Design

This Brooklyn Apartment Rental Is Chock Full of Patterns

Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

Business consultant Holly Howard, owner of Ask Holly How, lives with her husband and two cats, Jem and June, in Brooklyn. The apartment, full of pattern, feels quirky in the best way. “Our upstairs neighbors sings all day long — like Somewhere Over the Rainbow and the Beatles. You can hear him, and it’s sort of comforting,” she says. Take a tour around….

Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

Art print: Ryan Page Photography. Bedside shelving: Oliver Haslegrave (Home Studios) for Tortuga. White planter: Chen & Kai. Blue lamp: Erin Lynn Smith. Bedding: Rebecca Atwood.

On the tree artwork: The photo was taken by my husband Ryan. It’s a tree in Vancouver, and when he developed the film, we thought it looked like an elephant. I fell in love with it, and he printed it out really big for our bedroom.

On a comfy bed: We traveled upstate to Rivertown Lodge and loved their mattresses so much that we bought one. It’s a really firm one from Keetsa. I didn’t realize how much I liked a firm bed until I slept in one.

Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

On enlightening books: I read a lot of business books for work. Right now, for the class I’m teaching, we’re reading Small Giants, which is such a good book for these times. The whole point is that your business can be really great without having to be so, so big.

On favorite small businesses: Oh my gosh, so many. I adore Fredericks & Mae. They’re a design studio and also have a little store in Clinton Hill. I love Chen and Kai and Minna Goods.

LIVING ROOM:
Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

Blue sofa fabric: Rebecca Atwood Tidal Wave. Red chair: Design Within Reach. Grey sofa fabric: Rebecca Atwood Ikat. Candle: Keap. Coffee table: purchased at Chelsea flea market.

On patterns at home: I started working with designer Rebecca Atwood as a client, and it was the first time I had been exposed to pattern in the home. I realized it was transformative — especially in a rental apartment, where you can’t paint or wallpaper the walls. We decided to redo a sofa with one of her fabrics, and everything took off from there.

On a candle habit: Keap candles are definitely my favorite. I get their subscription, where you get a candle every month. I love Green Market, and they just did Wood Cabin, which is so nice in the colder months.

Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

Circle floor lamp: Akari by Noguchi. White planters on windowsill: Chen & Kai.

On bringing nature inside: We counted this weekend, and we have 33 plants. We also got a giant cactus and that’s my husband’s to care for.

Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

Credenza: Brian Volk. Wall candelabra: Fredericks & Mae.

On having a soundtrack: We listen to a lot of classic rock from the ’60s and ’70s, but really anything. I like hip hop, Ryan likes jazz. When I was little, I played the oboe and then transitioned to the bassoon in seventh grade. I really love the sound of it. Most people know it from Peter and the Wolf. It’s really low and really warm.

Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

Desk set: Ladies & Gentlemen Studio. Desk chair: found on street. Desk: filing cabinets from Sears, tabletop from Home Depot.

On a homemade desk: The yellow filing cabinets are from Sears in the 80s — they used to be my dad’s. I brought them with me when I left home. Then I put a Home Depot tabletop over them. It works!

DINING AREA:
Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

Candlesticks: Nappula from Ittala. Mug: Erin Lynn Smith. Dining chairs and table: found on Craigslist.

On cooking at home: My husband is definitely the cook. He’s part Italian, and he makes the best pasta and lasagna. When I’m home alone, I’ll have frozen pizzas ready. And the indian brand Maya Kaimal came out with delicious packets that you can throw in a pan and heat up.

KITCHEN:
Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

On a bright kitchen: The yellow paint was there when we moved in, we were lucky. It’s so cheerful.

BATHROOM:
Holly Howard Brooklyn apartment tour

On a cozy bathroom: We loved the bathroom when we first saw the apartment. We both take baths regularly. I highly recommend mustard bath. You’ll get out of the bathtub and be so hot because it heats you up.

Holly Howard

Thank you so much, Holly!

P.S. More home tours, including a very colorful brownstone and a Minnesota house full of collections.

(Photos by Genevieve Garruppo, except kitchen, dining area and portrait by Ryan Page.)

  1. Kathy Wilson says...

    I LOVE your apartment! So beautiful.

  2. Sandra Kaye-Kjarum Seidel says...

    The plants are awesome too : )

  3. Elizabeth R says...

    This place looks so calm and soothing. And it looks like it smells good.

  4. Cheryl says...

    The lighting in this place is spot on!
    I must be over white walls though because as much as I loved the patterns and color on the furniture I wished the walls had a hue of their own. But such a pretty place.

