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Inside a TriBeCa Loft Filled with Not-Your-Grandmother’s Antiques

ELLE DECOR logo ELLE DECOR 9/10/2018 Danielle Fox
a living room filled with furniture and a fire place: Homepolish designer Jae Joo shows how to invoke modern flair and sex appeal when decorating with antiques in her own TriBeCa Loft. © Nick Glimenakis Homepolish designer Jae Joo shows how to invoke modern flair and sex appeal when decorating with antiques in her own TriBeCa Loft.

It’s easy to trip up over floor coverings-to choose a rug you think is perfect but find it's too small, too large, too patterned, or too plain once you arrive home.

Unless, of course, you’re Homepolish designer Jae Joo. She has over 20 vintage rugs in her new TriBeCa home-in just one room.

a living room filled with furniture and a large window: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

“Seriously, I walked into my house-and we weren’t doing renovations-and my first thought was, ‘How do I cover this orange floor’?” Apparently, with Tibetan rugs on top of Persian rugs on top of Art Deco rugs (and so on and so on).

“I could have the traditional, sectioned-off area for area rugs,” she considered. “But, I think I’m just going to pile all of these on each other” and use neutral-toned wood furniture to “kind of make it work.”

It doesn’t kind of work. It works-fully, terrifically.

a room filled with furniture and vase of flowers sitting on a bed: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

The number of rugs isn't to suggest that Joo’s home design reveals a hoarding issue or lacks precision. Whereas some struggle with choosing ancient textiles or decorating with antiques, Joo thrives. With tasseled boudoir chairs and Neoclassical busts, it's a home that's both refined and sexy, traditional but not stuffy.

a room filled with furniture and a fireplace: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

She and her husband recently moved from a from a wafer-thin brownstone in Brooklyn to a loft in TriBeca. Like any move, it was not a seamless transition. The couch had to be cut in half to be brought upstairs. Daybeds and armoires and six-foot-tall pieces of art had to be given away after measuring (pleading with) the staircase, elevator and the 1920’s windows.

“The older it is, the harder it is to move,” Joo said.

a book sitting on top of a wooden table: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

The 1920’s-style windows, however, are what sold her on the place. She had wanted a loft with historical details to blend with her antiques-not a big box with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Joohas been collecting antiques for years and has shoved items into carry-ons and pursued whims of fancy, like an apple statue weighing hundreds of pounds, as they came. Because of this buying perspective, she focuses on pieces that she absolutely must have in her house instead of working with a general theme or concept.

a living room filled with furniture and a fireplace: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

“Before, buying an antique was to create that special moment or flourish in your modern house,” Joo says. “Working with clients, one of the biggest things people worry about is: Is that piece going to go with that piece?”

But if you love it and can work with depth and the weight of the furniture, regret will only come from not buying it. “My personal rule is you kind of look for something that you really can’t replicate,” Joo said.

a chair sitting in front of a fireplace: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

One of her earliest purchases was a secretary’s desk with the “giant belly” and tiny, little legs. “My first reaction was that’s funny and then I walked around the whole town and was like OK I need to get that."

“I have never seen anything like it and to this day, I’m just not bothered by or tired of the quirkiness that it has. It’s not goofy. It’s not trendy. It’s just humorous in its own way and I just love it.”

a bedroom with a large bed sitting in a room: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

While her taste usually skews bold and quirky, Joo kept the design of the bedroom simple and painted the brick wall white to soften the space. “I just always think that this is a room where anybody should feel at home.”

The home office is similarly reserved-sort of. Joo had originally planned to make the space a guest bedroom, but couldn’t waste the natural light in the end. She splashes paint samples onto the walls, hangs up bit of wallpaper she’s considering for projects. She pulled the office's mid-century shelves out of storage to hold the tools of her trade.

a cluttered desk with a book shelf: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

The dining room has become another workspace for Joo and husband, who gather maximum friends and materials amongst a minimal amount of furniture for functionality. The Chinese Ming chairs, however, are somewhat “decorative.”

“You can’t sit there for more than an hour,” Joo said.

a dining room table: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

The piano, while beautiful, isn’t decorative. Before Joo became an interior designer, she worked as an opera singer. Her husband graduated from college as a composer, and they play the piano much to the delight of everyone but the neighbors.

“The older I get, the more I just want to stay home and have people come to my house,” Joo said.

a dog lying on a bed: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

Renovations are on the horizon, however, and it will be time to crack open the storage units once again. The pieces she loves-the ones that speak to her design philosophy-will stay, and they’ll be joined by another item that speaks to Joo’s ethos of dramatic, shapely furniture-a 400-pound cast iron light fixture.

a person standing in front of a fireplace: decorating-with-antiques © Nick Glimenakis decorating-with-antiques

“No one would put it up in my house right now without having an anchor installed in the ceiling,” Joo said. “So, that’s the first thing I’m going to do.”

Because, really, why go big or go home when you can just do both?

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