Design

A Welcoming Fort Greene Apartment

olivia-seely-ft-greene-home-2

Olivia Seely, a public relations director, lives with her boyfriend in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, directly below her sister and brother-in-law’s apartment. Their comfortable space is full of reworked antiques, family art and touches of her mom’s interior design advice. Here’s a peek inside…

On a conversation piece: The wood blocks on the fireplace are such a conversation starter. People will ask about them and start rearranging them. They have slanted surfaces, so you have to figure out how to stack them so they won’t fall. In the larger vase, I sometimes put dried flowers or sticks of cherry blossoms. It adds scale and brings your eyes up.

Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

Sofa: Restoration Hardware, similar. Yellow pillows: Pottery Barn. Mug: Falcon.

On playing cards: My sister and I are obsessed with gin rummy and we’ve had a lifelong competition. We always played growing up because my dad loves it, too. For her wedding, my sister printed playing cards with the image from their wedding invitation. I usually have a deck in my purse so if we’re waiting at a restaurant or hanging in the airport, we’ll play another round.

On casual entertaining: As one of four kids, I’m used to having lots of people around. Typically, when my sister or friends come over, we’ll hang out and listen to music. My boyfriend researches artists in his downtime, so something’s always playing. Sometimes it’s old ’20s French music or rap or bossa nova — he’s good at feeling out the moment and matching the vibe.

Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

Rug: Restoration Hardware. Leopard chair: vintage reupholstered with Clarence House fabric. Bamboo leg stool and green chair: vintage. Large print: Ludwig Bemelmans.

On taking mom’s advice: My mom is an interior designer and a tremendous help. She always says, “use your good stuff” and doesn’t think things should be untouched. She encourages people to try for eclectic decor, including souvenirs from traveling, which makes a place look lived in. Growing up was funny because our house would always change. Sometimes we’d come home from school and our living room would look completely different, but it was the spot our friends always loved.

On consolation prizes: When my sister moved out to live with her boyfriend, I told him, “If you’re going to take my sister, I need a consolation prize.” He is part of the New York design studio Fort Standard — they make furniture, objects and really cool bottle openers. I didn’t think he would actually make something, but he surprised me with this coffee table. When he gave it to me, I said, “Take my sister, I’ll keep this.” [Laughs]

Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

Copper hemisphere on side table: Fort Standard.

On early art collecting: My parents’ close friend Lewis is an artist. Growing up, every Christmas, he would give us a little sketch that my mom would then frame for us. It was such a sweet tradition. Now, almost everything above our couch is his work. Crazily enough, my great-grandmother was friends with Ludwig Bemelmans, who created Madeline, so the black framed piece is by him.

On pops of color: Since the entire apartment is painted white, I wanted colorful frames in the living room. I thought it would add a funky vibe without being overkill.

Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

Photo: Philip J. Jameson. Bowl: Fort Standard. Table: Antique French market table.

On family artwork: My grandfather gave me this photo he took of water lilies. He was a radiologist by trade, but his hobby was photography. Now that he’s older and has more time, he travels to Yosemite and climbs mountains and uses an old-school camera with a hood. He has a darkroom in his basement and develops his photos himself.

Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

Bag: Loeffler Randall, similar. Marble trivet: Fort Standard.

On sisterly love: My sister and her husband now live upstairs. We call it “the duplex” and share the Wi-Fi. I sometimes think, “Oh, maybe we’ll move out of New York” — two of our siblings live in Los Angeles — but I can’t give up living in the same building as my sister. We’re best friends and she comes downstairs every morning. I still steal her clothes! It feels like an episode of Friends.

On thriving plants: Two years ago, I bought a fig tree; and now I have a bunch of plants. I water them once a week, and also spritz and wipe down the leaves with a cloth. You have to sing to them, too. I’m not kidding, it works. You just have to give them attention. I have a lime tree with one lime, which I’ll probably use to make margaritas.

