Meet Kai Avent-deLeon, Brooklyn native and owner of concept store, Sincerely Tommy – where boutique meets cafe. Sincerely Tommy is a bright, sunshine filled space containing a wonderfully curated selection of women’s fashion and lifestyle objects. A platform for emerging artists, Kai carefully chooses pieces from up-and-coming designers to display in her store. The shop also serves as a cafe, with plenty of seating for neighborhood regulars and freelancers to enjoy the space. It’s been awhile since we did a Retail Therapy post around here and we’re lucky that Kai recently opened up to Apartment 34 about life in New York, the creative process, and finding a sense of self and identity. If you need some serious inspiration and self-motivation, be sure to scroll down!

sincerely tommy boutique in nyc on apartment 34

Tell us about your New York? Is there any other place you would like to live?
I feel very privileged to have grown up in New York. You are exposed to a lot of culture, and you get to be involved in a lot of things that you wouldn’t necessarily have the same ability to do living anywhere else in the world. Growing up I was involved in acting classes, dancing, and really anything creative. I think that definitely contributed to my passion towards what I do now, and being creative in general. Even now as an adult, I have been able to define my taste and interests because of that upbringing, and dig a little deeper.

sincerely tommy boutique in nyc on apartment 34

New York has had a huge influence on who I am as a woman, and who I am as a person. There is a lot to be said about the city in general – finding inspiration in different places and being able to explore. I personally really enjoy the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side for the old architecture, it reminds me of old New York and growing up there. Around the Met too, the Met and Guggenheim are my 2 favorite museums in New York.

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I love Brooklyn, obviously, I grew up there. I love the drastic differences between the neighborhoods. Bed-Stuy has a great combination of community and a bit of youth and vibrancy. As I get older and prepare to settle down a bit more, I’m exploring other places. I’m thinking of living in an area that’s more outdoors, with fresh air and more scenic. Maybe somewhere in the desert, or in Africa. This wouldn’t be permanent, but maybe for 3 months out of the year.

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What does your creative process look like? Where do you draw inspiration?
I don’t have a set process, I tend to go with the flow in general. When I’m inspired to do something, I just do it. Starting the line for the store, for instance, was just inspired by wanting to wear certain things myself, and feeling like I wasn’t finding those things at an accessible price point. I just started making clothes that were really fun and comfortable. I never studied fashion design or the technical aspects of producing a line, so it was all very new to me. I was just inspired by different textiles I saw in Mexico and went from there.

My inspiration for the store was very similar. There were a bunch of brands that I knew existed that weren’t getting real representation. I saw a lot of talent and not enough opportunity, so I wanted to open a store that allowed those creatives to showcase their design and also be the first store to carry those brands.

sincerely tommy boutique in nyc on apartment 34sincerely tommy boutique in nyc on apartment 34sincerely tommy boutique in nyc on apartment 34

Do you have any side projects in conjunction with Sincerely Tommy?
I’m currently working on a website for interiors, where I’ll be doing consultations for people’s homes and businesses. I’ll also have a small shop section where I’ll be selling small objects. I’m hoping to launch this within the next two months.

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What are the original influences on your personal aesthetic?
My mother and my grandmother have played a huge role – they have their own sense of style that’s really strong and unique, so watching them growing up, how they would dress and how they would decorate their homes, has always played a really big part in my own style and taste.

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Overall, I definitely go for minimalism, and as I get older I want less stuff. If I do buy something, it’s something from a city I visited, and to me it represents that city and the time that I had there, so it has sentimental value. The benefit of minimalism is that the store and my home are pretty much the same. I can always sell something in the store if I choose not to want it anymore. I like natural textures, neutral colors, and things that are very easy to mix and match.

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We know you have worked closely with your mother and grandmother on Sincerely Tommy. What pieces of wisdom have you taken away from the women in your family?
To be strong and independent. They both epitomize the concept of taking risks and have sought out ventures, whether career or personal, that are the road less traveled. I really admire that and it has helped me develop my passion and way of living life. I admire them so much – they represent and embody strong independent women in every sense.

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We can tell you have a strong sense of self and identity, what advice can you offer to women out there who may struggle with going full force at what they want?
Find yourself first. Having a really good relationship with yourself and understanding that it’s constantly evolving is always most important. Once you are at a point of being comfortable with yourself, everything else comes naturally. As human beings we put a lot of pressure on trying to find outside sources to complete us, but once you have figured out who you are, everything else just comes to you. It’s a never ending journey.

