Color and Pattern Add Character to This Plain, Conventional Condo
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Name: Allison Malafronte
Location: Somerset Hills, New Jersey
Type of home: Condo
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years, owned
Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I live in the suburbs of New Jersey in a two-bedroom condo, but I worked in New York City for more than 10 years and always wanted to live in a Brooklyn brownstone that I envisioned decorating with boho flair. I love living out here with so much open space, and I enjoy being surrounded by the beauty of nature, but condos can be pretty uniform in their layouts and architecture.
I knew I could add character and color through the decor, and I started by keeping folders on my phone or Pinterest of styles I loved. A few choice paint colors really helped set the tone. The pink in the living room is “Rose Blush” by Benjamin Moore and the yellow in the kitchen and office are “You Are My Sunshine” by Benjamin Moore. I layered in eclectic furniture, rugs, pillows, paintings, plants, wallpaper, DIY decor, and artful objects to create that artsy style I had always dreamed about.
I am a writer and editor who has always been an artist at heart. I write about fine art and design as my profession, but my own artistic side fully came to the surface when I had the opportunity to design and decorate this apartment. It was like having a blank canvas and clean state to write my story and style on. The process has been a real blessing, and little by little, I put myself together as an artist as I worked to put this place together. I call it my humble, artistic abode — it’s not huge or full of expensive things, but it’s an expression of the artist and designer in me. “Home is where the art is” has been my motto!
Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Boho, maximalist, colorful, cheerful, and collected.
What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room to look at is probably the living room, but my favorite room to be in is the corner dining area by the window, which has a full view of the living room and which I turned into a makeshift artist studio and little sanctuary over the last few years. Early in the morning, I sit at the dining room table and do my scripture reading and prayer time in front of the open windows (where the same bird, or so it seems to me, comes back every spring and perches right outside my window, singing loudly and beautifully). On the other side of the table I work on my art and DIY projects.
Over the last few years I started painting with watercolors, learned to make hooped embroidery to hang on the walls, began hand-painting and decorating pieces of furniture, became slightly obsessed with decoupaging fabric and paper onto various surfaces, started making decorative paper flowers out of old literature and art history book pages, and so on. All of these little projects helped add personal, handmade touches around the apartment.
This is how my house was growing up: My mother was very creative and resourceful, and she made many things by hand. I love following in her footsteps in that way. The other reason the dining area is my favorite place in the house is because it’s also where I host little get-togethers and enjoy the company of family and friends.
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? One of the last pieces I bought to finish the living room was the Kalie curtains from Anthropologie Home (I would include the link, but they’re sold out!), which I first saw five years ago and put in a folder on my phone before I even moved in here. I also got brass bird tie-backs from Anthropologie to complete the look. Birds are a recurring theme here — my two-year-old niece calls it “The Birdie House.” It was also a small victory step in DIY because I was forced to learn how to hang curtains and use a power drill for the first time!
Any advice for creating a home you love? I think something I have learned over the last couple of years is that home is a haven. It’s a place you should enjoy spending time in, and also a place where others feel comfortable and welcome. I had no rules for myself when I started decorating — I simply filled the rooms with everything that I love and visually respond to.
For me, that’s florals, botanicals, birds, bright color, bold patterns, anything with script on it, paintings, music, art and design books, anything that reminds me of Italy, objects or textiles from independent artists I admire, and some of my own handmade touches.
If you follow your heart in your home, it will be an honest reflection of who you are! Don’t worry about it being on trend or even matching. Bring it home and play with it. Mix and match colors and patterns, and try out arrangements and combinations in different, unexpected ways.
I would also like to recommend exploring your creativity and DIY spirit! There are so many things you can do to make your home your own on a budget, and so many online sources and tutorials to help. Lastly, try to enjoy the process! When I first moved in, I was pretty overwhelmed, and it probably took me three full years to get every room done the way I envisioned. I had to take it one step at a time, and really pay attention to what resonated with me so I could figure out my design style.
Some things flowed easily (like the plate wall in the kitchen) and other things took multiple tries to get right (like the gallery wall over the living room couch). But the experimentation, playing, searching (for me that was Anthropologie Home, Opalhouse, World Market, Rifle Paper Co., Etsy, HomeGoods, HGTV Magazine, and few really great bloggers), DIYing, and even the frustrations and setbacks were all part of the process. If you think of it as an ongoing creative challenge with no rules, the steps you take can be as fun and fulfilling as seeing the final result!