Design

A French Couple in a Small Brooklyn Apartment

Maud Passini House Tour

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…

LIVING ROOM
Maud Passini House Tour

Quilt: Caroline Hurley. Sofa: vintage from Hudson Antiques, reupholstered by Tania Kovalenkoin. Coffee table: vintage from Brooklyn Flea.

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!]

Maud Passini House Tour

Pillows: Beldy. Plant pots: Tend Greenpoint and Sprout. Chairs: Etsy. Arc light: Hudson Mercantile.

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.

Maud Passini House Tour

Personalized cactus pot: Prune & Plum. (Maud’s designs are here and here!) Letterboard: Three Potato Four, similar here.

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.

Maud Passini House Tour

Ladder: vintage. Diffuser: Muji. Ceramic candle holder: Søstene Grene, similar. Candle: Cire Trudon.

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.

Maud Passini House Tour

Bar stools: West Elm, similar

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.

KITCHEN
Maud Passini House Tour

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.

Maud Passini House Tour

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.

OFFICE
Maud Passini House Tour

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.

Maud Passini House Tour

Chest: Repop, similar. Collage: Maud Passini.

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.

BEDROOM
Maud Passini House Tour

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.

Maud Passini House Tour

Posters: Musée Yves St Laurent Paris, similar. Platform bed: Floyd. Alarm clock: Norm Architects.

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!

P.S. More house tours, including a family’s downsized dream home and a Mexico City house with a tree inside.

(Photos by Heather Moore for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Anna says...

    what’s the fruit stand (with….mesh?) on the counter? excited about the implications :)

    love this couple’s style and energy!

  2. Love this apartment!! Simple and stylish..

  3. Veronika says...

    Oh my, Maude, you look incredibly stylish, yet so effortless!
    Please, cup of jo‘s, do a week of outfits + a beauty uniform of her. Would be appreciated very much :)

  4. anne says...

    Goodness, I loved this one!

  5. Daniela says...

    So curious if anyone knows. I love love love (pun intended) the YSL prints but can’t find my birth year (1990). Anyone know if he just skipped this year?

    • Jeanne says...

      There’s a poster copy of the 1980 card on sale Etsy. The link is too long to paste but you can search for it. The seller is ArteHausPrints

  6. Emma says...

    Love this apartment! Just wanted to flag a potential cat issue–the plant in the bedroom looks like a rubber plant–if it is, those are toxic for kitties. Just looking out for Utah!

  7. Maud, you and your husband seem so lovely. Thank you for sharing such personal, sweet details! It was so calming to get to know you over my morning coffee. Love from Vancouver, Canada!

  8. Would love to know how they went about getting the dowel to hang the quilt. We have something similar and have considered this as a solution. Thanks!

  9. rach says...

    they’re so adorable

  10. Katie says...

    Just learned there are headphones for swimming!!

  11. NN says...

    What a delightful home. :)

    I’m so sorry to do this, but…where are her lovely shoes from?

  12. Kathryn says...

    I often find myself asking my mom if I can have things from her house, and I find my sisters do as well. It is lovely to see what we all gravitated to, and what the stories from our childhood those pieces evoked. Having the imprint of life on a house is always what draws me into spaces and design. I love that Maud spoke to this in this house tour.

  13. KL says...

    Enter crying laughing emoji here! I literally saw the first photo and thought, man they’re so lucky they can decorate like that, they don’t have cats. Then BAM, next paragraph is about their cat Utah. How do people own nice things with cats?! Our cats, no matter what we’ve tried, jump on EVERYTHING, bump everything off shelves and tables, and just generally rule the roost. THIS IS WHY I CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

    • Gray says...

      I was wondering where they keep their litter box too! And how do they manage cat hair? I love the quilt so much and hanging it is such a cool way to display it, but my first thought was if that was my apartment it would be a fuzz magnet haha. This space is lovely though and the kitty is ADORABLE.

    • Adrienne says...

      Ha! Currently getting quotes to recover our couch that our cat Hazel slowly tore up over time (but during the night, while we were sleep, or while we’re at work – how considerate).

    • Caitlin says...

      SAME and also love to scratch everything but their scratch post.

    • freya says...

