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.
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).
Image above: The felt bag is made in Brooklyn by Flea Bags.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.