I’m always curious about other people’s homes. If you think clothing says a lot about a person then you should definitely check out their closet. Is there a vintage silk robe elegantly draped over a full length mirror or an indiscernible pile of yesterdays cast offs? Either way it says a lot. All New Yorkers are obsessed with real estate (#facts) so it only makes sense that we’d like a peek into each other’s spaces. As far as I’m concerned voyeurism is a trait that all New Yorkers share. What other excuse do we have for living in such close quarters?
When it comes to design in New York you have to be pretty confident in your decision making. We pay a lot of money for our apartments, it’s hard to transport the stuff we buy, and we’re constantly talking about leaving the city. It takes a lot of time, money, and physical energy (shout out to my walkup people) to make our spaces feel like home. This week we’ll take a peek into a brownstone in Bed Stuy with a fella who has done just that.
Anthony Shimek is a 31 year old, originally from Green Bay, WI who’s been living in New York for 9 years and renting the same brownstone in Bed Stuy with two other roommates (one for 7 years!) for 4 years. Tony works as a project coordinator for a corporate foundation but we initially met when he worked as the same not-for-profit as mah husssband (TM Dan Savage). Danny likes to think that Tony is his friend but everyone knows that he’s mine. Our mutual love of thrift stores, textile design, and shark themed board games just couldn’t match “working together” and “beer”. This is his apartment.
Lets start off super broad and impossible to answer- when did you become interested in design?
Aesthetics, color, and shape have always interested me. I went to Catholic schools for pretty much my entire education and for middle school and high school that meant uniforms and strict rules around what you could and couldn’t wear or do to your hair (when I had hair to do something with). That really kind of stifled my self-expression. I would make very calculated choices around the few things that I could choose- backpack, binders (Lisa Frank trapper keepers), school supplies, etc. I found an outlet in art classes in high school that helped me begin developing or understanding my personal aesthetics. This developed more and more in personal spaces throughout college, but I think became something I was finally comfortable with fully expressing after moving to New York and understanding that individual expressions of style and aesthetic were valuable and actually admired, more than shamed or ostracized.
Now that I feel very comfortable within my ‘style’ it is so easy to see how good design can improve life in many different ways- whether it’s waking up in a room that makes me feel energized and reaffirms my queerness every day, finding confidence in a work outfit, using a tool that makes a job easier, or letting me express my feelings I’m not good at verbalizing through a hand-made gift to a friend.
What were your first experiences with interior design as a source of self expression?
Probably when I was in high school and my parents moved to a new house. I chose bold colors for my new room and covered the largest wall with images, posters, maps, quotes and then painted and drew on top of it. I think for my personal space it has always been important for me to claim something as my own. I value time to myself greatly and often in this city that time is spent within small rooms and communal spaces. This apartment and this bedroom are the most comfortable I have been in the city.
How you approach to designing this space with your roommates?
When we found this brownstone in Bed Stuy we knew we wanted to invest and make it as much of a home as possible. Here we really had to decide how we wanted to layout the spaces, what furniture we needed, and what color palates we wanted to use. We chose to keep the first floor white because it is such a great, bright space with all the natural light it gets. With the stairwell we wanted to flow into the upstairs hallway and bathroom so they all tie together, and our individual rooms have seen a few variations. We spent a lot of time finding unique pieces (mostly on craigslist) to pull everything together. Our newest roommate has also added elements that tie things together and make is more homey. Particularly with lighting, which is something we hadn’t really experimented with before.
You have a ton of vintage in your space. Any secret spots you’re willing to tell us about?
I would say My Unique for best thrift option as it has the most volume and there are multiple locations in the city. They have a great home section. I also love Housing Works and it’s even better because you are supporting incredible programs that save lives. BIG Reuse has many great larger furniture items (they have two locations as well). The biggest things I try to keep in mind when looking overall is quality (I try to buy only 100% natural fibers) and knowing what you’re looking for. If you want a specific color that you can’t find- that could easily be solved by dying something yourself (super easy). Contributing something to a piece also gives me more pride at having that item in my home.
I see you have a full sized loom (Ed note: I have no idea is this is a full sized loom) in your bedroom. Is that a conversation starter or do you actually make stuff on it?