Instagram has always been a great place for me to scout new faces and interiors we want to feature here on the blog. Oftentimes, I’m reaching out to people who already have their own PR representation and are well-practiced with interviews. But on rare occasions, I’ll come across a real person truly oozing with talent who has somehow never been featured on a blog before! This is the case with James Kivior, who works in the cosmetic division of a French pharmaceuticals company. When he’s not traveling for work, he’s busy grooming his 550 square foot Bushwick apartment into a masculine masterpiece. Even though his space is small, James isn’t afraid of drama (that includes black paint, plaster busts, and plenty of velvet). We fell in love with James’ pre-war apartment (which he cheekily refers to as The Pretentious Home) via Instagram and we couldn’t wait to share it with you here. For those of you who are tired of all-white interiors, fiddle figs and diamond flokati rugs, you are in for a real treat. The dark and glamorous style of James Kivior is a welcome change in our growing collection of home tours. Read on to discover how James packs plenty of Hollywood Regency style into his small space in Brooklyn.

photographed by vanessa zimmer at range images and james kivior

First off, we love your black walls. So daring! What paint color did you use? How did you know that a dark color could work so well in your small space?  

Thank you, I love the black walls as well!  It took me almost a year to decide to paint my walls black, I would literally go to the paint store and get so overwhelmed with how many different shades of black there are. Did I want to commit to this? What would my landlady say? When I finally decided I went with Benjamin Moore’s Universal Black… I remember how nervous yet excited I was as I was painting it on the wall. Initially, I painted two walls in my living room black and wallpapered the other two in an awful black and white damask. I loved the way the black turned out and how my furniture popped against it so I removed the black and white damask and installed (myself) a beautiful black tone on tone wallpaper that I found at a paint and wallpaper store in the city.  At this point I decided to go all out and extended the black paint and wallpaper into my bedroom and then painted all of my doors in a black high gloss paint. I think a black accent wall is not as dramatic… if you want drama, you need to fully commit. I think black walls is definitely acquired, not everyone likes them.  My apartment doesn’t get a lot of light and most people would think to go with white walls and lighter furniture, but I wanted to go the opposite and make the place darker and sexier. 

How would you describe your interior design style in general?

I have loved interior design for as long as I can remember. Interior Designers to me are like rock stars. If you put me in the same room with Mary Mcdonald and Jennifer Lawrence, I’d go right to Mary! My personal design style is definitely more Hollywood Regency. I love old furniture and absolutely hate big box stores. No offense to Homegoods/Pottery Barn/West Elm/Ikea… it’s just not my style. I don’t want someone to see a piece of furniture in my home and say that they have the same one. Give me drama, give me unique… give me ebonized furniture with ormolu and Louis XI chairs. 

Who (or what/where) inspires your style?

Hands down I am inspired by my favorite store in New York City, called Aedes de Venustas. It’s a beautiful parfumerie that also carries candles such as Diptyque and Cire Trudon. I’m also greatly inspired by the home of Dita Von Teese.  

What have been some design challenges you’ve experienced in this home? 

There have been quite a few. I live in a really old pre-war building. It’s an updated railroad style apartment (updated meaning my bathtub is not sitting in the middle of my kitchen, LOL). The apartment is long and narrow and only has windows in the front room (kitchen) and back room (bedroom). The living room is quite dark. So, my biggest challenge is working with what comes with an old building. I don’t have electrical outlets on all the walls which makes it difficult for where I put my lamps (I love lamps). Also, having a smooth flow from room to room without tripping on everything. 

What are some of your favorite design sources for home decor?

My favorite place to go to for home decor is a really cute town in New Jersey known for its antique stores called Lambertville. Everything about the town is so adorable and historic.  There are dozens of antique stores and every time I go I always leave with something. I’m also a real online shopper, I’m obsessed with Chairish, 1stdibs, One Kings Lane, and Ebay.  

Tell us about your velvet settee… it’s so great. What would you call that color?

It’s actually not a settee, it is considered a studio sofa. Smaller than a sofa but larger than a loveseat… I’m 6 foot and I can lay across it comfortably. I LOVE this sofa! It’s from Safavieh, although I’ve seen it sold on Wayfair and Overstock for much less than what I paid for. The color and shape is what really attracted me to it. I love tuxedo style sofas and the legs are very important, this one is on castors. The color is called pearl, and it’s a very soft pink but under certain light can look champagne. 

What’s your favorite thing about your home?

My favorite thing would be the high ceilings and some of the architectural details such as the window and door frames. The apartment was renovated before I moved in and I get the feeling that it had really beautiful molding on the walls but may have been removed. 


