Anna Burke's Cheery Apartment in the West Village

Full of color, pattern, and art, this designer's happy-go-lucky digs prove to be the perfect respite from city living.

Floral and graphic pillows top a fur-covered bamboo sofa in the living room. Behind the seating area is a glass-topped brass dining table used as a kitchen island and a DIY workstation.
Floral and graphic pillows top a fur-covered bamboo sofa in the living room. Behind the seating area is a glass-topped brass dining table used as a kitchen island and a DIY workstation.
Photography by Patrick Cline. Original text by Robert Leleux.

When Anna Burke, an interior designer and alum of Kemble Interiors, first toured the two-bedroom West Village apartment she shares with her sister, Caroline, it was, she says, “in a state of despair.” But beyond the “filth and dark,” she saw potential, along with the inklings of old New York charm. With Caroline’s help, Anna coated the walls and floors with white paint and papered an accent wall in a vibrant Bob Collins & Sons floral design. And she took full advantage of the apartment’s wide windows by dressing them with white IKEA drapes and topping them with homemade cornice boards. “We redid the whole apartment by ourselves,” Anna says, “just two girls on a budget. And in the process, we had a total blast.” 

Interior designer Anna Burke at home in her West Village apartment.
Interior designer Anna Burke at home in her West Village apartment.
An Andy Warhol print provides playful contrast to the vintage Bob Collins & Sons floral wallpaper. 
An Andy Warhol print provides playful contrast to the vintage Bob Collins & Sons floral wallpaper. 
Anna Burke's Cheery Apartment in the West Village
Throughout the apartment Burke calls on hung artwork, various plush textiles, and beloved objets to create a lived-in ambiance. 
Throughout the apartment Burke calls on hung artwork, various plush textiles, and beloved objets to create a lived-in ambiance. 

By keeping her sense of style and her sense of humor, Anna created a sophisticated, bohemian pad that’s “part Billy Baldwin and part wild girl.” “I’m a great believer in striking a balance between high and low,” she says. “It can’t all be DIY, and it can’t all be new. There’s nothing that pains me more than overcontrived spaces. A home should be pretty and fun, and it doesn’t always have to make sense.” In the Burkes’ apartment, then, sheets by luxury linen maker D. Porthault grace a bed with a staple-gunned headboard. Throw pillows covered in a chic Schumacher print add a touch of refinement to a 1940s bamboo sofa that Anna found moldering in her grandparents’ beach house, while elegant pink-and-white-painted cabana stripes lend zest to a bathroom that, in Anna’s words, “is totally lacking in all modern amenities.” 

A fiddle-leaf fig tree of statuesque proportions contributes a natrual touch to the living room. Though the decor feels light and carefree, it contains a careful blend of high and low design elements. 
A fiddle-leaf fig tree of statuesque proportions contributes a natrual touch to the living room. Though the decor feels light and carefree, it contains a careful blend of high and low design elements. 
Anna's Tips for Striking a Balance of High and Low:
  • Small, unique accessories can have a huge impact on your home.

    Have fun with vintage items, such as charcoal drawings or antique glassware and flatware from the flea market. 

  • Splurge on a few luxury goods,

    such as fine sheets or fluffy towels. If too many things in your house are homemade, it’ll start to feel crafty. Save where you can so that you can splurge when you must!

  • Choose furniture with good bones,

    such as chairs with finely turned cabriole legs or chests of drawers with clawed feet. These pieces never go out of style. Buying and re-covering classic, elegant pieces is a great way to elevate your home’s aesthetic.

  • Don’t be afraid to mix and match when it comes to art.

    Unless you’re aiming for an extremely modern or traditional space, blending different styles makes for a more interesting home. Personally, I love the juxtaposition of black-and-white photography with colorful paintings. 

  • Change the hardware on vintage furnishings;

    it’s an easy, inexpensive way to enhance any piece. For instance, I replaced the drawer pulls on my Chippendale desk with unlacquered brass flowers; I love the way they pop against the rustic wood. 

At right, the living room boasts a striped black-and-white rug and a starburst mirror. At left, a reflective side table sits beneath a mix-and-match gallery wall.
At right, the living room boasts a striped black-and-white rug and a starburst mirror. At left, a reflective side table sits beneath a mix-and-match gallery wall.

Quite often, though, the designer’s bargains are more difficult to spot. She found her claw-footed Chippendale desk on the street, and her living room’s centerpiece, the black-and-white photograph that hangs above the mantel, was purchased from a Manhattan street vendor for a whopping two dollars. “I’m very lucky to think that prowling for bargains and heading blindly into DIY projects is incredibly fun,” she says. “And I’m a huge proponent of that, actually, of relating to your home as a design playground and a place of adventure.”   

Brass starburst mirrors provide a decorous touch to the apartment's tranquil white walls, helping organize its wide, open space. 
Brass starburst mirrors provide a decorous touch to the apartment's tranquil white walls, helping organize its wide, open space. 
Anna Burke's Cheery Apartment in the West Village
Burke turned her bedroom's limited wall space to her advantage. Lacking room for side tables, she installed swing-arm lamps that add an industrial-inspired counterpoint to her floral headboard and scalloped linens. 
Burke turned her bedroom's limited wall space to her advantage. Lacking room for side tables, she installed swing-arm lamps that add an industrial-inspired counterpoint to her floral headboard and scalloped linens. 
Anna's Secrets for DIY Success:
  • Don't be afraid to paint your ceiling.

    A coat of pale yellow, blue, or green in a flat finish can bring warmth to a dreary room.

  • Vertical stripes are terrific in small spaces,

    especially when you want to call attention to tall ceilings or camouflage shabby walls. I find that six-inch to eight-inch stripes work best, as they create contrast without causing dizziness! And remember, not all painting tapes are created equal. I’ve found that FrogTape does the finest job of leaving clean lines and protecting spots you don’t want painted. 

  • The next best thing to genuine lacquer is Fine Paints of Europe’s Hollandlac 
Brilliant.

    Start with smooth walls and a coat of primer, and then apply two coats of any Hollandlac Brilliant color to achieve a rich, glossy finish.

  • Painting your floors is a great way to hide damaged hardwoods.

    In our apartment, we used high-quality deck paint with polyurethane and applied two to three thin coats. Make sure to begin with a clean floor, allow 24 hours of drying time between each coat, and wait an entire week before moving furniture back into the room. 

Anna Burke's Cheery Apartment in the West Village
Anna Burke's Cheery Apartment in the West Village
In the bathroom, pink-and-white striped walls and monogrammed linens bring about a feminie flair.
In the bathroom, pink-and-white striped walls and monogrammed linens bring about a feminie flair.
A bright floral apron hangs on a hook. 
A bright floral apron hangs on a hook. 
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