Backstage at the August Wilson, the nearly 100-year-old theater currently houses the cast of “Mean Girls,” the delightful Tony-nominated musical adaptation of Tiny Fey’s beloved early aughts teen comedy. Barrett Wilbert Weed, who stars as Janis, preps for eight shows a week in a minuscule dressing room—one that recently underwent a serious style transformation.
The 95-square-foot space serves quite a few functions in its small footprint; it’s not only an area to get ready for shows, but also to host high profile guests, relax, and occasionally even nap. And not just for Barrett—she also shares the dressing room with Kerry Butler, who plays Ms. Norbury, Mrs. George, and Mrs. Heron in the show. That’s four characters and two Broadway actors, if you’ve lost count.
Luckily, Homepolish designer Molly Torres is a pro at making small spaces beautiful and functional. She previously worked with Barrett on her tiny studio in Hell’s Kitchen, so she has a grasp on the actor’s style.
“Designing for clients the second time around is always sweeter!” Molly said via email. “Barrett and I really hit it off while working on her studio apartment, so when she reached out about her dressing room, I was immediately excited! The cool thing about working with a client again is that you already know their style and priorities. Barrett’s apartment and dressing room are both spot-on representations of her personality, but they each have a unique feel. For Barrett’s apartment, we focused on making the space cozy and calming. For her dressing room, we focused more on making it quirky and fun.”
We asked Molly a few questions about the transformation (answers have been edited and condensed).
Apartment Therapy: How challenging was it to work with such a small space that needs to have so many functions?
Molly Torres: I’ve worked on lots of studio apartments (including my own, featured here a couple of years ago), so I’ve definitely gotten the hang of making a small space both beautiful and incredibly functional. But I really needed to bring my A-game for this dressing room! The goal was to make Barrett and Kerry’s space elevated, colorful, and a million times more comfortable with a billion times more storage.
AT: Were there challenges with working within such an old theater?
MT: First, I’d like to say that all of the employees I encountered from both “Mean Girls” on Broadway and the August Wilson Theatre (and I met A LOT) were incredible to work with. Special shout-outs to Barrett’s dresser, Mel and the doorman, Gus! Second, working in an old theater is super tough. Because of union and theater restrictions, I was mostly only able to access the space on Wednesday mornings for a few hours. I also couldn’t send any deliveries directly to the theater, which became a bit problematic with multiple major deliveries! It would have been impossible for me to meet the deadline of this project without the generosity and hard work of my favorite handymen, Mr. Handy NYC. They are rockstars! This project was incredibly challenging, but the most fulfilling project I’ve worked on start to finish.
AT: Any particular lessons in the design for those living in small spaces?
MT: As with studio apartments and other small spaces, the trick is carving out “separate” areas.
AT: The key to any small space functionality is storage. Could you walk us through the solutions in this space?
MT: We scrapped the commercial paper towel and soap dispensers for pretty, homey alternatives, adding a beautiful (yet functional) marble shelf and switching out the existing knobs on the sink vanity transformed the bland sink into a true teeny, tiny washing area.
Barrett really wanted a bar area, so I teamed up with Jay Lee from Soil & Oak Design to customize a beautiful walnut wood-and-gold pipe freestanding shelving unit over the radiator. It allows for the cutest mini bar in all the land and adds much-needed storage space on top of and on both sides of the radiator.
The makeup counter Barrett and Kerry share has no built-in storage underneath. Poppin’s White + Blush Stow 3-Drawer File Cabinets were the perfect solution.
Lastly, both Barrett and Kerry desperately needed a nap/chill area–these women work their butts off onstage every night, delivering showstopping performances (I know from experience from seeing/loving the show!) and I really felt they deserved a beautiful, comfortable space to unwind that also articulated Barrett’s boho-chic aesthetic. The rattan Paloma Bench from Grandin Road is absolute perfection; paired with the coolest throw pillows, throw blanket, hanging flannel pillow and teeny shelf from Urban Outfitters, we all couldn’t be happier with the end result.
AT: The wallpaper is a standout feature— how did you decide on that?
MT: The first thing Barrett and I discussed during our initial consultation in the dressing room was covering up the walls and existing carpeting, so removable wallpaper was on my brain from the start. It’s a common misconception that it’s better to stay away from bright colors and “loud” prints in smaller spaces, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth! Color and pattern, when used properly, actually enhances a small space and makes it feel fuller, which is definitely the effect the Willa Wildflower and Chasing Paper And Kate Zaremba Swansy removable wallpapers from Urban Outfitters had on this dressing room. The makeup counter was originally dark and dreary, so I brightened it up with marble contact paper from Amazon. The wall-to-wall Bleached Ivory BasketWeave Jute Rug from World Market is much kinder to Barrett and Kerry’s feet and also acts as the grounding force in the space.
AT: How was it making this space functional and beautiful for not just Barrett, but for Kerry as well?
MT: Barrett is my client and friend, so my priority was making the space speak to her. But Barrett was extremely mindful of Kerry’s needs and keeping her involved in the entire process, which was helpful in making the space work for both of them. The Light Pool Pleated Desk Chair from PBteen is a favorite for Kerry (and me!).
Thanks, Barrett, Kerry, and Molly!
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