Mod Minimalist Meets Wild Maximalist in This West Village Apartment


Interior designer Kayla Billings Gardner and her husband, financial technology entrepreneur Clayton Gardner, are opposites in every way. She has a creative bent, he’s analytical. She’s a wild maximalist, he leans modern. She’s into color, he’s not. And yet, in the seven years they’ve shared a home together, they’ve somehow figured out a balance. “In our past homes, we shared every space—in one case, with two other roommates. This was our first opportunity to have designated spaces true to our individual tastes,” says Kayla of the two-and-a-half-bedroom West Village apartment she shares with Clayton and their dog Ruby.

While it is a rental, it’s the couple’s first “grown-up” apartment and their first real opportunity to start investing in pieces they love. “Because we knew we wouldn’t be here forever, there was a big push and pull on where to invest time and money versus where to save. We were conscious of making investments that could transfer to our next home,” says Kayla, who served as marketing director at AD before making her foray into the design world, first as an assistant at a small New York City–based interior design practice, and subsequently as founder and principal of her own boutique firm, Saturday Studio NYC. So followed an exercise in tactful restraint: The couple kept any furniture from their last (much smaller) apartment that still worked in this space, including the bar cart, side tables, dining table, and bench. (Fun fact: The latter two have traveled with Clayton from apartment to apartment for over a decade.)

The purchases they did make were a mindful mix of big box pieces, locally sourced vintage novelties, and DIY designs. For example, the couple chose to forego heavy window treatments knowing that they’d be difficult to rehome. For the wall behind the dining table, Kayla emblazoned it with Schumacher’s Haruki Sisal wallpaper, using painter’s tape and double-sided tape to make sure it was removable (the design unfortunately didn’t come in a peel-and-stick variant).

By her own admission, Kayla’s office space, dubbed “the snug,” feels like a grown-up version of her childhood bedroom. “As a kid, I kind of lived in my own world, and my bedroom was always being changed up and moved around. I once papered an entire wall in Teen Vogue editorials, and one year I convinced my dad to help me paint gigantic pink and white stripes on all the walls. I tried to get back into that mindset for my office and so it ended up being such a fun space to create, and ultimately a fun space to create in,” she observes. Clayton’s office—formerly the home’s second bedroom—echoes his proclivity for modern, meticulous design. “I definitely pushed him a little out of that comfort zone to include color, but the result is still very crisp, very preppy, and very masculine,” Kayla avers.

They may be New Yorkers (for now), but the couple will forever be West Coasters at heart. After all, Kayla was born and raised in a coastal town in California, and she and Clayton (who is originally from Illinois) met in San Francisco and later set up their first home there. “I think you can sense that [Cali] vibe as you move through the home—in the colors, the art choices, and even just in the slightly eclectic bohemian spirit. I can’t say that it was necessarily an intentional reference point, but like I do with all my clients, I looked at what we already owned, and then built up the design around those pieces,” says the designer. The pieces in question include a vintage lamp and other treasures from Kayla’s grandma Jan (who worked for years as an interior designer in Los Angeles and ultimately inspired Kayla to pursue design), cheerful tchotchkes collected over the years, and photographs of the ocean taken during El Niño (the couple’s first art purchase together).

The home tips its hat to New York City in equal spirit. At night, the deep blue of the primary bedroom matches the sky. “When the windows are open, it feels like you’re glamping,” says Kayla. And during the day, brick-red accents hold a mirror to the town houses outside the window. For the couple, who contemplate one day returning to the West Coast, the apartment offers the best of both worlds.

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