Brooklyn Home Tour: Alex Kalita's Bright Railroad Apartment

Your home is your castle, no matter the size (or if you’re renting). To help you feel at home in your home, we’ve partnered with The Home Depot to bring you DIY home renovation tips, tricks, and hacks.

I am 30 years old. Yet on March 1, I begged my mom to stay overnight with me. She encouraged me to pass the first night in my new apartment alone: “Think of it as an independence milestone,” she said. I emptied a box of chamomile tea and lulled myself to sleep with 30 Rock reruns, the herbal and audiovisual equivalent of a mother’s comfort.

One of the brightest railroad apartments we've ever seen. (Yes, we're jealous.)
One of the brightest railroad apartments we’ve ever seen. (Yes, we’re jealous.)
Photo by Mark Weinberg

Transitions spike my stress levels. They pull that trick on lots of us. I can weather professional and personal flux, but home is my ballast. Joan Didion nails the stabilizing power of the domestic in The Year of Magical Thinking:

I learned to find equal meaning in the repeated rituals of domestic life. Setting the table. Lighting the candles. Building the fire. Cooking. All those soufflés, all that crème caramel, all those daubes and albóndigas and gumbos. Clean sheets, stacks of clean towels, hurricane lamps for storms, enough water and food to see us through whatever geological event came our way. These fragments I have shored against my ruins.

Last year, a hefty rent hike on the apartment I shared with a roommate for six years forced me to collect my fragments in boxes. Alongside blankets, shoes, pots and pans, and paper towels, I packed up the muscle memory of which patch of bathroom floor was the warmest spot to brush my teeth in winter; what combination of cracked windows and fans would avoid setting off the smoke alarm when I browned pork chops.

For all my nostalgia, this apartment is an independence milestone. It is the first apartment I live in solo. I’ve chosen paint for scores of clients, but no one has ever asked me what color I’d like my walls to be. (The apartment is a rental, but I signed a multi-year lease while the landlord was renovating, so he kindly inquired.) I knew I wanted white, but what shade of white?

There wasn’t much I would have changed about my old place, but the buttery white walls could feel cloying when the sun streamed in. Since this new apartment shares the old’s warm southern exposure, I limited my search to a cooler spectrum of whites. That still left me with an array of undertones to select from. (One of my favorite features of the Behr paint wall at the The Home Depot is that they break down white paint chips by undertone.) The video delves into why I chose a white with mauve undertones.

My old apartment was the hodgepodge meal you make on the night you clean out your fridge. I threw together what furniture I could find free or cheap, treating decorative accessories as the pantry staples that coalesced it. While those scavenged pieces did move with me, I took a more deliberate approach to decorating this apartment. With my business slightly more established, I feel comfortable—and excited about—investing in pieces that express my aesthetic, pieces that can be mainstays of this and future homes.

For example, a modular shelving system designed by Dieter Rams suits my minimal style and can be reconfigured as my storage needs or wall space changes. A rosewood secretary anchors my bedroom and holds my linens—the spoils of the first mid-century hunt I’ve undertaken for myself, instead of for a client. Their colors and texture, respectively cool industrial and rich organic, are striking against a crisp white backdrop. Artwork from my childhood home in Brazil has gradually given way to pieces by artist friends I’ve made in Brooklyn, like Jenn Dierdorf, Tara Zabor, and Tommy Kwak.

Open shelving makes Alex's home office feel airy—just like the rest of her space.
Open shelving makes Alex’s home office feel airy—just like the rest of her space.
Photo by Mark Weinberg

Self-actualization did not motivate every new piece. Because my lease requires me to cover 80% of the floor space to reduce noise transfer between floors—a common provision in multi-family dwellings—I found myself a few area rugs short of compliant. In the dining room/office, I opted for a polypropylene rug that emulates sisal but can handle Bolognese spills. In the living room, a plush Moroccan rug brightens and cozies the space that receives the least natural light. (It’s remarkable how the rug, paired with hyper-saturated artwork and the two-tone white of wall and trim color, keeps the interior living room from feeling cave-like.)

The transition is ongoing. I continue to evaluate whether my interior passes the lifestyle test, even as that lifestyle changes. For now, I’m happy to be in process, to perfect it over time.

With a few tools and a bit of inspiration, your home (whether house, apartment, or room) can feel like, well, a home. We’ve partnered with The Home Depot to bring you DIY home renovation tips, tricks, and hacks so you can make your home the home of your dreams.

(via Food52)

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