A New Yorker’s Minimal, New Home Strives for Hygge — House Call

Name: Ilana Ozernoy and an adorable black poodle puppy
Location: Williamsburg — Brooklyn, NY
Size: 650 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years, renting

I live in a one-bedroom apartment in a brand new luxury building in Williamsburg, NY—just one block off the East River. I work as an executive at a global media company now but, for most of my twenties, I was a journalist—a foreign correspondent covering war. There is a long-established tradition among foreign correspondents to always bring something home for the editor, so early on in my career, I got in the habit of hunting down cool things from far-flung places: a hand-woven Uzbek tapestry from Chicken Street in Kabul, a Dinka Headrest found in Kenya’s Rift Valley, a beautiful Isfahan carpet I bargained for in Baghdad. It’s been a while since I hung up my war boots but I will never stop traveling, hunting, and collecting.

Despite my seemingly insatiable appetite for colorful, artisanal goods, my design aesthetic is in fact mostly minimal and spare. So there’s a constant battle waging in my head of what to showcase and what to stow away. My home, though informed by the spirit of mid-century modern, leans towards contemporary Scandinavian. Bring all of that altogether, and you might call my home style “streamlined eclectic” or “expressive minimalism.” Above all, I am eternally striving for hygge.

What is your favorite room and why? I live in a one-bedroom apartment so there aren’t a lot of rooms to choose from! But I would say my favorite room is the main one, which is a combination living and dining room. It holds my favorite memories of the apartment: meals shared with friends, jokes shared with family, early morning coffees and lazy afternoons, books and jazz records, and evenings by candlelight.

I knew even before I moved in that I would keep that room television-free (the TV hangs on a wall in the bedroom instead) because I wanted the main room to feel more like a salon: A place for friends to congregate for music and conversation, to drink wine and let their eyes wander over the art and family photos; to connect, to each other and to me. A television felt somehow like a detraction from all of that—a 55-inch black hole in the middle of an otherwise fertile space. And even though keeping it in my bedroom means I’ll probably never have people over for an Oscars party or movie night (hard to squeeze everyone on my bed!) I’ve never regretted the decision.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last big purchase I made was the Line Media Console, designed by Nathan Yong and sold by DWR, which definitely pulled the apartment together.

But I am constantly rotating the smaller accents, and in that category, my last purchases were this gorgeous “Adelaide” bowl from Astier de Villatte and some art I bought on a recent trip to Santa Fe from two amazing artists—a father and daughter.

Any advice for creating a home you love? When I moved into my first “adult” apartment, I went on a whirlwind shopping spree and in the span of a week bought everything from a custom sofa to my dream copper cookware. When the dust settled, I remember looking around and thinking: Whose apartment is this? And where did all this stuff come from?

This time, I took my time decorating. Piece by piece, pillow by pillow, it took over a couple of years to pull it all together. I definitely made some errors along the way (let’s just say, I learned about “restocking fees” the hard way) and at one point got so frustrated that I came quite close to paying an interior designer several thousand dollars to finish the place for me.

But in that moment of frustration, I also realized something really important: wait! I know what I’m doing! Perhaps because such a formative decade of my life was spent living out of a suitcase—and perhaps also because my family immigrated to the States when I was a kid—the idea of home and all that it entails (permanence, stability, safety, and warmth) has always been particularly meaningful to me. I’ve spent a lot of time researching, reading and thinking about interior design—and of course a lot of time spent stalking home tours on Apartment Therapy. It took me a minute but finally I understood what millions of DIYers before me have discovered: that there is a real and pure joy to doing it yourself, no matter the challenge. Sometimes you just have to take a step back in order to move forward.

And so I shifted my thinking in that moment—from wanting to make my place “perfect” to wanting to make a home on my own. I forgave myself for my mistakes (writing off the restocking fees as what I might have spent on a designer anyway!) and learned to listen to my gut instinct about what I like and don’t like. Lots of things look pretty in the store—it takes research and patience to figure out if they’ll really work for you. But that research can be a joy and a learning experience in itself. In fact, I’m kind of sad now that my decorating “job” is finished. I feel like I could do it all over again! Anyone need help?

Thanks, Ilana!

• Interested in sharing your home with Apartment Therapy? Contact the editors through our House Tour & House Call Submission Form.

*This submission’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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