Interiorssneak peeks

A Home Where Each Room Has its Own Personality

by Amy Azzarito

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
A few weeks ago, I interviewed set and interior designer Jen Chu for our We Want Your Job column. Not only did Jen give extraordinarily detailed information about becoming a set designer, but through the interview, I also realized how handy she is. So I asked if we could peek into her Fort Greene, Brooklyn apartment. Jen’s work as a set designer has turned her into a bit of a style chameleon as she creates a look that is right for each storyline. Sometimes her sets are over-the-top girly – an explosion of hot pink and glitter – and sometimes they are gritty, dark and industrial. When it came time to decorate her home, Jen embraced her love of so many different styles. She says that in a way, each room in the apartment reflects a different side of  her personality and taste. The small bedroom is a style that she calls “French castle meets antique market in Bali.” The living room and kitchen are more mod and cheerful. And the master bedroom is more minimal and masculine. The apartment is also filled with her DIY efforts. And now that her boyfriend, Aaron Montgomery, prop stylist and custom furniture designer has moved in, I can only bet there are going to be many more DIYs projects happening in this house! Thanks, Jen and Aaron! –Amy

I’ve been in this apartment for 6 years (formerly with roommates), but I’ve only lived in the master bedroom for 1 year. When Aaron moved in, I wanted the room to be “handsome” to counterbalance how girly the rest of the apartment was. I found the modern marble side tables on Craigslist for $15 each, and used them as a  jumping-off point for the rest of the room. I chose furniture and accessories that were sleek and unfussy and only added décor and accessories that I loved. The bed is an IKEA hack, inspired by Manhattan Nest. The pillow is from Etsy and is made of Hmong textiles. The rug was the steal of the century for only $185 at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in California. Both lamps are from IKEA and the striped bin is from The Container Store. The blue accent wall is a color called Wrought Iron by Martha Stewart for Home Depot.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: I “wallpapered” this fireplace wall using a curtain dipped in liquid starch. It’s a great solution for renters because it will peel of completely clean when I decide to change it or move out. I love this pattern because it’s geometric yet subtle and not indicative of any particular period or style. This mirror is actually a $25 frameless mirror from Home Depot and I had a modern silver frame custom made at americanframe.com. (The whole thing only cost me just $75!) The room is painted a color called Collingwood by Benjamin Moore (one of my all time favorite warm grey neutrals).

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: The felt bag is made in Brooklyn by Flea Bags.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: One day I serendipitously noticed that the wall behind the stove happened to be metal, so I thought it would be nice to mount my spices on the wall. The framed piece is a Christopher Wool print that I ripped out of an art magazine. The “mat” is cut out of a brown paper bag.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: When I moved in, my cabinets were a dingy ivory color. Rather than cover them in just white contact paper, I decided to cover them in two layers of contact paper (wood grain below, white on top.) Then I sketched a design on the upper cabinets and used an X-acto knife to cut out the shapes, removing only the white layer to reveal the wood grain contact paper beneath.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: I love that my apartment is completely quirky and has the weirdest architectural features. This 2/3 fireplace is a prime example. The other 1/3 is in the living room. The square painting is by my talented friend, Peter Park. The prints are from a trip to Buenos Aires. The table is IKEA (sadly discontinued because it’s GREAT) and the chairs are from overstock. The kitchen color is Celery by Ralph Lauren.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: I admit I went a little crazy at the annual Jonathan Adler warehouse sale! My living room is pretty small but it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door, so I wanted it to be a strong focal point. The mirror is from an early Nate Berkus collection sold on HSN. The coffee tables are “vintage” Target circa 2007 and they’ve held up exceptionally well over the years. Having two small tables is ideal for a small space, because they’re easy to move, and I can stash them in corners if I need more floor space. This armchair in the foreground was a sidewalk score. I dragged it two blocks home and had it reupholstered. All the prints are from society6 and the big yellow urn is from the Brooklyn Flea. The living room paint color is Mt. Rainer by Ralph Lauren.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: When I was a kid I wanted to live on a boat or an RV, so when I found this apartment 6 years ago, I chose to live in the tiny room. I built this custom canopy bed and shelves from scratch, using only lumber, a drill, and a jigsaw. This was before I had a handy boyfriend, so it was quite the undertaking. It’s really one large multi-functional piece of furniture that serves as a bed, a desk, display shelving, and storage for two huge suitcases below. The chandelier is the only “real” piece that I purchased for this room, and it’s from the Brooklyn Flea. The ceiling color is Beachside Raffia by Ralph Lauren.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: When I built this bed/shelf unit, I thought the shelves looked a little plain, so I tapped 500 furniture tacks into the edges of each shelf. It took many hours (and I’m sure my neighbor hated me for making a ruckus) but I  think they add a lot of visual impact. The contents of the shelves are always changing. I like to move things around and display a mix of sculptures and statues that I’ve collected through my travels.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: I collect earrings everywhere I go because they are inexpensive and easy to transport. I display my favorites on these drawer pulls that I found for $3 at a hardware store.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek
Image above: I wanted to paint something geometric on the bathroom walls, but the building is over 115 years old so all the walls and doorways are really wonky and I was afraid the pattern would look uneven since the ceiling and floor are not level. I saw a great Missoni print and thought that it might look great as a mural, so I painted this psychedelic pattern on the walls. The main color is Benjamin Moore’s Passion Plum.

