When dancer-actress-choreographer-writer Angela Trimbur moved out of her "pastel floral grandma vibes" Los Angeles apartment to a stark loft in Brooklyn a few years ago, she decided to overhaul her interior aesthetic: "I wanted black, shiny, sexy mirrors, very ’80s—that loft space from Flashdance, which is one of my favorite movies, is what I was trying to call in." Trimbur had a few requirements to make that happen: The space needed to be a true loft with a wall of windows and hardwood floors, it had to be on the top floor so there wouldn’t be footsteps above her, and Trimbur wanted a tin tile ceiling (to satisfy the overall vintage mood she was going for). Having those parameters narrowed down her search but "it had to be everything on my list," she says.
Trimbur eventually found her spot in the historically industrial neighborhood of Bushwick—and, before she moved across the country, got rid of almost everything at an estate sale with the intention of starting her New York City chapter with a clean slate. The decision to leave her former spacious and affordable multiple-bedroom home with a garage wasn’t so out of left field. After surviving breast cancer in 2019 and healing alone during the pandemic, Trimbur says she "didn’t want to see anything that reminded me of the past or of that time. It was kind of an emotional shedding." She had also adopted a kind of existential mindset of how she’d live life if "I only had two years left, which is not a dark thought, I swear," she says, "but if I knew I was not going to be around in two years, would I have held onto my rent control place in LA or would I do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is move to New York, be a dance teacher, and don’t carry anything with me?"
A lifelong dancer, Trimbur’s goal with her Brooklyn space was always to have it be half dance studio. In a city infamous for its cramped apartments with limited square footage, Trimbur intentionally pared back on decor and furniture in order to designate a large area next to the windows as her dance zone, where she could let her body take up as much space as possible. The compromise is that Trimbur’s space isn’t conducive to hosting a large gathering but that was never part of her New York City life plan anyway. "As a choreographer, it’s so much better not to have to pay for another space to work, so that trickled down the logic of it," she says. "Do I really need the perfect setup for five people to come over three times a year? It’s my home; it’s my playground. It’s less about this perfect cookie-cutter hosting energy and more about the dance studio I could use every single day."
Intentionally make space
Depending on what your creative or personal endeavors are—whether it’s for dance, a photo studio, a home gym, or for making art—the first step is to clear an appropriately sized area of your home. For Trimbur, she knew the dance space would be next to the windows so she intentionally mounted mirrors on one wall at the far end of her apartment. On the wall opposite the mirrors, Trimbur placed a piano and installed a ballet barre, which she uses for stretching. Her small vintage desk is under the windows.
Unfortunately for Trimbur, the large mirrored panels she shipped across the country didn’t survive the move. "Everything was broken; even my lamps, everything. I was forced to start from scratch," she laments. Fortunately, Brooklyn-based Bear Glass found out about what had happened and donated and installed mirrors in Trimbur’s studio. While mounting mirrors is the pricier and more professional route, Trimbur says you can DIY your own dance studio or home gym by finding cheap or free mirrors on Craigslist and leaning them against a wall, which is how her set-up was in LA.
Make furniture easily movable
If your creative space isn’t roomy enough for what you need (and you can’t part with necessary furniture), find pieces that can be pushed aside and moved back into place afterward. If Trimbur needs to create more dance space or is choreographing with another person, she simply pushes her couch out of the way—which is easy enough since the couch is not against a wall or situated in a tight spot. Her vintage cream couch, which is bigger than a loveseat but smaller than a sectional, is lightweight enough that it can easily glide on the hardwood floors with little effort. (Furniture sliders also help!)
Keep your creative space tidy
Treat your creative studio as a separate work area (similar to an office or WFH setup). Doing so will help you stay more organized and tidy—it’s about honoring the space for what you want to use it for. To help keep her hardwood floors dust-free and cleared for dancing (she frequently wears a regular pair of socks), Trimbur uses a Bissell SpinWave cordless mop, which she says is "way better than a Swiffer," and a Dyson V11 cordless vacuum. "It’s really easy with the big mirrors and big windows to see if there’s a spot that needs to be cleaned," she says. Trimbur also started working with the New York City-based cleaning company 1 Million Little Things—"that changed my life"—to help her stay organized so that her studio is never cluttered. For keeping mirrors and glass streak-free and sparkling, the professionals at Bear Glass recommended that Trimbur use Sprayway foaming glass cleaner.
