lydia wills’ apartment: before + after + in between

Ellen Silverman

Knowing that Lydia Wills was about to move to a bigger apartment, we enlisted Ellen Silverman to photograph her 600-square-foot studio near Gramercy Park. We’ve known Lydia for years and have watched her apartment evolve into a home with lots of good ideas, far too many to cover in one post. So we thought we’d do the broad strokes now and then focus on specifics during the next few weeks. The real story of Lydia’s apartment is that it slowly evolved, as Lydia did, growing out of one thing and into another, as she discovered furniture, fabrics and lighting that resonated with her life.

Lydia has been sewing since she was young and loves natural textiles, which she used to define the space (often incorporating unusual and vintage fabrics). Over years, she discovered and fell in love with the work of Scandinavian and European Modernist designers. She bought some enduring, beautifully designed pieces of furniture and lighting (mostly on Ebay, for a fraction of their cost), like the leather chair by Yngve Ekstrom, the fantastic table by Bengt Gullberg and the chandelier by Eric Hoglund.

Since there is nothing more gratifying than seeing before-and-after photos, we’ll start with a picture of what this apartment looked like BEFORE, when someone else had it:

Lydia made the windowed area into a bedroom…

Ellen Silverman

…which can be separated from the living room by an unhemmed linen curtain hung from a wire…

Ellen Silverman

In an earlier iteration, Lydia went for much more “serious” curtains that she sewed out of fabric designed by Josef Hoffmann in 1907 (from the Neue Galerie Design Shop). She was outgrowing them about the time she got an inexpensive mid-century sofa on Ebay with the look of a Milo Baughman that she couldn’t afford. She decided to cover its ugly beige fabric with hand color-blocked polka dot fabric from Les Indiennes (top photo). Simple, “undone” linen curtains balanced the bold, constructed sofa.

Lydia replaced the old white painted mirror, with a wooden one she had made at a frame store…

…and made the pillow (below) out of a piece of fabric by the great Finnish textile and jewelry designer Dora Jung. It’s one of several ways she transformed swathes of Dora Jung’s fabric that she collected, like making the headboard in the sleeping area, and the bed cover (detailed posts to come)…

Ellen Silverman

Ellen Silverman

For storage in the little dressing room between the main room and the bathroom, Lydia installed Atlas shelving with some drawer units. It is pricey but seriously well-made and can be configured endlessly as things change. She’s taken it with her to her new space, along with alot else  – a lesson in investing in “good” i.e. well-made and well-designed.

Ellen Silverman

And so her home kept/keeps evolving. Lydia described it this way: “I don’t know what label to put on what I like (except I do know if I started over it would be a lot different because everything keeps changing).”

We’ll post more of Lydia’s apartment over the coming weeks.


6 Responses to lydia wills’ apartment: before + after + in between

  1. Elizabeth 06.24.2010 at 1:47am #

    I love this peek into sleekness.

  2. Veronica 06.24.2010 at 2:18pm #

    Wow this is one of the best small space before and after’s I’ve seen in quite a while!

  3. Lena 06.25.2010 at 3:54am #

    Very nice!

  4. Christina 06.26.2010 at 5:43pm #

    As a person who also lives in a small studio, I absolutely love the ingenuity in this apartment. I would love to see what her kitchen looks like!

  5. Sally 06.27.2010 at 12:12pm #

    Hi Christina, we plan to post Lydia’s kitchen in the next two weeks…It has several great ideas that we wanted to focus on, so we split it off from the main post. We also have before-and-after pictures that really tell the tale.

  6. david john 07.12.2010 at 7:53pm #

    chic! wow, a sublime transformation…

Leave A Comment

Feeling Inspired?

If the Improvised Life is a source of creativity, inspiration, ideas and change in your daily life, please consider becoming a Friend with Benefits. A little bit goes a long way towards helping us publish fresh AD-FREE content each day.