Writer and author David Coggins lives in a Manhattan apartment, filled with books, curios and more than twenty rugs. His aesthetic is influenced by his parents (remember their cluttered-in-the-best-way Minnesota home?). “You have to be a little obsessive,” he says. “I say my apartment is like an English arts club, if the members stopped paying their dues.” Take a peek inside…
On an urban oasis: I live on the loudest street in the West Village. But when you come to the back of the building, it’s a whole different world — very quiet and full of light. You can be at home, but don’t feel like you’re stuck inside.
On layering rugs: The #1 question people ask is, where did you get the rugs? I found most on eBay or at estate sales. Here’s my theory about art and rugs: If you have just one, it should be good because it’s going to draw attention, but if you have a wall with lots of art or a floor with lots of rugs, they don’t have to be fancy. I worked to get them in the right overlap, and then I could forget about them and be so happy! You know when you get it right.
Napoleon bust: Cire Trudon.
On a soporific sofa: I finally got a sofa that I could stretch out on, which is one of life’s great pleasures. I’d visit my parents’ house in Minnesota and say, I’m going to lie down on the couch. If you live in Manhattan, that feels rare.
On makeshift curtains: Since there are no curtains, I just nailed up some fabric. There’s one building behind me where the neighbors can see in, but I think people are no longer interested in what goes on in this apartment.
On a working fireplace: When I was younger, I would have a big party once a year, with a fire and candles everywhere, and no other lights, and the bed would get covered in jackets. I still invite people over, but the way our lives are now — since more friends are married or have kids — it’s more hanging out at the end of the day. A fire makes time seem special.
Cushion cover: Harris Tweed.
On dressing up a chair: This club chair is traditional but plays well with patterned fabrics. What’s fun is that you can find textiles all over the place — Austin; Minnesota — and they can come together and make a new thing. It’s like your mother’s Italian recipe, you add a little of this and that, you add salt to taste and see how it goes.
On timeless decor: People tease me by saying that I’m from a different era. I’m very happy to be alive now, but I also like older things that were made by hand of natural materials (although I do have a thing for little plastic soccer player toys). My sister will tease me by setting down something that she knows will drive me crazy — like, stickers on fruit or price tags on wine bottles. I can’t handle it.
On a funny addition: Recently a friend was staying in my apartment while I was away. He left a small framed photograph of himself on the mantle to see how long it took for me to notice it. It took me seven days! It was discreet in a silver frame with his smiling face. I thought, I have got to change things up.
On organizing books: I’ll put a book on the shelf only once I’ve read it. If I haven’t read it, I’ll stack it on the table or floor. It keeps me from getting too many books. I’m from a family of book stackers.
On watching shows: I love Fleabag, of course, like everybody else. I also love Endeavour. And the usual suspects: Mad Men, Sopranos, Deadwood. I also find myself recording old films on TCM and catching up on them later. Anything with Fred Astaire (if it’s in black and white) and Cary Grant (especially if he’s a criminal).
On a sleeping nook: In New York real estate terms, you can’t call something a bedroom if there’s no window. So, this is a bed alcove. It was hard to get a photo! I hang my ties over the end of the bed and on the doorknob.
On living alone: I enjoy living by myself. I’m solitary to a certain extent, and my life is a habit. I like doing the dishes when I get out of the shower, while I’m drying. I recommend this to anyone who lives on one floor. You drip dry, you’re getting something done, you’re starting your morning. To me, it seems very logical.
On a family design aesthetic: My place looks a lot like my parents’. I think my mom likes it, I know she does. She’s amused by it the way that parents are amused by their children. But my parents have a much more enlightened and inventive and imaginative approach than I do; I learned so much from growing up in that house.
On growing up in a space: An apartment is like a wardrobe — as you get older, you know yourself better. Your home evolves, your face evolves, your personality evolves, and hopefully you get to a point where you look around and think, this place reflects me and my worldview and my view of how I fit into the world.
(Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson for Cup of Jo.)