Kaitlin & Her Home
For Kaitlin McKiernan, you can say she has the best of both worlds. She gets to live in one of the most exciting cities in the world—New York City—amid the energy and hustle and bustle, yet is able to escape to her own little sanctuary each day on the Upper East Side. The pre-war-built apartment, which is located near Central Park, features really fun and unique details, like wallpaper on the ceiling in some rooms and pops of color that stand out and create an eye-catching element. Needless to say, each room is better than the last, and no detail was left unturned in the design of this apartment. Step inside and see this beauty for yourself!
First things first, tell us about your space! How did you find such a unique apartment?
Grant and I had been looking for a pretty specific space on the Upper East Side. We wanted to be in the 70s and no further east than 2nd. We did look from high 60s through mid 80s, but felt like being in the 70s was the sweet spot. Bonus was being super close to Central Park!
Grant and I both wanted something we could grow into and that was, of course, pet-friendly. The apartment is so unique because it’s two units. Many of the combined units we saw were a bit choppy and didn’t have as nice of a natural flow—you would never know this one was two apartments!
On the left, there is a guest bedroom and bath, and another guest room, which is much larger and is used now as a den (or as my husband likes to refer to it as, his ‘man cave’). There’s also a kitchen, complete with a breakfast nook, and the living room and dining room areas, which has a really nice open floor plan and makes the dining area not feel too formal. On the right side, we have our office with another full guest bath, our master bedroom and most importantly, the closet!
You live on the Upper East Side in New York City, one of the fastest-paced cities in the world. How did you create a calm, soft space away from it all?
I wanted our home to be a refuge from the hustle and bustle of New York City. Even getting off the subway on the Upper East Side, you can feel the difference. It’s calmer and much quieter! It felt right making our home on the Upper East Side. Our bedroom was the one room I wanted really calming colors and to be my “namaste” space—creams, whites and blushes with hints of gray. In the other rooms, I wanted to have more fun with, so I kept a neutral paint color for the walls and added splashes of color with rugs, art, ceiling paper and even pillows. Some people may not find these calming and soft, but I find it refreshing!
My office is where I took advantage of playing with pops of color and prints. It’s funny, I love bright colors in my home, but in my closet, I am a hoarder of white tops and gray sweaters! My next project will be to wallpaper the little hallway on the left side between the two guest rooms, and it’s pretty wild (think tigers!).
I also think staying organized, especially in an apartment, is key to keeping the space calm. The city is constantly buzzing, and when living here, you often feel like you just keeping going and going and don’t have a second to just sit and take in everything around you. I love coming home to a really organized space and only bringing in what I need—nothing of excess. It’s hard when the holidays roll around and I do want to let out my inner Christmas junkie and buy new pieces each year, but I have to remember I can walk out my door and walk down to Rockefeller Center or walk along Madison Avenue and experience amazing décor outside of my home.
Your home has so many fun art pieces! We love the black-and-white James Bond print over the bar cart. Any tips for incorporating unique art into your décor?
I receive so many compliments on this particular piece! It felt perfect putting James Bond above the bar cart, especially because the name of the photo is “Shaken Not Stirred.” I’ve always been into art—I took a ton of art history classes in college and it’s just been something of interest for me. Black-and-white photography and abstract painted pieces are my favorite. Not to mention, I am a huge fan of Gray Malin. Two of his pieces are hanging in my office. I think mixing different types of art is important, and with that being said, not just with paintings and photos but with personal pieces, too. In the hallway leading to our master, we have black-and-white pictures of us (and the dog!).
Which room was the hardest for you to design?
I think the living/dining area was the hardest just because it’s the largest space and there are so many components to it. There’s the bar cart nook, the living area (which I didn’t want to be too formal) and the dining space. A lot of the pre-war Upper East Side apartments have a formal dining room, meaning it was a totally separate room, so I am very fortunate ours is an open concept. With that, I had to make the space flow, but also be different because it’s technically two rooms. I have a habit of changing my mind, and especially now with Pinterest, it’s gotten even worse! I would love to lacquer my dining chairs, and reupholster them in a fun print and redo my drapes. I would probably do a lighter color—something creamy to pick up the Mongolian lamb pillows and spots on the rug, but still incorporate a bright-colored tape.
You’ve utilized some bold colors and wallpaper not just on the walls, but on the ceiling as well! Any tips for designing a home from top to bottom?
Don’t try too hard! When you try to make your space something it isn’t, it’s never going to work. It’s your home, you have to be there every single day, so why live somewhere you can’t stand to look at? Figure out what you need when you come home. Is it a calming bedroom and a fun place to watch television? Do you need an office and forego an eating area? We all have different needs when it comes to our home, so pay attention to them! I find bright colors make me happy as does anything gold and leopard.
