Interiorssneak peeks

In São Paulo, a colorful apartment on a budget

by Shannon Grant

Lella and Julio’s apartment, located in São Paulo, Brazil, is the first apartment the couple have lived in together. As is often the case for young couples starting out, they had a lot of ideas for their space, but not a lot of money to buy most of the things they liked. Lella knew exactly what she wanted in terms of furniture and decor, so with that in mind she put a plan into action. Working within their tight budget they did what many people do and became very resourceful. For years they searched high and low for cheap deals on designer pieces (including buying the very chair that a parking lot attendant was sitting on! It was an Eames chair after all). Each of these cleverly procured pieces are now cherished within their home, nestled into their “mini-compositions” that they love to design. As the saying goes, “A place for everything, everything in its place.” It doesn’t matter if it’s high end or less polished DIY pieces, they just love to create, collect and display things in whimsical and unexpected ways. Lella is an architect who also makes art and Julio is an illustrator who shares a business, Mulheresbarbadas with his good friend Henrique. Thank you Lella and Julio and special thanks to Ricardo Bassetti for the lovely photographs. Shannon

Image above: Most of the wall pieces are from friends. All of the cushions are made by Lella’s mom! The Jacobsen’s chairs we bought from a friend (that had previously bought from and old restaurant owner) and we just repainted them. One of the things we like the most there (besides our cat) is the garland light from Tord Boontje.

Image above: The credenza definitely is a favorite here. It was conceived and designed by Lella! The armchair (Ouro Preto by Michel Arnoult) is Lella’s grandpa heritage. The big frame behind it is a print from my other studio with Henrique (diplomatas.tv), and the other one hanging on the wall is a drawing Lella’s dad did when he was a teenager. The plastic chandelier we bought on supermarket on a trip we did to Copenhagen. The paint on top of the bed is Lella’s. And of course we love our cats (Juliette on the bed and LeBron over the window).

See more of this Julio and Lella’s Brazilian home after the jump…

Image above: Our apartment faces south. Here in Brazil, it means that we NEVER have direct sunlight (which sometimes is kind of a bummer). But we have two balconies and big windows, so we have lots of light coming in so it’s always very bright (which makes up for lack of direct sunlight), and every once in a while some metallic skyscraper reflects the sunlight in our living room, and it’s almost like the real deal. On the right by the couch is the “C-table” designed by Lella at the architecture studio she’s currently working for; it’s a multi-functional table: you can use it (like it is: C) for the laptop (I use it to work in front of the TV sometimes during the day), for plates and cups, or remotes. And you can also turn it (like this: ∩) and rest our feet and also seat on it.

Image above: We like to read, and a lot of these books serve as creative inspiration. A lot of artists books, architecture, and some magazines. We also collect every piece that we’ve (Bearded Ladies) been featured on (and sometimes more than one copy of it), so that too.

Image above: Here is another view of the “C-table”. The lamp that we fondly named Julio Prouve which is my take (with copper tubes welded on the oven) on the famous Jean Prouve lamp. Also we love both paintings (the one the pink frame and the other with the leafs and slugs) by Lella’s mom (both done in the early ’70s).

Image above: You can see on the wall Mulheres Barbadas (Bearded Ladies) latest pride and joy, which is the flip flop we designed for Havaianas. Also the grey Eames chair, we found a guy on a parking lot, watching cars seated on it! So we gave him 50 bucks, and brought the chair home! The wooden palettes is DIY project. We found them, spray painted one, added some wheels, and now we use it as a wood sample cabinet.

Image above: We used this sofa bed for guests, until one day the cats decided to have fun and destroy it! It looked so messy, we felt we could help them. And so we drew all over it with red-black-and-blue pens, and invited all our friends to help. Now we ended up collecting many amazing doodles and we feel attached to it again! And above that couch the latest piece Lella was commissioned (a skate board shape!)

Image above: The most amazing canvas by Rebecca Ward, a print from my other studio with Henrique (diplomatas.tv) and a signed LP from Hanni El Khatib(!). And the 20 years old keyboard, that we started playing again for the past couple of years.

Image above: Yellow organizer by Utensilo.

Image above: The goats and sharks towel was made with stencils by Lella, flying cow the we bought on London’s airport back in 2006 when we had a canceled flight and had to kill some time and ended up in a kid’s store!

Image above: We made the magnet of us getting married in Vegas with Elvis (hehe), and the golden pig on the top of the microwave (we spray painted some cheap animals gold for New Years and it was a gift for all the guests). We’re left with the golden pig, a moose (you can see on the keyboard pic) and in the paintings composition in the living room there’s a tapir, that we later painted mint.

Image above: The big painting is Lella’s (also drew on the rounded lamp) and the fur toy is from a dear friend called Monstro Coisa.

