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Originally published January 11, 2013 at 8:00 PM | Page modified January 12, 2013 at 1:57 PM

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A home inspired by cats

Concepts to create illusions of feline friends.

The New York Times

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NEW YORK —

Alexandra Cunningham, the 31-year-old director of exhibitions at the Design Miami furniture fairs in Florida and Switzerland, has three loves: artistic furniture; Seth Cameron, 30, her boyfriend of two years; and their three cats. Each has been vital to the look of the 1,100 square-foot East Village apartment they all share.

Before moving into the space in August, which the couple rents for about $3,500, Cameron, a multimedia artist, mocked up a color scheme on a computer and sent Cunningham the images. “She’d say, ‘greener, redder, bluer,’ ” Cameron said.

The first room he painted was the entry foyer. The walls are dark green, and the ceiling white. Then one thing led to another. Cameron noticed that something could perhaps be painted across the ceiling down to the molding. That something could even be a stripe, signifying a cat’s tail. Or three of them, two black and one dark gray, matching the fur of their owners.

“The idea was, we’re both crazy for the cats, and thought it would be nice to integrate them in the design of the apartment,” Cunningham said.

“And if we’re going to be cute about it,” Cameron said, “we need to be abstract about it. We were not going to paint cats on the wall.”

In the kitchen, whose walls are a bright blue, thin black and gray stripes start from the center of the ceiling and run down to the tops of the cabinets. The effect led the couple to dub the room “the bird cage.”

In the living room, the ceiling is apportioned into three wide stripes, painted in 2-to-1 black-to-gray ratio, and surrounded by midnight blue.

Not every room bears an allusion to cats. The light-filled bedroom is free of stripes, as is the bathroom. “It’s nice to take a break and leave some white space,” Cameron said.

Now, the furniture.

Cunningham grew up in Miami “in the ‘80s, in the cocaine-cowboy days,” she said. As an only child, she tagged along with her parents on road trips to antiques stores as far north as Maine. And she didn’t whine about it, “much,” she said.

Her taste is eclectic, but she buys furniture the way French women buy clothes, acquiring about one good piece a season. A deep orange Clay chair by the Dutch designer Maarten Baas almost glows in the dark green foyer. She bought the chair, part of a limited edition, in 2007 for around $4,000.

A bookcase by the British designer Peter Marigold sprawls across a bedroom wall, displaying asymmetrical niches, like a honeycomb run amok. Marigold made the bookcase from an avocado trunk he found in Miami and split lengthwise into four to make the modular partitions. Cunningham bought it in 2008 for $3,000.

The living room has a mix of clean-lined furniture (a Florence Knoll wood credenza, a plywood-trestle table made by Cameron) and eccentric items. The table is flanked by four of Joe Colombo’s 1960s Universale plastic chairs, designed to adjust to three different heights. Cunningham found the group at Wright’s online-auction shop this year for around $500.

The British designer Max Lamb carved the polystyrene chair, coated in an acrylic rubber, a gift from a former beau. Lamb also made the craggy white porcelain pitcher ($96) Cunningham uses to pour Bloody Marys — partly for the color.

As Cunningham acquires new passions, her influences are bound to show up in her surroundings. She and Cameron are expecting a child in July of next year. Time to redecorate?


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