      Story of my life!!!

  14. Julie says...

    Loved everything about this home tour. The home, the couple, the style, the art… I could go on.
    I have a slightly off questions, but the discussion of bedding and their bed image brings me to it. I’m debating about my next sheet set purchase. Is a dark, solid color easier to take care of? Or go white? It just feels like lots more washing, stain treating and possible yellowing easily. I’d love some CoJ community insight.

    • Kathryn says...

      I am always searching for my next sheets! Are you a sweaty person, do you live with a sweaty person? I am able to have white sheets, but alas with my husband I am not. It becomes clear pretty quickly which side of the bed is whose! Also, I find any solid color is harder to take care of than something with a variation, even if it is a slight variation helps it to not look dirty. Good luck!

    • Wendy says...

      After searching and searching for just the right sheets and never finding any that felt and fit right, I settled on Garnet Hill’s Signature German Flannel sheets and I LOVE them! I went with the oatmeal color, a unbleached, slightly flecked flannel that looks lovely and helps with my perfectionist tendencies ;), but still goes with whatever quilt I like. I never thought I’d use them year-round, but I find them just as comforting in the summer as the winter! They’re not cheap, but I stalk their website before the holidays and can usually get a 40%off deal. Even using them exclusively and washing every week, I can go two years before they start to thin and I want new ones.

  15. Hannah M says...

    Beauty uniform of Maud, please and thank you!

  16. What a beautiful apartment! You’ve really made the most of such a small space and – yes I love that statement piece quilt as well.

    Dee

  17. Samara says...

    Maud, I live right across the street from you! I recognize those big windows. This post makes the world seem very small :)

    • No way! please say Hi if we cross paths in the street!

  18. MB says...

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother, Maud; she must have been a very special lady. My mom died suddenly 2 months ago and I’m really struggling, and I appreciate you speaking so openly about how hard it’s been for you and how much you miss her. Like me, you’re so fortunate to have had a creative mother who’s left you with her gorgeous works of art. My mom made so many wonderful things for me and my children and they’re proudly displayed all over our house, which brings me some comfort as I come to terms with her loss.

    • Jody says...

      I’m sorry Maud and MB for losing your moms. My mom has been gone for 10 years and my dad for 8. It still hurts daily and when I read about anyone losing their parents I feel their pain. It helps though to know we’re not alone in our grief.

    • Thank you, and sorry too. <3

  19. Kara says...

    I would love to see a week of outfits featuring Maud. Considering how beautiful the apartment is, I can only assume her wardrobe is the same.

  20. freya says...

    maud, your love for your mom really shines through. i’m so sorry for your loss.

  21. My daughter’s name is Maud so obviously I am completely in love with that name.

  22. J. says...

    I love the heart in this home, and how even from a few simple sentences and stories, you can see how everything here is so purely and wonderfully THEM. Thank you for sharing, Maud!

  23. grace says...

    I loved this apartment tour! Makes me want to throw away all the clutter that’s lying around my place. Especially loved all the houseplants in the living room and bedroom.
    Is anybody else curious where they keep the litter box, though? And their clothes/shoes/underwear? I just imagine a bulging closet to the left of the bed where they fight over hanger space, and vacuum-sealed bags that keep all their winter clothes. Or maybe I just need to tidy my closet more!

  24. Carol Wayne says...

    Having grown up in Greenpoint in the 60’s…my dad was born in an apartment on Driggs Ave in 1913….I just get a chuckle at Greenpoint Historic District…or as my dad would say ….fancy talk for old! What a lovely place they have created…so many of those apartments were so dreary, I love seeing them being reborn.

  25. em says...

    a big “yes!!” to everything here, especially those Yves Saint Laurent LOVE cards! Aren’t those just the coolest?!

  26. MK says...

    All the apartments I’ve seen in this column are beautiful — but none have a living room where you can sprawl across the couch and watch a Netflix marathon — which is really the only living room I can really live in. I’d love to see a house that’s a little more lived-in in a future post.

  27. Irene says...

    CAN YOU ASK HER ABOUT THOSE SHOES PLSSSSSSS

    • Kimi says...

