Looking at Restoration Hardware catalogs or ogling over professionally designed interiors with incredible architecture on Pinterest are great ways to find aesthetic inspiration (and motivation to earn more money), but when we’re stuck in our affordable boxes we call home it can feel impossible to make it something we’re proud of on an everyman’s budget.
Graphic designer Andrew Emerson’s Crown Heights bedroom in Brooklyn is a refreshing reminder that you can design your living space on a budget.
Andrew’s 11’x13’ room in a 3 bedroom apartment is a great example of high-low design: utilizing thrifted, hand-me-down, and Ikea finds balanced with a couple well-placed higher-end items creates a look similar to the lifting effect of wearing a great pair of shoes with proper fitting $40 jeans.
What I like about this space is the way it eclectically mixes various interior styles like the shapes of Mid-century Modern and Danish, the textures of Industrial, and the colors prominent in Southwestern / Bohemian.
We caught up with Andrew to pick his brain on how he went about outfitting his comfortable, mixed design-style pad.
Location: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY
Rent: Andrew’s portion, $1,250
Method Found: Local broker
How would you describe your home style?
The room itself had an influence on my decisions: the space is fairly big, it has big, deep windows, and two big brick walls. The room would have certainly looked different if any of those variables changed. In terms of style, it was never my goal to achieve a certain aesthetic. But if I were to pick a theme, I would say it has a strong ‘Americana’ thread. That spans the Native American and western influences to some Mid-century Modern pieces. In the end it just needs to be comfortable to live in.
What is your process for styling a room? Do you slowly add things or do you plan it out in some way first?
I’m not one to make mood boards on Pinterest, so the evolution has been pretty organic. In reality this room was built one piece at a time, over about five years, with an apartment move in the middle. Working one piece at a time means its an exercise in problem solving. When I needed a bed frame, it had to be simple, it had to have storage underneath, and it needed to be affordable. Thinking within those kinds of constraints certainly helps to narrow the search and avoid endlessly wading though options.
What’s your favorite piece, and where did you find it?
My family moved out of my childhood home right when I was moving into my first apartment. So I ended up combing through a lot of the stuff I grew up around but never paid attention to. Out of the hundreds of things I didn’t want or need, I found a few gems that formed the foundation of this room. The giant map of New York City was pulled from our attic and used to hang at my Father’s business. The dreamcatcher and snow shoes were gifted to my Mother when she worked on a Native American Reservation in the 80’s. The globe and Knoll side table were similarly dusted off and re-homed.
What was your first major piece of furniture/art/decoration? And what would you suggest a guy just getting started invest in?
An often overlooked facet, and my advice to guys starting out is to pay attention to lighting: both the fixtures and the mood they create. You can’t feel comfortable in a space if its lit like a waiting room. Having multiple options allows you to create different lighting combinations. Besides an overhead light fixture, I have a swing arm light above my bed with a very dim Edison-style bulb, a reading lamp by the couch, and the globe atop the shelves hides an incandescent bulb. They are all hooked up to remote controlled outlets, so ramping down from working, to reading, to falling asleep is just a press of a button from the bedside table.
What are your favorite places to find home things?
Craigslist and Etsy have supplemented what I couldn’t find at more generic and accessible stores. The teal upholstered chair was picked up locally on Craigslist, while the coffee table was from a woodworker on Etsy.
What are your favorite places to find budget home things?
Half my room is built from IKEA. Despite its reputation for cardboard-made furniture, there’s a lot of affordable pieces to be had. In my room the bedding, couch, corner shelving unit, and bed frame are all IKEA finds. (not the headboard, which is just coated piece of plywood from Home Depot) I think the secret is to avoid the obvious MDF made pieces in the ubiquitous ‘black-brown.’ I used to think getting the uniform sets made sense, but now I like to mix-and-match to avoid the ‘showroom’ look.
Where do you find inspiration for your home?
I mostly just follow Apartment Therapy. I’m never there looking to find specific inspiration for my space, but it’s fun to check a cool DIY before-and-after, or see what’s new in the world of bathroom tiles. Reddit’s /r/malelivingspace is a great place to see what others are up to and get inspiration, read comments, ask questions. I tend to prefer that kind of community to the more trend-reporting sites.