sneak peek: michael quinn

this glimpse into michael quinn’s carroll gardens, brooklyn apartment showcases a true generosity of spirit – his home is open to friends, animals and things! in addition to working for the well-known mannquin company, rootstein, michael is ever crafting, styling, set designing and event planning! and he is able to put all display experience to good use using the dual principles of ‘put like with like’ and ‘how high can i reach with a hammer.’ (michael’s apartment is also featured in one of our favorite books – the find by stan williams) {thanks michael! and thanks to michelle talan for the lovely photographs!} amy a.

[Living with so much for so long feels a bit like wandering off into a woods of my own making.  I have been collecting things my whole life, but I came to New York after school without too much stuff, and worked in publishing, so money was tight.  I used to stay late after work and my friend in the art department would help me make things to hang on my barren walls.  It seems laughable now, but it was also really formative, in a way; that time, that devotion, was a certain genesis for something great. Like a lot of other people, I started off with a lot of my family’s castoffs, but that tendency to shelter has come to include a huge variety of things, animals, even people.  Many people have called this place home over the years, if only for a short while, and I think the place absorbs and reflects those energies.  By and large this apartment has become something of a refugee camp for Things That No One Else Wants. I am one of those people who thinks if you love something, you can find a way to incorporate it into the mix; if something speaks to me, there is always room in my inn.]

[photo above: This is more of a Platonic ideal of a desk than a place where I actually do work.  I grew up in a really small house, then a series of tiny apartments, so I have a lifelong habit of working, always, at my kitchen table. One of my prized possessions is my father’s high school classroom copy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.  The chair is one of the first things I got when I moved to this neighborhood.  I thought it seemed so 1940’s Private I, but it has mechanical bull tendencies; it has bucked nearly every person who’s ever sat in it.  Its patchwork cushion is one my mother made in the 1970’s; the pattern is, I believe, “Log Cabin.”]

[photo above: Believe it or not, that peel-and-stick tile floor was the selling point.  I had always wanted to live in a place with a black-and-white checkered floor.  I have an almost pathological tendency to focus on the merits of one single (read:  dangerously inconsequential) detail at the expense of the oft-lauded “big picture.”  (Here that picture included a toilet lurching dangerously towards the tub; a crumbling plaster ceiling; doors that swell like melons in the summer and fly open at a touch in winter).]

[photo above: For me, this is the heart of the place.  It’s filled with pictures of people and animals that I have loved and who have passed; and sacred things that people have given to me.  This is like memento central.  The two old dresser drawers were salvaged by my old boyfriend and hung on the wall as a place for my shrines; I had never lived in a place with plaster walls before, and was little-prepared for the challenge of getting a nail in.]

CLICK HERE for more of michael’s peek (and all the images on one page!)

[photo above: I have slept in this bed nearly my whole life; there is a great story about it in this wonderful book by Toni Schlesinger called Five Flights Up, from when I lived in it with a boyfriend on 2nd Street and Avenue C.  Near the head of the bed is a painting by my friend, Nina Bednarski; it’s called “Migration.”  It’s done on an old window Nina dragged with her on her own migration from Wisconsin. The painting above the bed is called “The Little Ghost” (after the poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay) and is done by one of my New York heroes, Regina Bartkoff. Regina is a waitress at El Sombrero, where I celebrated every special occasion of my life for over a decade; over time I found out she was also this incredible artist: an actress, a writer, a painter.]

[photo above: This mantle is one of those gorgeous built-ins that can only be experienced by living in an old apartment.  It’s so wonderfully ornate and grand. The mantle features my nativity collection, inspired by one my grandparents had; even with the years’ inevitable casualties, they never took away, they only added, so there was about a 5 to 1, Mary to Joseph ratio.  There is something about this idea that feels so right to me.  Here, we have an abundance of kings; the shepherds are not very well represented.]

[photo above: Considering my catch-as-catch-can approach to decorating, it seems appropriate that there is a lot of patchwork here.  The vinyl furniture is from my grandparents basement on Long Island; they had a complete room set up down there, little regarded, like a memory. If there is a blue-ribbon prize for ferns, I would like to award it to myself, although truth be told the light coming in is of the forest-floor variety.  This is one place where ferns and the notoriously finicky African violets thrive.]

[photo above: This was my grandfather’s organ; he couldn’t read a note of music but he could play anything after hearing it once.  Alas, this is not a gift I share.  Once a year I like to bang out some carols at Christmastime; the “vibraphone” setting hides a multitude of sins.  It’s like all reverb, all of the time.  The Liberace songbook was in my grandmother’s library, as it is mine, with no visible trace of irony.]

  1. Jessica says:

    I SO identify with the notion of choosing a home based on one stand-out feature … a cozy nook, a charming potting shed… while totally blocking the multitude red flags abundant in old places. Michael, thanks for fessing up to a quirk that my string of live-in boyfriends have been complaining about for years. We see possibility!

  2. Kitty says:

    How do you dust that??! It’s lovely in it’s own way, and I’d LOVE to spend a weekend poking about and exploring the details, but it’s a little “organized hoarder” I think. I’m no minimalist, but this is claustrophobic!