      YES!! Please ask her! they are beautiful. :)

    • Anne Thomas ;)

  28. Frances Eleanor says...

    I swim too and I love how my mind wanders at that time. It is rather meditative.

  29. Beautiful Apartment, I live in a big sprawling house that sometimes feels hard to fill, to decorate, to occupy, a small space sometimes feels dreamy to me. Things that mean the most to you, a quilted piece from your Mom, things that you love the most. I love this couple and their style!

  30. Sarah says...

    Where is the desk from? Currently working from a folding table because I am searching for just the right one.

  31. sarah says...

    Where is the chandelier in the first picture from?

  32. Natalie says...

    Lovely apartment with all the wood tones! I would definitely need a softer couch though, and a good reading chair – those wooden arms don’t seem too comfy. How does one cuddle or watch TV only sitting straight up? Are pillows involved? Is this why the French have such good posture? (Very important questions, lol).

    • rachel says...

      lol

  33. Whitney Olson says...

    You why I love this? While this style won’t appeal to all, no style does, I love how they live with what they love, but it is paired down. They have pieces of art, framed photos, their personal touches, but their particular french style is not overloading with too much “stuff” like most American styles. Even the Scandinavian style so many Americans are trying to achieve, we use impersonal decor instead of using what is special to us to decorate.
    Good job to this couple for caring more about living then materialistic having.

  34. Lindsay says...

    I’d love to see more of her mother’s creations.

    • JessicaD says...

      Maud, your mother’s work is striking and beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

  35. Lauren E. says...

    What a cool space! Also, um… It Ends With Us is freaking devastating. That is not a spoiler alert. Everyone who reads it should know what they’re getting into. But it’s fantastic, and it’s the book that made me want to write seriously! Highly recommend.

    • deb says...

      So true about “It ends with Us”…love Colleen Hoover’s books

  36. rose says...

    Wow I love this apartment and the whole vibe of her aesthetic – so full of light and refinement.

  37. Christina says...

    I liked the apartment, but since I am so NOT a minimalist in terms of color and pattern and stuff, I just kinda idly scrolled along…and then BAM! Hit by the movie star good looks of this couple and suddenly I was way more into this apartment tour. #superficial #sorrynotsorry

  38. jean m goddard says...

    What a charming apartment.! I love the quilt, too, but especially all the personal art you have, such as the green painting (beautiful), your mother’s weaving and your brother’s wedding portrait. The light bulb in the jar reminds me of catching lightning bugs as a child and made me smile. Thank you for this tour.
    ps I lived in France for a while and tried to read Jane Eyre in French. I didn’t understand much but muddled through because already knew the story. I do remember that the word epouvante cropped up a lot!!

  39. Cassie says...

    A million times yes to the idea of swimming in silence! The sound of the water and the meditative pattern of breathing allows me to clear my head and I come up with the greatest stuff while swimming laps. Now, if only I remembered all of it by the time I have dried off.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds so dreamy!

    • Lindsay says...

      I did swim team when I was young and I remember that, as well as humming songs while under water! I really want to get back into swimming and tennis once my youngest is in school!

  40. MJ says...

    Well they are just lovely and so is the home.

    • Marie says...

      Beautiful home, and hugs to you for your mom.

  41. Emily says...

    Could she share how they hung the quilt? I keep wanting to hang my son’s baby quilt as art in his room, but can’t decide the best way to do it!

    • Shreya says...

      Me too, Emily. :)
      Jo: I had a look at the hangers on Caroline’s site but they look different from Maud’s. Prefer Maud’s, if that info is available.

      Thank you

  42. Lindsey says...

    Our cat was supposed to be Louisiana, Louisa or Louise, but now she’s just Lou :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      cute :) louisa was always a top girl’s name for us.

  43. cynthia says...

    Another outfit question…where is Maud’s t-shirt from? :)

  44. Kristin says...

    I love the high white walls and those fabulous pops of blue – so calming. The woven wool canvas from your mother is also just beautiful.

    I am a homebody that works from home too. You hit the nail on the head with the comment about being grumpy when not in contact with others!

  45. Alyce says...

    My first language is English and trying to read an intellectual book at the end of the day makes my head explode.

    Kudos to you for doing so in a second language no less.

