Where some interior designers look at an empty room and see a blank slate, Sandie Tsai of Sandie Tsai Studios sees a hidden narrative. Hers is an all-encompassing vision that takes into account the character of the place, its environment and the personalities that reside there. She applied this same design philosophy to her first shared apartment with her fiancé in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, GA. Using her keen design eye, Sandie mixes contemporary furnishings with global decor pieces transforming a once rather dull rental into a stylish space that reflects their personalities.
“As a rental apartment, the space has many things we couldn’t change (ugly light fixtures, outdated finishes), so our efforts went into what we could change and how to do it in a way so we can take it all with us when we move”, says Sandie.
“When we first moved in, the space looked depressing – yellow walls, tan carpeting, popcorn ceiling(!!), and outdated ceiling light fixtures. I started by painting all the walls and laying down rugs to cover up the carpet, which made a huge difference. We didn’t bring much furniture with us, however, we both came with lots of artwork and accessories from our travels that we treasure, so I started with those and designed the space around them.”
Sandie’s fiancé is from Marrakech and has an admirable collection of Moroccan rugs and objects. They wanted to include these special treasures without the apartment feeling too theme-y.
“I kept the larger furniture pieces neutral, adding colors, patterns and texture through accessories and textiles—i.e. the vintage Hmong pillows on the sofa, and the goat hair rug from Turkey in the dining area.
“We have a huge living room and a slightly awkward dining nook off of the kitchen. Since I work from home, I turned the dining nook into my office and merged the dining area with the living room.”
I believe that good design tells a story – of the space, its history and of the people that live there. Sandie Tsai
Scrolled Back Rattan Chair: Anthropologie
Sandie loves textures and layering. The three layers of fiber and animal rugs in the living and dining rooms help define the spaces and add great visual interest in an apartment where many basic elements can’t be changed.
“The dining area was designed around the painted hide artwork we have on the wall. We bought the hide off of a shop owner’s wall when we were in Fez, Morocco for twelve dollars. Of course, it cost more than ten times that to get it stitched onto a canvas and professionally framed!”
Extendable Table: World Market
“For our bedroom, I had been rather ambitious, wanting to do a Moroccan patterned paint stencil on the walls and a carved wooded headboard. But after moving in, I felt the room needed something bolder, so we ended up painting the entire room black. I used a satin finish on the black paint so that light would still be able to bounce off the walls, preventing the room from feeling dark. At night, the room is like a cozy cocoon, we both love it! And the added bonus is that everything looks better against that black backdrop, even our Ikea dressers pop out and look so much better.”
Through careful selection of unique and global items, Sandie proves that you can turn a “cookie-cutter” apartment into a personal and comforting space.