Living in New York City can be stressful—think tiny apartments, annoying rental agreements, tons of traffic, and, of course, the difficulty of making a place your own. While most rental agreements draw the line at allowing you to tile the kitchen or add a pop of wallpaper to your living room, know that there are still easy ways to make sure your home epitomizes your personality perfectly.
Just ask roommates Ciara Benko and Leyla Babaoglu, whose pretty Manhattan apartment boasts dreamy boho vibes that instantly make it feel like a sanctuary.
“[I think our vibe] is mid-century modern with ‘70s vibes,” says Benko. “A little bit eclectic, a little bit boho. I’d say tasteful maximalism.”
And of course, at the forefront of those fun vibes are the multitude of plants. Found everywhere from the living room to the bedroom, the two roommates have found inventive ways to store their plants throughout the space: Think tiny pots of cacti on the bar cart, a trailing plant adorning their sofa, and even short whisps aligning shelves, tables, and ceilings.
“Our friends call the apartment Jumanji!” laughs Benko. “The last time we counted, we had 42, but I’m constantly propagating and growing little new ones. I clip and plop vines into jars of water until they are ready to plant. Lately, I’ve been giving out propagated plant babies as gifts!”
Sky high ceilings, a pristine white wall, and tons of natural light allow all the focus to be on the multitude of plants adorning the living space—particularly in the living room, where a massive fiddle leaf fern immediately grabs all the attention.
“We left the walls white because there’s a lot going on, and we wanted a simple palette,” explains Benko. “My last apartment was teensy tiny, so I used to paint one accent wall a new crazy color every year—there wasn’t a lot of space for decor.” Lighter, boho furniture pieces and fuzzy pillows keep the look neutral, yet interesting.
“Growing up, my grandma had this incredible sprawling garden at their house in the Hollywood Hills—she had literally hundreds of pots that weaved up pathways on their hill. She was always puttering around the garden; watering, trimming, and talking to her plants,” says Benko of her design inspiration. “I think we’ve always had a little of that green thumb from her. I’ve been in New York for over seven years now, but I’ve gotten more invested in collecting plants since we get great light in this apartment—and they’re all thriving. I’ll always want more!”
Built-in shelving also maximizes storage space, while allowing more of the gorgeous greenery to be displayed. Says Benko of her vignette aesthetic, “I like mixed materials, textures, shapes, and different heights. I’m constantly rearranging, adding, subtracting—so I don’t really have a formula.”
This relaxed, carefree feeling continues into the entertaining zone, where a bright pink couch and modern art gives the space a relaxed feel. A bar cart accessorized with (what else?) plants in interesting pots sits nearby, with the wood flooring adding a rustic feel.
I love that Leyla and I have space to entertain,” says Benko. “We always have friends over, throw on a record—we all cook together, drink wine. I’m always bragging that Leyla is classically trained in opera, so we have a keyboard and ukulele for recitals.”
However, while the living areas might boast all that space for the plants to thrive, Benko’s bedroom is—as most New York apartments go—quite tiny. An all-white aesthetic with pops of color widens the space, while cozy accents (think rugs, pillows, and throws) give the area a more relaxed feel. And of course, adding some open storage allows for a pop of personality.
“One of the very first things I did when I moved in was hanging these shelves and buying a clothing rack,” says Benko. “I find it aesthetically pleasing, but it also makes it easy to find things quickly (or figure out what to wear). I also have created some little vignettes, like the blue chair nook, that are pretty but functional. Now, I’m working on not letting it become the ‘heap of clothes’ chair…”
If you want to make your own home a boho chic oasis, but don’t have room to adorn your living space with tons of greenery, think small: Add a small cactus near your window, or a humidity-loving plant by your bathroom. Use neutral palettes with added texture for interest, and, of course, don’t be afraid to experiment.
“I adore all things old and vintage, so flea markets are key for shopping!” says Benko. “I’m always trolling Craigslist for steals. For plants, The Sill is the best, and I have my favorite plant store in Chinatown that I check in with weekly. We are constantly swapping out pillows, collecting more tchotchkes, or, obviously, buying new plants, so it continues to evolve.”
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