When we last featured Porter Hovey, she was sharing a loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with her sister, Hollister. They didn’t expect to live together forever, but the rent wasn’t bad, they got along well, and the loft was big enough for two. So, they happily stayed roommates for 16 years. But in summer 2021, Porter stumbled upon a 666-square-foot studio in downtown Brooklyn and decided to make a move. Here, she talks about the power of immersive painting, how to find gems at auctions, and living on her own for the first time…
On finding the apartment: Hollister and I run a staging and interior styling business, Hovey Design. We were hired to prepare this downtown Brooklyn apartment for sale. After we finished, we were like, Oh my gosh, this studio is adorable, the layout is great, the location is perfect, and, you know, to pat ourselves on the back, we did such a cute job. Usually, we’re in and out, but I couldn’t let this one go. I ended up putting in an offer, and now here I am.
Paint: Benjamin Moore Mexican Tile. Art above couch: Hollister Hovey. Couch: TRNK. Pillows: May Evelyne Interiors. Coffee table: bought at auction. White vase on coffee table: Perla Valtierra. Black planter: Ponti Planter, HD Buttercup. Table lamp: Ratio Table Lamp by Kelly Behun for Hudson Valley Lighting. Lounge chairs: Percival Lafer, 1960s, bought at auction. Floor lamp: 101 Copenhagen. Rug: Beni Ourain, ABC Carpet & Home.
On leaving things behind: When I moved, Hollister kept all of the furniture that we had in the loft apartment; and with my studio, we were like, ‘Let’s do something brand new!’ It felt like being in college again. I bought a coffee pot, a coffee grinder, bedding. Because it’s a studio, every decision had to be extra carefully considered. We had been living a kind of maximalist life and switching things up was exciting.
On statement lights: The chandelier was my first purchase after my offer was accepted. Lighting sets the mood for the whole space. There’s nothing worse than walking into a home with sterile LED lighting and feeling like you’re in a hospital. The chandelier was definitely a splurge, but one of the benefits of having a small space is that you can make a splurge-y decision without worrying about also buying three beds or eight dining chairs.
On souvenir shopping: Our mom always emphasized buying something special on a trip as it’s a way to remember your time. Usually, that means the work of local artisans. A lot of the ceramics in my apartment are from Mexico City, and we discovered the insanely beautiful Casa Alfarera studio in Santo Domingo on Instagram. On my coffee table is my favorite piece from them, and I’d love to get one of their amazingly huge spikey planters or table lamps someday.
Paint: Benjamin Moore Mexican Tile. Art above bed: Hollister Hovey. Bedding: Bed Threads. Black vase: 101 Copenhagen. Candelabra: MT Objects. Overhead pendant: LAS ÁNIMAS. Dining table: Urban Outfitters. Dining chairs: Poul Hermann Poulsen for Gangso Mobler, bought at auction.
On choosing paint: When we’re staging apartments, 95% of the time, we tell homeowners to paint everything white. To sell a space, people need to be able to walk into a blank slate and picture themselves living there. My studio was a great opportunity to do something different. We talked about greens, but I kept steering back to pink. I love Benjamin Moore; their price point is fair and they make really nice paint. It’s good to see how the color looks at different times of day and on different walls. Every single spot I put samples up, I was like, that’s the one! It’s called Mexican Tile.
On immersive painting: The walls, ceilings, pipes, hallway, and kitchen cabinets are all pink. It’s definitely not an accent wall! The end result feels cohesive and warm. It’s like you’re going into a womb. The apartment gets such amazing light, and during sunsets, it just glows.
On bed placement: There was a funny wall bump-out in the corner, so I asked the guy who painted the apartment to extend it farther to the right, so there’d be room for a queen bed and nightstand. With studio living, the bed can be a challenge. It’s quite intimate and a little strange to have guests walk in and immediately there’s your bed! I minimized the bed-ness of the bed by not doing a headboard and choosing a darker color for the bedspread, so it naturally recedes.
On treasure hunting at auctions: For our staging company, we source a ton of pieces from auctions. It’s better for the environment to not buy brand new; plus, you get a backstory, and you can sometimes find great deals. Our strategy is to avoid getting caught up in the frenzy of bidding. Before the bidding starts, figure out your maximum bid and stick to that. Don’t forget the buyer’s premiums, which can be 25% or 30% of the price added to the final bid. We deal mostly with local auctions, so we’re not paying for shipping from L.A. or Chicago. We’ll drive to pick up our piece and it’s this adventure where you end up in these little East Coast towns you’ve never heard of.
On a kindred spirit: The painting of a woman in my entryway [above] is from an auction and I’ve always loved her. Something about her posture and little eyes peeking out of that blank face make her seem excited about some good gossip. Just like me!
Lounge chairs: Jacaranda Lounge Chairs by Percival Lafer, 1960s, bought at auction. Pillow on chair: May Evelyne Interiors. Pillow on couch: May Evelyne Interiors. Large white vase on coffee table: Perla Valtierra, “smaller sizes available at RW Guild.” Ceramic vessel: ARC Objects. Head sculpture: Doug Rochelle. Black ceramic piece on front left: Casa Alfarera. Floor lamp (gold disk): 101 Copenhagen. Kitchen cabinet hardware: Pretty Pegs.
On upping the cozy factor: These big Brazilian lounge chairs were a part of our staging collection that we didn’t use that often. They’re a little beat up but that gives them character. I wanted my studio to be uber comfortable, so I added rich fabrics — leather, velvet, linen — that you want to curl up on.
On big pieces in a small space: There’s a total misconception around small spaces and furniture size. Just because you have a small apartment doesn’t mean you need miniature furniture. My couch is full sized, the dining table (which doubles as my desk) seats four, and the coffee table is huge. Having the couch against the back of the wall instead of needing to place a TV there opens up the space in a lovely way. I have a Samsung Serif. It comes with legs, which helps overcome the tyranny of room arrangement around a TV on the wall. By rotating it slightly, I can watch shows from my couch or bed.
On entertaining: When we first moved into our Williamsburg loft, Hollister and I were in our twenties. We would have huge parties with a hundred people. It was so much fun and so much work! With Covid, and where I am now in life, I prefer entertaining in a more casual way. Having a couple of girlfriends over for a couple bottles of wine, chatting, and listening to music is so nice.
On paring down: To move into the studio, I pared down my wardrobe and beauty products immensely. I’ve created a tight uniform and regimen. Having less stuff often means having fewer decisions to make, too. I’m not the most organized person, so this pared down lifestyle makes it easier to keep everything in its place and actually have my apartment look how I want it to.
On contrasts: Even though my studio is pink, it doesn’t feel super feminine. I like the contrast between soft and hard, masculine and feminine. Whenever we’re staging, we always add a few plants before we’re done. In my bathroom, there’s a coconut cluster from Caribbean Cuts on 28th Street. They have incredible island foliage that looks so sculptural.
On living alone for the first time: Hollister and I lived together in the loft longer than we ever lived together as children. (I remember when she went away to college, I changed all the photos in our family’s house to be ones of me!) For most people, it probably would be strange to live on their own after so many years. But it hasn’t felt like a big adjustment. Hollister and I have gotten into a habit of lots of communication and we still work together. We’re up almost every day at five a.m., and when we lived together, she always made the coffee and we’d have our morning meetings while getting ready. Now she picks me up with Dunkin Donuts and we discuss the daily plan in the car. Not much of a change, honestly. And I have some of her paintings in my apartment, too. When she showed me the one for above the couch, Hollister was like, What do you think? Do you like this? Any changes? I was like, I absolutely love it.
(Photos by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo.)