interior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: abby clawson of hi + low

by Grace Bonney

today’s first sneak peek is courtesy of anne and takes us into the home of abby clawson low, designer and author of the blog hi + low. abby is a design director who specializes in identity and publication design. her studio projects range from logos and websites to books and collaborative projects. in addition to working for clients like chronicle books, west elm and takashimaya, abby also lent her creative talents to kate spade‘s in-house design team (where she was senior art director) from 2004 to 2007. abby now runs her own design studio and teaches at the fashion institute of technology (where i’ll be speaking tonight!) as an adjunct professor in the communication arts department. thanks to abby for sharing her beautiful home with us and thanks to anne for compiling this sneak peek. read on to hear abby’s descriptions of each photo below. as always, you can click here for full-sized (and many extra!) photos of abby’s lovely home (as well as detailed descriptions of the furniture and products in each room).

About 3 and a half years ago, after having lived in a cramped, 350 square foot space in Chinatown, Manhattan, my husband found this Park Slope, Brooklyn apartment on craigslist.org. That same night I saw it and the next morning returned with my husband to sign the lease. We have been living here ever since. The apartment consists of half of the parlor floor of an old brownstone. Being on the parlor floor, we have the luxury of 13 foot ceilings and 9 foot windows — which give us incredible light.

I don’t think my husband and I ever thought, “Let’s do our apartment this way or that.” Everything just came together organically as we added a piece here and came across another there. Most of the items have some sort of significance to us (either the date on which they were purchased, or where/how they were found). And having grown up in a do-it-yourself household, my mother taught me a lot about finding the good in something old and how to work a unique piece of furniture into a room. Several of the pieces in our apartment today are purchases my mother made while visiting me here in New York City or sent to me from home. She has been a big inspiration.

In 2001, I bought my first piece of furniture here in the city. It was a George Nelson desk. The instant I saw it I knew I had to buy it. It has clean lines and incredible craftsmanship (the wooden piano-hinged extension is quite striking). Luckily, it was at the flea market, so I got a great deal. It was also the desk I sat and worked at in the first few months of going solo and starting my own design studio, HI + LOW, last May. (Fortunately this cramped arrangement didn’t last long; in July I rented a studio in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and now sit at a much larger desk — thank goodness.)

The second piece of furniture I acquired was the off-white upholstered chair in my living room. The chair was $35 at a thrift store in Salt Lake City, and covered in a floral yellow and orange vinyl. I was in Utah attending a family reunion at the time and didn’t think I could get it home to NYC. My mom bought it, drove it to California, reupholstered it herself, and freighted it to Brooklyn as a gift. So nice.

My best purchases, I would have to say, were the bookshelves in our living/dining room and bedroom. They are the standard galvanized steel and fiberboard shelves found in most hardware stores and garages. I really love the color of the fiberboard – a warm neutral – and the cool metal posts both nicely contrast everything we have in our apartment. And the price was incredibly cheap (each bookshelf cost $39.99). Since we LOVE books (my husband is an avid reader and I am an avid collector) we were able to add more shelves as our collection grew without breaking the bank.

Living in a rental apartment we are not able to paint the walls (they are the standard rental ‘white’), but we are able to let our very colorful collection of books express a rich and eclectic palette in an otherwise neutral space.

Besides books, I also love chairs. Right now we have 10 chairs in our 1 bedroom apartment. I would like to have more, but until we move to a bigger space, I’ll just have to admire other chairs from a distance. One of my favorite designers is Paul McCobb (his chairs are always listed on Ebay). Simple designs with interesting combinations of materials and great lines always catch my eye. Luckily, in the world of second-hand, you can come by vintage and antique chairs at fairly low prices, so it can be an exercise in control to limit yourself to buying a well-edited few. But I’m still working on that. For more information on the items and furniture in my photos, click here.

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