When decorating a model unit for a developer client, interior designer Marcie Blanco thinks about something you might not expect: vanilla ice cream. “Renters look at so many places when they’re apartment-hunting. Everything can start to blend together,” she explains. “My goal is to design a space that is universally appealing, but doesn’t feel like just another bowl of vanilla ice cream.”
Marcie, who formed Ma’am Design Collective with partner Amanda Mason in 2014, got her start working with developers on large real estate complexes, so she’s an expert on the topic. Her recent work on the model unit at Centrum in Wicker Park is proof: the space is simultaneously approachable and memorable.
To achieve this, Marcie introduced a lot of contrast into the living room. She chose the Interior Define Maxwell sofa in a creamy, neutral shade called Linen, and juxtaposed it against black leather poufs from Wayfair and an ebony coffee table by Industry West. Marcie also contrasted textures, pairing the smooth leather poufs with a patterned, medium-pile rug and three-dimensional plant artwork. The result is a modern yet inviting space that feels right at home amongst surrounding Wicker Park’s stylish shops and restaurants.
When it comes to Marcie’s own house, she continues this study in contrasts. She and her husband have bought a few new pieces, such as a sofa with clean lines and chrome legs, and combined them with vintage items, like the raw wood coffee table that sits in front of their modern sofa. They’ve also used contrast to reinvent cookie-cutter design features. For instance, to make their black granite countertops disappear, they simply painted the surrounding cabinets an off-black. “You don’t even notice the black granite anymore,” says Marcie.
For renters looking to avoid a vanilla ice cream home, Marcie says the devil is really in the details. She recommends temporary wallpapers, area rugs, and a variety of table and floor lamps. These sorts of details can transform a space and easily be reversed when it comes time to move out. “So much attention gets paid to the big-ticket items,” she says, “when really, it’s the minutia that has the biggest impact.”