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Interiorssneak peeks

Brimming with Art, a Bright and Tiny Walk-up in Soho

by Sabrina Smelko

Ash Leech is an Art Director by day, creative freelancer by night and avid taco-fan and wearer of black all of the time. Though her affinity for New York grows daily, her passion for travel and photography rears its head on her blog, Someform. Karan Singh (aka Wake Up Mr Singh) is an illustrator and master of the bold, vibrant, and mind-bendingly playful.

Both hailing from Australia, Ash and Karan first met while studying in Malmö, Sweden. Following that, they moved to Melbourne, Australia before making the jump to the Big Apple just three years ago, armed with only one suitcase each and an armchair they found on the street outside of their building.”It’s a challenge moving internationally,” says Ash, “as you never know how long you’re going to be based somewhere and how much you should invest in making it home.” Because of this, affordability and sticking to only the basics was key when it came to decorating and designing their apartment. This meant many trips to IKEA and opting for aesthetic changes to the space (new lighting, flooring and painting the walls) rather than filling it with furniture.

Always riffing off each other with new creative ideas, it’s no surprise that Ash and Karan were able to transform their 400-square-foot, nondescript walk-up apartment into a space that feels large and in charge, boasting plenty of personality and overflowing with art from every direction. But, like most beautiful spaces, it wasn’t easy to get to this point; the long and narrow layout, angular walls and renovation restrictions they have as tenants proved to be a challenge, just as much as trying to get furniture into the building — let alone through their apartment door! Though they know it’s just temporary, and though it’s across the globe from their real home, there’s no place they’d rather be than in their bright and sunny apartment — that is, when they’re not feeding their travel addiction! –Sabrina

