I’ve been following your blog for a couple years now. I am moving in with my boyfriend soon (yay!) and all I can think about is decorating. Of course, he has a couple wall decor items from his school, University of Michigan, that I don’t really see fitting into the apartment. However id like to at least consider the thought. Do you have any suggestions on how to take college paraphernalia and make it cute or fit into an apartment that still makes people go “wow! You did a great job decorating!”

Any help would be great!

Also…what’s the best way to start decorating an apartment? A theme/color throughout? Piece of art in each room?


Dear Alex,

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your apartment decor. The best way to go about decorating a new home is to start with what you have and slowly add to it over time with pieces you love.

The best decor advice I’ve ever heard was from when I interviewed the VP of Merchandising at One Kings Lane, Day Kornbluth, she told me that the way she approaches decorating is what her mother actually taught her and is the way she builds her wardrobe as well: collect what you love and over time, you will develop your own style from that.

It happens to be the way I decorate my own apartment (and fill my closet)—whether it’s antiques passed down from generations, shopping from refurbished vintage finds, gifts from friends and even found at Target, one of my favorite affordable decorating resources, it slowly came together over time and my living room looks like it’s decorated, but still feels like me.

It’s important to me for my home to feel like “me” and not out of a catalog or recognizable pieces—nothing’s worse than someone coming in and pointing out a piece of furniture from a cookie-cutter store. My decor also had to work with the rest of the finishes in our new home, which were more modern (not my style), as well as my hubby’s taste, which tends to be more masculine than mine.

Here’s how I developed my living room decor in 6 easy steps:

1. Find key words to describe what you want to evoke in your home.

When I purchase new decor, it has to fall into these categories for me personally:

industrial / Brooklyn






Figure out what words mean the most to you at this stage of your life and when shopping for decor, ask yourself if those words describe it.


2. Color Inspiration

What I did when I moved into my apartment was assess the focal point of the room, which was this Randy Howard painting (RIGHT) that was a surprisingly a reject from the artist and given to us. The large scale of the painting and the bold colors draw people’s eyes in as soon as they enter our living room. I also was inspired by peacock feathers after falling in love with the colors of them after buying these (LEFT) for a peacock-colored-theme fashion shoot and never used them.


3. Start with what you have an build from there.

I’ve had this chartreuse 1930’s settee since I moved into my previous apartment and my Pottery Barn sofabed wouldn’t fit through the door of my old brownstone. I snatched two halves of these on Craigslist by a couple that refinished them and have been stuck with them since. They cost exactly what I sold the sofabed for, so it’s hard to let go of a piece that didn’t cost me anything, not to mention the color is divine.

I picked up both of the pillows on it for a shoot and decided to keep them because they compliment the couch quite nicely. The throw is from my recent travel to Vietnam, so it’s not only the perfect piece to hide some wear on the old piece, but it’s also a beautiful reminder of the artisans we met on our trip.


4. Incorporate personal pieces and art.

It immediately creates your own style when you incorporate pieces that have meaning to you, whether it’s from your travels, friends or your own designs. I have so much of my own art, having received a BFA in art, but I’ve only hung a few pieces of it through my home. These tree drawings (ABOVE) not only work with the space, but have a lot of meaning because I spent months drawing the same tree over and over. The “11231” pillow also lends meaning to my decor because it’s my zip code in Brooklyn and it also was given to me by my talented artist friend, Kate.


5. Accept hand-me-downs and get crafty

Until you can afford better furniture that you would choose on your own if money were not an object, allow friends and family to pawn off their old pieces on you. You’d be surprised how you can make it work with a slight change.

This lamp (ABOVE) was passed down from my hubby’s family and I revived it with a new lampshade for only $20 at Target. The side table (ABOVE) was from my grandmother and after some repairs, looks great. Over time, you will slowly replace pieces with ones that feel more like you. I splurged (with a coupon!) on this Crate & Barrel sofa after stalking it for months and years of waiting to find the perfect one for the price I could afford. It makes me more likely to add a coat of paint to update an existing piece I own to save money on items that I will replace over time.


6. Fill in with affordable pieces

I’m not saying buy out your nearest Ikea, but instead I’m saying that it’s okay to mix in a few small pieces from stores like these, which will look more expensive when mixed in with other pieces than just from those stores. Target’s Threshold home collection has become one of my favorite resources for this. This tray (above) and my curtains are from there and I hardly spent anything to get asked “where did you get that?”


Maybe you incorporate the colors of your boyfriend’s Alma Mater into your decor, perhaps use a college-themed blanket as a throw on a chair or even sew a pillow out of the flag, frame the banner…get creative with this. Chances are, you’ll develop your style together over time and incorporate more of what you love from your trips and experiences together that it will overpower looking like a college dorm. Make shopping for your decor a fun outing for you both, rather than a chore.

Check out some of my favorite home decor resources for my own home:


Ballard Designs

Brooklyn Flea

Brooklyn Reclamation

Brimfield Antique Show

Build It Green

By Brooklyn

The Find

Jim & Lala Howard Pottery

Klaff’s Lighting