Interiorssneak peeks

A Jewelery Maker’s 400-Square-Foot Nest in Philly

by Sabrina Smelko

When I graduated from art school and was working my first “big-city job,” I lived in a small, all-white 300-square-foot studio apartment in Toronto that I coined my “nest.” I’d ride my bike to work and back, so my $40 spoked beauty became a permanent fixture in the entryway, leaning in the space under a floating shelf. When jeweler Madeline Tolle shared with me that she jokingly calls her white 400-square-foot studio apartment by the same name and that one of her biggest concerns is the function of her bike, it felt like déjà vu! “I need my furniture to be in a way so that I can get my bike in, and rotated around to then hang on the ceiling!” And, oh, do I commiserate!

But even though Madeline’s space may be small, it’s darn mighty. As an independent jewelry maker who runs her own business, she spends most of her days away at her studio, so when she gets home at the end of a long day designing and producing her jewelry and managing her business, Georgraphy 541, her humble studio apartment is her sanctuary where the name of the game is calm coziness. -Sabrina

Photography by Zack Gross

The view from the front door. Madeline's KARLSTAD loveseat from IKEA was the only sofa that would fit in the living room! On it is a vintage crocheted blanket and kilim pillows. Her record player and stand sit beside a large fern, which conveniently hides the radiator. The 1950s Turkish rug was a Christmas gift from her mom, which she won at an auction, and the side table is one Madeline made from a cutting board and hairpin legs she bought online. "It's not the most dramatic piece of furniture, but I really like that it adds more elements and texture to the space."
The "trinket table," nicknamed as such by her friends when she first moved in, is Madeline's favorite piece of furniture and host to her myriad nicknacks. Madeline made the framed print when she left her day job to start her own company. "It was SCARY. About two weeks in, I started to panic, thinking that I had made a huge mistake and was just grasping for anything to latch onto for courage to keep going. I saw this quote and it struck a chord... It gives me some encouragement every day."
The letterpress printer trays above her record player are full of little nicknacks she's collected along the way. "There are coins from pretty much everywhere I've ever been, wheat pennies, glass animals that I used to collect as a kid, pins from my soccer team I played on as a kid, a chair made out of the champagne top someone bought me when I got my first job, bintang cap from Bali (a reminder of nights on the beach drinking way too many of those), a plastic figurine of a dwarf crying I got in a Kinder Egg, Seaglass." The Pikachu, which she admits is kinda weird, was given to her by her dad from a trip he took to Japan when she was 9. She recently added googly eyes to it.
"I love all these things so much. They're all so little, but they have a LOT of stories and meaning behind them," says Madeline.
The first thing Madeline did when she got the keys to her place was paint all of the walls white, except for the bathroom, which she painted with Valspar's 5005-4B Green Peppercorn. "I have an enormous plant in my shower," she adds, "It's kind of ridiculous, but it does make my bathroom feel a bit like a tropical oasis, and you just can't beat that!" Adding a shelf to the radiator created more function and storage. On the windowsill is an oil painting Madeline's had since she was a teenager, along with her signature scent (Cannabis Santal by Fresh) and some candles.
This gives a good sense of the layout of the space. The living room connects the kitchen and the bathroom and the front door is to the left of the "trinket table," which is Madeline's bookshelf, art piece, and storage space.
Madeline with what I'm guessing is a cup of black coffee. "I don't really cook, but I do eat breakfast at home almost every day!" Since she doesn't have a kitchen table (or a table anywhere, really) she eats breakfast leaning on her radiator, just like this. "I think this is kind of silly, but it's definitely one of my favorite things about the apartment!"
"I love the light in this apartment, the shadows it makes, the warmth it gives," says Madeline, "and the floors are a close second!"
The only part of the kitchen that matters to Madeline is the window full of her "bizarre-shaped plant collection," her motorcycle fund (currently full of loose change and $1 bills) and the Volcano candle from Anthropologie.
An alternate view of the living room, facing into the bedroom. Madeline's Linus bike is a key component of her life, which she hangs on the wall like a piece of art (and a super-smart solution for small spaces). "When I got my first job, I spent my ENTIRE first paycheck on it... I use it to get everywhere, all year round, even in winter!" Madeline's studio is four miles from home, so she rides a minimum of eight miles a day.
The full view of Madeline's bedroom from the doorway. The two prints are architectural drawings found at a flea market; the top is of stained glass and the bottom is Notre Dame. "I'm a bit of a nerd for architectural history, so I really love these and how they're paired." The planters are IKEA's DRUVFLÄDER.
Opposite the bed is an antique dresser from her mother that she stripped (leaving some paint for personality) and then outfitted with random crystal knobs. "To me, this is the epitome of mixed textures and stories!" Madeline says of the trinkets atop the dresser, such as the wooden bowl from Costa Rica and her first weaving.
On weekends, Madeline loves reading and spending time in bed sketching (and intermittently napping). This table becomes a quasi-desk for her Moleskine sketchbook, coffee mug, books and more.
Another view of Madeline's bedroom with, you guessed it, more plants! The curtain rods are copper piping and the curtains are antique crocheted table cloths. "I like that they're so DIY," she says.
Madeline added more smart storage space above the radiator by resting a shelf from IKEA on the windowsill. The big glass bowl features a variety of succulents and the little red box is from an antique shop in China. "I know absolutely nothing about it, but there's a little ox on top, and the feet are donkeys. I originally thought it was an incense holder, but it only took one try for me to realize that definitely didn't work," Madeline laughs.
One of the weird quirks of Madeline's space is the concrete walls here and there, including this one that her bed is against, which makes hanging anything impossible. But she's compensated by decorating with “entirely too many pillows.” But I agree, you can never have enough! The nightstand on the right is an antique plant stand that Madeline's mom passed onto her, holding her most long-lived plant (going on four years old!). The bed is a HEMNES bed in black from IKEA.

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