KITCHEN/FOYER
Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

On easy renovations: The bones of the apartment are awesome — the ceilings are tall and the windows are big. But when I moved in, the walls were urine yellow and the kitchen cabinets were dark. I painted everything Benjamin Moore Super White to draw more attention to the high ceilings and feel cleaner. I eventually want to do the countertops in the kitchen, but we’re doing things slowly because it’s expensive.

BATHROOM
Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

Basket: antique, similar. Curtains: Ralph Lauren fabric. Pot: Kaufmann Mercantile.

On morning rituals: My sisters have tried to crowdsource ways I can cut down my morning routine. It takes ages. I shower every morning, then I have to lotion my whole body and can’t put on jeans until it’s fully soaked in, so I wear a pink robe from college. My boyfriend makes breakfast — eggs, always — and I’m in charge of dinner. He’ll set up his plate and computer in the living room and watch CBS This Morning. I get kind of frantic, while not actually doing anything — just putting away clothes or adjusting things. I really take forever.

On cleanliness: I like things to be tidy. I vacuum twice a week and clean whenever I see dust. But sometimes I’ll just get lazy and leave things on the floor if we’re in a rush. My boyfriend will be like. “See!” But it’s okay when I do it because I’ll clean it up.

BEDROOM
Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

Chair: antique reupholstered in Pierre Frey fabric. Side tables: antique, similar. Bedding: Pottery Barn.

On reworking antiques: My bedroom dresser is an antique. At first, I wasn’t a huge fan because it’s so formal, but my mom had it spray painted glossy white. She’s always going to antique stores and repainting or reupholstering pieces. I think the dresser goes well with the room now.

On reading habits: I have a lot of books — even under my bed. I try to read every night. It’s nice because we have the wireless Sonos speakers, so my boyfriend can be in the living room but we’ll listen to the same thing. I just finished reading The Girls, which I loved. Emma Cline is an incredible writer.

On second-hand art: I like scouring flea markets, antique shops or estate sales to find artwork. I just bought two old botanical sketches at the Brooklyn Flea, which is down the street every Saturday in the summer.

Olivia Seely Fort Greene Home

Glasses: Warby Parker.

On moving in together: I had never lived with a boyfriend before, but it felt natural this time. We had spent so much time together while dating the year prior. When he officially moved in, I generously gave him one drawer and a tiny part of the closet. I think he’s starting to realize he needs a little more room, though, so I need to clean some stuff out!

Thank you, Olivia!

P.S. More home tours, including a dreamy Paris apartment and a woodsy New Hampshire home.

(Photos by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo. Interview by Alexis Cheung.)

  1. Alyssa says...

    What type of plant/flowers are in the tallest vase on the living room mantle?

  2. Kelly @Artfulwarehouse says...

    I’d like to volunteer to be the fifth sibling, hike with the (amazing) grandfather, go antiquing with the (stylish) mom and live on the roof of the sisters (I only have brothers). I talk to my food when I’m cooking it (you don’t want to hear me sing) and I’ll give you an amazing consultation prize. Deal? ;)

  3. Wow I’m so jealous of her living in the same building as her sister! My sisters and I dream of a “Parenthood” situation living all in the same neighborhood and in and out of each other’s lives!

  4. Great vibes!

  5. Just wow! I love all of it – the rugs, the white couch, the natural light, but my favorite is the bedroom with the touches of green. Beautiful home!

  6. Catherine says...

    This is my favorite apartment tour on Cup of Jo to date! She does a great job giving the place personality without it being cluttered. The Madeline print really sealed the deal :)

  7. As soon as I start thinking I may want color on our walls, I fall in love with another white space!

    Xo Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  8. I love the green hues houseplants bring to a home’s décor and color palette. She does really well with them! They look gorgeous.

  9. Erin says...

    As a woman in mid house renovation, t’s so refreshing to hear someone say “we’re doing things slowly because it’s expensive.” Amen!

