Design

Alice Gao’s Gramercy Apartment

Alice Gao's Apartment Tour

Photographer Alice Gao is well known for her photos with gorgeous colors and dramatic lighting. She recently moved to a one-bedroom apartment in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan, and we couldn’t wait for her to finish decorating her space. (Seriously. We checked in with her one million times.) The final product did not disappoint. Here’s a peek inside…

LIVING ROOM:

Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On love at first sight: My original plan was to rent a studio, which was more in my budget. I looked at a bunch of studios in this building, but I’m a total real estate nerd (I’d probably work in real estate if I weren’t a photographer), so I was like, “Let’s just see the one-bedroom.” Then I had to have it. It was a struggle to get, because as a freelancer they never want to give you an apartment. I had to put down four months’ rent as a security deposit!

Paint: Behr Cracked Pepper. Blue sofa: Room & Board. Pink daybed: West Elm. Chairs: Jens Risom. Coffee table: Blu Dot. Rug: West Elm. Table lamp: West Elm. Candlesticks: vintage.

Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On moving, a lot: This is my sixth apartment in six years. The first was with Craigslist roommates that didn’t work out. Then I moved in with my boyfriend at the time and he had termites. They would come out of the floorboards by the hundreds. We had exterminators come, but they couldn’t get rid of all of them. The third place was in the East Village, which was so loud we had to sleep with earplugs. So we moved to South Street Seaport, and then Hurricane Sandy happened. My last apartment was right down the street in Gramercy, but when my boyfriend and I broke up, I moved out. This is my first apartment that’s my own, and it feels so good.

Floor lamp: Rejuvenation. Green pillows: Stuck on Hue. Wire plant stands: vintage.

Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On greenery: Green is my favorite color, and plants are a good way to bring in that color without feeling overpowering. It’s a struggle to keep them alive while traveling, but I have lots of those self-watering bulbs, and if you’re only gone for a few days they work really well.

Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On the best souvenir: I bought the plush alpaca [pictured above, bottom left] in Peru three years ago, when I was visiting Machu Picchu. It was one of those times when you know you’re getting ripped off. They had a ton of alpacas, but their faces were all different, and this one had the best face. I put it down to look for a cheaper one, but then I was like, no, I have to have the original guy. His little eyes! His little ears! It’s like the best souvenir ever. If you put him in the sun, his fur actually fluffs up.

Alice Gao Living Room

On creating quiet space: Another thing I love about this apartment is that it has radiator covers where I can put my tchotchkes. I like to highlight new pieces there. Right now, it’s everything I like — books, art, ceramics. I love the wooden hand, which I’ve used as a prop in so many shoots. The drawing of a face was done with just one line. It’s kind of my quiet space.

Face drawing: Christiane Spangsberg

Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On decorating slowly: I took more time decorating this place than the others, and my friend Kira helped with a lot of it. I didn’t take much with me from my old apartment, so pretty much everything was chosen for this space. This often meant ordering furniture that took four months to come — like the shelving unit in the living room. The first thing I got was the blue velvet sofa, because I wanted a couch to anchor everything. I’d been looking for a long time, but as soon as I saw this one, I knew it was right.

Alice Gao's Gramercy Apartment

On printed inspiration: When I travel, I have a terrible habit of buying books — they’re the heaviest things to bring back. But I like going to local bookstores and finding photographers I never would have heard of. Sometimes I’ll get books by people who aren’t known at all. I love getting inspiration from other people’s work. I also love looking through Holiday and The Gentlewoman magazines. The best.

On reading rituals: I do almost all my reading on planes. I’m in the middle of three books right now. I like to balance serious books with lighter ones, which I call my “embarrassing reads.” My current one is Opening Belle. I took the jacket off so I could read it on the plane, because it looks so chick lit-y. But the story, about a woman working on Wall Street, is actually really interesting.

Shelf: Canvas Home. Mirror: vintage. Tiger photo: Randal Ford.

BEDROOM:

Alice Gao's apartment

On how to wake up early: I actually sleep with my blinds cracked open, so the natural light will help me wake up. I’m not an early riser by nature, but I force myself to be. I have this routine where, for a long time, I won’t sleep very much, but then I’ll have a day where I need 12 or 13 hours of sleep. I remember my dreams in vivid detail every single night, which makes me think that maybe I don’t sleep very well.

Bed: West Elm. Bedside tables: West Elm. Bedside lamps: Schoolhouse Electric. Cream shag rug: Steven Alan for West Elm. Ombre rug: Calvin Klein.

