You may have seen Hattie Kolp’s story popping on Instagram or TikTok in recent weeks, but if you haven’t, prepare to be blown away: Kolp is a native Native New Yorker who took over the lease to her family’s home, the same home she grew up in. But it’s not just any home: It’s a 1,500-square-foot, rent-stabilized apartment in the heart of Manhattan…for $1,300 a month. We’ll wait while you pick your jaw back up off the floor.
In a city where beautiful, historic apartments always seem to come with caveat, whether it’s with an astronomical rental rate or a Craigslist-find roommate you’re less than fond of, this is clearly a miracle of folkloric proportions. But in Kolp’s case, all she had to do was let her landlord know that her parents were leaving and that she’d need to sign a new lease—it’s NYC law under this type of lease agreement to allow a direct family member who has been living in the apartment to take it over.
NYC rental stories aside, Kolp’s old-but-new digs presented another challenging question (and one that’s been on a more people’s minds the past year): How does a twenty-something or thirty-something turn their childhood bedroom, one they probably didn’t expect to live in ever again, into a place that both honors the warm and fuzzy feelings of a childhood home while also fostering growth and individuality as an adult?
Whether you’ve inherited a space, moved back home recently, or simply live in a historic building and aren’t sure how to make it feel relevant for your contemporary lifestyle, Kolp’s decorating process may come in handy to you. Keep reading to jot down her tips if you’re in a similar position—or simply love historic architecture but need some guidance and inspiration.
Kolp always had an eye for interiors, a passion that was shaped by an appreciation for art history.”Growing up in New York City, I was always surrounded by a lot of art,” she tells us.”Before I started elementary school, my mom worked in a gallery as an art historian and would take me to work with her, and to the Met, the Frick, the Whitney, and lots of other museums on a frequent basis.”
Even if the two don’t seem directly correlated, immersing yourself in beautiful spaces, or even just walking around a museum and seeing what colors and compositions draw you in, can shape your design scheme at home. And while you might not be able to purchase museum-quality pieces for your own room, covering your walls in art that speaks to you is one of the fastest ways to make it seem more personal.
Sometimes the best way to refresh a space is to shake things up.”As a preteen and a teenager, every few months or so I would stay up all night rearranging the furniture in my room, but it took me until a few years after college to realize that I had a passion for interior design,” Kolp tells us. That rearranging can have a impact: Accents like bedding and wall art are paramount, but also playing a little game of life-size Tetris (in other words, rearranging the layout) will completely change the flow and feeling of a room. Plus, rearranging what you already have to see how you can give it a second life is a great way to cut spending and also saves you from having to toss anything with sentimental value.
When in doubt, embrace the bones of a space instead of fighting with them. Kolp hasn’t really changed anything major (she hasn’t knocked down any walls). Instead, she’s focused on bringing the original space back to its former glory.”I have restored the apartment to its original condition, fixing things that other tenants did in the past,” she explains.”For example, walls were built over both sets of pocket doors—I suppose to create more of a distinction between rooms—and I tore those down and got the doors functioning again. A piece of stained glass had been removed from a closet, and I sourced a custom fluted glass to replace it.”
After all, her favorite thing about the apartment is its character.”Standing in it, you feel like you’re living in another time (it was built in the late 1890s),” she explains. From the”high ceilings, creaky parquet floors, pocket doors, original moldings, a dumbwaiter, and just a unique layout, are all aspects you do not find in most New York City apartments anymore.” But, when it comes to refurbishing old pieces, definitely be prepared for some hurdles…”My most challenging project to date was stripping layers of paint off an antique dresser. It took a grueling three weeks but it was so entirely worth it!”
In the same vein as the above sentiment, Kolp’s approach to decorating her family home is a balance of accentuating the familiarity of the space while also allowing her developing sense of style to flourish. Kolp’s mother”always [kept] a lot of family heirlooms, [like] antique furniture and decor, so I developed an appreciation for such things at a young age,” she tells us.
“My parents only left two items behind for me, both of which I treasure,” says Kolp.”The first is an antique dresser from the 1820s that my grandparents purchased for their first home. The other is a seascape oil painting that is hanging in the exact same spot as mom had it when she lived here. Other than that, I’ve made the space totally my own” by adding a few more modern touches and curating a new color palette.
And now for the fun part: Shopping. Living in an older space lends itself well to being a canvas for other antiques and vintage finds.”I love antiquing,” Kolp tells us. Though, she says she doesn’t always do her best bargain hunting in the city, as most vendors tend to have steeper prices.”Small towns upstate [and elsewhere] have the greatest treasures,” she suggests. That mini road trip is looking like a good idea!