French graphic designer Maud Passini and her husband, Nicolas, have lived in their Greenpoint, Brooklyn, apartment for three years. “Before, we were living with roommates,” she said, “so it was exciting to create a space that felt like home just for us.” Here’s a look inside…
On a hanging quilt: People assume that Nico, who works in finance, cares less about design than I do, but he is really interested in it. I’m more risk averse and don’t buy statement pieces, and he convinces me to buy things I wouldn’t otherwise. I thought the quilt on our living room wall would be too big, but now it’s our favorite thing. Everyone compliments it.
On a shy roommate: We have a cat but she hid during the photo shoot. Her name is Utah. Back when I got my first cat, I was reading a book by John Green, so I named her after the main character, Alaska. Now all the cats in our family are named after states. We wanted to name this cat Louisiana, because it sounds beautiful to me, but it was too long. [Ed. note: You can see Utah here!]
On the joys of compromise: I didn’t want to spoil the space with a TV, but Nico wanted one. So, we put it under the shelf opposite the sofa. You barely notice it, and we recently binged The Americans, which is the greatest show ever. No regrets.
On meaningful heirlooms: My mother died three years ago. It’s still very, very hard. She’s always on my mind. She made this woven wool canvas and gave it to me before she died, when I was back home in France. It means even more to me because of that; I care about it deeply.
On making your own art: Nico wanted to paint something green, so I got him a canvas and paint, and he had this vision. It’s super simple but it fits perfectly.
On taking a chance: I’m from Paris, and Nico grew up in a town south of Paris. We met at a beach town when we were 15, and afterward we’d see each other every summer and really enjoy each other’s company. A few years later, he was traveling a lot, and we went to get coffee. He said, ‘Maybe we should go to Copenhagen?’ I was like, who is this crazy guy I barely know, who is asking me to go to Copenhagen?! But we loved talking to each other, so I decided I would go, and it was the most romantic and beautiful weekend. We got married three years ago.
On hanging at home: We both love cooking. One of us hangs out at the bar while the other one cooks because only one person can fit in the kitchen. I like simple recipes — like popping fish in the oven with olive oil and lemon. We mostly speak French at home and have nicknames for each other. ‘Babe’ is kind of the same in both languages. ‘Mon chou’ is a common French nickname for kids and romantic partners. It means ‘my cabbage.’
On personalized art: My brother painted the wedding photo in our kitchen as a gift. He’s a pediatrician, so I’m extra impressed by his artistic talents! Our mom was an artist, and we both picked up her creative side.
On honoring traditions: In France, people often fully set the table for each meal, so even though we only have the bar, not a table, we take it seriously. We have cloth napkins, which were a wedding gift from my grandmother. It’s a tradition that the mother of the bride puts together all the linens for the house — bedding, towels, table linens — but my mother passed away right before my wedding. So, my grandmother gave us all our linens.
On a challenge of working from home: I’m a real homebody. It’s great to not have a commute, but you can end up staying home too much. At the end of the day, you’re in a bad mood because you don’t see anyone else. Some days I need to go to a cafe and see someone else.
On a daily ritual: Most days, I go running or swimming at a nearby public pool. I was thinking of getting headphones to swim with, but then I realized that’s the only time I’m not listening to music, podcasts, anything. My mind wanders, and I have great creative ideas when I’m swimming.
On family photos: Once, when I was visiting my parents in France, I was feeling homesick. I wanted to bring something back with me, so I took this photo of my dad sailing [on the dresser]. My dad was so flattered that I took it; it was very sweet. When you move so far away and rebuild your whole life, it’s nice to have physical objects that ground you to your home.
On creating for yourself: I made the digital collage a while ago. When I have a fifteen-minute break during the day, I love to do this kind of thing just for myself, as a way to relax. Interestingly, of all my work, it’s usually what people like the most, even though I do it so quickly.
On winding down: I just started reading It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. It’s very witty and easy to read. My first language is French; trying to read an intellectual book in English at the end of the day makes my head explode.
On loving artwork: Yves Saint Laurent famously made cards for his friends every New Year’s Day, all with the word ‘love.’ I bought and framed one, and my friend, who works at the YSL Museum in Paris, gave us another one when she came to visit. I think they’re so romantic.
On DIY curtains: The bedroom ceiling is so high that we had to make the curtains ourselves, so it wouldn’t be too expensive. We bought thick linen to help obstruct the light. Then my husband and I block-printed a pattern on it — we did two lines of white and two lines of dark green. I love that our apartment, even though it’s a rental, feels very personal to us.
Thank you so much, Maud!
(Photos by Heather Moore for Cup of Jo.)