 

To check out our entire Retail Therapy archive CLICK HERE

Check out our favorite makers HERE

Interviews with more inspiring women are RIGHT HERE

 

image 1 via garance doré / photography by apartment 34 by kat harris photography of the refined woman / interview by laura banas 

Over two years – yes TWO – years into our renovation, I’ve learned quite a few things. But if someone asked me to narrow my advice down to one golden nugget, it would be this: do not move in until your project is complete! Like complete complete. I know this isn’t new advice. People say it all the time, but we did not heed the warning. Instead, we chose in favor of larger living quarters, no longer paying rent and general renovation fatigue. It felt like we’d waited forever. And that was nearly a year ago. So when we did actually move in, quite a bit of finish work remained as well as some major parts of the renovation. And how are all those unfinished projects doing? Yup, still waiting. When you’re suddenly living your life in the space, the frantic need to check finish work off your list disappears, replaced by things like the need to grocery shop, plan a birthday party or I don’t know, write a blog post! This would be why you’ve only seen teeny tiny sneak peeks of the house to date.

One of things still on my finish work to-do list? Finalize my light fixtures. Finding the perfect lighting is seriously hard because there are literally millions of options out there and 99.9% of them are bad. Really freakin’ bad. Then, of course, there are some truly fabulous options, but those cost a bazillion dollars. After a two-year renovation those bazillions have already been spent. So I’m stuck hunting. My current challenge: the perfect sconce for our guest bath. You’ve seen a bit of our guest bath here and there. So you might have caught is has a round mirror and a light color scheme. You’d think finding the perfect bathroom sconce would be a snap.

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But unfortunately, it’s proving challenging. For one, we have very high ceilings so a lot of fixtures look dwarfed. Secondly, I’d like something in either white or brass but not overly utilitarian looking. The piece also does need to give off decent light. So I’ve hunted and hunted and hunted and finally tracked down a list of top contenders.

bathroom sconces on apartment 34

from left to right park studio novato / arne jacobsen bellevue light / park studio rudd sconce / aerin clemente double sconce / applique de marseille / park studio fairfax / aerin charlton wall light / michele varian brass globe sconce

Ranging from industrial chic to more traditional, I think really any of these pieces could work. It’s all about finding that right mix of good style, appropriate scale and honestly, something I don’t think I’ll hate in five years. Obviously this list also isn’t exhaustive. There are pieces I love from Allied Maker, from Lawson Fenning, from School House Electric, Cedar & Moss and One Forty Three, among others. And I’m sure many of you, my design aficionados, have a lighting source or two up your sleeve. Care to share? Because that’s the other thing I’ve learned through this renovation process. Turns out I’m a design commitment-phobe. It’s really hard for me to finalize a choice. So I hope to see lots of your sage advice in the comments below. Because it’s time. I’ve got to finish this house before it finishes me!

 

SHOP MORE LIGHTING

 

image 1 by tessa neustadt / image 2 by jotun lady / image 3 via elle decor / image 4 by park and oak / image 5 by becki owens design / 

Apartment 34 on Instagram

If you’re looking for inspiration to clean out some clutter this season, look no further than the home and studio of British fashion designer Anna Valentine. Bright white and decidedly minimal, the space had me with its flood of natural light and herringbone floors, but the subtle attention to detail is what makes this home exceptional.

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The space has an airy, calming atmosphere thanks to the monochromatic color palette and use of organic materials throughout; an oversized wooden kitchen table, marble counters and tumbled stone floors, worn leather furniture and a ceramics collection all add texture and interest.The space also houses Valentine’s design studio – where her clothes feels like an intentional part of the decor. I also love the juxtaposition of antiques (acquired during Anna’s travels through France) that live harmoniously with design classics like the Eames Molded Plywood Chair. This is proof positive that designing a home is indeed a treasure hunt.

As I sit and stare at a still hardly furnished home, I take solace in the proof that a curated space that showcases slowly acquired treasures can feel warm and inviting rather than sparse. Patience will pay off (I hope!).

 

For our entire home tour archive, CLICK HERE

styling: Luanne Toms / photography Elsa Young for Elle Decoration

You can feel it, can’t you? The burst of energy? The desire to get outside. The need to just do something. The whole spring renewal thing is legit. Hence why it really is wise to harness some of that new-found energy and put it toward…spring cleaning! It is a thing and it is a super smart thing to actually do. After being cooped up for the winter now is the time to shake off the cobwebs, both figuratively and literally. But now that I’m back to being a homeowner after many years of loft living, tackling the spring cleaning to-do list can feel rather daunting. When strapped for time, spring cleaning is hard to get started. However, I’ve found a formula that will help you get it done without feeling overwhelmed. Because there’s nothing better than the sense of accomplishment when you complete a good cleaning sesh. And neat, clean spaces have been proven to lower stress and anxiety levels! We all need that. If you use the tips below, I promise you’ll get to the aww, I just got off work on a Friday-afternoon feeling asap.

To kick off your spring cleaning regimen, map out your cleaning game plan. Dedicate 15 minutes to organizing all of your cleaning supplies and deciding which rooms you plan to tackle and the products you’ll need. Then, assign a day to tackle each of those spaces. This step will keep you from feeling completely overwhelmed when you aren’t quite sure where to start.