Image above: The Bear Mirror is also designed by Lella!!

Image above: We love doing these kind of compositions around the apartment. Just combining random stuff, in a sort of kitsch way, like found art.

Image above: This is the hallway that connects the living room and the bedroom, and since it’s a really old apartment (probably from the ’60s) they only had this land line hole in the wall. So the phone would be near all rooms. To us it looked more like a small shrine, and that’s what we ended up with. Tofer Chin’s spikes with a vintage Palatnik zebra are in the center, pictures from Lella’s mom and a drawing she did on the ’60s next to it.

Image above: This is one of my small compositions. It’s called “Confucius with lasers” . So basically is a small Confucius statue that I bought on a street fair for a dollar and spray painted white, put some pink strings coming out of it’s eyes and then made de laser-explosion-splatter with a couple of cardboard layers. Makes no sense but it’s really funny to us.

Image above: This is my pride as a gardener. We planted everything here, every time we see a flower blossom, we take a moment to enjoy it.

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  • Hey! Cool to see a brazilian home on this divine blog! Cheers from São Paulo, Brazil!

  • What do you mean “on a budget”?!! There is some expensive stuff in that apartment, a lot of expensive stuff. I wish I had their budget.

    • @Chalubee – There are expensive pieces in the apartment that the couple resourcefully sourced. Above they say that “For years they searched high and low for cheap deals on designer pieces (including buying the very chair that a parking lot attendant was sitting on! It was an Eames chair after all).” I call that a budget. -Amy

  • SEX&DRUGS(&DESIGN), All day long.
    Yeah, you’re right, less drugs more GIRLS.
    What a charming couple’s coop.

  • What a beautiful space! I love the way they have decorated. Everything seems to have it’s own place. And there are lots of pieces that are quirky and fun :)

    I visited Brazil this past winter but never made it outside the airport in Sao Paulo.. Next time!

  • Some stuff could be gifted from parents Chalubee or vintage pieces (which I definetly do see.) There is a way to be creative and stay in budget.

  • I’m certainly not knocking their incredible style, it just makes me laugh hearing that they are on a “budget”, when that Vitra wall organizer alone runs anywhere from $400-$500. That’s it. I still wish I had their budget. Life would be grand!! Growing up with champagne taste and a Budweiser budget of your own kinda sucks. That being said, I think this place is amazing!! No hard feelings to anybody. I apologize if I offended anybody.

    • hi chalubee

      it’s important to remember that not everything in someone’s house is something they purchased themselves. it could be a gift, something they found used, etc. often my favorite homes have objects that you would think cost an arm and a leg but were actually thrifted or gifted to people.


  • My apologies. Best looking apartment on a budget of very little, with gifted and thrifted acquisitions from incredibly generous family members and friends. Still, I think it is an amazing place. Gorgeous, in fact.

  • Oh come on, every shot has a designery piece (or two or three). They may have done it “on a budget” but, Grace, when friends are given (?gifted) expensive designer furniture by parents and friends, I don’t think of them being on a budget. You have much, much better examples of “design on a budget” on this site. By the way, the flat is nice but waaaay to0, stuffed with designer pieces for my taste.

    • Kim

      This home is far from “Stuffed with designer pieces”. Other than the Vitra Uten.Silo piece and the Eames rocker, I don’t see anything else that’s vaguely like that. They explained how a few pieces came to them for little to nothing, but others are not originals or are thrifted. I feel like I’m reading descriptions for different images– I just don’t see what you are seeing…


  • I love this! The little art compositions on every corner are so fun! I’d love to live there!
    And Mulheres Barbadas! I love you! You guys are a huge inspiration for me.
    Great to see Brazil represented.

  • A charming and unique space. Is there any additional information on that bear mirror Lella designed? I absolutely adore it.

  • I’d love to be able to afford a Bosch anything. That said, definitely a welcome change from the usual homes I see on here (though not quite my style).

  • As a side note for the people who disagreed with chalubee about the apartment not seeming to be put together on a tight budget – I would like to first say that we can all agree that this apartment is literally magical. I especially would like to live there for eternity. So that’s that out of the way.

    And secondly, despite the fact that chalubee has apologized and given in, I would like to second that thought. I would not like to second Kim’s thought, because it was expressed in a cranky way. There are a LOT of design accents in this here gorgeous ass apartment, some designer, purchased resourcefully and cheaply (but I would take that with a grain of salt considering how expensive they are for starters), some smaller and maybe flea market finds, and others that Lella – HOLD THE PHONE – designed herself?? (What. Jealous.)

