Quantcast

Interiors

A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Space

by Sabrina Smelko

Change can often get a bad rap, but in many cases, an about-face is synonymous with growth. Watching a neighborhood develop and transform alongside you is a beautiful thing, and something Olalekan Jeyifous can relate to. Born and raised in Nigeria, Olalekan has spent the last 15 years in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and both he and his surroundings have gone through countless beneficial changes. An artist and designer, Olalekan creates editorial illustrations, large-scale murals and architecturally inspired art which has been exhibited in venues such as The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. As someone who works mostly from home, being close to several major subway lines and surrounded by fantastic Brooklyn neighborhoods is something that continues to foster his career. It has the same impact on girlfriend LaWanna Baker — a lawyer turned labor relations and Human Resources professional — who shares his home.

Olalekan and LaWanna previously lived a stone’s throw down the street, but after growing out of their one-bedroom space, they were nervous that they wouldn’t be able to find a spot in their same neighborhood. Luckily, the search and move were quick and painless thanks to the management company that owns a few buildings on the street. After suggesting the space to them two years ago, Olalekan single-handedly moved them both into this 2-bedroom apartment in three days and just shy of a hundred trips back and forth.

A converted hospital, their current apartment features high ceilings and a long foyer, creating the illusion of spaciousness. However, the tall walls can also pose a problem: in the bedroom, for example, the room is much taller than it is wide, which has stumped Olalekan and LaWanna on how to tackle it. “We’re constantly brainstorming what we can do with the space… Although it’s quite minimal, adding things can clutter the space quickly,” they say.

The process of making the apartment a home is an ongoing one for the couple. The largest decorating challenge was finding a way to to integrate Olalekan’s clean, modern aesthetic and preexisting furniture (including vintage pieces from his grandparents’ home) with LaWanna’s eclectic taste — which involves mixing patterns, colors and a collection of home accessories. “In our last place, she moved in with me, so the aesthetic was largely my own,” Olalekan explains, “Whereas in this space, she’s had far more input and often revises the look and feel of the apartment by adding, removing, and rearranging elements… and I don’t mind at all — she has a great eye!” Another hurdle was accomplishing all of this on a budget, without the result appearing generic. One of the easiest and most affordable ways the couple achieved this balance was through self-made and family-and-friend-contributed artwork in the form of protest placards from labor rallies, gifts and souvenirs from Nigeria, free promotional pieces from art fairs, and quotes or Instagram photos that they printed and framed.

Although Olalekan and LaWanna have only lived here a short time, their space offers them everything they need without any unnecessary frills. But best of all, their home is one filled with family treasures and architectural features that inspire them to create and express themselves while still feeling cozy and relaxing. –Sabrina