  10. I absolutely love this home tour and I’m so jealous that she gets to live so close to her sister! I see my family on holidays and miss my younger sisters more than anything.

  11. Teodora says...

    I love the posts with home tours and i have a curiosity. What do people use to hang so many pictures on the walls? i would like to have some photos framed but can’t find a way to display them in my apartment avoiding to use nails. I don’t want wholes in my walls.

  12. Ramona says...

    Of all the “house tour” stories I’ve ever read…this was my favorite! I love all her sentimental stories behind all the treasured pieces in her home. Our son is an artist and one Christmas we had all of my family (and their families) over for dinner. He randomly started sketching (caricature-style) each person in attendance on a large sheet of paper. It was so interesting how we could see each person’s identity revealed in just a few characteristic lines. I framed it and it makes me smile every time I pass by it.

  13. What a beautiful, bright, and welcoming home! I love the pieces – and art – with history and style!

  14. Andrea smith says...

    I would love some apt/home tours of women who did not
    come from such a privileged background and who work in people focused professions – teacher, therapist, speech pathologist, nurse, police officer, etc.

  15. shopgirl says...

    So cute, classic and cosy. Love the fireplace with golden mirror, bright colours, white sofa and that suede bag :-)…

  16. I live on the other side of the world from my sister, and this post made me miss her so much! We lived together in college (and it wasn’t the best) but a setup like this would be amazing. You are so fortunate!

  17. Tawni says...

    I think this is my favorite home tour so far. I just want to go hang out in their apartment and play gin rummy. Also, I think there is something magical about white walls in a home.

  18. laura says...

    Where did you find the floral bedroom rug ? I have been searching for something similar for ages. Lovely home.

  19. I love the very French look of builder mirrors over the fireplace! I’m currently on the hunt for the perfect French mirror to hang above our mantle, it’s such a chic look!

    Xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  20. Sandra says...

    Yes, please do something about how to care for plants. I got three “easy to care for” succulents and have already killed two of them.

    I am so envious of the sister relationship! I love my sis, but she is 100% not a city person and even when we were younger & before kids and marriage I can’t imagine the two of us ever wanting to live in the same place. We’re just too different.

    • Laurie says...

      She has a lot of easy-care plants: rubber plant, ficus, schlefflera. Other good ones: pothos, mother in laws tongue, fiddle leaf fig. Succulents are not easy indoors- the need a ton of direct sunlight (think Arizona deserts). I’m slowly killing 2 succulents even in my south window in sunny Texas.

    • Ariel aka Crazy Plant Lady :) says...

      Succulents are easy to care for if you consider three things: 1) sun – they need lots of bright light (think 8-12 hours/day) or else they’ll stretch out. Just don’t put them in direct sun all at once, give it a little bit more sun every day so they don’t burn. 2) soil – quick draining soil made specifically for cacti/succulents. You don’t want anything with too much organic matter, because that just soaks up and retains water, which will rot the plant. 3) water – water thoroughly, but infrequently. I.e. use pots with drainage holes, then water until you see it come out the bottom. Discard excess water (or use it to water other plants!). But only water when the soil is dry, not just at the top of the plant, but deep at the roots. You can stick a toothpick into the soil 2-3 inches deep and if it comes up damp at all, wait to water! It’s better to underwater than over water.

      If you want houseplants that are easy – snake plants and zz plants are difficult to kill and don’t need a lot of light. (I seriously have my zz plant in my windowless office and it’s growing prolifically.) Again, just don’t overwater! Also, when you get plants, try to get their names. Then just look ’em up on the internet! Once you get each plant’s basic care needs down, most plants are not difficult.

  21. tiffany says...

    living in the same building as my sister? life goals! i immediately texted her saying this is a must.

  22. Dana says...

    Would love to see the sister’s apartment next! Truly, the ideal Friends set up!

  23. Danni says...

    Welcome Alexis!

    • Karyn says...

      Yes, I thought I saw a new byline! Seconding Danni’s welcome!

