The whimsical loft of Xander and Joanne is more than just a walk-up apartment; it's a canvas for storytelling, a shrine to pop culture, and a celebration of life's quirks. Their toy collection is a testament to their passion for art and a charming tribute to nostalgia that celebrates their inner children. From house-hunting during the pandemic for a safe haven, they've turned their space into a place of inspiration, one cherished toy at a time, along with their two cats Boris and Buffy.
“Xander is a creative director in advertising and I'm a stay-at-home cat mum. The cats are the actual owners of the house, we just live in it. We enjoy creative and artistic pursuits, and it shows in the art and objects we collect. Our home is like a playground for adults, with lots of nostalgic toys and pop culture references.”
“Our home is a 1960s walk-up apartment that we bought during COVID-19. It had been neglected for years and needed lots of fixing up, but we liked the flexibility of recreating it from scratch. It allowed us to plan the space to hide things like pipes, while also being able to showcase features like the slanting roof and embrace the quirks of the house. Airflow is important to us & we created 11 new windows to make the space flow as well as possible.”
“Xander is an extrovert, he likes all his toys and art to be out in full force. I’m an introvert, I like things more pared back, organised or curated to fit a mood. So we went for neutral floors, walls and carpentry as a canvas for our dopamine decor to shine and pop.”
“We were inspired by lived-in homes we saw from the pages of Popeye Magazine and Casa Brutus that are expressions of their owners, and informed by life during the pandemic to create a place of comfort and healing.”
“Our home is a safe haven for us, where our inner child can feel safe and where we can live our best, authentic lives free of judgment or criticism.”
“That idea is manifested in a kitschy or nostalgic toy or object from our childhood, art that speaks to an emotion or time or place, a nook for the cats, large windows to drench the home in light when we need it, herbs we can use in comforting meals, and a kitchen and dining room for cooking in and sharing food with friends and families.”
"We have collected so much art and toys that a lot of them are in storage and we rotate them according to themes from time to time. Right now, for example, we have a Power Rangers shelf and a deity corner. Not all art needs to have an investment value, we love the ones with lots of story behind them. We travel a lot and we’ll visit toy shops or conventions to meet independent artists and get our toys signed if possible. We love Omegamart in Las Vegas for their grocery ‘fake stuff’, which we pepper around our house as easter eggs for our friends to discover.
“The living room is our favourite place to relax. The couch, which was one of the first things we styled the place around, is so comfortable and easy to fall asleep in. The living room is where we spend most of our leisure time, watching TV, playing games and hosting KTV with friends. The cats love bird-watching there too and seeing them enjoy the space brings so much joy to us.”
“It's important to us that pieces we use every day serve a function and provide comfort, rather than just being aesthetically pleasing. It would have been lovely to have a hanging pendant lamp in the living room, but it would also have been impossible to clean it regularly. Instead, we opted for floor lamps like the FLOS bellhop lamp to bounce light off the ceiling.”
“We’re also big believers that things don’t always have to be beautiful, but they should always have character. We make the rules, so it’s never about sticking with a colour, a theme or a ‘look’. We’d like it to be an expression of who we are even if we aren’t in it.”
“We find ourselves at Grafunkt especially when we are looking for large, functional items like shelves or cabinets. We are also on Instagram a lot discovering brands, designers, makers or artists that speak to us, and then try to source from there. Often we find accessories or decorative pieces on Finnish Design and End Clothing. For organisational storage, we love Muji and State of Matters.”
“Although we don’t believe in rooms, we believe in separating rest and play so our bedroom is a different space, calm and relaxing while the living space is more vibrant. Xander is a hot sleeper, so we tend to look for cooling bed sheets. We’ve gone for mostly cotton or tencel sheets, and right now SOJAO’s organic cotton sheets are our preferred sheets. Because there aren’t windows in the bedroom our lights are programmed to mirror sunrise timings to wake us up in the morning. And the cats are programmed to race us down the stairs to the catio for their breakfast.”
“Having that clear distinction in space for rest and activity is quite helpful, so that rest is rest, and work is work.”
“We are now in our mid-late thirties, so being in our own home is also a commitment to taking care of ourselves. We’ve learnt to strike a better work-life balance, to take time to enjoy being in the home. We’ve also learnt that the state of the home often reflects our inner world, so having it well-kept helps clear the head too.