Alice Gao's apartment

On low-maintenance bedding: I definitely like linen sheets, because I like the way they wrinkle. They have an effortless look to them. I love the look of crisp, white sheets, too, but they’re so high-maintenance. It’s like, who’s going to iron those sheets?

Sheets and duvet: Matteo. Windowpane pillowcases: Brooklinen. Navy shams: Dara Artisans.

Alice Gao's House Tour

On nightly rituals: The one nightly ritual I have is my skincare routine. I recently discovered Drunk Elephant, and now I use their entire line, especially the cleanser, night serum and face oil, which I keep in my nightstand drawer. My skin hasn’t always been that great, but this is helping!

Alice Gao's House Tour

On creative storage: Most of my clothes live in the closet, but the clothing rack is where I keep the clothes I’m really into. Sometimes I organize it by seasonal favorites; other times I’ll get into a color. There are also a lot of things hidden under the bed. But I purge a lot. I’m constantly selling or donating things. I sell my things on Depop, which is a little like the Instagram of eBay. You post photos, and people can buy with one click.

Grey chair: West Elm. Clothing rack: Menu.

Alice Gao's House Tour

On a beloved childhood friend: I’ve had Teddy for as long as I can remember. My parents bought him at a garage sale, and he was new-ish at the time. He was someone else’s teddy who was unloved. He was so white and fluffy back then, I wish I had photos of him. But he’s in pretty good shape for his age. He came with me to college, and to all of my apartments. Once I accidentally took him to the laundromat! He must have gotten tangled in the sheets. I got him back and was horrified. He was a lot fluffier, from the dryer, probably.

BATHROOM:

Alice Gao's Apartment Tour

On keeping things clean: Now and then, I get into cleaning moods where I can’t get any work done until my space is clean. Even knowing there’s a mess at home makes me anxious. There are certain areas I always try to keep organized, like the bathroom and living room. And I always make the bed.

Shower curtain: Restoration Hardware. Bath mat: Joinery. Plant stand: vintage.

ENTRYWAY:

House Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On entryway art: The photo is of the Blue Lagoon in Jamaica, a favorite spot from a trip I took a few years back. I chose it because it has so many green tones in it, and I was trying to carry green throughout the space. Right now I just have it taped to the wall. I’d love to get it framed, but framing something that big feel intimidating.

House Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On tricky spaces: At first, I didn’t know what to do with the little entryway, since it’s just a place to drop off keys and whatnot. But once I added the console table that helped a lot. One thing I really struggle with is shoe storage. I’ll keep one or two pairs out here, and then the rest I’ll try to keep in the closet. But there are just shoes everywhere!

Console table: Blu Dot. String artwork: Nicole Patel. Photography: Blue Lagoon in Jamaica, taken by Alice.

KITCHEN:

House Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On a favorite morning ritual: I love spending my mornings at the table with a cup of coffee. I’m very serious about my coffee and making it just right. I measure the beans, I take the temperature of the water, I get the exact ratio. When I first moved to New York and was on a very tight budget, going for coffee was one thing I could do on the cheap. In the early days of my blog, would visit one or two coffee shops a weekend and take pictures.

Table: Saarinen. Chairs: vintage Thonets and Eames.

House Tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On building a shelves: When I first moved into the apartment, this was an empty nook and my friend Kira built this bookshelf with her boyfriend. They installed it one weekend when I was traveling; and when I came home, it was all done! Here the light gives it an ombre effect, but it’s actually all one color.

Paint: Benjamin Moore Nimbus Gray.

House tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On cookbooks: I love reading cookbooks for relaxation, even thought I don’t usually cook from them. I really like David Tanis’s cookbooks, like One Good Dish and A Platter of Figs. I also like Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year. When I cook at home, it’s usually pretty simple. In the winter, I make pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage, or braised chicken with mushrooms. I love sautéed summer squash, which I’ll eat with a big bowl of rice and summer herbs. I get a lot of recipes from the New York Times recipe section, which I find to be well-tested. I’ve discovered that’s not the case with a lot of places!

Vase: Natalie Weinberger. Bowl: ABC Home. Salt dish: Mud Australia.

House tour: Alice Gao's Apartment

On small-space entertaining: I can’t really throw a traditional dinner party, since I don’t have a big table. But I’ve had a carnitas taco night and a dumpling night. That way, people can assemble their food in the kitchen and go sit in the living room. I really like board games — I love Settlers of Catan, and now I’m trying to figure out a new game called Power Grid. I’d love to host more nights with board games and drinks. That’s my speed of entertaining.