Putting wallpaper on two of my ceilings felt unexpected and really fun. You will notice a lot of spots are throughout—my rugs, my foyer ceiling, my office ceiling and my office bathroom. You’ll also notice textures—a lot of velvet and Mongolian lamb. Whenever my friends ask me for advice, I suggest taking it room by room, don’t bounce around and each room will require your full attention. Pick a large piece of furniture or a rug and build from there. It’s great to lay out sample swatches so you can visualize colors and patterns together rather than just looking online. I like to group mine and mix and match different samples so I can get a ton of options. It’s also a great idea to leave a fabric swatch out. If you’re trying to decide on a new rug, leave that piece out so you can look at it every day and see if you love it. Or lay a piece of leopard velvet on your couch and see if you’d like that as a pillow—obviously, I did!
Talk to us about your bedroom. What goals did you have for the space when you began the design process?
My first order of business was painting the room a really calming color. I mixed a white and a gray paint so it wasn’t too dark. Next up, I fell in love with the Schumacher fabric for the drapes. Because this was a pretty big print, I designed the room around the drapes. I added the blush just for a hint of color but stuck to creams, grays and whites. I have always wanted giant nightstands, so I invested in these World’s Away lacquer tables and am so obsessed with them. Because the nightstands are big and my headboard is extra tall, I complemented with an extra-tall lamp for the nightstands. My sconces are acrylic so I tied this in with my drape rod. It’s from a company on Etsy over in Brooklyn that can make anything acrylic. I’m thinking of having custom kitchen hardware made for when I lacquer my cabinets. My goal was definitely achieved in my bedroom. Like I said earlier, it’s my “namaste” space. It’s so calming and soft, plus my Aerin-beaded chandelier is so stunning. I feel like my room is just what I need after a long day.
Do you have any tips for incorporating pops of bright color into smaller spaces?
Yes! Do not be afraid of color and prints. Small spaces need a little extra TLC and you don’t need to add anything overwhelming to the space. If you’re really shy about experimenting, start small and try with pillows. Pick a bright one and a patterned one to style. A rug is also another easy option to add color to a small space. My foyer is the perfect example!
In your opinion, what do you need for a perfectly styled bar cart?
That is a hard one! There are so many fun pieces to style a bar cart with these days it almost seems endless! The obvious choice is start with liquor. Some brands have “prettier” packaging than others. My husband and I both took an interest in styling the cart, so we agreed on creating the top shelf for actual use. We put the liquor on a brightly colored tray as its own little section and then I bought a few cocktail books and put my favorite cocktail napkins and a bowl filled with matches on top. The bowl of matches is meaningful because we have collected all of these matches from our travels or even restaurants we love. Two that sit on top are Penelope, the NYC restaurant we named our dog after, and Le Sirenuse, where we stayed in Positano.
Also on the tray with the liquor are glasses, a gold shaker and a candle. Again, with changing my mind, I have a feeling I will eventually swap out these glasses and maybe display some martini glasses, but stay tuned! The bottom shelf is where we chose to display the decanters we received from our wedding and use the ice bucket as another collection piece filled with wine corks. The acrylic racks on the right bottom shelf were such a good find at CB2. Why have one rack of Champagne when you can have three? *Note: if you ask my husband, he is adamant that Champagne is for display only!
My staples for the bar cart besides the alcohol would be a few books, a bowl of matches and cocktail napkins—August Morgan makes my favorite napkins! We have the Zebra ones.
What’s your favorite piece of furniture or décor in your home?
That’s another tough question, but I would probably say my dining room table and the Cartier Heart Strings piece in my bedroom. The dining table is salvaged wood and is a little unexpected in my style of decorating, which is more contemporary but a little nod to the pre-war style of the apartment. The second I saw the Cartier Heart Strings piece (it’s actually a vintage playing card of Cartier’s, and I knew it had to be in my bedroom). The acrylic floating frame it’s in is amazing.
Your husband’s “man cave” (aka the den) is going to one day turn into a playroom. Any tips for converting and redesigning a space that’s family-friendly?
For any playroom, I think it’s important to keep it organized but still fun. Keep the toys and crayons accessible for both adults and kids and remember that this room is supposed to be fun. I would probably create a large gallery wall of all black-and-whites down the road to highlight it being a family-friendly room. I would also love to put built-ins on the wall to create more storage space and surface area to put children’s books and instead of a coffee table—replace it with a trunk that can open for more storage for blankets and costumes. I would maybe do this as a custom piece and pick a printed fabric!
Shop her home:
Rug: Burke Decor
Leopard Wallpaper: Schumacher
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