Photography by Ash Leech

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On the wall behind Ash and Karan is an Andy Warhol quote from Moderna Museet in Stockholm (top left), "You Undress" by Christoper Gray, (top center), an etched skateboard by Karan (top right), "Harpers Bazaar" by Herbert Bayer (bottom right) and "The Possibility of an Island" by Tomer Hanuka.
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Their Karlstad IKEA couch is the perfect neutral backdrop for the couple's rotating collection of bold pillows and artwork -- and because it's a pullout couch, it's ideal for when family or friends visit from afar. The art print on the right is a piece by Karan titled "Slow Motion" which is available in his shop.
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Though they don't have enough good things to say about their IKEA sofa, they opted to swap out the legs for these lovely wooden ones that they hired a woodworker to custom build. Their mid-century modern side table from CB2 acts as their mini bar. (I love that it's within arm's reach from the couch for those lazy Saturday nights!)
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One of their rules for furniture shopping was that every piece had to double as a storage system, so it was IKEA to the rescue again! They used their Malm dresser as a sideboard.
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The wall art features a Herbert Bayer print from the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin (top left), "Power Prism" by Miami-based artists Friends With You (top center) and "Outlived II," a print by Michigan-based artist Pat Perry - which was drawn entirely in ballpoint pen! The artwork on the floor includes a bandana print by their friend Justin Poulter, a Cape Town-based designer, and a photograph of an ice cream truck at the Bonneville Salt Flats by Rob Hann, an English photographer. "He can often be found selling his works around the streets of Soho," explains Ash.
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On top of their large collection of art, Karan and Ash have a passion for collecting books. Though most of them are still in Australia, they keep a small selection of their favorite art and design books stacked on a stool. Sitting on top is a vinyl toy by Kaws, titled "Resting Place."
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Ash and Karan's living room is where they spend most of their time, working and relaxing. The front windows let in loads of light, making this corner the perfect spot for a desk. The painted white brick walls add character and are the perfect backdrop for their art.
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The chair is a replica Eames Eiffel which does the trick "until we can afford the real thing!" The desk is IKEA's Micke, which they love for the shallow depth, keeping it compact enough for their small space, but large enough to get the job done. The piece displayed on-screen is one of Karan’s illustration experiments titled "Morganism." The yellow industrial lamp is from West Elm.
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In case it wasn't already obvious, Karan and Ash love trinkets and are constatly accumulating objects around the house. The pencil containers are vintage tins from Castlemaine, Australia and the woven basket is from Cape Town, South Africa. The print on the wall is a collaboration between two of their friends, Chris Knight and Justin Maller. The letterpress print "Hunt and Gather - Perfume Bottles" is by San Francisco-based Lab Partners and the Pear painting on wood is another beautiful piece by Karan.
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The limited edition vinyl toy is "Pierced" by Dutch artist Parra, the Räsymatto pitcher is Marimekko and the decorative gourds were brought back from their recent trip to Arizona.
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"We wish this fireplace were still intact!" sighs Ash, though they did a great job taking the strange little area and turning it into a funky dining space! The table was a West Elm collaboration with Brooklyn-based designer Paul Loebach, which seats two when collapsed and extends to seat six. The chairs are both replicas of the Eames Eiffel and Thonet Stendig Bentwood. On the shelf is a record player from Crosley x Urban Outfitters.
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From the living area looking towards the kitchen and bedroom, you can see their dining nook and record collection peeking out.
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Ash did her best to try to capture photos of their bathroom, but it's "so tiny we can’t even get pictures in there," she laughs, "so here’s what it looks like from the outside instead!" On the wall beside the door is some favorite artwork from Dutch illustrator Parra. "We’ve had these in all of our houses so far and think they’ll continue to appear wherever we end up next!"
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When they first viewed the apartment (which was the 25th place they saw!), they fell in love with the stark-white kitchen and tiled bench-top. "It reminds us of the New York subway," says Ash. The clock is IKEA's Bondis.
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"The kitchen has everything we need; storage up top, a mini-fridge and an ancient stove," Ash explains. They hung some vintage pennants above the window "and you can see our failed attempt at a terrarium up on top of the cupboards. One day!" she laughs.
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A close-up of their stove and favorite yellow kettle from Crate and Barrel.
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Both Ash and Karan are coffee-fanatics. "It's a morning ritual for us and this is one of our favorite items in the house," says Ash, "We have a full set-up with a Rancillio Silvia Espresso machine and Rocky grinder. We’re still perfecting the latte art, but will get there one day!"
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They got this playful Eames Hang-It-All from the MOMA store and it’s the ideal home for their bags, hats and coats in the winter. The shelf below is IKEA'S Ekby Oxie which provides extra kitchen storage.
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A close-up of their shelves reveals a beautiful, hand-painted jug from India, mugs by Kate Spade and an assortment of Ball mason jars. Hanging the shelf below the coat hook was a smart use of otherwise wasted space.
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The view from the kitchen/entryway looking towards the bedroom, which features a black wall painted with Benjamin Moore's Aura Matte in "Soot." The contrast really helps define the tiny space and adds drama against the white linens. The bed is IKEA's Mandal with storage drawers beneath. "We get a lot of natural light in here," says Ash, "so we keep our orchids along the bedroom window."
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The poster in the bedroom is "Cocoa Eyes" by Swedish graphic designer, Olle Eskell which he designed in 1954 for the Malmö Chocolate and Confectionary Factory. It’s been a recognizable icon ever since and serves as a nice reminder for Karan and Ash of the town they lived in when they first met. "We love how the eyes peek out into the kitchen through the doorway," says Ash.
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The cushion was made by their friend Amanda Harvey using Pendleton fabric. The colorful blanket was brought back from a trip to Benito Juarez Market in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Comments

  • You have worked magic with that flat! It looks just like place I’d like to live. I can relate to the challenge of moving internationally – my husband and I moved to Finland two years ago, and it’s been a constant struggle to decide how much we should invest in decorating our new home. So hats off to you for doing such a great job at it!

  • I love the stark white with shots of color.

    Would love to know how they hung the frames on the brick wall. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do this in my own apartment.

    • Thanks Marlene! There are lots of options for hanging on brick, in our apartment we hammered the nails into the mortar and then adjusted the wire in our frames to determine the height.

  • A *great* example of how a home can be filled with IKEA stuff (as so many, including mine, are) and still feel very unique and personal.

  • Beautiful! My husband and I are also nomads. We met in Vancouver, and have lived in Paris, NYC, Sydney, and now Buenos Aires. (I lived in Lund too, right next to Malmo!) My question is a bit boring, but we just got the same espresso machine you have as a gift, and I’m wondering what kind of an adapter you have to travel with it? We are moving to New Zealand next, and it’s a new US machine, I don’t want to ruin it! Thanks ;-)

    • Hi Caitlin, thanks so much! That’s a lot of moving indeed! It’s a great question, as we’ve just left the US ourselves and it’s a tricky one. Due to voltage differences, you need a converter to get it working elsewhere – otherwise the heating element can be damaged. As these can often be loud and bulky, we sadly ended up selling ours in the US, but from what we’ve been told – it is possible! Best of luck!

  • Hi Orlando – the closet is tiny and built into the bedroom, towards the foot of the bed. You can see it in the floorplan!