This Art Teacher Transformed Her 1941 Hoboken Rental Into a Colorful, Stylish Haven

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It’s no secret that we’ve all been spending ample at home lately. Figuratively staring at the same four walls all day, every day can lend itself to some serious boredom. But, sometimes sprucing up a home can curtail that boredom and keep us occupied with a variety of projects.

If you’re in need of some extra DIY home inspiration, look no further than this bright + colorful Hoboken apartment transformed from a blank canvas to a colorful, stylish haven by a local art teacher/designer. Striking an amazing balance between color and modernity, this Willow Avenue home is quite literally designed to spark joy. Here’s a look inside:

kathleen hoboken homes desk space

About the Apartment 

This 750-square-foot railroad-style apartment is home to local resident, art teacher, and designer extraordinaire Kathleen Kowalski. The actual property itself was built back in 1941, according to Kathleen, but she moved in six years ago — back in December of 2014. Today, she’s transformed an otherwise blank canvas into an apartment worthy of a cover story on House Beautiful.

Read More: Inside Antoinette + Michael’s Eclectic Apartment in Midtown Hoboken

The Design Inspo 

Prior to Kathleen moving in, this apartment was a little less colorful, to say the least. But drawing inspiration from art and travel, she’s completely transformed her home.

Here’s a peek into her bedroom:

hoboken homes willow avenue bedroom

“I knew that I would be leaving the walls of my apartment white, so I wanted to bring in as much color as possible in the décor,” she shared with Hoboken Girl. “As an artist myself, I make it a habit to collect a new piece of art wherever I travel in the world. Not only does this bring great memories into your space, but it also creates a one-of-a-kind look.”

Hence the many pieces of framed work adorning the walls of Kathleen’s’ home. Travel and art weren’t her only two sources of inspiration — she also drew from a variety of like-minded accounts on Instagram.

“I follow so many design feeds on Instagram! Some are super bold like my space and others very bohemian and neutral,” she said. “Some of my favorites for color are @anettetalstad, an amazing home in Norway, or @Barij, a super talented artist and designer whose use of pattern is drool-worthy! Her pink couch is serious future goals.”

The best part is that Kathleen brought the entire idea to fruition herself. In fact, this passion project of hers has been six years in the making.

“My apartment’s interior design has been a labor of love that’s evolved over the last six years. I am the queen of IKEA and bought my green couch without even sitting on it. Beauty over function,” she shared. “I also love searching [through] thrift and vintage shops for quality pieces of furniture that I can refinish to match my style. By mixing the old and the new, I am able to create an eclectic vibe that matches my aesthetic.

Room by Room

Kathleen walked us through her apartment room by room to share more with us about this incredibly fun + uplifting home.

The Bedroom + Living Room

Kathleen’s bedroom is rather, large, but she’s made the most out of the room.

hoboken homes bedroom 2

“My bedroom is enormous so I decided to break it up by adding a sitting area to the front,” she said. “This acts as my living room. I was then able to turn my small living room into a dining room. Large spaces can be overwhelming but filled with the right furniture, they can feel really cozy. I love laying on my bed and being able to see all the way down into my kitchen. My apartment is a railroad-style space so one room flows into the next.”

As the self-proclaimed “IKEA queen,” one very integral piece to Kathleen’s home decor resides in her living room — her vibrant, green velvet couch.

velvet couch hoboken homes willow avenue

“The most important piece in my apartment has to be the green, velvet couch from IKEA. To jazz it up a bit, I spray painted the legs gold. This couch is such a bold piece of furniture that not everyone would gravitate towards but it is absolutely perfect for me,” she shared.

And if you didn’t notice, complementing that statement couch are two pink chairs — another important piece of Kathleen’s home.

“The second pieces of furniture that really make my space are my two pink, caned back chairs. They were an amazing find at a thrift store in central Jersey,” she said. “Made of solid wood, I snagged both for $60 and got to work. I refinished them in a light pink and reupholstered the cushion with fabric bought at where else, IKEA. The transformation was huge and I love that they are truly one of a kind.”

See More: This Eclectic, Modern Jersey City Home Will Spark Some Serious Joy

The Kitchen

hoboken homes willow avenue kitchen

Size doesn’t matter here. “My kitchen is large but not very functional,” Kathleen said. Once again, she’s had to make the most out of the space she has and she’s done it pretty darn well.

“I only have about a square foot of usable countertop space so I knew I needed an island to cook on,” she explained. “I also am very short of cabinet storage. I solved this dilemma by buying a butcher block island from IKEA and finding a breakfront cabinet from a thrift store. I then painted them both a dark gray, almost black.”

The wallpaper in her kitchen is also a standout piece of Kathleen’s décor.

hoboken homes willow avenue dining room

“The last area of my apartment that stands out is my wallpaper behind my kitchen table. Target has a fantastic home decor line called Opalhouse. It makes all my decor dreams come true,” she shared.

The Dining Room

hoboken homes dining room

But he actual living room of the apartment has been transformed into a dining room and if that doesn’t call for points for creativity, we’re not sure what does.

“My dining room is a small space that actually holds my closet as well since my bedroom doesn’t have any,” she shared about the room.

As for the details, Kathleen turned to tried-and-true IKEA and popular photographer Gray Malin for her décor.

“I picked up this midcentury modern table and the funky blue side table at IKEA. I am a huge fan of the photographer @graymalin and love his aerial beach shots. I hope to make it to that beach in Hawaii one day,” she said.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the pendant light hanging in the room {which came from —you guessed it — IKEA}. “The light consists of a rope with a bulb on the end that I anchored to the ceiling with a hook. The shade is actually one of their inexpensive baskets with the handles cut off and a hole cut in the bottom to feed in the lightbulb. It makes me happy every time I see it and I love that it is all rental friendly!”

The Bathroom

hoboken homes bathroom

If you’re of the camp that the bathroom doesn’t require some sprucing up, too, then think again. Kathleen transformed her bathroom into essentially a miniature wellness haven, working well with what she was given.

“My bathroom is small and old fashioned but has a lot of amazing light. Behind my shower, there is a 5-foot glass block wall and I have the side window as well. There’s no fan in here so it becomes very steamy, which my plants love,” she shared.

hoboken homes willow avenue

A beautiful home is always satisfying to come home to, or in the current circumstance, spend all of your time in. And if you’re wary on whether or not you’ve got what it takes to redesign everything, just remember to work with what you’ve got.

“Interior design can feel overwhelming, but it should and can be fun,” Kathleen said. “A lot of times, people already have exactly what they need in their apartment or home and it just needs to be rearranged a little.”

Have a fun or uniquely decorated home you want to submit for a feature?

Email us at hello@hobokengirl.com!

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Arielle is a born-and-bred Jersey girl and like a true NJ native, half her diet consists of bagels and the other half pizza. As a graduate of both American University and City, University of London, she’s been a passionate writer ever since she wrote her first “book” in the first grade. When she’s not furiously typing away at her keyboard, she spends her time ticking places off of her “to travel to” list, trying any and all new foods, and trying to stop herself from spending too much money at Zara.


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