Name: Tom Chirico and Carolyn McMenemy-Chirico
Location: Williamsburg — Brooklyn, New York
Size: 900 square feet
Years lived in: Renting 7 years
The original architectural details of this apartment — located on the top floor of a 1912 row house in a quiet spot in Williamsburg — are to die for. We’re talking well-preserved marble fireplaces, stunning hardwood floors, and enviable crown moldings. But for Tom and Carolyn, the building’s community is also a big bonus: “Our incredible landlord (and her two pups) and downstairs neighbors have become like second family, which gives the house this amazing welcoming feel the moment you walk in (and are typically greeted by any of our combined total of four dogs!).”
Another perk of a nice landlord: getting to break some renting “rules” when it comes to decorating, like the bold wall colors and light fixtures incorporated throughout. For the rest of the apartment, affordable furniture buys from places like West Elm and IKEA mix with quirky, one-of-kind finds from travels or nearby vintage stores. For the couple, it’s about balance, though: “With the classic details of the apartment, we do our best to keep things modern with bold artwork that reflects our obsession with our dogs and strong ladies.”
Tom and Carolyn have lived in this Brooklyn apartment for over seven years — a long time for a rental. College sweethearts, they met while at Boston University (go Terriers!). Carolyn is now a lawyer and Tom works for Twitter, and the home they share with their two beloved dogs the Count and Rupert is about to be turned upside down: the couple is expecting a baby girl.
“We’re racing the clock to finish our pending daughter’s nursery, where we’ve carried over the apartment’s bold artwork and bright colors vibe. We want her room to feel like a natural extension of the apartment but still have the fun whimsy of a kid’s room, so we went with a slightly tropical theme we call ‘The Golden Girls go on vacation to Palm Springs.'”
The couple love their apartment and eagerly await their growing family, but know the space is about to become baby-centric, part of the reason why they wanted to show off their home with a tour. “We wanted to share this moment of time before we take a step off the cliff and enter parenthood.” Laughed Carolyn,”now we’ll have proof for the baby that mom and dad once had a cool Brooklyn apartment.”
UPDATE: Tom emailed to let us know that baby Quinn is here and “she’s the boss of this house now lol.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Modern meets old lady-obsessed-with-her-dogs eclectic. We’ve filled the place with pieces we’ve accumulated over the years, relying largely on affordable standbys like Target, West Elm, and Ikea (both new and Craigslisted), but we also try to pick up unique things that catch our eye, whether it’s from the vintage store near work on our lunch breaks, the flea market on the weekend, or while traveling upstate in the Catskills. With the classic details of the apartment, we do our best to keep things modern with bold artwork that reflects our love for our dogs and strong ladies.
Inspiration: The most important thing for us is to keep things fresh and fun in our interior design. To that end, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and try to change it up as often as we can afford to. We take inspiration from our backgrounds, professions (Carolyn is a lawyer for The City of New York, Tom is a Brand Strategist at Twitter), the internet, and designers we admire (love you, Emily Henderson!) and we try hard to balance each other out. That way, our apartment never looks too predictable or in keeping with one aesthetic or theme.
Favorite Element: Original details. We love the two impeccably preserved original marble fireplaces, wide plank hardwood floors, and crown moldings. The previous owner lived here for close to 50 years so with the good comes the quirk, like uneven leveling, doors that expand/contract with the seasons, and either a clanging radiator or a rambunctious, friendly ghost.
The “Cheers” vibe of our building is another huge plus. Our incredible landlord (and her two pups) and downstairs neighbors have become like second family, which gives the house this amazing welcoming feel the moment you walk in (and are typically greeted by any of our combined total of four dogs!). It is so rare to live in an apartment in New York for almost as long as your childhood home, but that’s been the case for us.
Biggest Challenge: Restraint and editing. We tend to go hyper-colorful and want to fill the place with all the art and objects we love, but with two dogs and a baby on the way, we’re always trying to pare down. It’s a constant process and much easier said than done.
What Friends Say: “This place is exactly what I picture when I think of the two of you!” It’s so affirming to hear from friends or even people who stop by for the first time that our home is a true reflection of both our personalities and styles. More than anything, that’s the definition of a homebase for us — somewhere that’s a living embodiment of who you are and what you love.
And a true homebase it is; the majority of our friends (and soon to be babysitters) live right here in the neighborhood. This makes our place a central locale for impromptu hangouts over long meals in the dining room, or B-horror movie marathons on the big sectional couch in the living room. We love to entertain and work hard to make sure that our place feels like a gathering spot for friends.
Biggest Embarrassment: We’re not embarrassed of our classic renter’s bathroom, but it would certainly make the top of our To-Renovate list, if we owned. Who wouldn’t want a clawfoot tub?!
