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before & after: making 600 square feet feel like PLENTY of space

After 8 years in her 600-square foot NYC studio new Madison Square Park, Diego Rincon’s client was ready for a change. Rincon’s sense of vintage-modern sophistication, together with a focus on improving the quality of his clients’ lives within their space, truly comes through in this redesign. Read on to see how Diego’s vision for the space came to life!

What inspired this project?

My client’s self–questioning about how she wanted to live and the home she wanted for herself is what inspired this project. As with many young professionals, she’d assembled her home over the years, leaving it disjointed and haphazard. She wanted to start over from scratch, which is what I enjoy most. This project is about introspection. I wanted her home to reflect the same sophistication and coolness that she reflects; a calming space that looked effortlessly complex.

Did the client have an idea of what she wanted or did she leave it all up to you?

Yes, she wanted a calming, relaxed space, which makes a lot of sense when you’re an attorney. I helped her channel what she had in mind using neutral fabrics, rugs, and a soft paint color for the walls. “The excitement and playfulness comes from the art, accessories, and textiles”, I advised her. There was a lot of editing that I translated into a very organized, calming, and architecturally clean–lined apartment. Those were the elements that came to my mind when she said she wanted a relaxing place.

What was the biggest challenge?

A transformation like this takes several months and that is always a challenge. There are also a lot of emotions involved, especially when it’s the first time a client is working with a designer. But once the client better understands that the only way to achieve the home they envision is by trusting the discipline, smart buying and educated, objective eye of their designer, they become more receptive to change.

What design element did you put in place here that our readers should try for themselves?

There are a lot of ideas in this apartment that can inspire. But one that I would love to share is the transformation of a vintage textile; for example, a vintage scarf, into a customized pillow. It brings a lot of meaning and warmth to the space. With the right material —which in this case was silk— and the right cropping and placing, it adds a truly unique touch to the space.

What is one recurring design element that has become a part of your signature style?

One recurring design element that has become a part of my signature style is the postcard-size art used in the entry hallway in this apartment. Each piece is an original artwork, donated by artist around the world to support individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Not only do they add a personal, yet uniquely different element to each of my designs, but my clients are also helping a great cause. I’m also obsessed with the different shapes and materials of vintage candleholders —I’m a total addict. In this case, I love how the lucite candlestick from the 60’s – 70’s in the entryway adds a playful element to that simple vignette.

Any favorite memories of the project you’d like to share?

Everything about this project was really fun. Picking out the postcards for the hallway was really fun, they had to fit with the palette of the overall design of the apartment, and she wanted me to pick them out for her, the problem was: I was getting mine too! I remember that my client was very concerned that the 2-tone vintage side chairs in pink / blue were going to look too kooky —almost like a circus—and she sent me a picture of the iconic Nelson Marshmallow sofa with the cushions in different colors. But she was very pleased when she saw how they turned out.

What’s the best design advice you’ve ever been given?

Always be original and never stop looking at usual things with an unusual eye.

What design advice do you give most often?

Design and style begin the minute you wake up, it has to do with how you make your bed or how you present your food, so it should be part of your everyday life. It should not end when the designer walk out the door. My go to advice to my clients is if it doesn’t look good, please put it away. Edit. And edit more.