  5. sandra says...

    hello, does ryan sell prints of the beautiful tree photo? thanks ;)

    • Holly says...

      Hi Sandra, he does, you can contact him through the link in the article!

  6. Alex says...

    Beautiful home but I could never put up with someone singing all day. I guess they must know the guy and be friends with him perhaps?

    • Elizabeth R. says...

      I think they just find it comforting and homey. Those things are a part of NYC living. Plus, I doubt he sings every moment of the day.

    • Cheryl says...

      My roommate was a Broadway performer and I got treated to snippets of full on ballads all day. I didn’t mind it but I’m sure it drive the neighbors crazy because in order to really belt, he had to get loud. He also went to auditions all the time in the morning which
      meant hearing the big warm up in the shower at 6am. Bumble bee we bumble beeeee bumble beeeee!

  7. Carol W Wayne says...

    What a lovely apartment…I especially love the couch. I know this is a bit odd…but maybe some tips on furniture for pet owners….I am sure there are some nice options that are sturdy yet pretty …for those of us with cats and dogs??

    I know I can’t be alone!

    • Alexis Chin says...

      I used to have a cat, and my couch was an L-shaped microfiber number from Jennifer Leather. Are they still around?? The back and arms were leather. The microfiber was easy to clean and the leather didn’t show too many claw marks from when the cat would leap off. The downside is that the cushions were sewn on so I couldn’t wash the seat covers.

      I now have a puppy, and we have an L-shaped sofa bed convertible from Raymour and Flannigan. The fabric is is pretty sturdy and you can unzip the covers from the cushions to launder. It doesn’t hold too much lint or pet hair either.

      I only wish they had better colors or patterns. The microfiber couch was a taupe color and my R&F one is a dark gray-blue.

  8. Amy Stringer-Mowat says...

    A gorgeous apartment! even better business coach! Yeah Holly!

    • Holly says...

      Thanks Amy :)))

  9. Lauren says...

    Loooove the tree picture! Are the prints for sale?

    • Holly says...

      Yes, Lauren, you can contact my husband through his website which is linked in the story!

  10. April says...

    What a beautiful home. I love the dining room… those chairs! :) The bedroom, and that fascinating elephant tree! The yellow kitchen and tiled bathroom. So lovely! The home has such a fresh, comforting vibe. It must be a wonderful place to hang out. Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. Janet O'Neal says...

    I love everything about this styled apartment! Thank you so much for sharing Holly’s style! I was wondering if Holly would mind sharing the source for the cute towel hanging on the stove with maybe an owl or a bird on it?
    Thank you,
    Janetta

    • Tessa says...

      I believe that’s by the Finnish brand Iittala and the tea towel’s called “Taika” (Magic).

    • Holly says...

      Yes that’s it, Tessa!

    • Janet O'Neal says...

      Thank you so much for your responses!

  12. Lorena says...

    I love this desk idea! I wonder if the filing cabinet came in that beautiful yellow or did she paint it?

    • Holly says...

      It came in Yellow! It was the Sears catalog of the 80s so pretty great items.

  13. Anna says...

    The upstairs neighbor! I love it– when I was in Paris before early this year, my airBnB neighbor practiced singing their scales every morning. It was absolutely amazing to wake up to that with the light and breeze filtering through the curtains, and one morning, my boyfriend coming back with croissants to eat in bed. Ugh!

  14. Kate says...

    A beautiful, quirky apartment!

    I’m from outside the US, and I’ve noticed so many homes (especially in NY) don’t have blinds or curtains? Can someone explain this to me please? Is the sun not so strong or bright, what about privacy?

    • Holly says...

      Hi Kate, we look out on the ocean so no building across the street and we’re high enough up that you can’t really see into our apartment from the street outside. We do have shades in the bedroom for total darkness when we sleep.

  15. Rebecca says...

    Such a lovely home! I can totally related to her upstairs neighbors‘ singing being comforting. My neighbor plays guitar all the time. People always ask if it annoys me but it truly doesn’t. Comforting is a nice word for it. I just associate his playing with my home now and I miss it when he doesn’t play for a few days.

  16. Elle says...

    More of this these apartment peeks, please . . . since we CAN’T GO ANYWHERE!!!!