  3. andrevs says:

    my PERSONAL feeling: a little bit kitchy. this house can’t compare with a simple beautiful sweedish apartment

    1. grace says:


      i think this is a classic example of someone who is sooo not trying to compete with a minimalist swedish apartment ;)


  4. andrevs says:

    @grace: how about the gypsum statues and the mixed uncompatible colours? pls answer that

    1. grace says:

      please answer what? this is someone’s personal home- not a manifesto on what’s right and wrong in design. if you don’t like it, that’s a-ok with me. i just think it’s comparing apples and oranges to compare this home to a swedish apartment. he’s clearly not trying to go for that look…


  5. Nancy Schreiber says:

    I never tire of looking around Michae’s apartment! It’s a mini museaum-full of love and cool stuff!!

  6. issy says:

    Wow, great. Michael i was wondering if you remember where you purchased that hanging disk chandelier pictured in your second photo, above the desk. i have been searching for one forever. Thanks for sharing your extraordinary home.

  7. Kathleen Tighe says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Michael’s home. It is just as warm and friendly as he is!

  8. issy says:

    p.s. grace thanks for not repeating the same type of home decor over and over again. different styles make the site more compelling.

  9. Sammi says:

    This place is bursting with happiness and life! It definitely reminds me of a doll house. When can I come over?? :)

  10. David says:

    I feel very privileged to have spent more than one evening in Michael’s beautiful home, including a Mexican themed Christmas party with around 50 people (mostly costumed) that featured maraca accompanied Christmas carols and a pinata that, yes, was swung at by several blind-folded people. You can imagine the scenario, Michael gleefully celebrating the delightful chaos of the people he loves dressed as festive Mexican icons packed shoulder to elbow swinging wildly about with a 3′ stick at a pinata hanging from the center of the room. Great times, thanks Michael!! xoxo

  11. Temis says:

    This is certainly inspiring! What wonderful energy! I love how Michael has turned so many different objects into a wonderful story.

  12. Karen says:

    Love the memento corner. I just about fell over with the picture of the soldier looking thoughtful in lower right corner. I had that same portrait in my home growing up!

  13. really unique place. thanks for sharing.

  14. Allison says:

    Yes it’s clean and organized, bright and cheery, but I think Michael just has too much stuff he doesn’t know how to part with.

  15. Meryl says:

    The photos are wonderful.
    I forgot how sensational your place is, playful, and charming.
    We found a great dollhouse on the street last year.

  16. susanna says:

    Fantastique! Layers of color, texture, soul, beauty….wow!
    Please share the brand of green paint on the walls.

  17. Marna Elizabeth says:

    I, too, have a love for things…I am a thingfinder (sometimes things find me) so this sneek peak is particularly wonderful to me! I find your home completely charming and personal and I would love to see it in person so as to inspect every precious item! (also, I completely understand the checkered floor thing….I just put down black and white tiles in my kitchen and it makes me incredibly happy!) Thanks for sharing!

  18. Stephanie Butler says:

    What a stunner! This was MY apartment for many years until about 10 years ago. I loved it too and worked “up” the walls with art, Native American root clubs…’up’ was the only way to go! My look was darker with more victorian antiques but Michael’s is his own. Kudos to you and for celebrating the space. What a surprise to find it online!

  19. Tony says:

    Wow! That was my first apartment in Brooklyn… a great place back then (80’s & 90’s).
    I lived there for about 2 to 3 years… then I moved to Russia and let it go… still in Russia.
    Interesting that after all these years some of my stuff is still there!

  20. sarah says:

    more than my appreciation of your home, i adored your writing-unpretentious, amusing, thoroughly engaging…

  21. Haley says:

    so lovely, I imagine in this home there’s never a lull in the converstation, so many wonderful things to look at and talk about!

    After growing up in a very cluttered room I’m afraid of collecting anything (though it’s part of my nature). Now I’m rethinking.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  22. Jen says:

    This precious abode needed to be seen by the world. I’m glad it’s landed onto DS for all darling design aficionados to experience.

  23. Emily says:

    Fascinating, thank you for sharing! I could spend hours looking at these photos….

  24. Michelle says:

    I think I can trust you, honestly.
    Love your heart.

  25. Melanie says:

    Foaming at the mouth. Love this place soooo much. This is what I call “artful hoarding”-so much fun to look at and so much stuff to inspire me. THANK YOU for sharing this!

  26. I am crazy in love!!!This is the best ever!!!To die for!!So much inspiration so many colours, I just love it!!
    Take care love/malin

  27. Pam Coniglio says:

    This feels like a home!! Warm, cozy and inviting. The charm is unexplainable and I love the baby Jesus figures – my parents have one and so do I. My mom still changes the dresses on it. What a great retreat to come home to. Love you Michael – your place is as beautifl as you!!!


  28. Cheri says:

    LOVE :D

  29. Pamela says:

    i would do that in a heartbeat — which i did when i was living in NYC. but now i live in Oakland and I have to be careful with amount of items lying around at height.. you know, earthquakes.

    come to mind, do anyone have advice on that?

    1. grace says:


      have you tried

      i’ve heard it’s pretty amazing.


  30. gretchen says:

    wow….amazing storybook house that tells so many, many stories.

  31. jess says:

    this is perhaps the most beautiful apartment ive ever seen. i know my wife would never let me get away with those kinds of collections, especially with my unsuitable dusting habits, but i love it.

  32. Syndi says:

    It’s like something from a child’s fairy tale. How lovely.

  33. kelsey says:

    ugh i wish this was a bed and breakfast! i would leave EVERYTHING at home (almost).. no technology needed!

  34. elliot paul says:

    great party michael … really enjoyed entertaining you and your super friends …best


  35. elliot paul says:

    Great party … !!


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