House tour: Alice Gao's apartment

Thank you so much, Alice!

P.S. Alice’s beauty uniform — plus more home tours, including an amazing gallery wall and a seriously eye-catching painting.

(Interior photos by Alice Gao for Cup of Jo. Styling by Kira Corbin. Portrait by Chris Ozer. Interview by Caroline Donofrio.)

  1. Love this apartment! I REALLY need a clothing rack like this for all my loose items.

  2. Rosabella says...

    I just recently discovered Alice’s blog and I absolutely love it, especially her styling tips (I am also 5’2, short-limbed and long-torso’ed, and have similar hair, one that can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be straight, or wavy, so I like her outfits as they give me great ideas). I am also an avid gamer – I once won a Cataan match by building a town in the desert – my friends laughed, and then they figured out that I had just won with that “useless” town. However, I have realised that I much prefer a big, long table, preferably not too broad, so as to have enough space to lay out snacks, drinks and games – or have a bar cart nearby.

  3. Rachel says...

    Alice’s bed looks SO amazing! And the comforter looks like a cloud of goodness! Any idea what kind of duvet insert she uses?! Been looking for a good one!

  4. Stunning! X

  5. I love this post! That blue couch is beautiful and I can’t wait until I can decorate and make a space my own! P.s I have a bear like him too but she used to be pink and has faded to white!

  6. My son Felix has the exact same bear! His name is Max, and he is now a trendy-bear in Brooklyn.

  7. Beautiful apartment. Love the teddy bear as well.

  8. Danielle says...

    I too have a white teddy bear called Teddy! I’ve had him since I was 3 – my mom brought him back for me from a business trip – which makes him 35 years old! His fur is all matted too now, but he still has a bit of fluff left in the fold under his sunken tail. He lives in the back of my closet…I think he needs a hug right now!

  9. Sadhbh says...

    Alice, I think I have the same childhood teddy! Mine is called Dakin, as that was the word on his label. Does yours have a label? Dakin was a gift from my dad the day I was born.

  10. CindyA says...

    I LOVE the bedding! Ive gone to the Matteo website, but don’t know which color blue her duvet is – they may no longer offer it, which would make me sad (since I love it!!)

  11. Kate says...

    Alice has such a lovely, unpretentious style! I dig all of navy. One of my favorites in this series!

  12. Rachel A says...

    Such a breathtaking apartment! And Power Grid is an awesome game!!

  13. So gorgeous! I’m really into all the shades of blue carried throughout. It has my wheels turning!

  14. Absolutely stunning home. Alice Gao has such a wonderful taste.

  15. Kelsey says...

    Game recs – Dominion, Seven Wonders, and definitely Carcassonne! :)

  16. Meg says...

    Anyone have any tips on where to find her bedside tables? 😍

    • Meg says...

      I looked under the wrong pic. My apologies!

  17. freya says...

    that little alpaca is so cute! i actually enlarged the photo so i could zoom in and see his face.

  18. Wow, this was awesome! I really enjoyed read the interview and look this pictures! I loved the way the interview was made, some kind of intimate, not just talking about the decoration… And I have never seen someone so obsessed with this dark blue shade to decorate, it’s a such a peaceful and simple place with very particular details. I loved when she said that frame a big picture feels intimidating, I have never think that but it is so true! And yes, reading cooking books for relax, I thought I was the only person who do that.

    Thank you Caroline, I will miss your interviwes and your posts, you are unique,

  19. Lillian says...

    I love that she knows Power Grid! A friend taught me this game, and it’s so complicated I was convinced he was making up the rules… ha!

  20. Such a fan of Alice’s work, and her home is AMAZING! Can we just talk about that blush pink sofa? Whaaat!! So amazing.

  21. Beautiful home! I love the home posts – keep em’ up!

  22. Samantha says...

    Such a beautiful apartment! Specially loved the bathroom, it’s just perfect. And the lighting? You couldn’t ask for better lighting than this.

  23. Amy says...

    Love that she mentioned Power Grid! Lots of fun, but definitely not a quick game. We do a lot of Ticket to Ride and Suburbia. Lots of great board games out there. And definitely a fun way to spend an evening with friends.

  24. Beautiful apartment!!! The blue couch is to die for!!!

  25. Rachel says...

    I would love to know where the green throw in the living room is from, such a gorgeous color

  26. This apartment is so lovely decorated! My favorite picture is of the living room: the furniture and colors look so well together.