  17. Gee says...

    Why do all the homes highlighted here look exactly alike? A little bit boho, a little bit mid-century modern, but all with white walls, wood floors, plants and accessories from The Sill… it’s all the same! Beige leather couch… mid century coffee table…. plants…. womb chair….fiddle leaf fig tree….
    Vintage dining set….this retro/modern style is one we have seen a million times. Can’t we diversify?! Like you’ve done on every other subject?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks, gee! we strive to feature a range of house tours in terms of style, budget, location, family structure, etc. — I invite you to check out the archives, and in particular here are a few other more recent ones you might like:

      my grandmother’s home in Cornwall: https://cupofjo.com/2019/11/cornwall-house-tour/
      a Brooklyn brownstone inspired by the Caribbean: https://cupofjo.com/2019/10/malene-barnett-house-tour/
      a Manhattan apartment that looks like a jewel box: https://cupofjo.com/2019/08/christina-bryant-st-frank-home-tour/
      a North Carolina home with a rainbow palette: https://cupofjo.com/2019/07/design-addict-mom-house-tour/
      a cozy MN home with lots of collections: https://cupofjo.com/2019/03/wendy-david-coggins-house-tour/
      a family’s downsized dream home in Sacramento: https://cupofjo.com/2019/01/small-house-tour-shavonda-gardner/
      a Parisian apartment with a velvet sofa: https://cupofjo.com/2018/12/paris-apartment-tour-colorful/

      hope this helps, thank you!!

    • Jane s says...

      I hate to say it but exactly THIS. They all look the same. ?

    • Amy says...

      I think CoJ has actually featured quite a few different homes with varying styles. However, because the style above is pretty common right now and all over the internet, it’s easy to feel like it’s probably already been featured here a million times too.

    • K. says...

      To be fair, as Joanna notes, CoJ has featured a diverse range of home tours, and I also appreciate that budget-wise, this one seems achievable for most CoJ readers. But I have to agree with Gee that style-wise there’s nothing that especially stands out about this home to make it worthy of a feature… this could be the apartment of a dozen or so people I know. Honestly feels like CoJ just wanted to feature her friend or a friend of one of her staff contributors.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thanks for these notes! I respectfully disagree, K. I don’t know Holly but I really love her style and use of patterns and prints. I hope this helps! Not every house tour is for everyone, but I hope everyone finds a few they love. Thank you! xo

    • kate says...

      Wouldn’t it be nice to remember that this is actually someone’s home you are talking about? And, they allowed it to be photographed and shared? It’s one thing to make a request about the content you want, but a little bit of compassion around the fact that these are real people’s homes might be warranted. Holly, if you’re reading, thank you for sharing!

    • Holly says...

      Hi Kate, you’re welcome :))

  18. Amelia says...

    Okay I am OBSESSED with that wave shelf!!!

  19. Eliza Tiernan says...

    Loved all of this but especially the CLOCK! Could Holly tell us where she got the clock? So much personality and character (as with the whole apartment) – I love it!

  20. Jackie says...

    Truly love that elephant tree print! Such a wonderful home.

  21. Sarah says...

    Jo! These are my favorite part of the blog! I love getting a glimpse into people’s lives. More more more!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you! we have many more coming up, including some super small apartments — please stay tuned! xoxo

    • Daniela says...

      Joanna, more tiny houses too please! I find them intriguing.

    • Emily says...

      can I make a request for features of tiny apartments w/ pets? there’s no sign at all from these photos that Holly has cats. Maybe her place is roomy enough that it’s all hidden away, but where are people putting their cat trees, dog beds, and litter boxes?

  22. Rebecca says...

    That peek of yellow against the blue couches and red (?) chair is perfection. She’s definitely mastered color and pattern! Also, TIL there are candle subscriptions – such a great gift idea.

  23. A says...

    Can we find out where Holly got that sweater? I love it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      asking now!

    • Holly says...

      It’s Babaa :)

    • Emily says...

      I’m here to ask about her striped pants :)

  24. Ann says...

    Obsessed with the shelf and the sofa fabric! Might need to figure out how to reupholster now…

  25. Grace says...

    Guessed the sofas were Rebecca Atwood at first glance! Would also love to recommend New Market Goods, a small business with the mission of improving production practices in Bangladesh, that is having a studio close-out sale this weekend in Greenpoint (and online), and they have amazingly beautiful textiles with great patterns.

  26. Tracey says...

    I’m a new cat owner (quarantine adoption!) and he’s already scratched up my couch and bedding… since you have two cats and I don’t see any ruined furniture ;) I was wondering if you have any tips for keeping the cats from tearing your things apart. It’s my one complaint about my new buddy.

    • Celeste says...

