Name: Emily Toomey and my partner Jay
Location: Washington, DC
Type of home: Townhouse
Size: 1020 square feet
Years lived in: Almost a year, renting
Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I’m a quantum research scientist by day, but spend most of my time outside of the lab painting and creating things. My partner, Jay, is a science journalist, and usually plays music during his off hours. A lot of the objects in our home come reflect this combination of science and art — for instance, you’ll find an abacus or a model of a T. Rex head next to one of my sculptures or an instrument. We collect a lot (too much!), but I love having my home filled with unusual pieces that carry a lot of meaning.
I’ve always felt conflicted in the professional world by the two sides of my brain being in competition, but at home I can let them live in harmony. The art in my home is mostly my own (I even have some stuffed under beds or in my closets…), and having it around lets me reflect on how my style has changed over the years. As a painter, I think about color all the time. Cezanne is my biggest muse, and I think that has seeped into the color palette of my home through rich tones and strong elements of black contrast, like a dark metal chair or bookcase. I even used washi tape to put black outlines around the windows of my guest room/studio since I was craving some contrast and grounding. Sometimes I see pictures of minimalist decor on Instagram and feel inspired to move in that direction, but whenever I’m on Facebook Marketplace I’m always drawn to velvet chairs, or dramatic lighting, or something else punchy, so I don’t think minimalism is in the cards for me…
Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Mashup of industrial, artistic, and sculptural elements
What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room is my living/dining room (all of my living area is on one floor, and then bedrooms are on the floor above). I think it really reflects a combination of both of our styles. When we first moved in together here last July, I wanted decor that was more mid-century modern, and my partner wanted something more rustic or industrial. I think where we ended up was a really good compromise between the two, and I feel inspired whenever I sit in it (which is saying something given how much time we’ve spent in this room over the past year!).
My second favorite room is our guest room, which doubles as my art studio. I kept it mostly black and white so that the paintings in-progress wouldn’t be too influenced by their surroundings. Being in this apartment is the first time I’ve had a separate room to paint in, which I’m so grateful for. We recently bought shelves from Home Depot and hung them in an L-shape over my painting desk so that I could make it feel even more like a distinct “painting zone” that’s separate from the rest of the room.
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I found this black metal chair on Facebook Marketplace that I immediately jumped on buying. It has all of the sculptural elements that I love in furniture design — clean lines, interesting curves, and dark contrast. Granted, it’s not the most comfortable chair in the world (as my partner pointed out), but I still love it. Besides the chair, the most recent addition to our home is the new easel I got for my birthday! It’s my first time owning a standing easel, and it’s really been a game-changer!
Any advice for creating a home you love? My advice would be to avoid buying things all from one store if you can, and to instead take your time searching for things on FB Marketplace, Craigslist, or local antique stores. I think your decor will end up feeling more personal that way, plus it’s much more of an adventure! I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the stories or interactions I’ve had while picking up furniture from all over the place (for instance, we once drove through Dupont Circle during peak traffic on a Friday afternoon with our trunk open and our credenza stuffed inside. Turns out the FB Marketplace listing had the dimensions 4″ shorter than it actually was, but at least we have a story now! I also bought a vintage vase from a guy in a library parking lot who told me his mom won it at an art auction in the ’80s, and that it was the ugliest thing he had ever seen.)
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.