Photography by Olalekan Jeyifous

A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
1/22
The view of the couple's living room from the kitchen. No matter the room, an eclectic mix of textures, patterns, artwork, and decorative accessories can be found in every pocket and corner, a style that defines their entire apartment. "The room receives more direct light in the summer and softer light in the winter months," Olalekan says.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
2/22
LaWanna and Olalekan in their living room.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
3/22
The media wall of the living room as seen from the view of the couch. "We love how the high-gloss yellow TV stand from IKEA, large palm plant and yellow patterned curtains add brightness and life to the scene," Olalekan begins, "My grandfather recently moved into assisted living and had to sell the home my mother grew up in (and the place where I spent my Christmases as a child). Fortunately, I was able to keep some of the furniture that has been in my family for a very long time, like the marble coffee table, which was purchased in 1958 and the mid-century chair purchased from a Scandinavian furniture store in 1965."
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
4/22
A closer view of the chair, framed on the left by the stainless steel kitchen work-table and the TV stand to the right. The two framed artworks above the chair were brought from Nigeria by Olalekan's mother during a visit she made to see her parents in 1977. "On this trip, my grandparents also met their newest grandson for the first time (me)!" The artwork was created by a Nigerian artist named Gift Orakpo [1953-1978].
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
5/22
This view looks towards the corner of the living room from the couch. The rattan chair was a sidewalk find that the couple fixed up, and the throw pillows and pouf reflect LaWanna's love of mixing patterns. The two floor pillows beneath the pouf are Japanese silk and were a gift from Olalekan's mother when he moved into his first apartment. The vintage side table the palm plant sits on was a Craigslist find, and Olalekan created the architectural model sitting on the window ledge during a residency with School of Visual Arts Visible Futures Lab.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
6/22
This shelf was another sidewalk find and occupies the opposite wall from the TV stand. It features a mix of personal artwork (the shacks on stilts were created by Olalekan), artwork from friends (the small squares are by Chicago artist Amanda Williams), books, framed family photos, and a vintage lamp from Olalekan's grandparents' home that was purchased in 1956.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
7/22
The framed poster is another one of Olalekan's creations, which was made for an exhibit at The Kitchen Gallery in 2008. He also created the small architectural model. Beside that is a photo of LaWanna's father coaching football and a postcard from the Scope art fair.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
8/22
Their apartment layout, which functions perfectly for how the couple lives and works. The second bedroom is used as Olalekan's studio space.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
9/22
Matte black paint was used in the kitchen to define the space. Upon moving in, the couple replaced the cabinet hardware with ones that matched the wall color. "The space above the cabinets makes a great display shelf for picture frames, a small tensile structure I received from my Uncle as a child, and two Nigerian calabashes."
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
10/22
A detail shot of their stovetop featuring black and white hand towels from MÜkitchen and a bright red Le Creuset crockpot from Williams-Sonoma - which LaWanna uses to make her famous chicken and dumplings.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
11/22
A stainless steel work/dining table divides the kitchen and living room areas. The side table next to the couch is from IKEA and was finished with a glossy turquoise paint. The couch is from CB2 and used to be white; "We used a charcoal-grey fabric paint to give it a new life and replaced the legs with bright yellow wooden ones to match the TV stand," Olalekan says.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
12/22
"Our last apartment opened directly onto the living room," Olalekan says, "So this, in addition to the high ceilings, is our favorite feature."
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
13/22
In the entryway is a storage bench that the couple upholstered with fabric from IKEA. The framed photo was taken by their friend, photographer and urban farmer, Emmanuel Pratt. "It depicts a young man wearing an American flag bandanna during the Labor Day parade that takes place a few blocks up the street on Eastern Parkway, here in Brooklyn," Olalekan describes.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
14/22
In the hallway are two shelves lined with photographs, carved busts from Nigeria, Japanese paper robots, a framed postcard from the Frieze Art Fair, and dried flowers.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
15/22
They extended the use of the matte black paint in the bathroom, which contrasts the white porcelain tile and colorful shower curtain. Two more calabashes, carved from gourds, have found a home on the wall. "They were a gift my mother brought my grandparents from Nigeria in 1977," Olalekan explains, "The traditional craft of calabash carving comes from Oyo State in Nigeria."
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
16/22
A large canvas print of one of Olalekan's artworks pops off the black wall and complements the unfinished wood shelves (lined with bathroom accessories).
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
17/22
Although the study is situated in the middle of the apartment, the tall walls allow for tall windows, letting in tons of natural light - perfect for creating art. The shelving unit from IKEA is filled with books, more Japanese paper robots (or Piperoids), and other playfully eclectic objects. The chair on the right is from IKEA as well, and the chair on the left was a Craigslist find that the pair refurbished. Similar to the living room, the ottoman, rug, and pillows showcase LaWanna's love for mixing patterns and color. "While this room is primarily my office space, we regularly sit in the chairs watching YouTube videos and movies off of my computer," Olalekan says.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
18/22
A detail shot of the shelves. The yellow and wood architectural model is another piece Olalekan created while a resident at SVA's Visible Futures Lab.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
19/22
The wall opposite the bookcase is Olalekan's desk where he spends over 10 hours a day. The dresser is yet another item that has been in his family for years. The manufacturer is American of Martinsville and was purchased in 1956.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
20/22
This is a closer look at the vintage dresser, some flowers in a ceramic tiki cup, and a framed artwork of Olalekan's.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
21/22
"Our minimally adorned bedroom gets tons of light and is quite the morning sanctuary," Olalekan explains. The rug hanging on the wall is from Urban Outfitters and makes the most of the 12.5-foot-high ceilings.
A Converted Hospital Becomes an Ever-Evolving Eclectic Space for an Artist and HR Professional
22/22
Their favorite things about their space? High ceilings and the ability to seamlessly work and live exactly how they like to.

Suggested For You

Comments

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.