A Model Apartment In Upper Manhattan’s Morningside Heights

geometric abstract print

So, you’re a student who, at the start of semester, moved away from home and into a new space all your own. Congratulations! This is one of the most exciting times of your life, and the world is at your fingertips when it comes to the design of your new-to-you space. But where on earth to start?

Designer, Nicole Gibbons, is here today to offer her professional tips to students who are looking to add some much-needed style to their temporary housing situations. The model apartment she designed in Upper Manhattan’s Morningside Heights pictured below is sure to provide all the inspiration you need to hit the stores with newfound style motivation. Read on for Nicole’s tricks for turning your homesickness into serious home style!

kidney shape coffee table

Tell us how this particular design project came to be! How did you get involved?

I was hired by a group of real estate developers to design model apartments for a new building that’s near the Columbia University campus. There were five models in total. They wanted a few of them to have a more youthful vibe to appeal to the student community. This apartment is one of those.

Before getting started, what were you most looking forward to about the project? What about its goals sparked your interest and inspiration?

I had a lot of creative freedom and I came up with a fictitious muse to help design this space around. The idea was that this was the space of an Orange County, California transplant to New York City who grew up around the beach and wanted to bring a bit of that California coastal vibe to New York.

How does the space cater to the needs of students in particular?

It was more about creating a look that would appeal to a younger resident. It has an airy, beach-inspired look, which I thought would feel fresh and vibrant in a New York City apartment. It’s also pretty functional in terms of the layout and furnishings. The cozy dining nook can also double as a study area.

What are your tips for blending colors and patterns in a cohesive, youthful way?

I love working with a neutral base and then bringing in pops of color and pattern through artwork and accessories. It’s also a great approach if you’re afraid of using color in large doses. The walls and furniture, for the most part, are pretty neutral, and it’s the pillows, artwork and accessories that gives the space so much personality. The beautiful natural light helps, too!

habitat book

Sometimes it’s not about being too literal with a theme. You can create a feeling with the choice of colors, textures, patterns and maybe one statement piece to help create a mood.

beach print

Name your favorite things to do in New York City!

I love trying new restaurants. There’s always some hot new place opening. By CHLOE. is a casual vegan spot that’s my new favorite. I also enjoy boozy weekend brunches with girlfriends, and I love coffee shop culture. New York City has some incredible museums, so I also love to check out the latest exhibits for inspiration.

What designers inspire you and your work? Who are your muses?

My muses are my clients! Every client and every project is so different and has a different set of challenges to tackle. I love solving problems and designing personalized spaces for each client that they will love coming home to each day. As for designers who inspire me, I love the design philosophy of Billy Baldwin, and always refer to his book, Billy Baldwin Decorates, for inspiration.

We’re still on the hunt for the perfect paint brand, so tell us why you used Benjamin Moore for this project? Do you always go with this brand?

I don’t really focus on the brand of paints I use more so than the color choices. I have paint fan decks from several paint brands that I love and use them all pretty regularly for my projects. I love testing out new colors that I haven’t used before. However, I also have go-to colors that are no-fail for different situations.

natural fiber rug

tiered side table

When it comes to nailing that tell-tale coastal vibe—as you did here in this apartment—how can we avoid going overboard with a theme?

The key is to not be to kitschy with accessories—that definitely takes it overboard. Sometimes it’s not about being too literal with a theme. You can create a feeling with the choice of colors, textures, patterns and maybe one statement piece to help create a mood.

Really, the only thing in this room that screams “coastal” is the giant Max Wanger photo of the beach. It’s oversized and really sets the tone for the coastal vibe. The rest of that feeling is brought in through the colors and textures. The white slip-covered sofa and natural fiber speaks to a beach house aesthetic. Also, the shades of cool blues and white also add to the coastal feeling.

In your opinion, what are three things every student apartment needs?

A cozy place to lounge, a place to study and get focused and a comfy bed to get a good night’s sleep!

diamond pattern rug

What’s your idea of the perfect Manhattan date night?

I’m pretty simple: dinner, good conversation and taking a walk in the park with great company is perfect for me. That said, I also love for my date to be spontaneous and come up with something fun and exciting from time to time—a boat ride around the city or even a surprise weekend getaway is always a good idea!

Favorite toast-worthy moment of your career so far?

Whatever is happening at the moment is usually the most exciting and toast-worthy. I was featured in the October 2016 issue of Elle Décor, so that was pretty exciting. Also, landing a TV show on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) was a huge career highlight!

white nightstand


Sofa // Rug // Coffee table // Side tables // Side chair fabric // Dining chairs // Banquette // Credenza // Art above credenza // Lamp on credenza // Lamps // Max Wanger print // Bed // Rug // More lamps // Bedding

Loved this post?
Subscribe to the Sunday Stories newsletter!

Get our weekly email with all new Glitter Guide articles delivered to your inbox. 

Invalid email address

Author: Carrie Waller

Carrie is the writer, stylist and photographer behind Dream Green DIY, and also is the features editor for Glitter Guide. Follow along on Instagram!