  24. Brianna says...

    Yes to a plant post and a playlist post. I love everything about this space. It still feels bright and light, even with dark floors.

  25. ks says...

    she had me at gin rummy & it just got better from there. so lovely to see a bright, colorful, apartment that is so clearly full of pieces (and people) that are loved. xx

  26. Gorgeous home, I loved this and all the little touches :)

  27. Lucy says...

    Ah bloody home goals. This looks GORGEOUS – desperately makes me want to redecorate which is ridiculous because I’ve just finished!

    Lucy xoxo
    http://lucyannblog.blogspot.co.uk

  28. I love this! Their apartment is so light and airy, simply gorgeous <3

    xx

    bombshell-to-be.blogspot.com

  29. Kerry says...

    Where are the blocks from?

  30. meghan says...

    The space is beautiful and so fresh – It feels like summer. But what really stuck with me is the sister-love (and consolation prize!)

    … I also am stealing the idea of always carrying a deck of cards!

    • MissEm says...

      Me too – that’s such a great idea!

  31. I’m slowly adding more plants to my apartment. Sansevieria is one of the few that I don’t kill. I’m really liking putting a potted plant on a stool for a bit of height.

  32. Cindy says...

    LOVE this home tour. This is my style exactly, and I even resonated with details. I also bought one plant that blossomed (pun) into full-blown botanical delight, and HUGE shout out to BM Super White: it’s all over my house and I love it (Emily Henderson uses it, just saying…).

    Great tour, thanks Jo!

  33. Sing to your plants! I do this too! This girl reminds me of myself- I live around the block from my family too, and it pretty much rules. I love the gallery wall!

    xo, brittany
    http://www.notablob.com

  34. I love how you got a coffee table out of your sister moving in with her now husband.

  35. Kathryn says...

    Is there any chance she could add a plant guide for those of us looking to add some green to our homes!?

  36. Justine says...

    I love the vibe of this apartment! Lately I’ve been craving white, fresh, clean spaces, and I love eclectic interior design that doesn’t look “done”.

  37. Katie Loeffler says...

    Love the apartment! Do you think her boyfriend could give us a sample of playlists he’s made? I’m a wreck when people come over because I never know what to put on. I usually resort to the same ol’ Pandora playlist every time.

  38. Liz says...

    I love this apartment and the lovely combination of family heirlooms/art mixed in with pieces from popular stores. Homes feel so much more cozy when objects have a history.

  39. anna says...

    Just lovely. I’m dying to see her sister’s apartment now! :)

  40. E says...

    This is the first apartment tour you’ve done where I couldn’t stop thinking, “WOW, this actually could be me one day!” I relate so much to her style, color scheme, thoughts on living, and spend a lot of my time daydreaming of having such laid-back friends in the building to stop by daily (don’t we all!?). Kiiiiiiind of obsessed with this right now.

  41. allie says...

    Wait…the link to the larger vase is actually a link to the smaller of the two. Any idea where the large vase on the mantel is from??

  42. Homey and comfy at the same time! I like the color frame idea. We recently moved into our new apartment after a 6+ month reno process and don’t think we have the time/energy to paint walls any time soon. If anyone else has ideas on how to add some color…

  43. Carrie says...

    Honestly, if this were just a slide show I might pass it by, but I loved reading what she had to say about everything. It gave the space a whole nice vibe you could never catch just by looking at photos.

    • Emily says...

      I agree! Really loved the way Olivia narrated everything. She seems like such a sweet person! :)

  44. ashley says...

    Can I ask – do you rent or own?

    • Sarah says...

      I wondered the same thing. I tend to assume people in New York rent but she talks about renovations so I assume own.

  45. Emily says...

    I just sent this post to a bunch of my girlfriends with the commentary of: “GUH! This is not even my vibe but I am so in love. This effortless “French eclectic” style is something I just couldn’t pull off but envy.” Olivia has such incredible taste!!! So gorgeous.

