New York-based interior stylist Colin King takes est through his live-work space in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood, sharing anecdotes from the design process, learnings from his career so far, and the importance of arranging things.

Your home is located in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood, in a former pre-war factory building. What do you love most about where you live?

Colin King: I didn’t really have Tribeca on my mind when I was looking for a live-work space, it kind of just found me. I’ve always been really attracted to loft-style apartments – how ‘old New York’ they are – of which Tribeca had many. While living here, I’ve found a sense of openness; everything isn’t stacked up like you’ll find in other parts of the city, and the buildings aren’t quite as tall.

Could you describe your first encounter with the apartment?

Colin King: When I first laid eyes on the space, there was soot and dust everywhere, the floors were covered in this dark, over-varnished wood and drab curtains clung to all the windows. My first reaction was “absolutely not” – I wasn’t after a ‘fixer-upper’ job. A month later, this place was still on the market, so I decided to go back, this time challenging myself to see it through a different lens. I ended up seeing it more for what it could be and less for what it was, which pushed me to take the leap.

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The beige colour of the walls Colin had custom made to be able to absorb the red tones of the surrounding buildings. “At certain times of the day, because of how many windows there are, the whole apartment adopts this pink undertone,” he reveals. Arranged in this space is a custom-made daybed by Oliver Westermeier and Luccio Massa, a George Nakashima timber chair and a Cassina 637 Utrecht armchair.

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The living space also features a custom-made sofa by Grant Trick, a 1970s travertine coffee table topped with stacks of books, a Cassina 053 Capitol Complex chair and a painting by Milton Resnick.

Describe what you had originally envisioned your home to look and feel like. Is the result different in any way to what you had imagined?

Colin King: Truthfully, it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would. One of the earliest things we did was strip the floors back; I thought it was just going to take the shine off and reveal the dark wood underneath, but it actually ended up taking the stain off as well, revealing these beautiful pale pine floors. That completely transformed my vision for the space as I had to come up with a whole new palette to go with light-toned floors.

Talk us through the palette; how did you go about selecting such a serene lineup of materials, textures and colours?

Colin King: I tried not to spend too much time worrying about whether things would go together, and instead just focused on finding things that I loved. I think I have every wood species you could think of in here; be it unconventional, they all work harmoniously together. I’ve had to unlearn the idea that everything needs to match for a space to work. My biggest fear now is making a space look too decorated.

“You don’t need heaps of things, nor do you need super flashy things, you just need to know how to arrange them in relation to the scale and contents of a space.”

 

– Colin King

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On the topic of not overthinking a space’s contents, Colin says, “I bought the dining chairs before I knew what the dining table looked like because I just loved them so much.” The ash dining table was custom-designed by Colin and built by J Picken.

How is your space a reflection of you?

Colin King: A lot of people, when they first visit the apartment, say how calm and serene they feel. In the crazy city that we live in, that’s pretty rare. The elevator opens up, and there’s this enveloping warmth that comes from the colours and the textures. Even though it’s taken me a while to acknowledge it, I think that’s how I make other people feel as well; warm and comfortable.

How does light influence your daily movements in your home?

Colin King: I love seeing the light in the apartment change throughout the day. I have lots of tall buildings around me, so I never actually get to see the sun rise or set, but what I do get is light reflecting off the surrounding windows. I get these long, beautiful shadows as a result, which change size and shape. I think light really brings me into the present moment because it’s something I notice throughout the entire day.

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Colin’s work revolves around a lot of trial and error. The kitchen island he redid three times before landing on what he describes as a “utilitarian box” with wheels attached to the bottom and ample storage. “As discouraging as this whole process was at the time, it was only after I realised what the space didn’t need that I came to understand what it did need – and you’re always able to laugh about it at the end,” he says.

Could you tell us about your debut book, Arranging Things?

Colin King: Being self-taught, I never really thought I had my own process or way of doing things. I worked with this amazing writer on the book who was really able to tease that out of me. He also gave me the vocabulary to share my process with an audience. I’ve tried not to make it too formulaic, though, because in a world of infinite possibilities, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

I also try to stress that the things you’re arranging don’t necessarily need to be new; the book’s about dusting off old favourites, “shopping your own shelves”, and looking at your objects in a new light. It doesn’t really matter what’s in a room – what matters is how those things are arranged.

This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 48: Kitchen Confidential. 

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