An off-the-charts colourful apartment tour with Jen Cook, Co-Founder of Otto Studio

You know, starting this blog has started to give me a bit of a sixth sense on whether I can tell if I’d love someone’s home.

In all honesty, it takes excruciating willpower to not ask a lot of those people, “Hey, we’ve only just met, but can you invite me over so I can take photos of your place?”

So when I first jumped on a Zoom call with Jen, Co-Founder of the Otto Studio wallpaper line, and I saw this huge minimalist yet crazy, colourful piece of art behind her, alongside a sweet retro lamp… I just knew she’d have a rad house.

And have a rad house she DOES.

Jen Cook, Co-Founder of Otto Studio

When I tell you that my jaw dropped seeing the full home, I am not kidding you. I remember laughing because I thought Jen would think I was hamming it up for her, but I wasn’t. There is so much colour and such a joyous rejection of “small space design rules”.

Shall we get started? Why, yes! Let’s!

First off, Jen, when you walked into your home on move-in day, what were you feeling? 

Excited to make it a home. My partner, Alfredo, had been living in this apartment for a year or so already when we decided to move in together. He had almost no furniture when I moved in, so it was a bit of a blank slate. And of course, excited to be taking that next step together!

How did you start the design process? Do you have a method, or is it more intuitive? 

Definitely intuitive – it’s a mix of vintage, thrifted, custom-made, and art from our friends, with some practical IKEA pieces thrown in when needed. The big shift happened when we realized we needed to update the floors; painting them was the most cost-effective thing we could do as renters. I did some visual research and decided on this large-scale triangular pattern in black, yellow, and pink – which of course completely changed the feel of the space. That colour palette set the tone for everything else; the warm yellows and pinks tied in a lot of the art we already had, and played well with the wood tones of our lamps and tables. The black and white theme also fit in easily from there.

What were the biggest obstacles with designing this specific home? 

It’s a bit of a tricky space to design since it gets very little light and there are all kinds of ‘quirks’ to it–some that are fun (like the forest wallpaper that was here before us) and some not so fun (like the pendant light that never worked). 

Do you think your home is an accurate reflection of who you and your partner are? 

Absolutely. It’s such a mix of our respective creative pursuits, influences, and tastes. We’ve each got our spaces for creativity – his music studio full of different instruments, and my space that’s set up for drawing, designing, sewing, or whatever pursuit I’m into these days! Our senses of style and personality have also intertwined and influenced the other over the years – he’s gregarious and full of flair while I’m on the more soft-spoken, refined side of things. I’m inspired by his use of colour but bring an eye for balance and harmony that would otherwise be missing.

Our senses of style and personality have also intertwined and influenced the other over the years – he’s gregarious and full of flair while I’m on the more soft-spoken, refined side of things.

— Jen Cook, Co-Founder of Otto Studio

What do you think about some of the interior design trends floating around right now? Do you like to play with trends or do you tend to ignore them?

Trends get a bad rap, but what I find interesting is that trends tend to resonate for a reason. They tell us something about our collective psyche, about what’s on our minds as a society and so I’m fascinated by them. Trends can also be really useful when you’re still figuring out what your style is; if something is drawing you in, try reflecting on why that is. Write down words that come to mind.

Try doing some research into where that particular trend comes from as well – you might learn about a design era, or an art movement, or a style icon you may never have discovered otherwise!

Pull out what you like and leave the rest. The most stylish people and homes are the ones that then let those influences meld in their own unique way, over time.

[Trends] tell us something about our collective psyche, about what’s on our minds as a society and so I’m fascinated by them.

Jen Cook, Co-Founder of Otto Studio

You designed such playful and charming prints for your peel & stick wallpaper line, Otto Studio. What inspired the designs for your flagship line of products? And can you tell us which is your fave, or is that like choosing a favourite kid?

The inspiration is definitely coming from my background as a graphic designer first and foremost – bringing that sensibility into interior design is really fun, and there are a lot of ‘rules’ that I’m blissfully unaware of! I also tend to gravitate towards large-scale prints and unexpected colour combinations, which was something I really wasn’t seeing much of out there. So I figured there might be some others out there who are also craving a little colour and fun in their homes.

I also really wanted to bring in a connection to art and design, so the ‘Pop Op’ and ’Soft Bauhaus’ collections are the start of that. In particular, with the ‘Soft Bauhaus’ patterns, I really wanted to focus on the story of the women who were part of the Bauhaus school – who, despite having studied the Bauhaus in design school, I never learned of until much later. I’d say that’s also a big driving factor for where I’d like to take Otto Studio.

As for favourite pattern… I have a real fondness for Polka Pop! Fresh Grass or Magenta are my faves for a kitchen or dining room, respectively.

Rapid-fire question time

If you could only shop at one furniture store, which would it be? I’d probably say a local vintage seller like Alma Home, Relove Furniture, or Attic Treasures.

Who is one local designer you are most inspired by right now? I’ve always been a fan of Scott Cohen’s eclectic mix of styles, eras and materials that are really unconventional.

In 1 word, how does your home make you feel? Inspired! 

Thank you so much, Jen!

For sharing your insanely cool home with us and your freeing approach to design. Go check out how people are transforming their homes with Otto Studio wallpaper below.

I can’t tell you how much their wallpaper revamped my bedroom… okay, actually I already did lol. Right over here!

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