How long have you lived in your home?

Almost 5 years.

What part of town do you live in? 

I live in Bushwick, Brooklyn. An up-and-coming neighborhood next to Williamsburg. (Vogue magazine voted it one of the best fashion neighborhoods in the world).

Tell us about your artwork collection. Where did you score all of your amazing oil paintings?

I travel a lot for work and whatever city I am in I try to stop in an antique mall or store. All of my oil paintings come from antique or vintage stores. My real artwork are the framed Hermes scarves I have in each room. 

Okay and WHERE did you find this incredible lucite trunk?

Thank you!  Isn’t it sexy?  I actually bought it off of One Kings Lane. I collect Hermes scarves and wanted someplace safe to store the boxes while at the same time be able to display them. When I saw this trunk I thought it was brilliant!  It literally serves no other purpose.

Favorite home scent?

This would have to be my favorite question.  I am all about scent. I think every home should have a signature scent. I am a real snob when it comes to home fragrance… NO CHEAP CANDLES!!!  I have been burning Diptyque candles since I was 20 years old and they will always be my favorite. 34 Boulevard Saint Germain would be my home’s signature scent as I have it in room sprays, room diffusers, and candles throughout my apartment. I  also love Antica Farmacistas Damascena Rose, Orris & Oud reed diffusers and have one in each room. The first thing people should notice when entering your home should be it’s scent. 

What’s the next big change or addition you want to make to your home?

Ahhh right now I am working on something really dramatic. The whole wall behind my sofa will soon be covered in framed Hermes scarves. It will be a gallery wall. I already have 4 framed scarves and need 4 more to fully cover the wall. Obviously, this is not a cheap project and the scarves have to be specific. So I am slowly collecting. 

Describe your decor style in 5 words or fewer:

I’m a Scorpio and I think you can see that in my decor style — sexy, moody, PRETENTIOUS! 

Finish this sentence: A well designed home should ___________ .

Be unapologetic and carefully curated…

6 comments
  1. 1
    Blush & Pearls | February 20, 2017 at 10:17 am

    I love the drama of dark wall colours and fabrics. My bedroom is a deep purple, which I’ve accented with light gray, white and mirrored pieces.

    Blush & Pearls by Angela

    Reply
  2. 2
    Naomi | February 20, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this feature on James and his abode. His well executed ode to his own aesthetic and passion for antiques & details is really inspiring and refreshing. I come from a family of antiques dealers in London but only fully appreciated the family business in my adulthood.
    His use of subtle, yet thoughtful, taxidermy strikes a cord with me as a fellow collector.
    He manages to walk the line between old and contemporary and make it his own story.
    When you wander through someone’s home like this you get a true sense of the person, it’s an extension of themselves… it’s a sensory, wondrous, experience. Homes like these are alive and ever evolving and such a pleasure to encounter.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • ja,especi | February 21, 2017 at 1:59 am

      Naomi, thank you so much for your very kind words. I love when someone gets it and you my friend get it. Even if my home is not in your taste per se you still appreciate it for what it is and I love people like that! And yes, I do love taxidermy and actually have quite a collection that was not featured in the tour. I do hope you follow me on instagram. I would love to share the rest of my pretentious home with you.
      xoxo
      James

      Reply
      • Naomi | February 21, 2017 at 10:24 am

        Well James, if we weren’t cut from the same cloth we were at the very least from the same mill! I actually DO share your taste, in many aspects, it’s quite uncanny… from your taxidermy, architectural prints, busts, obelisks, and Hermes scarves to your portraits, old books and textiles (I have the same Adler baby alpaca throw too, but in orange… love) our homes are remarkably kindred. That said, there’s enough difference to intrigue and inspire.
        I’m hopelessly devoted to Cire Trudon, I like homes that evoke feelings and stimulate all the senses, olfactory is no exception.
        I have a couple of birds from Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren, do check them out if you haven’t seen these artists…. exquisite.
        I’ll be sure to look you up on instagram.
        Happy “hunting” James!

        Reply
  3. 3
    karin | February 21, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Loved it!

    Reply
  4. 4
    Sarah Rosenberg | May 16, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    Mr. Kivior, you are officially on my designer hotlist! I have a total design hard-on for the moody,
    maximalist, and cosmopolitan–think Jonathan Rachman and Ken Fulk–and I am about to start decorating a new apartment. YES to black walls and purple curtains, velvet uphostery and gilded frames with unexpected inhabitants (my choice here being an Easley rooster, artwork from New Orleans, a Blue Morpho speciment, and some Revivalists posters)…you are such an inspiration. Let that fiery scorpio spirit shine!

    Reply
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