      Hi Tracey! Not Holly, but I’m the owner of two cats (a stray cat who is now domesticated and a 1 year old kitten). Both my cats wanted to scratch on furniture and what has helped me is: 1) having things they can scratch on around the house – one cat prefers a natural paper cat scratch post and the other prefers a cardboard scratcher. I purchased these online but they’re probably also available at your local pet store. Whenever they scratched somewhere they shouldn’t I placed them next to the cat scratcher; 2) sprinkling some catnip on the cat scratcher to encourage them to use it. Giving them food treats when they use the cat scratcher; 3) trial and error. There are different types of cat scratchers on the market. For whatever reason my cats won’t use a sisal rope cat scratcher. If the first scratcher doesn’t work try a different type; 4) my cats don’t like aluminium foil. The former stray went through a period of scratching on glass – placing aluminium foil where he wanted to scratch stopped the scratching quickly. Depending on where your cat is scratching It may be worthwhile taping aluminium foil there; 5) the former stray will deliberately misbehave for attention. keeping him loved up and playing with him daily stops him misbehaving. I hope this helps!

    • Tricia says...

      You can try putting foil on your furniture where you don’t want the cat to go. Also try having plenty of places for your cat to scratch. My cat loves cardboard scratchers! Anytime I buy her anything fancier she ignores it. And now she ignores the couch, more or less. Good luck!

    • Holly says...

      We have a lot of scratch pads for them around the apartment. We also got the plastic side covers for the sofas too which reminds me of my grandma but they work!

    • Rosie says...

      Cats can’t get their claws into velvet so that is usually the best choice.

    • Julia says...

      Ah, yes. I have a once-gorgeous leather sofa that I lost to my cats’ claws. Learn from my mistakes and get yourself a good scratching post! This is a really good, sturdy one that won’t shed bits all over your home: https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/product/smartcat-ultimate-scratching-post
      (Bonus tip: smooth, tightly woven fibers are more resistant to cat claws)

  27. liz says...

    love how the place has both a retro and a modern feel. so good!

  28. Maria says...

    Adore this apartment. Very much the style I aim for in my own home–I find that pops of color affect my mood! And I love that desk chair, Brooklyn is the BEST place to find things on the street. I’ve found paintings, a working blender, jigsaw puzzles (all pieces intact) and even a paper towel holder!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg yes!!! we’ve found so many great pieces on the street — and have put old things on our stoop for others to take. it’s such a great swapping system.

    • Marie says...

      I’m always shocked to hear that in NYC! Are you not nervous about beg bugs? That’s how they got into my old building in BK, a downstairs neighbor brought in an infested dresser. It was a nightmare for 6 months. I love the idea of reused furniture and the books people leave out to take, but I don’t know how to get past the fear of bringing bugs in!

  29. Holly is the best!! I took a course with her for my furniture company and I can’t say enough good things. Of course her home is as creative and intentional as she is! And then I saw Genevieve did the photos. I’ve worked with her too! This post was like running into old friends…thank you!

    • Holly says...

      Thanks, Sofia!! :)

  30. Jane says...

    Very cute apartment! I gave a little sharp intake of breath when I saw the leading photo of bedside table setup; so adorable and cozy.

    I’m super curious if it was a conscious decision on her part to have no rugs? Seems like it’d be so echo-y and noisy for the downstairs neighbors.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      asking now… xo

    • Holly says...

      It was a choice. Though we do call Jem Thunderfoot so the downstairs neighbor might hear him running the hall, but he’s never complained and we’re all pretty connected here. :)

  31. Carly says...

    Yay Holly! She’s the best biz coach :)

    • Holly says...

      Thanks, Carly!!! :)

  32. Josephine says...

    So much to love. The combination of the patterns, popping colors and plants is delightful.

  33. Loving all the little accents!

  34. ANDREA says...

    I like that they’ve given so many furniture items a second home or a second life through reupholstering. The apartment is cool, not only because of the pattern, but also because the items have interest and were not all purchased from one place at the same time.

  35. E says...

    Any info on which wall-mounted shelving system she used in the bedroom?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      will get right back to you, E!

    • HOLLY says...

      It’s Elfa from the Container Store!

  36. Katie N says...

    As a renter, can she comment on the bookshelves? We’re realizing custom shelves may be out of budget and theirs look amazing. Did they install? Supplies from…? any other tips? Stuck at home and hubs wants to downsize everything, but my logic is we just don’t have proper shelving/wasted wall space :-).

    • Kate says...

      Seconded. Moving to a new apt in BK without my beloved built-ins and need suggestions!

    • Kate says...

      We have a very similar set up in our bedroom and they’re simple white shelves from Ikea! Pretty low cost, so we paid our handyman to come install – wanted to be extra sure they wouldn’t tear out of the wall with the weight of books / and also be sure that we wouldn’t make a mess of the wall trying to get them in right!