    It’s just very very clear that this is not the same “tight budget” that I have in my mind. “On a budget,” sure. “Resourcefully put together,” absolutely. But “tight” budget? Nahh. There are not helpful examples of how someone on my version of a tight budget could put an apartment together to look like this. You do not find that much freaking amazing crap at Goodwill. Or Target. Or a tag sale.

    Unless they have some tips that they are willing to share that do not involve happening upon parking attendants sitting on artwork and designing their own furniture.

    • Marissa

      For starters, everyone’s idea of budget is different. Clearly you’re assuming they’ve purchased things in a way that is impossible for other people, but I do not think that is the case. You said, “You do not find that much freaking amazing crap at Goodwill. Or Target. Or a tag sale.”. But the bottom line is, some people do. Maybe you and I don’t, but this couple clearly did. I do not understand people assuming that they’re not telling the truth or somehow making up stories– I know people who have incredible bargain skills like this and yes, they are real and they exist. Susan Brinson, for example, is one heck of an epic deal-getter. She combs Goodwills and thrift shops all across the tri-state area to bring home some truly incredible, and expensive looking, pieces that she honestly does get for a heck of a deal.


  • Love this place…
    I adore this couple’s humour, pizazz and sense of style.
    They have a good eye (as all talented designers and artists do)…
    THANKS SO MUCH for sharing… more please :)

  • You can definitely fill a home with design furniture for less money than you would pay for furniture from Target. You just need to invest a lot of time in visiting secondhand stores and looking on your country’s version of eBay and Craigslist. I spend well over 40 hours a month thrifting and find maybe one or two mid-century designer items (vase, chair, lamp, etc) per month.

  • Awesome designs…Especially wall decoration is so amazing and creative ideas..I should try this ideas to my home..

  • I did not mean to insinuate they were making things up. I was acknowledging that were clearly very lucky in some of their purchases. And the fact that everyone’s version of “on a budget” is different was part of my main point – but with that said, the general consensus of “on a tight budget” among the vast majority of people is below what this couple’s budget clearly was. This is based on, as I previously stated, what I see as not only the quality, but the quantity of fabulousness.

    I fully acknowledge you can find mid-century pieces sometimes on craigslist and ebay, but as someone who has been searching for a few months now for a nice coffee table within *my* version of a “tight budget,” I can speak from experience that in order to find this many items for a reasonable price, it would have to be a full time job. And even then, there are no guarantees unless you got lucky.

    Not sure why people are taking offense at this. I’m just pointing out that clearly when you use words like “tight budget,” that is subjective, but that this particular apartment’s budget does not match the general consensus of what that means. Therefore, using the “budget” word in the title of post that highlights a very beautiful apartment that is very clearly out of the reach of many is somewhat misleading.

    • Marissa

      We chose to use the word budget because this couple did in fact work within a budget and use some great budget-hunting skills to decorate their apartment. It’s impossible for things to be within everyone’s budget- it just doesn’t work. I don’t think there actually IS a general consensus of what that word means. I can post things that are $25 and people will still complain it’s too much to spend on say, a pillow, so I’ve learned that it’s best to contextualize things- and in this case, we’re talking about this couple’s budget and their home.


  • Cute well put together place. A couple of people are commenting about your
    caption “budget” Grace. After all, it is the heading you chose to showcase this
    apartment and I must agree, it hardly seems an apt heading for what we see.
    For a living, I buy and sell vintage & antiques and would never expect to find
    this mid century decor in thrift stores. And the competition for it at estate sales, craigslist and the like is fierce because every other twenty and thirty
    something year old is glued to the computer screen looking for the same deals.
    Yes, everyone’s idea of a budget is different, but it does not give the impression
    of budget as many other places you have showcased in the past. More often than not, reactions in blogland to what is showcased seem overly gushing
    with an undertone of “if you can’t say something nice don’t say it at all” type
    of threat. The nature of blogland is that someone has allowed their santuary
    to be exposed for the whole world to see but we are lookers and ought to be able
    to politely comment and react in an honest way……don’t want this, my favorite blog to get too sacharine in the comment department.

    • Annie

      The bottom line is this: when people insist that what these people have done “can’t possibly” be done, it bothers me and I respond (just like any other reader is free to do, and has). People do in fact find mid century furniture in thrift shops all the time (I’ve found tons of it personally in thrift shops in NJ and CT). This lovely home is proof that it can happen.


  • I agree with you that many people don’t understand that it is possible to find
    great deals if that is what you are defending.

