Two things sold Olivia Stutz on her Upper East Side studio apartment: the closet and the view. Never mind that the footprint clocked in at 300 square feet. “The windows looked out onto this scene right out of old-world New York, with brick buildings, gardens, and fire escapes,” remembers the interior designer. “I had this Sex and the City moment and was sold.”
It helped that the bathroom was divided into two rooms—one with a shower and toilet and the other with a large vanity and tons of storage space—and that the kitchen was simple and clean, save for a blue and white tiled backsplash that reminded Stutz of Portugal. “It seemed to be in good condition and was everything I needed,” she says. So she packed up her place on the Lower East Side and moved in.
The slightly orange hardwood floors and oddly charming green granite tiles in the bathroom had to stay, so Stutz turned her attention to the art and furniture with one philosophy in mind. “It had to be restrained, because I always want the spaces I live in to be very calm and neutral with not much going on,” she says. This meant crafting a palette of mainly off-white tones and forgoing a sofa so as not to cram too much furniture in the main area.
Instead an oatmeal-hued upholstered bed anchors the room, sandwiched by a single nightstand—a Calacatta Viola marble-topped piece made from scraps at a remnant yard—and a floor lamp. “Honestly, I don’t have much stuff,” admits Stutz. Other than an IKEA dresser and a closet that houses everything from seasonal clothes to suitcases, very few things have storage capacity, and that’s by design. “I’m always donating things or returning samples to showrooms,” she adds.
Above the bed, an installation by Pedro Silva made from melted gold-leaf plastic balls serves as a good-luck charm of sorts. “He came over with white gloves and put it together in a very spiritual process, before blessing my space with palo santo and a prayer,” explains Stutz. Art takes pride of place throughout the designer’s apartment: Works made by friends stand alongside black and white photographs on loan from Stutz’s dad and African masks picked up outside the Met Breuer.
The area that separates the bedroom from the kitchen (and also doubles as the entry hall) displays the largest artwork of all: a triptych by Stutz’s best friend, Hannah Polskin. “She was born and raised a few blocks from my apartment, so when I described that I wanted a tranquil, abstract piece that I could enjoy as a break from the city, she got it from the first bounce,” says the designer. It hangs above a bench Stutz had made to fit the length of the wall, based on a smaller IKEA piece. “I wanted it to feel like a proper hallway, one you’d find in a big house but with studio proportions,” she explains.
Off the kitchen, a tiny breakfast nook doubles as a dining area and workspace (Stutz keeps all her samples in organized Container Store bins above the cabinets). The Mario Milana chairs—which have adjustable backs for comfort—were purchased from a friend, as well. “He invited me to his house (which is also his showroom) in Brooklyn a couple of years ago, and I wanted to buy every single piece,” remembers Stutz, who picked the burnt orange leather color to match the adjacent terracotta tile floors.
There was no better time to spruce up the bathroom than in quarantine. Stutz picked a polka dot pattern from Voutsa for her shower curtain and wallpapered the room’s ceiling in the same print. She even had her intern—a senior at Parsons School of Design—sew her a couture top to match. “I see Kelly Wearstler matching her pants or dresses to her walls and I thought: I need my own version of that,” she says, laughing. Who says you can’t live large in a tiny space?
Go-to local vintage shop: Form Atelier in Brooklyn.
Thing in my home that gives me the most joy: An interior spray from this California-based company called Sandoval. The scent is named Peace, and it’s a wonderful mix of palo santo, sandalwood, and patchouli that makes my house smell so good. I usually pick it up when I’m shopping on the weekends in SoHo from Côte à Coast.
My biggest splurge: My Frette linens and the dry-cleaning bill that comes with them!
Who to Know
I loved working with: My friend and independent curator Gavin Runzel on the art in my apartment.
Nicest contractor I’ve ever met: Josh Wiener at Silver Lining General Contracting.
Electrician who can do no wrong: Miguel Hernandez at HB Construction.
Hardest-working plumber in the business: Still looking for a favorite; please send résumés!
Pristine painter: Will at Metro City Painting.
Meticulous wallpaper installer: Jan Krafcik from JJK Painting.
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