    I also related to the part about the morning routine. It’s something I wanted to try for a long time.

  27. What an amazing looking appartment! I’d say we have the same style although she seems to play with blue hues more than I do (I tend to stick around in a slightly warmer spectrum). But everything is so well out together, I could learn from this a lot (and I will, as I’m saving this post)! ;)

  28. Trish says...

    So glad that Teddy found someone to love him.

  29. Kim says...

    Her apartment photographs so well and has such amazing bones! I would love to see it again in a year or two after she settles in and makes the space more lived-in. Almost every single one of the big-piece furniture items on my to-purchase-this-summer (there are a lot of them) are in her apartment, so I might have to reconsider the list!

  30. Elizabeth R says...

    Other odd question:
    which fabric option is the pink chaise lounge?

  31. Allison says...

    Oh my goodness…I just have to say that your Teddy looks SO similar to my bear (also fondly named Teddy)! <3

  32. Elizabeth R says...

    Such an odd question, but which Le Labo do you wear? LOVELY home, of course.

  33. Loved looking through the tour, such a pretty space

  34. sharon says...

    This apartment is STUNNING! I would expect no less from Alice, whose blog I’ve fallen in love with after reading her Cup of Jo beauty uniform. Thank you Alice for letting us see your home!

  35. Jessica says...

    power grid….my arch nemesis of board games! so many rules. i love Catan! you should check out Robo Rally!

  36. What a beautiful space. I love the dramatic contrast of the deep blues and greens against the pale walls.
    http://www.typeatypeb.com

  37. I used to follow your blog religiously back when I had my first blog years and years ago and I just remembered it !

    So glad I remembered, I love your blog !

    http://romychaney.com

  38. Melissa says...

    Framing something like that shouldn’t be intimidating, I just discovered Livestock Framing and have framed so many large prints of our photos. Awesome. http://livestockframing.com/

  39. These are absolutely gorgeous photos. Love that Alice has created this space for herself and the colour scheme is stunning. And how is that an to an ombre effect?
    http://theroyalpost.com

  40. Claire says...

    Such a pretty apartment! I love the photos and navy and blush couches which reminde of my bedroom walls (all blush pink with one navy wall). I second the previous commenter – does Alice have a shop where we can order her prints?

  41. Emma says...

    Never mind the apartment photos – I want to see a close up of the Alpaca!

  42. such a beautiful space. I love how bright and airy it seems and the lounge colours are perfect. x

  43. Shannon says...

    I love the pink sofa, too! Where can I find it?

    • Shannon says...

      nevermind! found it…

  44. the light in the living room is to die for! i also just read opening belle and i’m all about those light “beach’ reads with the corny covers. it’s fun to read something like that between some other serious reads

    i’ve never owned linen sheets but am always tempted to buy them since i love the texture and look of a clean but “messy” bed

    hammyta.wordpress.com

  45. jessica says...

    This is the most beautiful house tour you have ever done! I am blown away

  46. I’ve watched Alice blossom since her days on Flickr. She is so talented & has impeccable taste. Loved seeing this little glimpse into her home…

  47. The apartment is so gorgeous! And she as a person seems very relatable as well :)

  48. I love the blues–so unexpected in a rental. And so many freelancers I know have such trouble getting apartments around here, it’s so annoying.

    P.S. Be careful with Settlers of Cattan! It has been known to strain friendships. (Maybe only for me, ’cause I always win :)

  49. lauren says...

    ah, so gorgeous! I have to know…what kind of plant is in the last photo? I love it (house plant addict here!)
    -lauren

    • Don’t mind me for answering – but that plant is a watermelon peperomia…I just picked a few up over the weekend :)

      – fellow house plant addict

    • lauren says...

      thank you Kisha!!

      I will start searching! :)

  50. Lori says...

    Beautiful space. I love how she pulls everything together, looks clean and modern but cozy at the same time.

    Funny thing.. for the past two hours at work I’ve been going back and forth deciding if I should join a group trip to Peru. Then I read about her alpaca. I think this post was meant for me! Booking a trip to Peru ;)

  51. I have the exact same teddy bear! (I’m not able to post a photo here though.)
    And the rest of the tour was wonderful too:) Thanks for sharing your beautiful space!

