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sneak peek: christen maxwell

by Amy Azzarito

Many people claim their abode is small, but designer Christen Maxwell’s West Village apartment is positively tiny — it measures only 7-ft. wide by 53-ft. long. Christen describes it as “the size of a semi-truck container!” It is two bedrooms (one bedroom is used as a studio/warehouse) and since it’s only only 375 sq. ft., Christen has had to get creative, as every item in her home must be multifunctional. Since she’s not allowed to paint or make any structural changes, she relies on textiles to warm things up — hot pink pillows in the summer and metallics in the winter. And because the space is so tiny, small changes make a big impact. Christen offers some great small-space decorating tips, and be sure to check out the floor plan at the end of the peek! Thanks, Christen! And a big thanks to E. Adam Attia for the lovely photos! — Amy A.

I have lived in over 10 apartments in every corner of Manhattan over the last eight years — from the East Village, to the Upper East, to Harlem, to the Financial District (my second fave area in NY!), and most recently, for the last year and a half on Morton Street in the West Village, the most amazing place in NY. It feels a lot like Portland, Maine (where I’m from). I bike along the waterfront, go to local coffeeshops, have access to the most amazing restaurants (check out The Little Owl!) and can always see the sky (there are no skyscrapers ’round here). I believe your decorating style has to fit the bones of your space and has to fit within what your landlord will allow. It’s in my lease that I cannot paint, replace hardware or doors (had to hang fabric over the closets!), or install new cabinetry (what I’d do for floor-to-ceiling glossy white kitchen cabinets — oh the storage!). I love to host cocktail parties and knew that I didn’t want my friends to feel like they couldn’t touch something or that if they spilled something, I’d freak (though I do have a white loveseat!), so I aimed to create a space that is warm yet modern and pretty but practical.

Image above: The living/kitchen space was tricky to lay out. I don’t believe in designing a room around a TV so I knew I’d need to hide it right away (mine is hidden behind the curtains.) With a small room, you want to try and break up the room as much as possible to give the illusion of space without going too far and making the room appear smaller. Every object in the design needs to fit multiple uses and hide as much as it stands out. For example, when entertaining, the coffee table’s scrolls become magazine racks or the perfect spot to stash a handbag. The console becomes a buffet, and African baskets under the lucite chairs stand in as the “junk drawer.” A designer tip for making a small space feel larger is to keep the same color palette for every room. This way, you won’t feel as though you’re entering tiny, precious jewel boxes; rather, you’ll feel a continuation of cohesive space. Another tip: hang mirrors, lots of mirrors!

Image above: I found the empty picture frames hanging above the bed in front of my apartment. I couldn’t find a side table I liked to save my life, so I flipped over a huge flower pot and used the saucer as the tray. The pillows are part of my collection. The throw is from Scents and Feel (love them!).

Image above: Being a designer in New York is like being a vintner in Bordeaux; you have everything at your fingertips and all you have to do is cultivate it to perfection. I came to the city to study painting, later transferring to Parsons to study product design. Upon graduating, I worked for industry leaders and this past year I launched my own collection, Christen Maxwell Home. All of our printed linen is proudly hand-screened, hand-cut and hand-sewn in the USA.

CLICK HERE for more of Christen’s West Village apartment!

Image above: I found this console out front in the trash. It had a broken door so the neighbors must have thought it was done, but I thought the open half could make a bookshelf/display. My TV and speakers are hidden behind the drapes in the living room.

Image above: I love the mix of textures, prints, metallics and reflections in this photo. There are so many things going on, from the repetition of the bricks to the stacks of art reflected, but everything stays calm and collected in this color palette.

Image above: Looking into the living room from the kitchen. I made the art in the frames for $32 each — $30 IKEA Ribba frames are fabulous, then I just painted black and silver abstract art with acrylic paint and silver colored pencil on illustration board ($1.50 per sheet at Pearl Paint).

Image above: A view sitting on the windowseat looking at my bed. IKEA pendent. Must have flowers always! Pillows from the collection.

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