From the Shower Tile to the Walls, This Artist’s Whole Apartment Is Her Colorful Canvas

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At 700 square feet, Gabriella Picone and Daniel Marino’s East Village apartment is massive by New York City standards. The artist and architect, respectively, feel like they’ve won the real-estate lottery—so much so that Marino has owned the apartment for almost seven years (Picone joined him a year later). “We can’t walk away from the double-height windows,” she says. That, and the fact that they didn’t need prior approval for any kind of renovation, including painting the metal staircase white to better blend in and lowering the entrance’s ceiling height to accommodate a taller closet in the lofted bedroom.

living room with three windows
Dining Chairs, DWR; Light Fixture, Jean Prouvé; Ceramics, Jenny Blumenfield.

“The loft was fine for sleeping, but we wanted to be able to get ready up here as well,” she says. When it’s time to descend the stairs, Picone’s art studio is just down the hall. While it is separate enough from the rest of the apartment to give a sense of work-life balance, she likes that if she needs another cup of coffee or a different paintbrush, they’re just a few steps away. Her pastel works in progress brighten up the neutral walls (she uses sticky putty for easy removal), and a big basket of her textiles sits right behind the desk so she can compare scale and coloring with a turn of her chair.

walls covered in art sketches
portrait of woman in art studio
Brush Vessel, Idda Studio.

Picone’s creative output isn’t limited to the walls—it extends to the kitchen and shower as well. The latter, newly renovated, features hand-painted ceramic insets (perfect for storing shower essentials) in her signature painterly motifs. The rest of the tile are simple white squares from Casablanca’s Nemo line.

inside of white shower
Decorative Tile, Gabrielle Picone; Fixtures, Kohler.

In the kitchen, Picone chose a miniature blue striped backsplash to add a playful contrast to the sea of white cabinetry. Switching up the stripes’ orientation further keeps the pieces from feeling too uniform.  

Tile, FAM; Mirror, Gabriella Picone; Head Vessel, Taller Manos Que Ven; Vase, Malka Dina; Bowl, Macrina Mateo Martinez.

Despite Picone’s creative process being rooted in color—her childhood in Sicily was filled with coastline views and weekends collecting seashells—the couple’s home is surprisingly neutral. “There’s something nice about being able to rest and feel calm when I’m not working,” she says. A monochrome palette was especially necessary in the sleeping loft, where anything more colorful would have only accentuated the space’s smallness.

neutral bedroom with paper lantern
Lantern, Noguchi; Ceramic Art, Nora Normile.

Like the tile, bolder decor pops up here and there: a Gaetano Pesce vase by the window, terracotta ceramics on the countertop, and one of Picone’s own throw pillows on the sofa. The living room acts as a gallery of sorts, showcasing both her current projects and those of her friends. “There’s a lot of trading going on; I’ll swap a painting of mine for an oil work of theirs,” she explains. 

overhead shot of living room

Long-term, the couple plans to build a home completely from scratch on Long Island. “Not until we’re old, though,” Picone notes. “We’re not quite done here.” However, because of the now shorter entry, all of the furniture Marino brought in seven years ago—mostly vintage finds from his parents’ house—will have to stay there when they leave. “We joke that whomever inherits the apartment will inherit our lives,” says Picone, laughing. “The sofa barely fit coming in, so it definitely won’t squeeze on the way out.” But it’s not something she is ready to ponder just yet: “I really don’t think we’ll ever leave.”  

grey sofa with large floor lamp
Coffee Table, DWR; Painting and Throw Pillow, Idda Studio; Dog Candle, ZoZo’s General; Vase, Gaetano Pesce.

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Kate McGregor


Kate McGregor covers everything related to the home, from design inspiration to IKEA hacks. She has been the market assistant at ELLE Decor where she focused on curating product for the print magazine’s market pages.