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Then, it’s time to clear the clutter and prep for the deep clean. Bedrooms and bedroom closets are hot spots for clutter, so they’re often a good first room to be cleaned during spring cleaning. And for more than one-in-four Americans, the pantry and kitchen drawers also gather clutter. I recently tackled both my pantry and my closet and could not be happier with the result. When it come to cleaning a pantry (or cupboards – the definition of pantry can be loosely applied), ditch anything that is expired or you haven’t touched in at least six months. You can check out my pantry organization post right here for how I pulled my pantry together.

I took a similarly tough approach to sprucing up my closet for the new season. Since I finally have my own closet, I have no excuse not to keep it organized. Why is that always so much easier said than done?? Anywho, I finally tackled the beast. Anything really worn out or looking sad? Out. Anything that doesn’t fit well? Out. Anything I haven’t worn in six months (excluding seasonal items) out! That actually opened up some space, but you’ll have to wait until next week for the rest of my closet tour and my spring wardrobe wish list.

how to tackle spring cleaning on apartment 34

Once key spaces are clutter-free, tackle the most dreaded chore on your list first. According to The Clorox Company’s recent survey, if Americans could give up one chore for the rest of their lives, scrubbing the toilet would be the first chore to go. Deep cleaning the bathrooms is most definitely my least favorite cleaning activity – I like organizing the stuff – attacking the actual dirt just grosses me out. But things like Clorox® ScrubSingles™ Bathroom Pads, which are preloaded with cleaner and feature a scrubbing surface designed to attack stubborn bathroom stains, and the Clorox® ToiletWand®, a pre-loaded toilet brush that cleans, sanitizes and disinfects your toilet with a refillable, disposable head, both clean up tough messes the easy way. Done and done. And once you conquer your most dreaded space, whatever it is, the rest of your spring cleaning chores will feel like a walk in the park!

how to tackle spring cleaning on apartment 34

To keep yourself motivated through your cleaning sessions, allow yourself to take breaks. Snacks and screens, whether be it the television, computer or smartphone, are the most popular ways to take a break during cleaning sprees. For women in particular, snacks, checking e-mail and catching up on social media are go-to ways to break up a long cleaning session. So set the phone in the other room until you finish a task and then you can give five minutes of Insta-stories time (are you kinda addicted? yeah, me too). Creating even larger incentives for yourself, such as hosting a get-together for the finale of your favorite TV show or taking a well-deserved staycation once you tackle everything on your list, will also keep you motivated throughout the cleaning process.

how to tackle spring cleaning on apartment 34

And you can always look for ways to make your life easier. To tackle dust I use Clorox® Triple Action Dust Wipes, which are dry, non-abrasive wipes featuring an interlocking weave that traps and locks dust, allergens – even pet hair. I use them on furniture, electronics, blinds, frames, baseboards, floors and more. Pro tip, to keep guest areas low maintenance put potted plants next to your guest bed instead of fresh flowers so you don’t have to worry about wilted blooms and dripping pollen falling everywhere.

how to tackle spring cleaning on apartment 34

While the list can sometimes feel long, you can, in fact, power through spring cleaning without devoting your life to the task. Simply make your list of the must-tackle projects and check ’em off one-by-one. I can even get my kiddo into the act. He thinks sweeping is the cat’s pajamas. Although he really only moves dirt from one part of the floor to the other, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Below I’ve listed out what I would recommend tackling this spring cleaning season:

 

SPRING CLEANING CHECKLIST

> Dust all crown molding, baseboards, light fixtures, ceiling corners

> Wipe down all blinds, clean curtains or any other window coverings

> Clean all doors and windows inside and out

> Disinfect all door and cabinet knobs, as well as counters and other hard surfaces

> Disinfect remote controls, dust & disinfect all of your other frequently electronics, keyboards, mouse, your phone (make sure to follow instructions – they can be sensitive to various cleaners)

> Change out any air vents and filters throughout the house

> Thoroughly vacuum all rugs and clean floors under them

> Wipe down all furniture, making sure not to miss corners of shelving units

> Clean out all your counter top appliances as well as your refrigerator, oven and microwave

> Swap out all bedding, flip your mattress, clean the mattress coverings

> Clean under the bed

> Disinfect your toothbrush holders, soap dishes, shower curtains

> Clean out your medicine cabinet/vanity

> Wash all your make-up brushes and throw out expired or seldom-used make-up (this post is helpful for that)

To make this “Season of Clean” less daunting and more fun, Clorox is sharing 30 days of content on its Springvent calendar. Whether it’s a cleaning tip, life hack, recipe to reward your accomplishments or DIY project, Clorox is providing fun and unique ways to help you enjoy the spring cleaning season. For additional motivation along the way, visitors to the Springvent calendar can enter a sweepstakes for the chance to win exciting prizes. Clorox will announce one winner each week, for a total of four winners. Learn more at SeasonOfClean.com.

