The Insider: Affordable Decorating, With a Glance to the Past, in Bay Ridge


    Evan Schwartz and his wife, Rebekah, were “tired of spending all their money on rent,” so they left Park Slope and migrated south to Bay Ridge.

    “At first I pooh-poohed the idea, but 24 hours later it was a done deal,” said Schwartz, an interior designer for private clients and Homepolish, a company that provides affordable by-the-hour design services. “The streets are wide, it’s quiet, there’s good food. Yes, the commute to Manhattan is annoying, but the rent is reasonable and you get more space.”

    What’s more, he added, is that the view of the Verrazzano, his favorite bridge, “made me fall in love with New York all over again” — that is, for the first time since he arrived here from the Midwest 14 years ago to attend Pratt for photography and take interior design courses at Parsons, SVA and the New York School of Interior Design.

    Schwartz calls the 900-square-foot, one-bedroom Bay Ridge apartment “my practice pad.” There, “I experiment and see what works,” he said. “I love putting colors together and making little vignettes with objects. It’s supposed to be fun and whimsical.”

    For instance, though the apartment came painted “rental white,” Schwartz treated the wall between the two living room windows to a coat of Benjamin Moore’s Holiday Wreath. Then he filled it with an assortment of framed pictures.

    “It’s a little more sophisticated and traditional, and I wanted something that would draw your eye across the room and give it more depth,” he said.

    Other things Schwartz loves: art hung gallery-style, sheepskin throws to warm up inexpensive wood seating, hunting for vintage finds, hacking IKEA items, creating art from the unexpected, making his own furniture, incorporating personal collectibles into home décor and saving money.

    “I would love to step it up a notch,” he said, “but this is what we have right now. That’s what I tell my clients: it’s a high-low thing. You can have a few good pieces, and pepper in the rest.”

    See below for more from Schwartz’s bag of affordable decorating tricks.

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    The Room and Board sofa is a “versatile, classic style that can be linked to any era,” Schwartz said.

    He made the coffee table out of pine wood and plumbing pipe. The orange rocker (top) is from Modernica.

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    The old wooden bowling set is the sort of nostalgic thing Schwartz collects and sells on his site, Brooklyn Auction Barn. “I’m not a pack rat, but I do think more is more. If you’re drawn to something, don’t get one — get the whole basket.”

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    One end of the large living room is given over largely to a salon-style wall of framed art, with overflow propped along the baseboard. Many of the photos are Schwartz’s own work.

    The black bench is an outdoor Dexter bench from West Elm, softened with a sheepskin throw. The wire bookcase is from CB2.

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    One wall in the bedroom is painted Benjamin Moore‘s Garden Oasis or what Schwartz calls “tennis-court green.”

    Bed and bedding from West Elm, as are the papier maché antlers above the bed, whose horns Schwartz dipped in gold leaf. The folding chair is a discontinued IKEA item, the art above it an old archery target Schwartz mounted on canvas stretchers.

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    The striped entry hall was a weekend project that took the couple eight hours to complete. “I wanted something with a wow factor when you walk in,” Schwartz said. They used Frog tape to mask off the stripes, choosing a glossy gray paint that would “pop, but not be too contrasty.”

    Affordable Interior Design in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

    In the arched niche typical of prewar apartment buildings, over a telephone table holding a vintage typewriter (the sole remaining from a former collection), Schwartz arranged a display of family photos, eyeglasses, bottles and other collectibles.

    “The commonality for me is nostalgia — the idea of touching something and envisioning it once being used by someone. I love that connection to the past.”

    [Photos: Claire Esparros for Homepolish]

    The Insider is Brownstoner’s in-depth look at a notable interior design/renovation project, by design journalist Cara Greenberg. The stories are original to Brownstoner; the photos may have been published before.

    Got a project to propose for The Insider? Please contact Cara at caramia447 at gmail dot com.

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