Ever since I met Matt Carollo a couple years ago I’ve been trying to convince him to let me feature his home on the blog. Interestingly enough, when I first started asking him about it I had never actually seen his apartment, I just assumed it was awesome. After all, Matt is the Assistant Buyer for one of my all time favorite stores, Jayson Home, and has been with the company since college. Needless to say, when I eventually set foot in Matt’s space, a rental apartment that he’s completely transformed, it surpassed all my expectations and I’m just thrilled to be sharing his talent on the blog today…
What made you realize this home was the one? What criteria were you looking for in a rental apartment to be able to transform it like this?
I actually wasn’t sure I made the right decision when I signed the lease for my apartment. I looked at dozens of places and time was running out. This was the last place I looked at. I loved that it had hardwood floors throughout and original details, but I new it was going to need some work…
When looking for a new place my musts are hardwood floors, crown moulding and baseboards, and a kitchen and bathroom that are somewhat salvageable. I refuse to look at anything but vintage buildings. But the problem with a lot of the vintage apartment buildings in Chicago is that when the building owners decide to do upgrades they try to do it as cheaply as possible (i.e. lower grade fixtures, finishes, etc).
Tell us a bit about your neighborhood. Any favorite spots? What drew you to this part of town?
I live in Ravenswood, which is beginning to have some interesting things going on. It is right next to Andersonville and Lincoln Square, both of which have some great restaurants and shops. On the weekends you can usually find me and a friend walking along Clark Street, checking out the vintage shops and grabbing lunch somewhere.
I’ve lived in Chicago for almost 8 years now and every time I sign on new lease it’s for a place that is slightly further north. This is mostly because I’m trying to find a place with cheaper rent…but it has also been great for exploring and getting to know all the different neighborhoods Chicago has to offer.
How was decorating your own home different than design projects you tackle at work? Was there a different approach or did the same general idea apply?
I think my home has a similar aesthetic to Jayson, in that they both have an eclectic mix of pieces and styles. At work I deal mainly with the vintage and antique pieces and not surprisingly I’d say about 90% of the pieces in my home are vintage or antique. I love shopping, but my favorite kind of shopping is flea markets, estate sales, auctions, thrift/antique stores, etc. Which is perfect because that is also a large part of my job at work.
Was there an area or room your found particularly challenging? How did you work through the challenge?
I think the room I found most difficult (and still do sometimes when I’m looking at it) is my dining room. When I first moved in I had what is currently my dining room setup as the living room and the living room as the dining room. The problem with this was that because I don’t entertain or cook often I never really went in the dining room. Which drove me crazy, not using a space when I’m living in an apartment where space is limited. One night I was laying in bed unable to fall asleep, when I decided to get up and move somethings around (this is when I do most of my rearranging, then or when I’m procrastinating). Well I think I was up until about that night because I ended up switching the rooms around completely. Switching the rooms solved the problem of not using the dining room enough because now I had to at least walk through it to get to the kitchen or my bedroom. Still I never really sat at the dining table.
I finally decided to use the room as more of an office/library. I keep books and different trinkets on the table and I’ll sit there when I’m on my working on my laptop or when I flip through a book for inspiration.
Do you have a favorite room, or spot, in your house?
My favorite room is the living room, specifically in the morning. I love the way the light floods in through the windows in the morning. For me, someone who is definitely not a morning person, sitting on the sofa checking my Instagram feed with the morning light coming in is a great way to start the day. Another reason it is my favorite room is the wall color, Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball. I love the way the color changes throughout the day. It’s a dark murky grey with blue undertones. With the morning light the blue tones really come out, while at night when I get home from work it has a much darker inky look.
What are your main sources of design inspiration? Any shops/websites you’re loving at the moment?
I find inspiration all over. I have a list of blogs that I love to check out, but lately it has gotten so long I can hardly keep up with it. I’m also always on Instagram, on the train on the way to work and home, on my lunch break. Really anytime I have some downtime where I’m waiting for something, I’ll have my phone out and be scrolling through my feed.
myfavoriteandmybest.com - I read Jenny’s blog pretty much everyday during lunch. She is constantly posting great content that is not only stylish, but hilarious.
What items do you think it’s important to splurge on? Where did you save?
I think it’s important to splurge on big pieces that are really going to make your room, such as your sofa or lighting. You want a sofa that is comfortable and that is going to stand up to everyday wear and tear and still look good a few years down the road. And when it comes to light fixtures, I think they can really make or break a space.
I think one of my biggest saves was my bed. I’d been looking everywhere for an upholstered bed frame, but everything was either out of my budget or just didn’t look that great. That’s when I came across this blog post on one of my favorite blogs on how to make your own upholstered bed using a simple and cheap bed frame from Ikea. I’d never upholstered anything before, besides a simple seat on a dining chair, so I was a little nervous. But I think it turned out great and I know I saved quite a bit of money.
Another place I saved is artwork, something that also really makes a space yours. I’m constantly buying vintage prints, photos, or paintings at flea markets and thrift stores. There’s always room to squeeze another piece of art in.
So many of the beautiful things in your home are thrifted antiques and flea market finds- What advice/shopping tips do you have for someone looking to find and acquire things of that nature?