  46. Emily says...

    I just sent this post to bunch of my girlfriends with the commentary of: “GUH! This not even my vibe but I am so in love. This effortless “French eclectic” style is something I just couldn’t pull off but envy.” Olivia has such incredible taste!!! So gorgeous.

  47. Sasha says...

    Such a fun tour. Where are the wooden “conversation” blocks from?

  48. gorgeous! love how bright it is and how high the ceilings are.

    -kim
    midnight snark

  49. Tanya says...

    What an inspiring place … and such beautiful light!

  50. Ashley says...

    Beautiful and totally inspired space! Thank you to Olivia for sharing. What’s the plant called that’s in the white ceramic thing on the wood stool? So simple & lovely, all of it! Thanks.

  51. NSU says...

    Who is Alexis Cheung?

    • Ashley says...

      ITG reader here — what up Alexis Cheung!

      Gorgeous apartment.

    • Hi! I’m a freelance writer. I’ll occasionally contribute here on CoJ :)

      Ashley—hey girl!! Thank you for not calling me Alexa Chung ;)

    • Jules D says...

      Fellow ITG reader/addict here – Hi Alexis!
      So fun to see the only two blogs I follow collide!

  52. I love these posts for discovering new stores, like Fort Standard. Keep em’ coming!

  53. I looove the apartment tour posts. I’d love to one day share mine in Park Slope! Is there a way we can apply? Also, I can’t wait until you share yours, Jo!

    http://objectsicantafford.com/

  54. Barb says...

    I love the apartment tours, but I feel like so many of them are the same – white walls, pops of color, flea market finds. I know that this style is trendy right now, but it’s just not for everyone. Maybe the next time it can be a different style?

    • Jeanine says...

      I agree! Are there any chic homes left that aren’t bright white-pops-of-color-eclectic-midcentury modern inspired?

    • Beth says...

      And in somewhere other than Brooklyn or LA?

    • Marie-Ève says...

      Yes, exactly what I’ve been thinking!

    • Jenna says...

      I’m wondering what type of design are you thinking of? I like seeing variety also, but did you have a specific in mind?

  55. Tricia Bates says...

    Oh my gosh, this couple and this apartment are soo freakin cute. I kind of want to move into their apartment and/or building and be their best friends. I love that green bench in the bedroom and that giant basket and mostly everything about this apartment!

  56. Kate says...

    “But sometimes I’ll just get lazy and leave things on the floor if we’re in a rush. My boyfriend will be like. “See!” But it’s okay when I do it because I’ll clean it up.”

    I cracked up with I read this because this is totally me!! I get angry at my husband if he makes a mess in the kitchen and leaves it, but it’s okay if I do it because I use it more and I’ll clean it up! Totally illogical logic but it’s true!

  57. Rachel says...

    Love the comment about her grandfather…”now that he’s older…” :) sounds like a special and wonderfully talented family. Xx

  58. Laura says...

    So jealous she has her sister living right upstairs! Sounds like sitcom heaven.

  59. Susan says...

    What kind of plant is that in the bathroom? I love it!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Susan, I believe it’s a Rubber Fig plant (Ficus elastica). Cheers! Lexi

    • Stephanie says...

      This was my question, too! Thanks for answering it :) love this home tour.

  60. What a beautiful space! This is reminding me we need to figure out our music situation… Also I’m so jealous of all the natural light. Our apartment right now is so dark!

  61. Libbynan says...

    I can’t even…..this apartment is the best! The clean, relaxed vibe just blows me away. There was not one thing in it that I didn’t love. When can I move in? Oh, wait, my husband…..

  62. Lauren E. says...

    Don’t mind me, just off to buy literally everything available from Fort Standard.

  63. Justine says...

    These are exactly the types of home tours I love on Cup of Jo. I love this style and Olivia’s mum’s advice. The best homes have individual character and tell stories. Thanks so much for continuing this feature in this way.