  46. Julie says...

    This entire space is so inviting and warm, I especially love the Yves Saint Laurent cards. Thanks for welcoming us into your home!

  47. Great post, loved reading about the french tradition that the daughter’s mother purchases linens when her daughter marries. It would be so nice to get such a meaningful gift from your mother and that you know what you are getting. LOL

  48. Bridget says...

    This is lovely!! I am very curious for a source on the bedside lamps…have been slowly scouting for myself

  49. Jay Anna says...

    they’re beautiful. and something in their eyes communicates both confidence and peace of mind. and love Eurocentric style — simple, understated, and enviable.

  50. Catherine says...

    Lovely job this couple has done with their apartment. I couldn’t live in a space this small because I would go squirrelly in about half a minute, but it looks very nice.

  51. Sasha L says...

    I love this aesthetic so much, beautiful, peaceful, full of meaningful things. So lovely. It just feels lovable and calm. Thank you for sharing with us!!

    For anyone in love with that quilt, I’ve been making similar ones for a few years (started with a graduation quilt for my daughter). This tutorial is so helpful! I’ve made ones similar to the one shown in tutorial, with different strips of patterned fabric, but recently ones that look a lot like the one featured here. You take two pieces of fabric, sandwich batting in between, and sew lines across for a very similar effect, then bind (I use binding tape). It’s fast, Zen (just doing the same lines over and over), and turns out really beautifully. Choosing out the fabrics is so much fun and they make really meaningful gifts. Also, I can’t sew super well, this is a pretty easy project.

    http://acuppaandacatchup.com/2011/03/quilt-as-you-go-strip-quilt-tutorial/?epik=dj0yJnU9Zzk1NG9KT2QzVUFuZ3cwbWFTWVJPWlcyZW9sVWgzZEYmbj1sRXh2UG9VY0xJQzZKQ3N4cHEwTXN3Jm09MyZ0PUFBQUFBRjJCQ19z

    • Cynthia says...

      Thank you for the link to the tutorial. I like to sew, but this makes quilting easy.

    • Barbara says...

      Thank you for this!

  52. Cate says...

    I love these home tours (and your beauty routine and outfit posts) so much because they celebrate individuality in such a beautiful and unique way. Your questions elicit the most thoughtful, joyful responses, and I find myself screenshotting and bookmarking countless interviews for inspiration. These posts (and your site as a whole) celebrate life as it is lived, messy and whole. That’s why Cup of Jo is my forever favorite!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what an incredibly sweet comment, cate! thank you so much, that means so much to me :)

  53. liz says...

    loooooooooove this one. they seem lovely and talented. there space looks calming but also incredibly cool. think it’s (usually) especially important to have a relaxing home in a city. thanks for sharing!

  54. Thank you for including your mom in this tour, Maud, and for bringing up how much you miss her. In these types of posts, it would be really easy to leave this element out — I am so thankful when people talk about their grief.

    I’m sorry she’s not here <3

    • Amy says...

      Me, too. My Grandmother passed away nearly a year ago [she was my last living grandparent], and my mother is still often brought to tears due to missing her. It’s so hard to see and makes you realize how valuable relationships with people are. It’s also an unsolvable problem. Since you can’t bring them back, you’re forced to just accept it as a harsh reality of life.

    • Thank you Kellyn. It can feel weird to speak about things that make you feel vulnerable, but comments like yours make it worth it <3

    • Abesha1 says...

      Yes, a thousand times yes. Jo and Co., thank you for continuing to allow grief and loss have a space here.

  55. Ris says...

    My husband and I went to Jardin Majorelle–Yves Saint Laurent’s house in Marrakech–when we were on our honeymoon in Morocco, and we bought prints of his cards for the years we were born. They are hanging, framed, in our bedroom, and six years later I still love them. I’m so glad others are also doing this fun, sweet decor trick!

    • Rachel says...

      My husband and I also went to Jardin Majorelle, but on our third date not our honeymoon! (we met at a conference and were living in different countries) I recognized the 1982 print because that is my year, and now kicking myself that I didn’t get both of our years back then!

  56. Noelia says...

    I love these posts!Nice apartment, I’m troubling to feel my rental as my own space.

