Roommates Planned, Painted, & Organized a Small Rental into a Colorful Home

Lifestyle

Roommates Lincoln Mondy and Amina Akhtar have had “to be intentional about every wall, every corner, and every facet of the apartment that would be our everything for the next year.”

Name:Lincoln MondyAmina Akhtar, and Kimber the dog
Location:  Park View — Washington D.C.
Size: 707 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years Lived In: 3 months, renting

In April of 2017, we moved out of our apartment where we were living together for a year after college, and moved next door to each other in a new apartment building. At the time, we wanted to cultivate our own spaces and individualities. Then the pandemic hit. While self-quarantining in our respective apartments, we relied on our adjoining balconies and were more grateful for being neighbors than we ever anticipated. In this Atlantic feature from April of this year, we discussed our friendship and how we stayed connected through balcony happy hours. 

In July of 2020, we acted on our decision to move back in together, the first intentional step in adjusting to a new way of life and creating a space that we would be comfortable full-time. We moved to Lincoln’s partner Amirios’ neighborhood, and chose an apartment building in a central location with other close friends so that we could safely socialize with others.

We knew we wanted to paint all the walls, do all of the extra touches, and design a cozy home that served as a sustaining entry point to whatever may come next. Of course, that came with a lot of time spent planning, painting, and organizing. We were dealing with a very small space, and we actually had to downsize from our last apartments quite a bit, including now sharing a bathroom. We had to be intentional about every wall, every corner, and every facet of the apartment that would be our everything for the next year.

Lincoln is the Associate Director of Strategic Projects at Advocates for Youth. He designs cultural-change campaigns, video series, and creative strategy, educating and mobilizing audiences around young people’s health and power. Amina is a digital associate at The Aspen Institute, where she focuses on social strategy and hosts, edits, and produces the Aspen Insight podcast. You can subscribe to the podcast here.  

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Intentionally maximized, bright, and sustaining.

Inspiration: Lincoln is Black and Queer, originally from a small town in Texas, and Amina is a Pakastani-American woman who grew up abroad in Saudi Arabia. Our home is a direct representation of ourselves and the type of sustaining space we want to create. Our space is very soft, with pink, yellows, and green speckled throughout. The terracotta accent wall and dried tan pampas grass in Lincoln’s bedroom remind him of sun-filled summers and the warmth of Texas, and Amina walks out of her room to immediately see an Arabic calligraphy painting by her mother. These are the touches that will remind us of where we come from, and ultimately, help sustain us for where we’re going.  

Favorite Element: Our favorite element is the framed illustration by Wenjia Tang from our Atlantic Friendship Files profile. As we were planning our move, we reached out to Tang to see if we could purchase a print, and luckily for us, she agreed and sent over a Society6 link. We know that we’ll cherish the illustration for years to come, and loved the moody color palette so much that we designed our entire living room around it. It’s so special to have a celebration of our friendship warm up our space.

Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge was definitely the size of the apartment. We were coming from pretty spacious apartments, where we both had individual balconies, sizable rooms, and our own bathrooms. Our new apartment is considerably smaller, and neither of us has shared a bathroom in well over five years, and it was something we knew we were going to have to be intentional about for it to work. Even though it was a challenge, we were excited about curating a small space without feeling too cluttered and overwhelming.

When it came to making one bathroom work for the both of us, we decided to lean into the fact that the bathroom had no windows and design it as if it was a spa deep in a cave. Surprisingly, our inspiration came from David Harbour’s Architectural Digest Open Door apartment tour. We went with Clare Paint’s “Sublime” color and designed towards a Japanese spa vibe. We decided to splurge on the paint with Clare, and it was worth it. We love how it turned out, and it’s made sharing a bathroom so much better. It feels luxurious with touches like a teak floor mat, wood bath caddy, and meticulously organized drawers. We also have fresh eucalyptus through a monthly subscription, and CBD-infused eucalyptus incense. And, of course, no shared bathroom would be complete without our favorite housewarming gift: Aesop’s poo drops.

The bathroom also has a large square opening where there’s no cabinets and empty space. We used a cheap, small curtain from Kohl’s and an extension rod to curtain off the area and add more soft linen tones. Now it fits a small storage cabinet as well as a slender hamper for our towels. We’ve also invested in all the bath salts, scrubs, and candles to ensure the full spa experience when we just need to relax in a bubble bath.

Proudest DIY: When we were discussing moving back together, one of the points of disagreement was whether or not we should have a TV in the living room. Amina is very pro TV, while Lincoln veers on the “TVs are an eyesore” team. Fast forward to installing a 70” TV. After installing, the black cords against the new yellow wall proved to be an eyesore, but probably more for Lincoln. Our proudest DIY is getting plain white cable covers and painting them with the same yellow Backdrop paint to hide all of the TV cords.

Biggest Indulgence: Our biggest indulgence is definitely our 8×10 Ruggable rug. It’s a groovy color palette, and when we saw it, it really complemented our framed illustration, as well as our wall colors. We love how the rug ties everything together and doesn’t clash with the loud walls. Aesthetically, it was definitely worth it. And functionally, since we have a dog, the rug being washable helps keep our space clean.

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Lincoln: Make sure that YOU love it, and that you’re not designing it for how others live or feel. Your space is so unique, and I believe that everything in it should add value to your daily life. I’m big about designing based on how you live. What’s your bedtime routine? Do you like baths? What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Then, curate your space to complement how you actually live. If your bedtime routine includes spending a lot of time in the bathroom before bed, switch out fluorescent bulbs for warmer tones to not interrupt your downtime. If you wake up and head straight to the kitchen for the morning sun, are there any obstructions blocking the morning light from reaching you on the stool where you make your morning coffee? These are the types of questions and kind of specificity I approach any design project around.

Amina: For me, it’s about optimizing organization and prioritizing mental health. I still have trouble with organization, so I’ve really challenged myself to organize in a way I haven’t before. That means as Lincoln says, thinking about my routines and how I can really optimize my space to complement my healthy habits, like making my bed every day. I’ve always wanted a bed with tons of pillows, and as of now, I have nine on my bed. And like Lincoln said, make sure that YOU love it. I have a lot of pink in my room, and Lincoln constantly rants about pink, and if I buy another pink item, he’s going to kill me. I’m honestly about to buy more pink, because, well, I love it. And that’s all that matters.

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