Unpopular opinion: Scandi style and minimalism have had a little too much time in the spotlight. Trends are supposed to come and go, but I'm not afraid to admit that the all-white-and-cream-everything aesthetic has overstayed its welcome. I'm completely guilty of being in love with this look, but even I got burnt out by a neutral color palette. Over the last year, I was itching for a splash of cobalt blue in my apartment and finding *somewhere* to put neon pink. Luckily, things are a-changin' and my feeds are no longer clogged with snow-white homes.
While you may not want to fully shimmy your way into maximalism, you likely miss having a little saturation here and there. Just look to Ally Doman (opens in new tab) for help. The interior decorator behind New York-based Doman Decors (opens in new tab) isn't afraid of color, which is a breath of fresh air.
While she creates the most playful, gorgeously designed spaces for her clients, it always makes you wonder what the creative's home behind all of this looks like. She was kind enough to give us a tour of her splashy three-bedroom railroad-style apartment that she has shared with her fiancé for the last three years.
"The apartment is one of those New York gems that are nearly impossible to find based on the square footage and rent," she says. "We felt like it was too good to be true, so we immediately snagged it. Prior to the move, I had been subletting all over Brooklyn for three years, moving from one previously-furnished room to the next, so it felt like the time was right to claim a space that I could treat as my very own."
The background story
Sometimes apartments can make you feel stuck creatively. But Doman managed to squeeze a dressing room and a music studio into hers, aside from the usual bed, bath, kitchen, living room setup. She also gave each a personality of its own, but it took a lot of work considering the state of the apartment when they showed up.
"When we first saw the apartment, it looked outdated and, to put it nicely, like it could use some TLC," she says. "Between the bare and damaged subfloor, the cracked tiling, and the kitchen’s old appliances, we knew the home needed renovating, especially since we predicted we’d be living in it for quite some time based on the renting situation we so luckily found ourselves in.
Though it needed some help, there were plusses, including "gorgeous architectural features like built-in cabinets and ornate millwork that had been there since the early 20th century." She also notes that renovating a rental isn't usually a concept landlords and landladies get on board with, but because of this opportunity the rental is "now a space we can proudly call our home."
Doman's design style
As an interior decorator by trade, I was excited to hear more about Doman's personal style. When you're working with other people's thoughts and tastes in your day job, it's fun to hear what an expert really loves.
"My personal style is, bold, bright, colorful, and comfortable with a mix of sophisticated playfulness," says Doman. "At this stage in my practice, my clients mostly live in New York apartments which are usually boxy and the square footage can be limited, so I find myself gravitating towards mid-century shapes, and then, to contrast those angular shapes, I love to tie in curvy pieces such as free-form tables, rounded decor, and lots of pattern play!"
Choosing the colors and decor
With a good chunk of creative freedom and the rare chance to renovate a rental, narrowing down your color palette and style choices can be a difficult decision. Doman managed to do this by allowing meaningful decor and furniture items they already owned to "dictate the direction."
Sure, there are plenty of hacks and tips for finding your groove, but she prefers a little less structure. "In general, my process is way more organic than the popular '60-30-10' method because I am always on the hunt for vintage and new pieces that speak to me," she says. "Because of this natural progression, I prioritized those discoveries over a pre-planned color scheme. Midway through the design process is when I began honing in on a color story based on my findings, and I looked for decor that could play important roles in the story I wanted to tell throughout my home."
When it comes to sourcing inspiration, Doman looks to iconic Post-Impressionist artists. "I particularly love Matisse’s work of interiors because of his depiction of what a colorful and whimsical space can look like," she explains. Decor mags are also a go-to for her."I'm always ready to get my hands on the next Elle Decor and Architectural Digest," says Doman. "I also adore the Belgium interior design team JP Demeyer & Co (opens in new tab) for their brilliantly bold pattern play and eclecticism."
What matters most to you in your home?
For Doman, room functionality is the most important aspect of designing a space. She asks several questions, including: "How will I or my client live in the space? Are they the lounging type that requires extra comfy couches and accent chairs, or are they using their space as a place to host parties and events which means practical desks and table spaces that maximize seating?"
She also draws on the feeling of finding solace that comes from escaping a rushed environment. "I also want to design spaces that, as soon as you open the front door, you are transported from the chaotic streets of New York to a color-filled and cozy haven — that element of surprise is always my favorite part!"
Where she found her apartment decor
I'll take tips from an interior expert any day over frantically searching Google for a new sofa or piece of art. Unsurprisingly, Doman hasn't just restricted herself to one place. "I've purchased a few tables from CB2, which are excellent for that sculptural and contemporary feel, my green sectional is from Article (I bought it in 2019 and now I’m seeing it all over Pinterest!), and my true passion lies in vintage sourcing, whether it be online through favorite Instagram shops or IRL shops around Brooklyn."
She's also scored some enviable finds elsewhere. She discover her vintage coffee table on eBay and the gorgeous lotus lamp sitting in the living room came from "an Instagram seller I regularly stalk." Etsy is another regular haunt for her when it comes to finding unique picks. She also owns a rug she adores from the Ruggable and Jonathan Adler collection (opens in new tab). Additionally, going local matters to her, too. "I love using New York-based designers for objects and decor items like BEAM (opens in new tab), Cold Picnic (opens in new tab), and Coming Soon NY (opens in new tab)."
If you've got the green light to paint, Doman used Farrow and Ball in her living room and dressing room and Benjamin Moore paints for the pretty blue bedroom and kitchen.
The biggest design challenges
Of course, every home comes with its little idiosyncrasies (and annoyances). In Doman's living space, it's the layout of the railroad apartment. "It’s quite long and narrow, which can be a difficult configuration to decorate," she says. "Also, we literally have zero closets in our home (just a few built-in cabinets), so we’ve had to get creative with hiding our belongings using armoires, trunks, and room dividers."
Another challenge she faced while renovating was the intended timeline versus how long it actually took. "For the first month of living in our home, we could only occupy one room while they finished the rest of the house, so we slept on our mattress surrounded by all our earthly possessions," she says. "Although frustrating, it ended up being quite romantic… lots of pizza in bed!"
A word of advice
Anyone in a similar living space or who has been given their landlord's blessing to renovate may be searching for a little advice, and Doman has a really great pointer. "Be bold when it comes to creating different moods in each room, but be conscious of the fact that all the rooms in the home are visible because of the shotgun layout: it essentially feels like the space is one long hallway as you are moving from one end to the other, so it’s satisfying to find a way to tie in each room’s color palette within the home."
One way she did this was by hinting at different rooms' color palettes throughout the space. "For example, we opted for white and black tile in the kitchen, so I’ve incorporated black and white objects, textiles, etc. in small ways throughout most of the rooms so there’s a fun pattern repetition happening!"
What does home mean to you?
"To me, home means a comfortable space in which I can be unapologetically myself," says Doman. "It’s a safe space to deep dive into my greatest aesthetic fantasies through design!"
It's hard to make home sound better than that. Although she's working on an Upper West Side spot and a facial studio in Philadelphia, she's still making time to change and upgrade her own living space, too — sans any strict timelines.
"There are always a million and one things I am looking to add or redo, like incorporating accent wallpaper in my partner’s studio room and painting my new vanity," she explains. "That’s the best part about your own home: total creative freedom and not a deadline in sight!"