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design tips, architect-on-demand, advice-without-strings

As previously mentioned, I visited both of my daughters in New York last month. They have just moved from Manhattan to Williamsburg/Brooklyn into their new digs. Mia, a veteran at this — it’s her third move — is working on a guest post. No doubt she’ll share some of her wisdom and experience along with design tips from Alla DIY Ally (AKA mom). So very grateful that she involves me in the process.

Today’s installment of ‘Living in the Now’ focuses on our younger daughter, though. Nastasya, Nastya or simply Nast  has transitioned (after seven months of being a nomad) into her very own room in a four-bedroom apartment she is renting with three friends from college. Nastasya graduated last summer and is rigorously making her first steps on the career path, establishing her own independent self.

I’ve always been very supportive of my daughters’ creativity as they were growing up and, thankfully, some things never change. Still have a role to play — giving design tips.

design tips

It was raining the day we went to measure and to see how the staples, such as a bed (actually a MUJI mattress on legs purchased from a friend), a desk with an office chair (donated by a family member), and a dresser (soon to be acquired from IKEA) will fit. Even on a gloomy day, the view expanded a 9′ x 10′ space quite remarkably.

We intuitively knew that all of the necessary pieces will bind well as long as we combine them thoughtfully. Once we took the measurements, it was a matter of putting together a layout and outlining a few design tips to guide us.

design tips

Tip # 1: Pack every nook and cranny with function.

Speaking of every nook and cranny, we realized that the room was sized with a full mattress or double mattress as a module. It fit precisely in the corner between the door and the wall indentation, as if built-in.

Tip #2: Draw queues from what is already there or available: pay attention to the light in the room.

The goal is to end up with a welcoming, balanced, livable, authentic, and pleasing to the eye sanctuary. The changes in the light and shadows from morning to night and from one season to the next should be calming and comforting. Nastya’s room faces an on-ramp to a bustling highway. I was all for embracing the drama and the energy of these infinity views, yet quite concerned about the noise. Well, it turns out that New Yorkers are sound sleepers. Upon my recommendation, Nastya tried heavy insulating curtains, but returned them opting for shear blinds from blindster instead.

Tip #3: Add character and personality for a layered feel.

Even the smallest of residences can be very stylish. Purposeful placement and personal meaning is what it is all about. Living on her own means seizing her own design aesthetic. Nastasya leans toward stark simplicity.

Tip #4: Take on limitations.

Her closet is only 18” deep, not enough depth for a standard hanger. We talked about removing the doors. However, with the doors closed, the room feels neater, better organized. To work around the insufficiency, a friend suggested using child-size hangers. That’s a great idea!

design tips

Tip #5: Pick timeless over trendy.

Nastasya wanted to add warmth with natural materials, such as wood and leather. She gravitates to unique, truly one-of-a-kind objects that are made by hand. We had access to someone’s “vault” where we found her vintage leather-upholstered chair and mid-century wooden desk. We looked for a dresser at IKEA, but were not able to find anything special. Eventually, Nastasya located a nice piece from West Elm on Craig’s List.

Tip #6: Avoid clutter.

If something doesn’t fit, don’t force it. Edit, streamline & prioritize. Give the things that you have a chance to breathe. The goal is to create a relaxing, soothing atmosphere. Take furniture pieces and move them just slightly farther away from one another and from the wall. A couple of inches can make a difference.

Tip #7: Choose versatility.

For Nastasya, a room is not a home unless it has lots of books. Finding a functional bookshelf was important, and IKEA’s BOTKYRKA fit the bill. In fact, it is designed to appear floating, not even touching the wall it is attached to (design tip #6). It serves as an innocuous frame for an ever-changing composition of postcards and other decorative objects. Not to mention the books.

Tip #8: Do not over-design, but do create visual divisions between distinct areas.

No doubt, Nastasya will continue tweaking her work/sleep/storage arrangements by introducing eclectic and innovative textures over time. She’ll hang the art, create a garden of succulents on the window sill next to her desk. Nonetheless, everything has its place and feels right already. This compact abode seems so spacious and lived-in, like it has always been this way. I am very pleased with the outcome.

architect-on-demand, advice-without-strings

As much as I would like my daughters to live in close proximity, it is my job to encourage them to pursue their dreams, no matter how far away. Living in the now, I cherish, make the most of our visits. And truly want to be as relevant as possible. How great is that: I am continuing to parent by giving professional advice!

If you are looking for a second opinion, constructive suggestion or a few design tips, please do not hesitate to reach out here.


  • Irina Zheveleva
    March 20, 2018

    Alla, thank you very much for the post. Great, very helpful tips. I’m so grateful living in a close proximity from you, implementing this tips in practice, but still under your supervision 🙂 The last paragraph was so touchy, made my eyes wet (in a good way 😀 )

    • Alla DIY Ally
      March 22, 2018

      Thank you very much, Irochka!!!

  • Mia S Kazovsky
    March 22, 2018

    Lovely post! What an awesome thing it is to have your mom and design Ally be in town while moving into your first NYC apartment… Nastya is lucky! The room looks great and very her. Reading this post put a smile on my face!

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