiles, patterns, and textures" they used throughout the home to create layers, Zacks tells us. "We also used lots and lots of brass detailing in every room."
In the Dining Room
"A lot of our best finds were from Taylor digging around on Etsy," Zacks reveals, and the dining room proves it. "She found the gorgeous Moroccan rug and the mud cloth upholstered vintage dining chairs" while shopping around on Etsy, and they proved to be total scores that also happen to be one-of-a-kind finds.
Because Harris is drawn to a variety of colors, design traditions, and prints, they "ended up with a mix of eclectic styles: a little bit regency, a little modern, a touch industrial, mixed with rustic and vintage with a dash of bohemian," says Zacks. Together, the hand-picked pieces ended up creating a space that truly speaks to who she is.
And while Harris definitely isn't shy about color and pattern-mixing, there was still a guiding color scheme. "The directive was light and bright but still warm. Taylor gravitates toward creamier whites instead of cool tones. Pinks and blues became our accent colors, but the brick wall in the living room gives the space some gravitas so it doesn’t feel overtly girlish," Zacks tells us.
In the Bathroom
One of the biggest challenges of the project was the bathroom area. Zacks explains that "there is only one bathroom in the apartment, and it isn’t huge, so we wanted to get maximal with the design in this minimal space. Outside of the complete cosmetic overhaul, we also replaced the tub and added in a glass half-partition instead of using a shower curtain." This is a good trick for anyone who wants the bathroom to feel bigger than it really is. In this case, "It seriously opened up the space and looks much chicer," says Zacks.
And because it's a smaller space, they opted for more neutral tones. As in the kitchen, they chose to work with "black and white with touches of rustic wood via the custom-made vanity, which was inspired by an image of a vintage apothecary cabinet. The graphic black-and-white floor tile really makes the tiny space feel cool and special."
In the Bedroom
While the bedroom definitely wasn't as big of an overhaul as the kitchen and bathroom areas were, it still required a few minor adjustments and renovations to live up to its full potential. "In the bedroom, we replaced the closet doors, which were previously bi-fold doors," Zacks tells us. Since they "were in pretty bad shape," they swapped them out with "custom-made sliding doors."
"These not only look sleeker and more streamlined," but they actually have space-saving perks, too. "They allowed us to go with a queen size bed instead of Taylor’s previous full-size bed," says Zacks. So if you're currently struggling to squeeze your furniture into a tiny bedroom, consider swapping sliding doors that won't swing it the room and take up useable space.
On the Bed
And now for the heart of the home. The place you sleep and come to rest should inspire calm and relaxation, but this part of the apartment presented its own obstacles. For example, Zacks tells us that "even though the bedroom has two windows, it doesn't get a ton of natural light," and "light and airy" was one of the main style directives of the project. "We knew we wanted to keep that space airy and light, so the lighting was very important."
So to create a truly cozy, comfortable sanctuary, they chose "a chandelier that had multiple light bulbs, but that didn’t feel overly heavy. We also stuck to a pale color scheme and opted for cheerful artwork, light walls, and faves for florals to ensure the bedroom was brimming with life."