 

For even more peeks into our house (I swear it’s going to be done soon!) – CLICK HERE.

 

original photography for apartment 34 by Michelle Drewes

This post is in partnership with Clorox. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Thanks for supporting collaborations that I’m excited about and that have kept apartment 34’s doors open

If, like me, you’re a huge fan of picture rail shelves (I’ve used them repeatedly over the years, like here and here and here), but are hesitant to drill permanent holes in your wall, you’re going to love this Idea to Steal. It offers a super creative away to display your treasures.

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This is literally an Ikea hack. Rather than drill into your wall, you can create your own leaning picture rail display. Simply screw some picture rails into a run of black marble patterned Ikea countertops and you’ve got a flexible, moveable display case.

Books, art, magazines and odds and ends suddenly become an eye catching focal point – especially if you style everything in a monochromatic color palette. And I’m always a sucker for black (case in point, my new dining room). You can use this leaning display to create a still life in just about any space – a living room, bedroom, office. Even a hallway. And the best part? You can change the look whenever the mood strikes.

I smell a spring project coming on! What do you think? Are you into this idea?

 

For our entire Idea to Steal archive, CLICK HERE.

 

design by Pella Hedeby for IKEA | Photo by Karl Anderson

Who else is feeling pumped about all things Spring right now? Fresh colors, new styles, lighter flavors – I don’t know what it was about this winter, but the hibernation was legit. But the new season is working  it’s magic. I’m finally feeling ready to break out of the doldrums. It’s time to be social again! I’ve never properly broken in our house so I think it’s high time. It’s the perfect excuse to break back into the bar cart and put some of that spring energy into a fresh cocktail idea.

Now, my love of margaritas is well-documented. Margaritas just equal fun. And when made right, they’re absolutely delicious. It’s no wonder they’re most popular cocktail in the US (interesting, right?!).

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I’ve become a bit of a margarita connoisseur over the years and have figured out the formula to a stellar drink. The number one rule? Top shelf ingredients. Your margarita is only as good as what you put in it. Obviously that starts with great tequila. The first time you have truly good tequila, I promise your mind will be blown. My choice for top shelf tequila is Patrón. The second secret? Fresh everything else. We served margaritas at my wedding (it was in Mexico after all – you can see a glimpse here) and my dear father-in-law juiced over 50 limes by hand! But you know what they say. A little hard work makes the reward so much sweeter.

To celebrate the most popular cocktail nationwide, Patrón has crafted 7 artisanal recipes that showcase the versatility of the margarita and its endless variations in flavor profiles—from spice-infused to classic citrus. I got to put their “Tiki Rita” recipe to the test.

tiki rita recipe on apartment 34tiki rita recipe on apartment 34

A Hawaiian-inspired version of the classic, this margarita is still light and refreshing but with a distinct spicy note – as in from your spice cabinet – not hot. It combines both fresh lime and fresh grapefruit juice as well as a spice-infused liquor call Allspice Dram. Thankfully, you can pick up all the ingredients at most liquor stores or your favorite bottle shop. I found everything for this cocktail at BevMo. And while I don’t normally rock the kitsch that tends to accompany all things tiki, I did find these adorable tiki shot glasses! I think they’re the perfect way to pay homage to the drink’s inspiration. And isn’t the color just gorgeous? Scroll down to get the entire recipe!

tiki rita recipe on apartment 34

RECIPE: PATRÓN TIKI RITA

Ingredients

2oz Patrón Reposda
.5oz Patrón Citrónge Orange
.5oz Fresh lime juice
.5oz Fresh grapefruit juice
.25oz Vanilla syrup
.25oz Allspice Dram
Grated nutmeg
Lime wheels
Hawaiian sea salt rim

Directions

1. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice to chill.
2. Strain onto fresh crushed ice in a high ball (or tiki!) glass that has been rimmed with Hawaiian sea salt.
3. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg, a lime wheel and fresh cloves.

Check out all of the “Margarita of the Year” recipes by visiting patrontequila.com and casting your vote for your favorite on Twitter and Facebook for a chance to help name the #MargaritaOfTheYear. Of course, I’d love to see the #TikiRita trend! Vote for your favorite Margarita by doing one of the below:
1. Using the recipe Hashtag – #TikiRita – on Twitter/Facebook
2. Vote on the Patrón Margarita of the Year website by clicking RIGHT HERE

 

photography for apartment 34 by michelle drewes

This post is in partnership with Patrón. The perfect way to enjoy Patrón is responsibly. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Thanks for supporting posts that keep our doors open.

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