An East Village Apartment Finds New Life Through Color and Quirky Details

Everything about this East Village apartment felt destined by devine chance. Located in the historic Christodora House, the two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit was originally constructed in 1928. While the building was first conceived of as a community center for social services, its legacy as a haven for lower Manhattan’s creatives and thinkers lives on. Katia Teran, a product manager, struck up a fast friendship with her landlords while renting during the pandemic. Then in 2022, Katia purchased the apartment directly from the couple, who’d lived there for over twenty years.

A built-in shelving system, hand-crafted by the previous owners, became the perfect place to display the couple’s unique art and object collection. A Calacatta marble side table designed by Danielle Siggerud for Audo adds polish to the charming office space.

Katia called on childhood friend Cristina Alvarez of Curio Interior Design to tackle the remodel. The two had attended elementary school together and were keen to find their way back to each other through this generative project. “Our first meeting was at a tile store,” says Cristina, who wanted to keep the initial conversations free-flowing for brainstorming. “I already knew that she was drawn to color, but I wanted to get a deeper sense of what she gravitated towards.” One of the pair’s next early meetups was to attend a Henri Matisse exhibit at MoMA—it was a formative visit as the artist’s paintings ultimately became a driving inspiration behind the home’s color palette and quirky details.

Various iterations of zellige tile bring texture and color into the kitchen, including 2x2s on the backsplash and a gorgeous burgundy 4x4 by Zia Tile on the peninsula.

The kitchen, at the geographic and metaphoric center of the apartment, required the most in-depth renovation. Closed-off walls and ineffectual storage were the first to go. Opening up the space was key to creating a sense of airiness and flow throughout the floor plan. Cristina ensconced the refrigerator within a wood-paneled millwork volume with a hidden pantry behind. Custom cabinetry, under-counting lighting, and a new suite of tile applications ground the room in both a functional and aesthetic modernity. The peninsula’s bold handmade burgundy zellige tile and the floor’s neutral checkerboard cement tile play off each other through material, tone, and scale.

At Katia’s urging, Cristina decided to keep the apartment’s original wood floors. Extensive sanding and staining was needed to restore the planks to their intended glory. “I have a lot of clients who would look at those worn floors and just want something new,” says Cristina. “But Katia was so intent on maintaining that charm.” As Cristina notes, that’s just Katia’s vibe.

The original inspiration for the apartment’s color palette, Isobel Harvey’s Blue Horned Bull painting finds prized placement in the dining room, atop a Lulu & Georgia console.
A funky patterned daybed, covered in fabric by Svenskt Tenn, makes for an ideal reading nook within the open-concept living area, bringing in personality and playfulness.

When the duo found London–based painter Isobel Harvey’s Blue Horned Bull, as seen in the dining area, their direction for the rest of the open-concept living space was set. Complimentary to the rich burgundy in the kitchen, the electric blue hue pops with unexpected zest. And with the base of warm wood tones and sumptuous neutrals anchoring the couch and rugs, funky prints are allowed to shine through the dining chairs and fabric daybed. Emma Kohlmann’s Four Portals, a gift Katia bought herself upon her graduation from business school, also finds a distinctive home in the living room, adding another layer of brightness and whimsy to the space.

An undulating headboard, dinosaur pillow by House of Hackney, and subtly graphic rug by Nordic Knots add just the right amount of quirkiness to the elevated bedroom.

Though Cristina bets Katia would’ve preferred to go louder in the bedroom, she wanted to keep it soothing and tranquil (at the request of Katia’s husband) while still showcasing unique personality. The couple agreed on a soft blue paint for the ceiling making a subtle color statement, meanwhile an offbeat printed rug and undulating curved headboard offer moments of pizzazz within a paired-back palette to appease both sides.

At the heart of the second bedroom turned office is a built-in bookcase, personally crafted for the room by the previous homeowners. Though Cristina and Katia toyed with different options for it, they ultimately wanted it to be kept in its original condition, deciding to use it as a display for Katia’s collection of travel finds, books, and art objects. “It feels special because that’s what it was always used for,” says Cristina. “The former owners were very artsy and into music, just like Katia and her husband, and that’s where they showcased everything they loved. So it still is that. And I love that history behind it.” Indeed, a fitting homage for a space full of serendipity.

Very minimal work was done in the bathroom. While the client liked the existing black and white subway tile, minor cosmetic upgrades were made with plumbing fixtures, a new vanity, mirror, and lighting.
Very minimal work was done in the bathroom. While the client liked the existing black and white subway tile, minor cosmetic upgrades were made with plumbing fixtures, a new vanity, mirror, and lighting.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest


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