I was hired as a sales assistant at the interior design magazine, Domino, at 22-years-old—the same time I moved into my first apartment. It was a natural light-filled studio with hardwood floors, big windows, and charming alcoves and I dedicated nearly every free minute to making the space look its best. Of course I lacked any real knowledge on how to decorate an apartment—I just knew that my design choices from college had to go: a feather boa taped to the wall, the word "dream" spelled out above my bed (which I kept up long after I lost the "d"), and a purple shag rug. Working at Domino was a godsend and I soaked up every tip I could from attending meetings with designers, listening in on calls with our Editor-in-Chief, and of course, poring over each and every page of the magazine. The job was also perfectly timed because it also introduced me to my still-best friend, Cristina, who became the assistant after me when I moved over to work exclusively for Teen Vogue, also housed under Condé Nast. Together, we learned countless tricks and hacks during our years at the job, but here are each of our five biggest takeaways we still use to this day:
1. Step onto something soft.
Right next to your bed, where your feet hit the floor when you get up in the morning, make sure to have something soft. Whether it's a full rug, a small flokati throw, or a sheepskin, it sets the tone for the rest of your day to have such a pleasant experience right after you've woken up. Even at 22, when I had little room for most anything (let alone the budget), it was something that I could easily afford to implement. Bonus: Having something fluffy by the side of your bed also adds a nice cozy factor as well.
2. Hang your curtains high.
Regardless if a window is positioned right in the middle of a wall, hang your curtains as high as they'll go (between 1 to 2 inches from the ceiling) as opposed to right above the window. This creates the illusion of a much larger room and makes a noticeable difference (I've done this in every single studio/apartment/duplex/house I've lived in ever since).
3. Get creative with art.
When I was 22, I couldn't afford much art, aside from the few pieces I collected at flea markets. But what I learned from countless issues of Domino was to get creative with what you do have. I collected vintage post cards, which I arranged together on a large blank wall that filled the space and made a big impact. Also, sometimes the more random an item, the cooler it becomes when on display: whether that's a large porcelain bust that holds your necklaces, a cow's head in a bathroom, or old Scrabble pieces that spell out a word. Those little trinkets you own, particularly when they hold special meaning, shouldn't be stored away—they're what make your place uniquely yours.
4. Repurpose items.
I used to be rather straightforward in how I approached buying things for my place. If I needed a toothbrush holder, for example, I'd go to the bathroom section of a home goods store. I quickly learned though, that using items originally intended for other things (i.e., an empty Diptyque candle for my toothbrush, which is so much prettier and less predictable than the faux marble one you could buy at the store) adds charm to a place. Now it's one of my favorite tricks to utilize: an Italian candy tin houses Q-tips, an antique ash tray holds matches and jewelry, and the antlers of a deer bust props up hats.
5. Style your bookshelf.
Up until I worked on Domino, I viewed bookshelves as purely utilitarian—a place to store books and nothing else. It wasn't until I started seeing them partially empty to accommodate a beautiful vase, with books turned on their side to add a little variance, or organized by color, that I began to realize how beautiful they could actually be. I now approach our bookshelves as one of the main focal points in our home that should demand as much attention and care as styling a mantle.
1. Don't fear bold graphics.
Whether it be bold wallpaper, colorful rugs, poppy drawer liners, framed bright prints or even a tunnel-archway-of-wallpaper that led into a room (or flags or stencils), don't fear bold graphics! For a girl who loves neutrals and is a monochromist at heart, this left an indelible mark on my home decor style.
2. Make collections!
Not like creepy stamps...but I remember in every issue, they always showed at least one cool collection of something like magnifying glasses, Japanese tea kettles, or chicly arranged vintage compasses or vases, or even sailing flags or elephant figurines.
3. Sprinkle in the occasional statement chair.
I've really been able to amp up dead space in my places by using a cool occasional chair. They can be unexpectedly loud or ornate or a bit ironic, but they add lots of personality.
4. Adopt demure holiday decorations.
Domino always had the best unexpected holiday decoration ideas. One of my favorites are stringing classic orbed shaped ornaments over your lighting fixture/chandelier that's above your dining table. The other one I love is using Christmas lights to create a Christmas tree shape on the wall in place of an actual tree.