What Happens When A Gossip Girl Decorator Makes Over Your Apartment

Bestselling young adult author Jenny Han recently turned her mid-century one-bedroom in Brooklyn Heights into a Great Gatsby-inspired jewel box — a space she describes as "functional, with high heels on."

Han wanted hotel-like interiors that would work for living, entertaining, and writing, so she tapped a veteran in cosmopolitan glam, Christina Tonkin, former set decorator of Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. Together, they began to create Pinterest boards, culling inspiration from Hollywood Regency and art deco. "As a writer, I respond to design that has a narrative to it," Han says. "The story behind the ideas."

Four months later, Han's new digs feel like another character in the room — unabashedly feminine, fresh, and with just the right amount of Blair Waldorf. Click through to see the revamp.
Advertisement
1 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
When going for a bold color story, Tonkin recommends sticking to just three shades in the same family, whether it's pastels or primaries — or, in this case, jewel tones like amethysts, emeralds, and sapphires.
2 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
"This collection of blue-lidded jars [is] vintage," says Han. "I want each piece to look authentic and to feel really important, especially in a small space."
Advertisement
3 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
"This chair's green bird fabric is left over from one of the last seasons of Gossip Girl, when Blair was working in her atelier," Tonkin recalls. "I had shown Jenny that swatch, and she went a little crazy for it. She's a die-hard fan of the show."
4 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
Han's favorite item? An old Eames chair re-upholstered in Osborne & Little rose-gold and Lurex fabric. "I had to convince her to do that," Tonkin says. "I was like, 'Jenny — you're not going to put that black leather chair in this room! You can either put it in storage or let me cover it.'"
5 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
The "sitting room" was inspired by Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby and L'Wren Scott's Paris apartment, with a couch that converts into a sofa bed for guests.
6 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
A great way to delineate space is through lighting, Tonkin advises. That's why she placed this Aerin Lauder chandelier strung with little white beads — "somewhere between a pearl and a gumball" — strategically above the table, to anchor the room and create a dramatic moment.
7 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
Han does a lot of entertaining, so this French 1920s bar cart was a good investment. As far as when to invest in antiques, Tonkin says it's all about balance — like layering a vintage tchotchke on a modern table. "I love using a client's family heirloom and repurposing that in a modern way," she explains.
Advertisement
8 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
"Han's bedroom is much more eclectic and homey than the rest of the apartment," says Tonkin. "I wanted it to reflect more of her personality, because she wears a lot of vintage clothing."
9 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
The classic New York problem: How to create space for clothes? Tonkin found these oversized, two-tone bedside tables from Global Views, and they double as small dressers with plenty of surface area.
10 of 11
Photos courtesy of J.Benson Photography.
The colors in this old-timey needlepoint rug help pull unique hues from the room. (PSA: Tonkin found this gem on eBay, but unless you have a veteran eye, she recommends filtering your searches on auction sites like eBay, Chairish, and Etsy to "returnable pieces only.")
11 of 11
Advertisement