    • elinor says...

      +1 to bookshelves from ikea! I just installed some white ones (similar look to Holly’s) in my rental. They weren’t too expensive and were pretty straightforward to install myself. I plan on removing them and patching the holes when I move.

    • Holly says...

      We installed them ourselves and the Elfa is amazing because you can make it into so many configurations as your living space changes!

  37. Love everything about this! Do tell us more about that amazing bedside shelf in the first image.

    • Elizabeth R says...

      The shelf linked below the pics. :)

  38. Steph says...

    Obsessed with that mounted bedside table lamp combo! Where are they from?

    • Elizabeth R. says...

      The lamp and table are seperate from each other and linked below the picture. :)

  39. Kara says...

    I had to comment after reading the bassoon part…I, too, transitioned to bassoon (from clarinet) in 7th grade, after having fallen in love with its sound in Peter and the Wolf when I was younger! Gosh it’s one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in my opinion. Your apartment is beautiful, Holly!

    • Holly says...

      Thanks, Kara! Good to know a fellow woodwind player! Really builds character :) And so much beauty!

  40. Alexandra says...

    Oo I spot Dalahästar in the kitchen! Does Holly have Swedish heritage? I’m Swedish-American myself and have a Dalahäst on my bookshelf :)

    • Jo says...

      I have five in my living room! (Four on the mantle, one next to the TV.).

    • Lydia from PA says...

      I have five too, different sizes, blue and orange. Great fun for the cat to knock over!

    • HOLLY says...

      Yes! About 1/4 Swedish so have a small collection :)

  41. Sarah says...

    That tree looks exactly like an elephant. I thought that before reading her caption. What an amazing, beautiful picture, and a fun, interesting home.

  42. Kelli says...

    I would adore a CoJ post about house plants; so many of your apartment tours have the most beautiful plants. Sadly, I am hopeless when it comes to plants. We have one tiny Venus Fly Trap that I bought for my boys….they are obsessed!
    Recommendations please.

    • Jeanne says...

      I’m a big plant person and the two plants I recommend to beginners are the ZZ Plant and the Peace Lily. Both like bright, indirect sunlight. I usually water them once a week with a little fertilizer. (How much water depends on how big the plant is) Sometimes the Peace Lily likes twice a week when it’s hot and dry. They’re great because if you see the leaves wilt slightly, it’s their way of communicating they need more water. I try not to get to that point, haha. Orchids are pretty easy too. Also bright, indirect light. Water just a little bit around the edges of the pot once a week (there’s a moss rooting medium under the leaves. if it gets water logged, the orchid will drown). Orchids’ roots are photosynthesizers too so don’t trim them and let them get light. The hardest plant to take care of (but one of my faves) is maidenhair fern. Wait a bit to tackle that guy.

    • Hilary says...

      Golden pothos are also lovely, flowing leafy plants that are nearly impossible to kill. Water them every other week or so and make sure they have indirect sunlight and they’ll be fine.

      I know this because someone gave my mom a pothos as a gift when I was born 35 YEARS AGO and that plant is still alive today, despite some eras of very spurious care when I was a teen.

    • Alexandra says...

      I’d love a CoJ post on house plants, too! I’m a big plant lover already (we have 14 in our 600 sq ft apartment!) but always feel like I’m mostly just getting lucky that they’ve all stayed alive. I’d love to learn some more!

    • Tovah says...

      +1 for a post about getting started with house plants!

    • Tina crisas says...

      @jeanne I love the look of plants indoors but I’m pretty hopeless in keeping them alive but we have those two specific plants you mentioned and both are doing exceptionally well!!! I have the zz plant (so does my sister!) in the bathroom and the peace Lilly in the living room, I’m pretty proud of them. I also have this artificial ikea plant which looks SO good and real https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/p/fejka-artificial-potted-plant-in-outdoor-weeping-fig-stem-00395308/ Now I want to fill a corner in the living room with a big tree, does anyone have any pointers about trees for indoors?

  43. b says...

    Books. Music. Candles. My kind of people. Also, I never knew I wanted a house full of patterns until I saw Holly’s. I’m such a minimalist in so many areas of my life, but now that I’m home ALL. THE. TIME. FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN. I’m feeling the need to liven things up.

  44. Agnès says...

    Your bathroom is perfect and your desk armchair that you FOUND ON THE STREET! You could be best friend with my husband who finds treasures in the street too! (and now my 6 y old is starting to spot interesting things, which is hilarious).