Few things signal a new chapter like a stack of moving boxes or a fresh coat of paint. Nicole Gibbons found herself happily saddled with both. The former interior designer and style expert (you may have caught her dispensing style tips on HGTV or Good Morning America) swapped careers to launch her own paint company, Clare—a direct-to-consumer business that, through a variety of surefire shades, aims to take the “pain out of paint.” She also swapped apartments, trading her Harlem home of more than a decade for an airy, amenity-filled one about a mile south. After all, if you’re going to be disrupting the paint industry, you are going to need an HQ to suit: “I felt like my life was about to change in a way where I was going to be panicked, busier,” Gibbons says. “I was really ready to upgrade.”
She snatched up her new spot based on a hunch. The listing had no photos, just a floor plan, but Gibbons’s designer spidey senses indicated it was a gem, given the generous spaces and the leafy block a short distance from Central Park. Her intuition was confirmed when she took a tour—high ceilings, parquet floors, prewar architectural details, and loads of sunlight. “I saw a lot of potential to really make it into what I wanted it to be—a place that really felt good,” Gibbons says. The yellow-beige paint job, however, would have to go.
Gibbons signed the lease and embarked on a gradual transformation of the space, keeping costs and her suddenly limited time in check. “I’m definitely now on a startup salary, which is not the same as when I was running my design firm,” Gibbons explains. “So I decorated the space in as budget-friendly a way as possible.”
For a paint CEO, you might expect saturated colors throughout. In this pad, however, Gibbons wanted the opposite and selected subtle hues (all by Clare, of course) to keep things feeling fresh and vibrant. “[My former] apartment had a very colorful foundation—the walls were colorful, my sofa was colorful,” Gibbons explains. “Here I wanted to neutralize the foundation, but keep the pops of color throughout the space and have it feel lighter and more effervescent.”
The first thing Gibbons aimed to do was to capitalize on the light and airiness the new 15th-floor abode afforded. “My old apartment was so different. I was on the second floor of a walk-up and I had such poor light,” she notes. This also included ditching a lot of her worldly possessions (“I wanted to start totally fresh,” she notes) but strategically reusing statement pieces.
These strategies are apparent in the entryway, which is painted in Clare’s best-selling neutral shade, Penthouse. “It’s just a very soft, airy shade of greige,” Gibbons explains. The light fixture was repurposed from her old place (Gibbons swapped all of the rental fixtures out), while the runner is one of the last items Gibbons purchased from Madeline Weinrib before she closed her New York atelier. “She was always a favorite; I love her textiles,” Gibbons says. The finishing touches are affordable finds, including the Gio Ponti–inspired mirror from One Kings Lane, CB2 bookshelves, and a sweet marble-topped console table from Wayfair.
The Living Room
As much as Gibbons sought a lifestyle upgrade, she also sought an aesthetic one. Her old place, as Gibbons describes it, was a maximalist, color-filled den—think throwback Kelly Wearstler and Ruthie Sommers. “They’re calling it grandmillennial now, but back then it was just Hollywood Regency meets midcentury modern,” Gibbons says. “I don’t know exactly what the vibe was, but I had a lot of old Louis XV–style armchairs.”
She abandoned that style in her new living room in favor of a neutral backdrop punctuated by hits of both vibrant and soft colors, as with the neutral sofa from direct-to-consumer brand Maiden Home, a cabinet sourced from Housing Works’ Design on a Dime, and, once again, Clare’s Penthouse on the walls.
The sumptuous Fritz Hansen–style, salmon-pink velvet chairs were the result of a chic DIY hack: “They had been in my 1stDibs favorites for a really long time, [but] they were an ugly brown velvet,” Gibbons explains. After a trip to Calico Corner (“a place designers don’t usually [think to] shop,” she says) and a reupholstery job, voilà—a pair of affordable statement chairs.
To tie it all together, Gibbons hung an abstract painting by her friend, the artist Nicole Cullen, above the sofa. “When you’re in this space, all the little pops of color feel quite vibrant,” she says.
The Dining Area
Just off the living room seating area, Gibbons created a nook tailor-made for dining—and for working from home. “I knew I wanted to stuff my little dining area into a corner because I didn’t have a lot of space and I don’t really have a dedicated dining room here,” Gibbons explains. The solution? A small tulip table, two Jean Prouvé inspired chairs, and a comfy yet pint-sized banquette from Lee Industries. “It’s a really cozy arrangement,” she notes.
As any renter knows, one of the toughest spaces to zhuzh up
is the kitchen. Gibbons deftly transformed hers with a green-tinged neutral (Grayish by Clare) to detract from some of the nonnegotiable elements like the countertops and flooring. A colorful rug and a sweet breakfast nook—complete with a tulip table sourced from Amazon, Marcel Breuer–inspired cane chairs, and an assortment of artwork—also enliven the space.
As with the living room, Gibbons wanted a few colorful anchor elements in her bedroom. “I knew I wanted a colorful bed. I knew I wanted a velvet bed,” she says. “There’s something about velvet that really softens up a bedroom.” She selected a bed from Vanguard Furniture and zhuzhed it up with a custom headboard upholstered in a plush velvet from Calico Corner. Sourcing the nightstands were a bit trickier, given she had just 15 or so inches to play with. But she found the perfect inexpensive pair at Wayfair and topped them with little brass table lamps from One Kings Lane.
Gibbons’s signature pops of color make an appearance in the peach-toned pillows—a Kelly Wearstler for Lee Jofa print—and in the artwork above the bed, from Zoe Bios Creative. “It’s one of my favorite sources for art in client projects,” Gibbons explains. “They’re all customizable and made-to-order. It’s like a trade-only brand, and for me, just really lovely decorative pieces.”
The whole home has provided the perfect, calm oasis for Gibbons and her growing business. “I feel so grounded when I’m in my home and, you know, during this past year of quarantine, I’m so grateful that I have a home that reflects who I am,” Gibbons says. “Just this morning, I went for a walk in Central Park with my sister-in-law before work, and really beautiful trees are starting to bloom. It’s just really awesome being here.”
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