And to tidy up the messes left by the two puppies Trimbur recently adopted: "The best stain cleaner that has saved my deadstock ’80s rugs from puppy accidents is called Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover," she says. "It works like magic."
Let decor be dictated by large furniture
One of the first major home items that Trimbur purchased was a vintage cream-colored piano from Facebook Marketplace. "I knew I always wanted a piano and I was obsessed with the look of this, so I started building out [my color palette] from it," she says. "I thought, ‘Amazing, let’s make the whole entire apartment black and white and cream only.’"
The next big purchase that helped her further set the tone was a vintage mirrored black lacquered bed, which nicely contrasted the cream piano. "It started clicking when I found that bed. And then I realized, ‘Now I need something cream. I'll get a cream couch," Trimbur recalls of her process for balancing the tonal colors.
Trimbur also commissioned a custom kitchen counter made with black and white tiles for her kitchen set-up. As for the original marble kitchen floor that the apartment came with, Trimbur found black and white floor tiles from Home Depot and glued them down to help tie in the checkerboard theme.
Identify a recurring motif to create a theme
A visual artist may be attracted to washes of color; a photographer may find an affinity for low-key lighting sources like lamps—whatever interior aesthetic you’re naturally gravitating towards is worth exploring thematically throughout your home to help you stay inspired.
One of the hallmarks of a dance studio is mirrors—and that’s what Trimbur has leaned into as she started adding reflective flourishes everywhere. Trimbur’s bed was an especially serendipitous find because the mirrored headboard serves as a natural extension of her dance studio mirrors. She eventually found a vintage mirrored TV stand and got a wall of mirrored wardrobes from Ikea since her apartment didn’t come with closets. "Mirrors open up every space so I wanted mirrors everywhere. If I could, I’d truly put them everywhere but they’re expensive and they do add up," she says.
The ’80s-esque mirror and "shiny glass" motifs show up in every nook in Trimbur’s apartment, from the disco ball hanging from the ceiling to the glass bricks that frame her studio mirrors. "These glass bricks popped up at Alberto and Sons, and it was from a ride that broke down in Coney Island in the ’80s," she says. And not to be neglected, Trimbur has started decorating her bathroom as well—there are mini mirrored tiles for the shower, a vintage sconce above the medicine cabinet, a black toilet seat she swapped in, and she’s awaiting a mirrored light switch plate.
Keep it minimal
While it may seem as though Trimbur’s space is brimming with vintage treasures, her collection of furniture and decor is minimal and manageable. It’s something she took into consideration when adapting to New York City real estate: "My rent’s going up and who knows if I'm going to even stay here [long term]," she says, "so I look at apartments all the time out of curiosity and I’m always thinking, ‘Where could the dance area be?’ Would I have to sacrifice a chair? But I don’t have that many things and that’s kind of key. I was a bit of a clutter person back in LA. Now, if I had to move, it would be easy because I own 25 things."
Commit to a visual theme
"I wanted everything in here to be authentically ’80s," says Trimbur, although there are inevitable exceptions like the modern flat-screen TV, Ikea mirrored wardrobes, and very convincing fake palm plants ("I stand by them," she says). Many of her vintage finds have been sourced from Dolphin & Flamingo, ‘80s Deco Hunter, Etsy, and the aforementioned Alberto and Sons. "When I became obsessed with ’80s decor, I started finding Instagram accounts like ’80s Deco Hunter, who is amazing. She’ll fly to Miami to an estate sale and buy everything and drive back up. Dolphin & Flamingo is also in Miami. Pretty much everything in my apartment is from Miami."
Allow for mistakes—and then move on
Before Trimbur found her vintage mirrored black lacquered bed, she had gotten a brass canopy bed that she spray-painted gold and put together, only to find out that "it wasn’t sexy enough" for what she had envisioned. "I was so stressed out that I made a mistake and my friend told me to just sell it and get a new one. Once I got that permission in my head, I said, ‘Oh yeah, you can make a mistake, and who cares? It’s annoying for a day and that's it." Taking the time to find the right bed turned out to be crucial since that one large piece of furniture inadvertently helped dictate the rest of the apartment’s vibe.
"Asking for advice and second-guessing myself is also something I regret doing. I wasted a lot of stress over that," she adds, pointing to her vintage desk as an example of furniture that some friends say is ugly. "They’ll say, ‘It looks like a desk from the ’80s,’ and I’ll say, ‘Yeah, exactly, that’s the whole point!’ I know what I think looks good. I love this desk."
Top photo by Sasha Arutyunova
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