Today I'm chatting with Etsy seller Maya Drozdz, who among many other things is a graphic art theorist, designer, studio co-owner and blogger. Maya landed in Cincinnati by way of Brooklyn by way of Gdynia, Poland. Maya and her partner Michael live in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, which is the largest, most intact urban historic district in the United States. This means it's full of a great variety of historic architecture, decorative tiles, ghost signs and its own unique, transitional urban environment. The glean great inspiration from all of these characteristics. The results of these inspirations can be seen all over their loft apartment and in their Etsy store visualingual
. You also can catch the great catalog of Maya's inspirations on her blog, VisuaLingual
Please tell us about your “first meeting” with your house.
We were pretty happy with our previous apartment but when I came across the rental listing for this one, I had to take a look for myself. As soon as I walked into the large main space, my head was
filled with "this is it, this is it, this is it!" It was as if someone had created my fantasy apartment, with everything where I would ideally imagine it to be. Well, except for a balcony, but we do have a fire escape.
Your neighborhood has such an interesting history (German ghetto, capital of beer brewing, revival, race riots, new revival...). You're in a true loft; what was your building's former life like?
Our building is a circa-1850 beer hall that was originally affiliated with a nearby brewery. So, our building had a bar, dance hall, and other spaces for entertaining, plus a gynormous two-level basement with high vaulted ceiling, which was used for beer storage.
When our landlords renovated the building, the resulting apartments ended up being loft-like by default, because it wasn't originally a dwelling but an entertainment space. We still have the original windows and hardwood floors.
What was the first step of your remodeling/decorating process?
Amazingly, all of our stuff found its proper place right away, so the only things that needed to be done were painting some of the walls and making a few more purchases.
As far as decorating goes, we've slowly accumulated our possessions over the years, and then whittled them back down to our favorite items every time we moved [6 times in 9 years] so, by the time we moved into our current loft, we were fairly confident about our collective style and were able to intuitively make all the small decisions that create a cohesive space.
What was the biggest renovation/design challenge you faced?
Overall, we're very happy with our space. As renters, we've been able to make small modifications to suit our needs, and our landlord has even done some work for us, like hardwiring the light fixture above the dining room table. Our kitchen is very efficient and well-designed. It works perfectly for two people who cook ambitious meals together. Ideally, though, it would be great if its finishes were lighter and more contemporary, but that's a minor issue.
What is your favorite style? Favorite colors?
As graphic designers by training, we really appreciate the simplicity and elegance of mid-century Modern design, but we're not slaves to that aesthetic. Our home is, I think, an organic mix of some of well-known period pieces and plenty of other things that we just like. A lot of our art is graphic or typographic, and we have some things
that we inherited from our families, like the taxidermy fish above the fireplace.
We really like bright colors like green and orange, but we're also fans of gray, which is in our bedroom and guest room/studio. Many of the same colors that are seen in our home also appear in our work, so
there's definitely continuity because we're drawn to certain colors, no matter the context.
What is the spot in your house that makes you very happy and proud?
Our bedroom is very tranquil, with its mix of gray, taupe, and brown, with a bit of red. We love the way the gray color shifts in tone depending on the light.
What do you consider your most precious piece of furniture/accessory/art?
Definitely the Noguchi lamp in the living area! It was my first "grown-up" purchase after graduate school. I was still sleeping on a hand-me-down futon on the floor, but I had this amazing trophy-bride of a lamp. It's a royal pain to move it, but we haven't broken it yet!
What's your next house project?
We're constantly working to improve the studio aspect of our loft without sacrificing our home. We have a screenprinting setup that breaks down when we're not using it but, over time, we're dedicating
more and more of our home to our work, while balancing the domestic aspects of the space. We don't want to feel like we live in print shop! Next, we'll probably invest in a drying rack and a flat file for
our print inventory.
What are 5 things that houzz readers need to know about your Etsy store?
We make work for people like us, who pay attention to the little things. Our work is about the notion of place, whether specifically Cincinnati [where we live], or a broader, more abstract idea of place.
It tends to be:
- brightly colored
- vaguely Modern
Please pick a favorite piece in your Etsy and tell us about the inspiration behind it.
One of our favorite projects is the Accidental Aphorisms
(see top photo).
When we first moved to Cincinnati three years ago, we started obsessively documenting the old commercial signage in our new neighborhood. Eventually, we accumulated so many words and phrases that we were able to combine them into these inspirational statements. So, the series is both an homage to Over-the-Rhine, where we live, and something that can appeal to lovers of vernacular typography, or anyone who could use some uplifting words!
What's your best tip for the remodeling/decorating beginner?
Trust your gut! Pay attention to things that move you, including things that don't directly relate to the challenge you're facing. We get a lot of inspiration from film, architecture, and walks around our neighborhood. That way, the inspiration we gather gets obliquely filtered into whatever we're working on, whether it's our home or our studio work. We just try to keep our eyes open and take lots of photos so that we remember what we saw.
What is your biggest design pet peeve - a trend that bugs you or perhaps some over-used cliche or design television phrase?
Let's stop making things pop, e.g. "pops of color." Let's see if we can make something sing like a bird; anything other than the ubiquitous popping.
Maya [and Michael]