  57. Jenny says...

    This apartment is so incredibly cozy and thoughtful it makes me want to make my house smaller. I love that all the family cats are named after states. When I was little, my family bought our first puppy from a breeder, and the breeder requested that all the pups from that litter be named after beverages in honor of their mother, Cola. And ever since then, all of our family dogs have been named after beers:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha love it!

    • Katharina says...

      My parents and I used to name our cats after wines :)

  58. Megan says...

    I hate to do this, but where are those shoes from that she’s wearing??

    • They’re from Anne Thomas! You have good taste ;)

    • Lindsay says...

      I had the same thought!

    • Lindsay says...

      I was also curious!

    • Dee says...

      Thank You! I was dying to know the same :)

    • Amber says...

      yes!!!!! thank god you asked

  59. Stacie says...

    It is so interesting to me to see into the spaces of people who, even though they may be part of similar creative streams, dress similarly, et cetera, come from different cultures and so fundamentally look at decorating or homemaking differently. For example, I rarely see family photos, especially large, framed ones, outside of American culture. My family gets together for pictures nearly every year, and puts the latest one over the fireplace, in a prominent place! It doesn’t seem weird because it’s what we’re used to, but when I think about it – why would we frame a giant photograph of ourselves, we who actually live in the home!? It IS sort of odd.

    So, I found Maud’s small, framed, modest snapshot of her father very touching – it is something she did because she was homesick and wanted to feel his presence in a small way, in the middle of the space she curated for herself.

    • Myfanwy says...

      I loved Maud’s statement about reading intellectual books in English at the end of the day making her head explode. I live in a French-speaking country and there are lots of intellectual books I want to try in French but at the end of the day I just can’t so I end up reading only chic lit and detective stories in French and I’m sure there is a whole world of thinking that I miss out on.

  60. Calliope says...

    I love the french culture! What a great friends couple!

  61. Jo says...

    Lovely home.
    Can we pls get details on her shoes from the 1st pic? Please please..

    • From Anne Thomas! Thank you ;)

  62. Kim says...

    This is probably the sweetest thing I’ve read in awhile. They seem so adorably in love.

  63. Andrea says...

    I like that this shows the typical size of NYC apartment!

  64. ann says...

    this was so nice to read about a work-at-home graphic designer! i know there are many of us out there. i like seeing others work spaces! I laughed about the part of being in a bad mood at the end of the day from not seeing anyone. so true.

    • I know! What’s your instagram or website, I’d love to see your work?

  65. Jodi says...

    Beautiful space, but what really caught me is their matching pink shoes. So adorable.

  66. MN Hazel says...

    This was a really lovely highlight. I love your apartment – your taste and creativity! I would love to see those block-printed curtains in a little more detail! Curious how you did the block print – any recommendations or warnings? Did you sew seams on the linen, or leave it raw? Thank you so much!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask her! xo

    • Hi! Thank you!
      So we got really thick linen fabric, which is probably recommended when you use paint on it.
      We simply bought linoleum printing blocks and carved out the desired design with a regular cutter. The paint is regular textile paint in two different colors, white and dark green, which both look great on the off-white linen. No special recommendations other than test it out first on the same fabric so you know how much pressure to apply and cover the surface underneath the fabric as the paint will likely go through a little bit. Don’t be afraid if it doesn’t look 100%, that’s the beauty of it. I only sewed the bottom hems and left the sides raw.
      I’ll post stories with details today or tomorrow and in my highlights so you can see the result and more details. instagram.com/maudpassini
      xoxo

    • Sasha L says...

      Same! I’d also love to see the picture her brother painted that’s mentioned, a close up of the collage Maud created, where the TV is hidden….. Basically more and closer up pictures please 😉

    • Christina says...

      Do you have a straight on picture of where/how the TV is hidden? I want to do this as well, but it is a little TOO hidden in the photo shared to really see how this was accomplished! Thank you :)

  67. interesting tiny but complete of everything space:D

  68. Tara Rasmus says...

    They are so incredibly adorable. Their meet cute is THE CUTEST story I’ve ever heard. Dang. Is it possible to have a couple crush? I have a couple crush on them. haha!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha same.