A Tiny 1940s Studio Apartment with “Nerd Grandma” Style — House Tour
Location: Washington, DC
Size: 495 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, owned
After a marvelous tour with Irwin, fate brought us Grace in the comments thread; she’s a resident of the same, beautiful Art Deco-style apartment building with precisely the same floor plan. Whereas Irwin’s studio was brimming with rich earthy colors, I was delighted to see Grace’s interpretation of the space — in top to bottom pink.
Like Irwin, Grace has made the most of her 495-square-foot home by surrounding herself with artwork, figurines, and a color palette that makes her happy. Most of the art is original, and it has been thoughtfully selected and arranged. From smart, crafty DIYs to grad school projects growing on the windowsill, Grace’s personality is everywhere. She decorates with a combination of modern and retro elements that reflect the spirit of the building, which was built in the 1940s, and echo the “pastel suburbia kitsch” from which she draws inspiration.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Mid-century modern-ish. Someone once called it “nerd grandma” and it’s hard to argue against that when I have doilies. I’ve moved a lot, and mid-century stuff works with most layouts and is portable (RIP, old Victorian couch, you were a beautiful backbreaker), so it’s nice that it fits in with the 1940s apartment.
Inspiration: Selina Kyle’s apartment in Batman Returns might just be my favorite movie apartment of all time, and the kitchen color scheme wound up a nearly exact match of the “You Can Call Me Al” music video’s set.
Favorite Element: The bathroom, with its built-in laundry hamper and original tub handles. (Separate handles that control the shower and the bath were a thing!?)
Biggest Challenge: Coordinating deliveries for a building with a narrow alley and no designated delivery truck-sized parking spot. It seems like having things dropped off should be trivial, but between removing the old appliances and getting a new stove, fridge, and couch, dealing with the delivery windows and parking restrictions drove me up the wall. My “kitchen” was a microwave and a borrowed mini-fridge for a solid month due to timing complications. After that, everything was under my control, and so much easier to deal with.
What Friends Say: “Cozy.”
Proudest DIY: The kitchen floor. After getting the old appliances out, I scraped off the previous floor down to the original concrete subfloor with hand tools — it was bad linoleum time travel all the way down. Once the floor was clean, I used a clear garage floor epoxy kit to create a glitter floor.
Biggest Embarrassment: … also the kitchen floor. Even though I’d vacuumed it to pick up the loose bits, not all of the glitter stuck to the basecoat when I put the clear coat on, and so instead of a smooth sheen of glitter as intended, it got patchy after the point of no return. If I did it again, I would do it in more layers to be able to spot-correct. That said, it’s still sparkly, solid, and looks much, much better than before.
Biggest Indulgence: The sofa. I still waited for it to go on sale, and my parents went halfsies on it with me as a housewarming present, and it was still the most money I’d ever plunked down on one piece of furniture. It is pretty great for naps, though.
Best Advice: Upgrade things that you touch a lot. I swapped out the (somewhat broken) flush handle, bathroom doorknob, and all the outlets and light switches — they looked like they hadn’t been updated since the early eighties, and felt flimsy. As visually tiny as those changes were, it was a huge difference in whether the apartment felt maintained.
Dream Sources: Sets from Tim Burton films (Edward Scissorhands, in particular). The sets are a weird blend of German Expressionism meets Victorian meets pastel suburbia kitsch, and it works so well.
PAINT & COLORS
Kitchen — Behr Iced Cherry (semigloss)
Living and Bedroom — Behr Ash Rose (satin)
Dressing room and Bathroom — Benjamin Moore Winter Gray (satin)
Ceramic deermen — Melabo
Small Press Expo poster — Emily Carroll
Hoth concept art print, 1983 — Ralph McQuarrie (Print collections were made in the early 80s, searching Etsy and eBay will turn up similar ones)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — Becky Cloonan via Mondo
Scout Trooper — Ryan Hungerford
Star Wars Poster — Russell Walks
Decemberists 2006 Tour poster — Mike King
Decemberists w/Andrew Bird 2009 — Daniel Danger
Grey Eagle poster — James Flames
Los Campesinos, The National, and Can Joann posters — Plastic Flame Press
Hum posters — Jay Ryan
The Avett Bros. — Justin Helton and Andrew Findley
Art: Tulipan, Curse of the Skeleton Princess, Giant Mutants from Beneath the Earth – Kevin Dart
Nightwing — Dustin Nguyen
Streets of Gotham 3, p.5 — Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
Adventure Comics 3, p.20 — Francis Manapul
King City, p.424 — Brandon Graham
New X-Men 41, p.10 — Skottie Young
The Gardener, Jeff Soto
Lady face planter — Target