    My point (as a professional seeker/buyer/seller for the last 20 years)
    is that the field for mid century is highly competitive and that is is a time consuming and competitive buying endeavor to find a screaming deal. The average person doesn’t have that kind of time. I spend all my waking hours
    sourcing this kind of stuff, waiting around for sales and filling and refilling the gas tank driving around in search of bargains. Thrift stores now for the most part, know what they are selling and the Goodwill sells the good stuff at their online auction. The type of stuff showcased here is not fix-it-up repurposed antique stuff. It is presently desirable and trendy. It would be interesting, for
    example, as you captioned this under the heading “bargain” and thus made this a point of discussion….to find out exactly where the couple found these
    items, what they paid in total to get the look and then get reactions from your readers as to whether they would consider it a bargain.

    Perhaps what we are really disagreeing on is the aspect of “bargain” as you
    might consider something a bargain that your average reader might not.
    Wouldn’t that be a good thing to explore?

  • Lella, your apartment is gorgeous – I love the brightness and all the unique little art projects :)

  • Ok, I have to comment on this tight budget thing, I love this apartment. I love the use of color, the design sensibility and resourcefulness. It is soo lovely! And I absolutely believe they put this together on a budget. I personally have a house full of designer things. And we have lived our whole lives on a budget. These people are artists and artists barter a lot. For example, these guys, they maybe don’t have to buy things in perfect condition, they maybe have to fix it or upcycle it, or, as my husband has done (he is an artist also) trade a painting for an upholstery job on a beautiful Panton cone chair. They make good friends in various creative businesses (they must network to eat) and so they are working out deals – paying on time rather than all at once, working off payments, etc. My husband and I find mid century and even new designer goods in thrift stores all the time. Everyone does, or there could be no antique dealers. And just when I think I can’t find mid century anymore, we find a nest of it somewhere. We have bought chairs out from under people. We have knocked on people’s doors (ask my embarrassed son). So, recently we have become dealers, but we always have lived like this. We have entertained our more well off friends and family for years with our finds and the novel ways we have paid for things. We have never been able to just walk into a store like Design Within Reach and just buy a coffee table. But there is this thing called serendipity where you are always keeping an eye out for things and you find something. Not always the thing you were looking for, but something else, and that is good too. What I see in this apartment is not a lot of high end design, but a lot of hand made and inspired decor, a lot of art by friends and family, inherited things etc. I think because these 2 have such a fresh sensibility, everything is so clean and new looking, people are thinking everything is some fancy shmancy designer item. By the way, I bought that Utensilo organizer for $150.00 from a modern dealer on etsy as an anniversary gift for my husband. He’d wanted it for years.

  • Nice apartment, nice view, nice furnishings…. but since I was alive in the ’60s, I resemble the remark “it’s a really old apartment (probably from the ’60s)” :-P

  • Can I say:
    This is an incredibly inspiring space and a great example of what can be done to decorate an apartment on a budget. While many words like “budget” are subjective, what shines in this space is not the “designer” furniture, but the thoughtful and funny artwork the couple have created, curated and sometimes built from what other people might call “junk”. Being a designer myself I know how (jealousy) inspiring it can be when an artist has talent and a good eye for something…but we should celebrate that, not judge them for being thrifty and having awesome interior design skills to boot…not to mention their wit and sense-of-humour :)

  • I completely agree with Annie and everyone else who commented on the very organic definition of budget here; as they said, it takes an inordinate amount of luck and time to find just one piece, let alone so many. Even the non-supremely desired, competitive mid-century stuff is exclusive; I wonder how much the Nara Yoshimoto piece cost. One is hardly likely to find it in a thrift store or a parking attendant’s booth.

  • This is very strange controversy regarding budget. One can have designer pieces and still be on a budget. What’s amazing about designer pieces from the past is that they can be acquired on a budget with patience, luck, timing or all of the above. I have a friend who has so many amazing mid century pieces, one of which she acquired for FREE, because the piece was being thrown out curbside…a mid century rocking chair in perfect condition, easily worth over a thousand dollars. If you live in a major city (like NYC), it can be easier to come by. Budget to me is how clever one can be with a set amount of cash, and having just the right of taste to put it all together so it looks fabulous.

  • I love the C table, Leila! Any plans to manufacture it?

    A fun, sweet apartment! Thanks for representing Brazil here.

  • love the little quirky compositions.

    just change the name of this post to “a colorful apartment in sao paulo” and hope that a heated debate doesn’t start about how the apartment is not colorful at all.

    or maybe call it, “look at this” or “here is a post about something”

  • Grace

    I absolutely agree with everything you say.
    And what a lovely, lovely place! Creativity is everything, ain’t it?

  • Skylights are very energy efficient. It illuminates the bathroom with natural light and it gives the illusion of a bigger space.

  • how cool IS THE CONFUCIUS. reflects the fun aspect of living in this house. quirky lil aspects that bring a smile to your face

  • This is awesome and cool interior living room, white color makes room so cool. thanks you for share about this interior.