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek

Suggested For You


  • I LOVE those kitchen cabinets! Such a clever idea, with awesome results.

    (Also, I really, really hate to be THAT reader… but the misplaced apostrophe in the headline of this story is really bumming me out.)

  • and now it’s fixed. I hate to be that reader, too, and I’m trying to let it go. I love this home… and Design*Sponge in general. A beautiful and inspiring blog, created by beautiful people. thank you.

  • those cabinets are AMAZING (i may steal because i have heinous cabinets i can’t afford to change yet.)

    but mine will look no where near that great, i know this already…..

  • That delicate contact paper design on the upper kitchen cabinets is remarkable artistry for the materials involved. I bow to her. Lovely all around. (Too bad those Target tables are no longer available. They’re so versatile.)

  • Those cabinets are amazing but I can’t even say they’re my favorite part of the apartment because it’s all incredible! The earring hardware is such a great idea! Really, incredible living space!

  • Everything about this place is fantastic! I especially love the tiny bedroom and the roller shade with the text. Where is the shade from/who is it by?

  • Wow, this place is seriously fantastic. It has so much character without looking prop-y or being over the top. The Christopher Wool magazine page with the paper bag mat is awesome!

  • Holy moley–so casual, “so I traced a design and cut it out with an exacto knife . . .” And the upholstery tacks and the missoni bathoroom–I imagine she cut out all the letters on that bedrrom shade and placed them herself!

  • Wow, you are a rental inspiration! Your main bedroom is my favorite–love the color palette. Question: I have the hokiest, 80s kitchen, and I’ve been wondering how well white contact paper holds up over time! Anyone have any ideas?

  • I have the same question about the contact paper as others: how hard was it to initially lay on the cabinets? Does it hold up well over time?

  • @erica, my white contact paper is 6 years old and it still looks perfect. We’ve even splashed spaghetti sauce and red wine on it, and the stains came off with a magic eraser.

  • @JL, the shade is a cheap vinyl shade from Home Depot. I cut the letters out of black contact paper (It took about 4 hours) and I stuck them on one by one. The quote is from Apocalypse Now. @lindsey, the medicine cabinet is from IKEA, but they discontinued it :(

  • she has an amazing eye for detail…and obviously a lot of patience and skill…those cabinets are spectacular! really love that her home shows so much of her personality.

  • Those kitchen cabinets are the single most creative thing I’ve seen in a long while. I outright gasped!

  • Okay, this lady is amazing. I’ve seen the tiny bedroom before and have always thought it’s one of the best bedrooms ever. My jaw dropped when I realized who created it. Thanks for the peek into the rest of her inspiring home. Every inch is gorgeous!

  • I love the dipped fabric in starch to cover a wall. How challenging was that project?

  • Love the kitchen cabinets. Did you cut with the knife, before or after applying to the cabinets?

  • I have a kitchen that’s frustrated me for years. You’ve made me realize its not the room that’s lacking, it’s that I need to think more creatively in making this space my own. Thank you for that as it’s possible to rethink how to handle a space when its impossible to completely remodel. You’ve inspired me!