Don’t go out looking for one specific piece because most likely you’re not going to find it. Yes, bring a list of pieces you are looking for and your room dimensions, but keep an open mind. You might not find the piece you were hoping to find, but you could find something great for a different area. I’m running out of space in my apartment, but that hasn’t stopped me from looking. Sometimes I’ll find a piece I love so much that I’ll buy it and then find a place for it when I get home. Which leads me to my other tip, buy what you love. If you love it you will find a way to make it work in your home.
You manage to make all these cherished items feel collected and curated rather than cluttered, what’s the secret? Is your design style always “more is more” or when is “less is more”?
Definitely more is more. You just have to know when to edit items. The closet off of my living room is full of accessories and pieces that I still love, but don’t currently have a place for. I’ve tried the one in one out rule, but for me it just doesn’t work. I get to attached to the pieces I have collected, there’s a story behind every piece in my home.
When it comes to displaying objects I find the best way to avoid a cluttered feel is by playing with scale and asymmetry. Too many objects that are the same size and height with make a vignette or space feel heavy and busy, but by playing with scale it helps the eye travel around taking in everything. The same goes for symmetry, having everything in pairs can be boring. The trick is to keep the viewers eye moving around the room.
You travel quite a bit for your position with Jayson Home. How have your travels influenced your decor? Any finds from your travels?
My style really runs the gamut and I think traveling for work and visiting these different places has only furthered this. There are too many periods and styles of pieces out there for me to stick with one specific theme, thus my apartment has a very eclectic feel and mix. A mid-century Milo Baughman coffee table, an antique settee from my great grandmother, and a modern yet traditional tufted sofa somehow all work together in my living room.
I think one of my favorite finds is the pair of mid-century velvet leopard print armchairs (that’s a mouth full) in my living room. We found these on my first buy trip to France. I’m a sucker for a good animal print, especially leopard.
You have a great eye for color. How did you choose your color palates?
I’m a big fan of dark colors. I think a lot of people shy away from dark colors because they are afraid of making their room look smaller, but I think they do just the opposite. Dark colors blur the line of where the room ends. In my kitchen I again used Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball. I painted the walls, cabinets and ceiling all in the same color. It’s a pretty small room and I think the dark color really helps make it feel bigger.
For the rest of the apartment I stuck with relatively the same color pallet; dark greys, blues and blacks. I think using colors in the same tone really helps tie everything together, especially when it is a smaller space. The only area that I broke from this color pallet is the dining room and hall off of it. I decided to keep both of these spaces white, mainly because they don’t get a great amount of light and I didn’t want them to feel too cave like. I love the dark colors of the rest of my rooms, but the white is a nice break. I went with a white that has a subtle grey undertone so as to still tie in with the rest of the rooms.
Can you give us 5 tips for making a rental space your own? (without having a landlord sue you…)
1. Paint: I don’t think I could move into a new place and not repaint. Even if it is a fresh coat of white paint. Paint can really change a space.
2. Lighting: I have changed out every light fixture but one in my apartment. It is a relatively quick switch that can totally change a room.
3. Artwork: I’m constantly on the look out for new artwork. If you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow you to paint (although that’s never stopped me before. I just repaint before I move), artwork is a great way to add a personal feel to your space.
4. Layers: Paint, lighting, artwork, accessories, textiles. All of these things work together to make your apartment a home.
5. Be Patient: You can’t move into a new space and expect it to be perfect right away. Living with the space for a while and moving things around and playing with the layout will really help you decide what the space needs.
What’s your opinion on DIY projects? Have you undertaken any in this apartment? Do you have a favorite to date?
I love DIY projects, as long as they don’t look too much like a DIY project when your finished. I’ve taken on quite a few in this apartment… One of my firsts was taking all of the hardware off of the doors and stripping it down to the original brass. The hinges and door knobs were covered in layers of paint and it took my a few days and a sore back from leaning over a bucket scrubbing everything, but I think it was worth it. It’s the little details, especially in a vintage building, that really make the space.
Another simple project that I saw on a blog, was creating the look of inlaid flooring using the tape for marking boundaries on basketball courts. You can find the tape on amazon, I think it was like $4 a roll. In my entry way I placed the tape around the perimeter of the room to add a little extra detail. It has been down for about 3 years and has held up really well.
I think my favorite DIY project is my “concrete” counter top in the kitchen. Originally the counter was dark grey laminate that was pealing and chipping up on one end. I tried to deal with it, but then I saw a blog post about faux concrete counter tops and new I had to try it. I was thinking of splurging and having the counter top replaced myself since it’s such a small area and I didn’t think it would cost that much. So when I saw this blog post I figured I’d give it a try and if it didn’t work out I’d go ahead and replace the counter. Well it ended up being pretty simple and I think it turned out great.
What are your thoughts on entertaining at home? Do you have a favorite gathering you’ve hosted while in this home?
I love the idea of entertaining, unfortunately I don’t love cooking. Which is slightly crazy because I have an addiction to china, in particular ironstone. I’m constantly buying platters and serving pieces. Currently I have a dinner service for 16, not that I could ever fit that many people at my dining table. Right now my idea of entertaining is having friends over for cocktails and then going out for dinner somewhere in Andersonville or Lincoln Square. Maybe someday I’ll discover my passion for cooking and throw the lavish dinner party I have planned in my head. But until then my dinner parties consist of ordering in Chinese takeout, serving it up in one of my recently collected serving pieces, clearing off the coffee table and everyone sitting on pillows on the floor hanging out, drinking, and eating.