Proudest DIY: Not *technically* a DIY, but the giant canvas above the living room fireplace of our two dogs. We’re lucky to have some super talented friends, and a few years ago one of our closest asked if he could make some designs of the pups for a dog-food packaging project his agency was working on. We loved the results so much we blew it up into a massive canvas that’s become the focal point and building block for our colorful and eclectic space. Plus, it’s no secret that our dogs rule the roost, so people always laugh when they see it for the first time.
Biggest Indulgence: Task Rabbit. Neither of us are what you’d call “handy,” so after a few years of installing uneven shelves and repairing holes in the walls, we decided to splurge for some expert assistance to do things the right way. It’s saved our walls, sanity, and marriage 🙂
Best Advice: If you can, do everything to make a rental feel like home. We’re fully aware that we’ve broken some cardinal rules of renting by painting and replacing light fixtures (again, shout out to our very understanding landlady who gets our renters’ vision), but the way we see it, paint and fixtures can always be put back, and the small improvements have gone a long way to make our apartment feel truly like our home.
Also, don’t be afraid of a little color and a lot of personality. Fill your space with things that reflect who you are and what you’ve dreamed up in your head (even if it’s a little weird!)
Dream Sources: The estate sale of a fabulous old woman in Palm Springs
PAINT & COLORS
Living Room – Ralph Lauren “Club Navy”
Middle Room – Benjamin Moore “Emerald Isle”
Bedroom & dining room accent doors – Benjamin Moore “Days End”
Nursery & Kitchen – Benjamin Moore “White Diamond”
Karlstad Sectional, Green Velvet Cover, Mid Century legs – Ikea Bemz Uncle Bobs Workshop
Green geometric pillows – Society 6
Pink Velvet Pillows – Wayfair
Round Stockholm Mirror — IKEA
Grey Console Table – Blu Dot For Target (discontinued)
Brass Accent Table – Target (discontinued)
Dumont Buffet White – West Elm (Floor Model #FTW!)
Glass Coffee Table – West Elm (Craigslist)
White Geo Console – West Elm
Grey mid century arm chair – Vintage
Leather Butterfly Chair – Urban Outfitters (discontinued)
Geometric Tile Rug – Flor
Art Wall: Vintage, HillaryClinton.com
Dog Print Over Fireplace – Our Friend Tom Wilder
World War I Hanging Map – Vintage
Chandelier – Original
Round Docksta Table – Ikea
Centerpiece Vase – Oh Joy! For Target
Tobias Clear Chairs – Ikea
Mid Century Black Shell Chairs (replica) – AllModern.com
Hot Pink Fainting Sofa – CB2 (Craigslist)
Rug – Vintage (Carolyn’s Great Auntie Rinda – we got married on this rug!)
Mirror Over Fireplace – Craigslist (also used in our wedding!)
China Hutch – West Elm (discontinued) – Craigslist
Mirrored Bar Cart – West Elm (discontinued)
Dream Catcher – custom designed by the awesome local shop Line & Label
Art Print – Vintage
Black Drum Light Fixture – Ikea (discontinued)
Accent Table – Target
Pink Area Rug – RugsUSA
Mirrored Wardrobes – CB2 (Craigslist)
Yarn Wall Hanging – DIY
Rattan light fixture – Ikea
Storage Baskets – Pier1
Vintage Mid Century Dresser – FurnishGreen
Gold Mirror – Vintage
White Leaning Desk – Crate & Barrel
White Tufted Bench – Overstock
Green Velvet Headboard – One Kings Lane
Red Oriental Rug – Vintage
Barnwood Dog Crate Table – Made by our old downstairs neighbor!
Rose Gold Pendant Light – France & Son
Geometric Art – Craigslist
Wood Geometric Mirror – World Market
Mirrored Bedside Tables – Target
Brass Hanging Mobile – Target
Cactus & Plant Large Prints – Urban Outfitters
Pink Shag Rug – Urban Outfitters
Retro Mirror – Urban Outfitters
White Storage Bin – Target
Crib – BabyLetto
Flamingo Crib Sheets – Target
Grey Glider Chair – BabyLetto
Geometric Blanket – Emily & Merrit For Pottery Barn
Pineapple Pillow – PillowFort For Target
Dresser/Changing Table – Ikea + DIY Drawer Pulls
Blanket Ladder – Bed Bath & Beyond
Marble Pendant Shade – West Elm
Women’s March Print – ForAllWomanKind
Drake Print – American Two Shot
Charleston Print – Kristen Solecki
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Pennant – WildFang
Supreme Skate Deck – Supreme
Mirror (vintage from Craigslist)
Shelves – Ikea (DIY Painted Gold)
Thanks, Tom and Carolyn!
Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.