This Jetsetter’s Bright Miami Loft Has a High Joy Ratio

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Name: Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
Location: Downtown Miami, Florida
Size: 864 square feet
Type of Home: Loft Condo
Years Lived In: Five months, owned

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Earlier this year, Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon downsized from a two-bedroom condo to a one-bedroom loft in a downtown Miami high-rise. “Before I even moved in,” she says, “it was clear that I wanted this new place to be my sanctuary, somewhere I could make new and happy memories. I may be here for a while so when I was looking at listings, I kept thinking: ‘Will this be somewhere I’ll enjoy living a decade from now?’

“My new place really fits the bill. I can walk to shops, movies, parks, and restaurants, and there are plenty of waterfront running routes nearby (running is my cardio). I’m less than a 15-minute drive from my ‘office,’ Miami International Airport (I travel three times a month). Plus, there’s easy access to the city’s free Metromover and trolley. Best of all, I have a water view that won’t be obstructed by Miami’s constant construction. The unit was in pretty good shape when I bought it but there were some things I wanted to change before I moved in. Replacing the ceramic floor tile with LPV; repainting the walls, ceiling and trim; retiling the bathroom walls and floor; installing a kitchen backsplash; and wallpapering the powder room and closet was supposed to take three weeks. It ended up taking double that time, but it was worth it.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My home is most definitely a reflection of my personality and taste. I’m a travel writer (the Caribbean is my beat), I’m also very visual, and I express myself via the clothes and colors I choose to wear. The same goes for my home, which I named The House Of Perpetual Sunshine (that’s my Wi-Fi network!), not only because the ceiling is sunshine yellow but because that’s exactly the warm, feel-good vibe I want to create for myself and my guests.

I always wear bright colors and my house is “dressed” the same, with pops of yellow (my favorite), red, and orange against neutral walls The loft’s ceiling is 22-feet high, so although it’s bright yellow it’s not jarring; you get the feeling of island sunshine rather than the glare! I also love rainbows, not just because of all the colors but because of what they mean to me: that after life’s storms there’s always joy to be found. During what has been a very challenging two years, rainbows have brought me comfort, either when I see them spontaneously appear or when I look at the ones I’ve bought for myself.

Inspiration: My home reflects my heritage and my work; it’s filled with Caribbean art and mementos from my travel. When I moved here from Jamaica 20 years ago, I shipped all my art (my first “serious” piece — a ceramic mask by the late Jamaican sculptor Gene Pearson — lives in my bedroom) and my king-size bed, handmade by Jamaican craftsmen . My collection, which now includes pieces from Cuba, Panama, and by my bestie, artist Pamela Jaccarino, is as colorful and personal to me as my clothes — of which I have a LOT!

My condo also reflects my eclectic taste, my interests, and my irreverence. Some of my favorite things are my vintage rotary telephone, a framed Jamaica Tourist Board advertising poster from the ’70s, and a British Airways check-in counter sign I “liberated” from a Caribbean airport while it was being renovated! I’m an avid runner (I did the NY Marathon in 2013) and my “medal lamp” is a tangible reminder that when times are tough, I’m tougher.

Favorite Element: Of all the rooms in my condo I spend the least time in the powder room but the “joy per use” ratio is very high! I had a “surprise and delight” vision for it, that you should open the door and be unexpectedly wowed by what you see. The wallpaper, the sunshine yellow ceiling, the brushed gold faucets, and double gold mirrors all combine to do that, and I think it turned out really well. I also get a lot of joy just chilling in my living room and looking up at the yellow ceiling and the cloud-like paper pendants.

Biggest Challenge: Moving from a large two-bedroom (and its two closets) to a one-bedroom with a tiny closet was NOT easy for a clothes horse like me. I thought I’d purged before moving in, but once I got here I realized there was no way everything I had was going to fit. So I purged some more, had a closet system from The Container Store installed to make the most of the space, and installed the colorful bird wallpaper for a bit of fun. And now I have a strict “one in, one out” rule. For I love clothes and shoes, but I can’t live in clutter so I won’t let myself buy a new piece without getting rid of an old one.

Proudest DIY: I ADORE my rainbow staircase. I originally planned to paint the metal stairs and bannisters the same yellow as the ceiling, but there was an issue getting the paint in that hue. So I ended up leaving it the original black and applying a spectrum of adhesive decals on the risers instead. Now the stairs are a real focal point, and if you come to visit, you can’t leave without taking a photo on the stairs.

Budget: I recently realized that I started shopping for this place almost 20 years ago! The items in question: A pair of beaded wall sconces from ABC Carpet and Home in New York City. Back in 2003, I’d just arrived in the US from Jamaica, didn’t own a home, and had very little money but they just called to me! At $100 each (on sale!) they were pricey to me at the time, but I never got around to installing them in the four homes I lived in before here since they needed to be hardwired. When I was renovating this place, two decades later, the time was finally right to have them professionally installed. They make me happy every time I turn them on, and remind me of how far I’ve come since moving to the states.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I’ve turned a small doorless room on the upper level into my “cloffice.” I hang the (small!) overflow from my closet on one wall and use the rest of the space as my office and Zoom “studio” for my TV appearances. It doesn’t have any windows nor get any natural light, so I painted the ceiling sunshine yellow to make it feel brighter and installed a ceiling fan for a constant (albeit faux!) breeze.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I believe art makes a house a home, and that professional framing, though expensive, is always worth it. Look for art that speaks to you, and also consider framing personal memorabilia. Buy only things you adore — and be prepared to wait to find them! Wallpaper and bright colored paint can make great accents; you don’t have to paint or paper an entire room to get impact. Oh, and don’t forget the ceiling and interior doors (I painted the inside of my front door the same yellow as my ceiling.)

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Everybody says it, but it’s true: Surround yourself with things you love — regardless of style or trends or anyone else’s opinion — and, somehow, they’ll all work together to create a home you’ll enjoy for years.

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