  52. Nina says...

    Beautiful! yes, shoes! Ugh. I have an 8 year old and though he will wear one pair of shoes to falling apart, he has more than one pair, and it seems like they are always all over! and he loves slippers. a slipper obsession. and those are all over. I have a shoe rack by the front door and he has a bin AND, during winter, I put out drip pans for all our shoes in front of the heater so salt and snow doesn’t get everywhere. I’ve decided to look for a bench with storage underneath or buy baskets to put underneath and then we will both have a basket. and this is also where his backpack and my purse go. I hate things just laying around.

    where they put the shelves you could get a longer shelf to put in place just for dinner parties…extend a shelf…then you’ll have more room for board games and dinner parties. just an idea.

  53. Karen says...

    I love love love that she didn’t feel the need to put a big piece of artwork over the sofa on that rich wall. It feels so modern yet classic!

  54. Ella says...

    Such a beautiful apartment! So nice to see someone else with a teddy.. mine is also called teddy (surprise surprise!) and I’m always worried that someone will found out that I still have him! Thankfully my husband doesn’t think I’m too weird.

  55. M says...

    I didn’t think I could be a bigger fan of Alice than I already was, but SETTLERS??

    • Kate says...

      Ah, Settlers AND a beautiful eye! Be still my heart!!! <3

  56. Sarah says...

    Beautiful vase. I love Natalie Weinberger’s work, I think she’s one of the most innovative young potters in NYC.

  57. Everything about this space is gorgeous! I wish I were talented enough to be able to display my own artwork/photography in my home!

  58. Amanda says...

    Favorite house tour by a mile! The use of saturated color combined with the symplicity of the decor is so chic and inviting! Love it!

  59. Heather says...

    Gorgeous! I love the rich blues and greens. And those shelves really do look like a flawless ombre!

  60. Nina Nattiv says...

    remembering your dreams is a sign of good sleep. I recently went to a talk by a sleep specialist who said that a warning sign of someone with sleep issues is that they never remember their dreams. Your place is beautiful!

  61. Maia says...

    This is my favorite apartment ever.

  62. Loribeth says...

    Alice Gao is everything, and her type of entertaining makes me feel like way less of a nerd! My husband loves to invite people over for board games and food, but we have a teeny house so I usually just do tacos or noodle bowls that can be eaten around the coffee table! It’s relaxed and perfect for introvert socializing.

  63. This apartment is simply stunning. So much natural light! I’ve never seen an NYC apartment with that much light before, and she decorated it with such minimalist and purposeful style. Love everything Alice Gao touches, seriously.

  64. I am absolutely in love with the wall colors and her style! Such a beautiful and calming lace to go home to! Inspiring!

    Xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  65. I’ve been waiting for this post since Alice mentioned it on her instagram a few weeks ago. Yay! It’s just as great as I expected. She has such a good eye, I knew that her apartment would reflect that. I love all the darker colors, but all the light helps it not feel heavy. I just love everything about this.

  66. jenna says...

    the whole thing is absolutely gorgeous, but i adore the accidental ombre bookshelf!!

  67. merel says...

    I always sleep with the curtains open as well! And I have the same sleeping habit. Thought I was the only one :-) She seems so mindful. Lovely post!

  68. Meagen says...

    I love your teddy! I have had mine forever as well.

  69. Cynthia says...

    So fresh and crisp looking! The mirror in the living room looks similar to a mirror I have, which belonged to my maternal grandmother. I love crisp percale sheets and I have never ironed sheets!

  70. Anitra says...

    Dreamy!

  71. Erin says...

    I didn’t think I liked green until I saw this space, it’s just gorgeous!

  72. Tyler says...

    mmmmmm. gorgeous.

  73. Kristin says...

    So beautiful and calming! Makes me long to be a single girl in the big city (I am a mom of 3 in a small town :)). Lots of personality shines through with a minimum of objects–that is not easy to do.

  74. yael steren says...

    So funny because I’m in the process of redoing my apartment and I’ve been on the fence about getting a navy sofa and now this post solidifies the fact that I do want to go in that direction! Perfect timing!! Thanks so much! xx yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

    • Lindsa says...

      Do it! I have a sofa very similar to this one and LOVE IT! It’s like jeans, it goes with everything.

  75. The shelves are my favorite part, such a simple concept but I’ve never thought to do it like that. Lovely tour!

  76. Favi says...

    Love the Blue Lagoon photograph, any way to purchase a print?

  77. Anne says...

    This is my dream apartment!!! All the plants and the different fabrics, lots of light and not too much clutter. I’m in love. #soulmate

  78. Love those saturated colors in the living room.

  79. stunning tour. the couches really pulled me in… first the blue….and I unexpectedly fell for that blush, velvet chaise! woah. total heartthrob.