amy azzaritointerior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: michael quinn

by Amy Azzarito

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.]

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  • Too fun! I love the stick down tiles too! Wish I had as many wonderful things surrounding me today…super inspiring!! The vinyl furniture and the red kitchen cupboards stole my heart! Wonderful photos to jump-start my morning!

  • Oh, my goodness! This is absolutely amazing — so well selected, curated and displayed. Congratulations on a lovely and unique home!

    As a sidenote, I’d never want to [or be able to] live like this, but I really admire the strong personality and great eye evident in the photos. Well done!

  • Amazing… what a wonderful, cozy space! I can just imagine Christmas carols on the vibraphone, excellent!

  • Awesome! I adore Michael’s spirit and sense of humor which must be what make his home so warm, interesting and loved. No wonder so many folks have made it their home too over the years. I would love to have some tea with Michael and here the history & stories behind everything! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • what an unexpected home. Although i could never live myself in such a place, i can appreciate its character. It is full of soul. Loved visiting it, thank you!

  • i love the maximalist style, and how everything has a memory associated with it, but most of all, i love the “voice” and obvious warmth and humour of the person who lives here.

  • OH my goodness… this is what my house would look like if my fiance would allow it!!

    Love it. Could look at the walls for hours… I love a good treasure hunt :)

  • I like the house, but what makes this sneak peak really stand out is the incredible writing. I had never heard of Michael Quinn, so for all I know he is a writer, but if not, he should be!

  • I’m loving these fabulously cluttered spaces – I was worried for a couple of years that we were all going to have to minimalize our homes to ‘fit in’. {My husband would love our place to look like this!}

  • In my soul, I think this could so easily be my house…organized, designed clutter, but in reality, it would be very scary.

  • Eye candy! Eye candy! Eye candy!!!!

    That’s something i wish my flat would some day even distantly remind about :)

  • I love this. This is a very happy place, I can tell, full of love and infinite ideas.

    The captions to these photos are excellent! Michael’s sense of humor and well-written stories really make this sneak peak stand out.

  • wow. i heart Michael. I love that he writes about how he layers free-by-the-side-of-the-road with both forgotten family and loved family pieces. I deeply love shrines– images and objects to grieve and to celebrate. smart and funny.

  • I was going to say EXACTLY the same thing! this kind of house is completely an external manifestation of the inside of someones mind… i feel like I know exactly what he’s thinking. .. weird.

  • Although I couldn’t live in a house like this one, I would love to see “in person” all those beautiful things . Yes, this is a house with lots of character and I could spend hours in there, seeing everything!

  • Kudos to Michael for carrying out his vision in his home…but honestly, I feel so claustrophobic just looking at these pictures. I couldn’t imagine being comfortable in that home. There’s too much clutter, too much stuff on the walls… actually, the whole thing is just too much.

  • my kitchen has a peel and stick checkerboard floor which i love and i want to replace it but am having trouble finding it. can you help me?!? thank you!!

  • fyi: the little quilt that your mom made is not a ‘log cabin’ but, i think it’s called ‘courthouse stairs’. love all of your stuff!

  • oh wow! i love it! part of me wants to indulge my hoarding side and part of me can’t help but panic…how does he keep up with the dusting?? beautiful! warm and welcoming :)

  • Design and decorating aside — is that a picture of a Siamese on the memento wall?

  • love love love. more is more is more and i absolutely adore your beautiful collection of meaningful things. what a beautiful energy abuzz!

  • wow… that is taking organised chaos to another level. incredible, but like many here, i wouldn’t want to live there!
    great colours. and i agree, i have a thing for checkerboard floors too, especially in the kitchen!

  • Your home is an inspiration for those of us that can’t decorate. I would love to have a more “decorated” and lived in place. Thank you for sharing.

  • 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!

  • 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!

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

    • andrevs

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


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

    • 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…


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

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!!!


  • 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?

  • 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.

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

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