Typically, they decorate clients’ second homes in the Hamptons, and apartments in co-ops with doormen. “It’s not our wheelhouse or area of expertise,” Julie said of an apartment like mine. “But if you have the time to really look around, you can find so many great things.”
They trolled Etsy, eBay, CB2 and Ikea. But my favorite was a website that sells secondhand furnishings called Previously Owned by a Gay Man. Turns out, you do not have to be a gay man to sell your stuff on the site, or to buy from it. But what a great name, and it was where Julie found turquoise throw pillows.
They came up with flourishes that wowed me. In lieu of spending on bookshelves that might not fit in future apartments, Julie stacked books in the nonworking fireplaces in the living room and the kitchen.
They put temporary wallpaper on the massive wall along the staircase because I did not have the amount of art we would need to decorate it. Julie and Liz picked a funky pattern that becomes, on its own, a piece of art that adds to the eclectic feel in the entryway and living room.
Though my husband and I had set aside money for the design, I was worried about expenses. Liz and Julie had to push me a few times to go for investment pieces. There is now a midcentury-ish console in our front hall and a custom media cabinet in the living room made of white oak with its interior shelves painted a dark yellow. It holds our turntable and record albums, and my husband, especially, loves it.
The biggest problem was my limited time and attention span. There were dozens of texts about when things could get delivered (my husband and I both work full time, and our building has no doorman) and then many more emails to reschedule when furniture delivery guys realized that there were two long, narrow flights of stairs.
I have a difficult enough time keeping up with work and the logistics of parenting. I was a flaky correspondent.
“Don’t worry, I’ve known for years that you are impossible to get in touch with,” Liz said.
But I pushed her limits over a faux Sputnik light fixture that she found on eBay that she wanted to hang in the center of our living room. I had given Julie and Liz my credit card information so they would not be out-of-pocket on items bought for me. But Liz asked me to handle this one transaction.
I dillydallied and we lost out on the chandelier. (I was afraid to tell Liz.) She then found a different light fixture for $400 and took care of the purchase herself.
From then on, I answered their queries in a respectful amount of time, with one of two boilerplate replies: “Is it in my budget?” and “I defer to you.”
Deferring to them meant that I did not need to understand their vision of how it would all come together, and it kept me from making it impossible for them to execute it.
For example, they wanted to hang fabric panels on either side of the three living room windows. I didn’t see why we needed them since the windows have shutters that fold discreetly to the side and fully block the light and street view when pulled closed.
Trust us, they said.
The effect of the long deep mustard panels is dramatic and sophisticated. The panels draw your eye to the high ceilings and simultaneously make the space feel cozy.