As with clothes, the way you decorate a room expresses your personality. In its most ideal form, it signals to guests how you interpret yourself. In this round of Real Cool People, Real Cool Apartments, we check out the Downtown Brooklyn home of Lotta Nieminen, a graphic designer, art director and illustrator. Our intentions behind the creeping: to learn what she’s all about.
Neighborhood, # of rooms:
Downtown Brooklyn, open loft (with a little bathroom)
What do you do?
I work as a graphic designer, art director and illustrator.
How long have you lived here?
For 3.5 years.
Who do you live with, animals included?
My husband Jonatan (also a graphic designer).
What do you like about the neighborhood?
Even though it’s not the sexiest neighborhood, Downtown Brooklyn is convenient when it comes to getting around. We usually spend more time in the neighboring neighborhoods (Fort Greene, Dumbo, Boerum Hill), which are all a pretty close walk away.
What’s the best thing about your home?
How light and open the space is! The downside? It’s above six lanes of cars and next to a fire department and police station – as with all apartments in New York, good things come with a (in this case: noisy) cost.
Do you ever work from home and if so, what’s that like?
When we moved to this apartment, I initially worked from home. Having a designated work nook was crucial, in addition to other little efficiency tricks (like taking a shower in the morning and dressing in anything than my pajamas; who knew those make all the difference when working from where you sleep?). A year in I started to crave a separate work area. Since then, I’ve worked from a little space in Dumbo, a short walk away. I still do the occasional revisions or emails from the couch or bed at home, though.
What did you think about when decorating?
What I love about this apartment is that it reflects both Jonatan’s taste and mine. The interior decorating process has been pretty democratic. In the years before moving here, we lived in a tiny apartment that only fit a bed and a small table, then a mostly furnished sublet. So when we found this place through a friend who also lived in the building, we were really starting from a pretty clean slate. We came in with an inflatable mattress, a few lamps, a small desk and a handful of boxes with books and clothes. A bed and dining table were the first things we go. Things slowly evolved over the years, and we added things bit by bit as we’ve needed them or found the perfect item.
When we came to see the apartment for the first time, the bedroom was a closed box. It felt dark, so we asked if they could remove the other wall when they were repainting the floor and walls. This made a long-time interior fantasy of mine come true: We had a friend build out an elevation. It makes the bedroom feel separate, but still allows for the apartment to feel light and open. It seemed crazy to invest in a build-out in a rental, but over the years it has paid itself back just in terms of how much enjoyment we get out of it. It also added some storage space, which is otherwise pretty non-existent in this apartment!
Did you have an overall vision in mind when you started decorating?
Not really. By getting things that look and feel like us, it’s ended up looking pretty unified even though there was no big plan behind it all.
What are your favorite home “scores”?
I love the pieces we’ve collected from trips or gotten as gifts. I feel like most things we have remind me of places or people, which makes me happy and imbues everything with some meaning.
I’ve worked for a few interior and lighting companies and asked to be compensated partially in trade; this exchange enabled me to get my hands on a few really special pieces that I love but wouldn’t necessarily have allowed myself to invest in otherwise: a floor lamp by Bec Brittain, a table lamp by Roll&Hill and an amazing pink chair by Matter Made.
For someone young and trying to nest, what are your top three tips when it comes to finding /buying items for the home?
Take your time. If you can, try to invest in versatile pieces you’ll want to keep and that aren’t too apartment-specific. For my first tiny New York apartment, I got a pair of trestle legs that were definitely a little pricey, but at that point I was just tired of getting cheap, disposable furniture that would always eventually break. In the small flat, they worked perfectly with a glass table top to create the illusion of a bigger space, and once we moved into this bigger apartment, we used them to make a large, long dining table with a longer plywood top.
What are your favorite household goods/home decor stores?
Flower District for plants. I switch around, but a favorite is Noble Plants. At one point, my plant obsession was bordering addiction: I couldn’t do a prop run around there without falling in love with an oversized cactus. Jamali Garden has the best taper candles that I order in bulk. I love the plates and glasses at Front General Store in Dumbo, and have made some great secondhand discoveries at Adaptations in Greenpoint upon moving into this apartment.
Most unexpected place to find great things for the home?
I don’t know if anyone sees it as unexpected in New York, but you can find some amazing things on the curbside if you keep your eyes peeled.
What’s the one thing every home should have?
Some good times with friends.
Photos by Emily Assiran.