How to style your apartment like Dev's from Master of None
You might not have a set designer from Netflix working on your apartment, but that doesn't mean you can't have a space with a designer feel. Rosa Saba shows you how
It's Sunday afternoon, and you're watching Netflix. Hey, aren't we all?
You're catching up on Master of None, and you can't help but envy Dev's apartment. Exposed brick wall, leather furniture, roomy and bright – how does he afford this? It's hard not to wonder how Dev, an actor in New York, one of the most expensive cities in North America, is living in relative luxury, while you're spending half your paycheque on a small one-bedroom apartment, which you're proud to have outfitted with both a toaster and a blender. Luxury, indeed.
Like many young professionals in Canada, you had to decide between space and location. The closer you live to your job, the more money you'll be spending on rent. But when you're commuting an hour and a half in the morning, that money seems worth it. So you traded time for money, and here you are.
But you still deserve to come home to something nicer than your university digs. And you can. You might not have a set designer from Netflix working on your apartment, but you do have the next best thing: the Internet. Oh, and a pair of Canadian designers who totally get where you're coming from.
Whether you're paying $2,000 a month in Toronto or Vancouver, or $1,000 in Montreal, here's how you can inject some New York style into your one-bedroom apartment, while still leaving money for student-loan payments, a winter coat and the occasional avocado toast.
At Toronto's Qanuk Interiors, Canadian designers Sarah Keenleyside and Lindsay Konior help clients pair modern with vintage. They often scour Craigslist or local stores for the perfect period piece, or freshen up older spaces with clean, contemporary elements. Dev's apartment is a product of exactly this, a style that Keenleyside and Konior call "mid-century modern."
"You can tell that he has a history," Keenleyside said of Dev's home, referencing the mix of personal items featured around the space. "If you love the piece, then it deserves a prominent place in your house."
It's those eclectic touches, from the old boomboxes on the display case to the modern art on the walls, that make Dev's apartment feel like a home. It's more than mid-century modern – it's got personality and style, without looking overdesigned.
Master of None set designer Amy Williams told Primer Magazine she tried to think about the character's budget when designing the place, using Craigslist and Etsy to source many of the pieces. Actor and show creator Aziz Ansari said during a Reddit AMA that Dev's commercial gigs might actually pay pretty decently, though the show often portrays him as struggling to find work.
So maybe the decor isn't as pricey as it looks. But according to real-estate company Douglas Elliman, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York would be close to $3,000 (U.S.) or more. So Dev's place is still stretching it a little. Chalk that up to the magic of television.
The central elements of the apartment's mid-century style happen to be the pieces that Keenleyside and Konior recommend you spend your time and money on: the sofa and the chairs that flank it. Dev has a lived-in leather couch, paired with a low-key olive green upholstered chair and the star of the show: a vintage Eames lounge chair in a warm coffee colour.
This chair is iconic, Lindsay pointed out – a hallmark of mid-century interior design, and something that works well regardless of the aesthetic you're going for.
"It seems to identify that period of time," she said. The Eames lounge chair doesn't look like any other chair, and has evolved to become something more than a piece of furniture. In this space, it's almost like an art piece.
The mismatched chairs add to the mid-century aesthetic, Keenleyside explained: "That's what adds so much personality." Of course, there's an art to mismatching your furniture, and you don't want to go overboard. They recommend adding a simple, contemporary coffee table to the space in order to bring the design back to the 21st century. Too much wood, especially the teak that mid-century modern is known for, can make the room feel heavy and dark. And too much vintage risks looking like you just got lucky at the flea market.
The designers also recommend shopping for one or two pieces at a time. "Don't go and buy a bunch of accessories," Konior said. It's all about getting the key pieces right, and working from there. And – perhaps most importantly – shopping for specific pieces will help you to narrow your focus. You'll end up with a much more cohesive design to your apartment if each piece is chosen to complement the last.
This won't just help with the end product, though. It'll also help you save money.
If you keep checking Kijiji and your favourite stores, "you might just come across the perfect thing in your price range at some point," said Konior, which won't happen if you're trying to get the place finished in two weeks. It's better to start with a new sofa and a few colourful throw pillows, then work your way through the apartment until you're happy.
And speaking of sofas, there's no better style for a small apartment than mid-century modern – regardless of whether you're going for the real deal, or for a brand-new piece, which Konior and Keenleyside recommend as a sound investment. "The arms tend to be a little more tight, and the upholstery is a bit tighter, so every inch of seating is maximized," said Keenleyside. "Mid-century tends to be up on legs, so it feels lighter and airier."
Their favourite places to go for brand-new pieces with a mid-century feel are Gus* Modern, a customizable Canadian furniture brand, and EQ3, another Canadian-made company with a contemporary aesthetic.
In a small apartment, it might seem logical to push all the furniture up against the walls of your living room to make more space. But pulling them forward into the middle, as Dev has done, can actually create a cozier feel, and makes the living room feel more spacious. "The living room is happening in front of you, and that makes it cosier," said Keenleyside.
After the living room, they recommend focusing on the kitchen, which many people often overlook. But in a small apartment, the kitchen can have more seating and is often a central space for social gatherings.
"Don't treat your kitchen like this sterile environment," Konior said. "It's an extension of your living space."
This can be achieved by repurposing an old piece of furniture to use as an island, as Dev has done with an old woodworking table. Add a few bar stools and a table lamp, and the kitchen becomes part of your home.
Repurposing vintage pieces like this is another way to play up the eclecticism of mid-century modern design, as well as give old pieces new life. For example, an old stool can become a side table, said Keenleyside.
Most importantly, don't underestimate the power of lighting.
"Lighting is the ultimate designer trick," Keenleyside said. Task lighting – floor lamps, table lamps and pendant lights – can add a lot of warmth to a room. Konior suggests thinking back to your childhood home, and the types of rooms you liked to spend time in. These rooms often had reading lamps that provided a coziness to the space.
In Dev's bedroom, he's installed wall sconces on either side of the bed, which is a cost-effective way to add lighting to a room. Instead of having to rewire the lighting in your apartment, you can buy wall sconces that are installed directly onto the wall, adding a warmth to the room – especially if your apartment is low on windows.
Another way to add character to a room is by finding unique lampshades. Konior's favourite place for this is Chinatown, where she finds cheap paper shades that she says can mimic the look of a classic Nelson shade.
It's little tricks like this that can add up to saving a lot of money – and will add to the charm of your home. "Be open to doing things yourself," Konior said.
For example, a good way to avoid the dark wood overload (and hide the extra wear and tear on an older piece of furniture) is to paint it white. Inherited an old sofa from grandma that could do with refurbishing – but might not be worth the price tag to get it fixed? "The cheapest solution is the magic of throws," said Keenleyside.
Keenleyside and Konior stress that what will give your home the feeling of, well, home, is the time you put into it. So settle in for the long haul. To save money, you'll need to spend time. Measure the dimensions of your rooms and write them down, so that when you finally run into the perfect vintage sofa at a flea market, you know whether it will fit in your home. And if you're a city dweller, consider going on a road trip: the deals are better in small towns, and so is the selection.
And if you start to get overwhelmed, "always go back to that source image," advises Konior, whether it's a Pinterest page, an old-fashioned collage, or a screen grab from Master of None.