This 800-Square-Foot West Village Apartment Is a Colorful, Shapeshifting Space

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Interior designer Juan Carretero isn’t one to settle, least of all in matters regarding his home. So when he came out of a nearly 20-year-old relationship and moved out of the home he shared with his ex-partner, finding a rental in Manhattan he could use as a pièd-a-terre (he had already established a primary residence in upstate New York) was top priority. It was an exercise easier said than done, and the more apartments he visited, the more disillusioned he became. “I toured dozens of dismembered places with showers inside the kitchen, views into a wall, closets the size of a toaster, no closets whatsoever. I said no to them all,” recalls Juan, the founder and principal of New York–based multidisciplinary collective Capital C Interiors.

By the time he found something that felt right, his broker, as he recalls, had pretty much given up on him. “I had said no and ew to so many places that I couldn’t blame him,” jokes Juan. “This time I was told the apartment’s door would be open and to call if I was interested. You could hear him sigh while his eyes rolled up!”

Still, his first memory of that visit isn’t particularly bright. The home was being repainted in a yellowy cream. “My first thought was, Why would they choose such a crusty color?” But the living room was bathed in light and dogwood trees visible outside were bursting with flowers. Surely, it was a sign. “I promptly called the broker and mumbled, ‘I think this is it, tell me it’s still available.’” Of course, it was not. There were two other hopeful applicants. By the time he finished submitting (what felt like) hundreds of DocuSigns that night, he already had a vision for the home.

The first thing Juan did when he got the keys was paint the walls white, and more specifically Benjamin Moore’s Simply White—a shade not too cold for winter, nor too warm for summer. Because he couldn’t change the layout, he sectioned it off instead, fashioning a dining nook in one corner of the living room. Some things, such as the old casement metal windows in the living room, he embraced as part of the home’s character. “It overlooks a charming courtyard surrounded by the thing I love most about New York: its [various] characters,” Juan laughs. As for the bedroom—the home’s only one—he added a hydraulic bed to optimize space during the day.

Because the artworks were many and the walls were not, Juan decided to rotate the pieces that didn’t have a home. “I move them around all the time to learn how they influence my mood or a certain aesthetic,” says the Mexican-born designer, who admits he’s more into color now than he was pre-pandemic. “I think it’s important to keep surprising yourself and to allow your taste to evolve. The world seems like such a fragile place lately. I like to be surrounded by art that inspires a sense of optimism.” He has other rituals that keep him happy, too, such as a tropical-sounds playlist he streams via Alexa for his Swiss cheese plant.

Juan knows this apartment has an expiration date, but he’s happy about the memories he’s made in the space. “It’s going to be extremely hard to say goodbye to this home,” he says. “I often think about the [previous owners who] must have slept in these rooms. I’d like to think they were all as happy as I was here, and that the ones in the future will be as well.”

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