Journalist Alexandra King-Lyles lives with her husband, Isaac, and their two cats in a one-bedroom apartment in (you guessed it) Brooklyn. Their home is full of charm and personality — and no shortage of inspiration — much like Alex herself. Here’s a peek inside the space, along with how to create a “love corner” and the best way to fall asleep…
On why everyone should live in a bad apartment: I’ve learned so much from living in a series of shitty apartments. Now, I have a three-step plan for any space I move into: crisp white walls, green plants and books. No matter what, that’s what I do. Learning how to live comfortably in a tiny space, get scum off an old gross bathtub, convince your landlord to give you a new stove because yours has rust all over it — these things are important for building character.
On rental hacks: Another thing I do when I move to a new neighborhood is locate a handyman. I work with a guy named Joe who I found on Craigslist and I’m obsessed with him! Joe swapped out my light fixtures for cuter ones and installed the ceiling fan. I’ve also learned that YouTube tutorials rock. I’ve patched walls, changed toilet seats, glazed my bathtub. When it comes to rental hacks, you can do a lot of it yourself.
Wire chair: vintage Bertoia.
On embracing cats: The cats are my husband’s, though I am definitely their mother. He adopted them seven years ago, and named them Lois and Maxine, after diner waitresses. I was always a dog person, until I met these cats. They’re both disabled, which means they’re physically lovely but a little uncoordinated. They can’t jump up on high things and they don’t have that cat-like ability to land on their feet. They don’t scratch, they don’t bite, they just want to cuddle. Now I’ve come to believe that a black cat is one of the chicest interior accessories you can possibly have.
On how your apartment is bigger than you think: The key to living in small apartments is seeing what’s right outside as an extension of your space. That way, my husband and I don’t drive each other too crazy. If you love your block, it becomes another room in your home. Our stoop was made for serving sauvignon blanc!
On having one too many chairs: Once I saw an amazing Carter Brothers chair on Craigslist and jumped in a cab to buy it. I got it to replace an old Ikea armchair which we’ve had forever. During this time, my husband (a huge sports fan) decided that the Ikea chair contains all of the good sports juju in the world. If we ever get rid of the chair, the Dallas Cowboys will lose every game they ever play in. So I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ll give the chair a little shove every now and then. It drives me crazy!
On displaying meaningful objects: When I was getting married, I saw some gorgeous Valentino shoes, but they were outrageously expensive. My best friend surprised me with them as a wedding gift. After the wedding, I wanted them out on display because they make me happy. So I keep them out on the bookcase (here’s a photo), and whenever I’m feeling sad and need a little pick-me-up, I’ll drink my tea, wear my PJs, and put on my wedding shoes.
On beloved books: The books on the shelves are our favorites. Being British, I have a lot of British classics, like Jane Eyre. My husband has a great collection of art books. New paperbacks I think of as belonging to the universe, and we only keep them if they’re very much loved. One of the reasons we fell in love is that our book collections are so complementary. Our books are as happily married as we are.
On eye-catching art: My husband used to work in a gallery in Chelsea. This surfer painting was being stored there when Hurricane Sandy hit. The minute we got the call saying the gallery had been flooded, my husband ran down there to see what he could salvage. Miraculously, the painting was on top of a file cabinet and made it out unharmed, and we nicknamed it “Sandy.” Nowadays, we forget that there is a penis in our dining room — until we have a dinner party, someone takes a photo, and there is an Instagram of a person eating soup with that on top of their head.
On embracing cultural differences: I’m British and my husband is from Dallas. Sometimes we don’t understand a single thing about each other. The other day, we had an instance where I was like, “It’s in the cupboard.” And he was like, “I don’t know what a cupboard is!” His favorite story about me is the time I was in a shopping center and saw a sign for Chuck E. Cheese. I thought it must be a cheese shop, so I boarded the escalator, prepared to stock up for a party. I was very surprised when I got there! But to him, I’m kind of exotic, which is fun.
On creating a “love corner”: The fridge photos are Instagram shots we printed from this awesome place Social Print Studio. According to feng shui, the southeast corner of your home is your love corner, where you’re supposed to make a little shrine to the one you love. Even though I ignore other feng shui principles, like not keeping plants in the bedroom, this one sounded sweet.
On an easy storage solution: I like to keep dry goods like grains, coffee, sugar and flour in jars. It’s done for the practical reason that mice and roaches love easy access to things, but it’s also a good way to keep them within reach. I label them with pink washi tape, and write out the contents with a Sharpie. The tape is an easy way to change things around, and it makes your storage simple but cute.
On the perils of mixed-message spaces: When you’re living in an open plan environment, it’s helpful to underline what each space is for. The bedroom should say, THIS IS THE SLEEPING AREA. The dining room is for eating. The living room is soft and comfy. If you have your desk in your bedroom, you’ll probably do shitty work and sleep badly. If you live in a tiny space, I say, go to a café, make that your work space. Mixed-message spaces are bad for everyone.
On a surprising addition: The longhorn skull above the bed is a Texas thing. I bought it for Isaac as a birthday present, because it hails from his home state. We hung it there on a whim, but now we love it. People say, “Isn’t that scary?” But we actually find it to be a comforting presence. We call her Tina.
On a calm room: I also bought an alarm clock for our bedroom. I wake up to NPR, because there’s something really comforting about waking up to voices. It’s also so essential for me to so leave my phone out of the bedroom completely, because otherwise I can’t help myself from scrolling through Instagram. Our bedroom is a place for sleeping, nothing else.
On creating an oasis: My favorite spot in the apartment is our bed when I first wake up in the morning. The bedroom ceiling is high, and the first thing I see when I open my eyes is the beautiful snaky plants coming down in the corner of the room. It feels like paradise even though I’m waking up in the middle of a big city.
Thank you so much, Alexandra! Your home is lovely. Coming soon, we also have some house tours from all over the world that we’re excited to share.