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Interiorssneak peeks

In Brooklyn, A Pink Apartment Bursting with Vibrant Individuality

by Kelli Kehler

Stepping foot into the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn apartment of (“Ash”) and , it’s abundantly clear from their belongings and design aesthetic alone that this is a couple who knows exactly who they are, and exactly what they like. Co-owners of their own , , they run their operation out of the 700-square-foot apartment they rent. This closeness to their brand is evident throughout the home, where they doused all the walls in pink or white paint immediately after moving in a year and a half ago. Sprawling across the walls and surfaces are punchy, vibrant collectibles ranging from art to tapestries, to cute manner of kitsch and books by the truckload. Seeing Ash and Chess’ — their groovy/sometimes psychedelic/always colorful/delightfully snarky artwork, cards and items — and then laying eyes upon their apartment, there is an instant certainty of exactly who the home belongs to.

The same certainty and unwavering confidence can be expressed about their feelings for each other — once Ash and Chess met, they were inseparable.

“Together we are a classic case of the Lesbian U-Haul stereotype — we met on a dating app almost four years ago and have been practically living together since our first ‘hellos,'” the couple tells us. “Our company, Ash + Chess, was born in 2016 after walking the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center. Ash always had dreams of doing her own thing, and Chess was intrigued that Ash thought that selling greeting cards was a feasible source of income (LOL). We decided to go full force and commit to debuting our company at NSS in May 2017. For the next year leading up to it, we studied up on all sorts of things for our first trade show ever — building a trade show booth, designing product lines, laying out catalog spreads, sending mailer invites, sourcing production, matching outfits, you know, all the important stuff! Our debut was a hit and we made our money back, plus some! And from then on out, it’s been growth, growth, and more growth. We started growing so much, that we eventually decided to relocate to a bigger apartment, so we could have home studio space for all our inventory and business stuff. We moved to a larger two-bedroom place in Bed-Stuy in 2018 and are still pretty new to the neighborhood, but the extra space has done wonders for the company. We wanted to be able to save money and work from home, rather than spending all of our income on studio rental (it’s so freaking expensive, especially when you’re just starting out!).”

The two-bedroom, top-floor apartment in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood has served the couple well, and is the perfect home base to return to for Chess, who works full-time as a high school Special Education teacher in Queens. They work full-time for Ash + Chess in the summer (Ash taught Chess how to draw on their first date!), and Ash works full-time on the greeting card/design company and does freelance design on the side for a soft home goods company in Manhattan, creating textile patterns for sheets and bedding. The two have also been hard at work writing and illustrating a book for the past six months.

With the new location and extra space to run their business and express their creativity, there is a limitless nature to this couple’s dreams, plans and skills — both together and as individuals. For Ash and Chess, this formula to happiness and success is really quite simple, and it starts at home: “Your home is a very special place and you should treat it that way. Surrounding yourself with things that make you happy really can make a difference in your life, because even if you don’t spend a lot of time at home, it’s still YOUR place where you should be able to feel safe and happy.” —

Photography by / | Portraits of Ash & Chess by /

Image above: In the couple’s bedroom, a “” print made by Ash + Chess aptly hangs above some of their massive book collection. They describe their brand as “a stationery company making greeting cards for millennials who like vibrant and snarky things.” Ash and Chess are also working on an exciting new project that brings them much fulfillment: “We are currently working on The Gay Agenda, an illustrated history and information book about the LGBTQ+ community, to be published with Morrow Gift, through HarperCollins Publishers in Spring 2020.”

1/23

A wider look at the book-filled fireplace in Ash and Chess’ bedroom. They tell us, “We painted the entire fireplace pink (Behr, ‘Youth Blush’ P170-1), even the inside! When we first saw it, we automatically knew that this is where the books will live. And the blue-stained IKEA dresser which we call Tall Darva (it’s actually Tarva in IKEA-speak) was ‘built’ and stained by Chess. We’ve collected knobs throughout the years, so each one has a story!”

2/23

Ash (left) and Chess (right) sporting natural hand-dyed kerchiefs from friend and fellow creator Meg Navoy of and ringer tees from in LA. The couple tells us, “Ash moved to New York in 2010 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology and studied Textile/Surface Design for four years. Her first job out of college was designing wallpaper for Aimée Wilder, where she designed and collaborated with Aimee on some of her most popular designs. She moved from wallpaper to the bedding industry for a couple of years, and realized that she wanted to be the BOSS. Chess grew up in the great state of New Jersey and moved to New York in 2007 to attend School of Visual Arts. They studied photography there for a year before transferring to New York University to study Special Education and Spanish Literature. Chess has been teaching for seven years and currently teaches Special Education at a high school in Queens, NY. While they love working with teenagers, they’re hoping to pursue Ash + Chess full-time and eventually be able to work in youth advocacy/restorative justice. If none of this sounds like art to you, that’s because it’s not! Ash taught Chess to draw (or rather, find their passion and skill in drawing) on their first date and it took off from there.” Portrait by Lindsay Rodabaugh

3/23

“This is our bedroom, it is in the back of the house, overlooking all of the neighbors’ backyards and gardens from the apartments surrounding ours. This is my favorite room because it gets so much light — probably the most light in the whole house — and also the half-pink-half-white walls make us feel like we are living inside Pinterest,” Ash says.

4/23

To the right, the couple’s cat, Mafia, lounges on the windowsill. “Mafia’s favorite spot to chill is the right-side window. The buildings behind our apartment are low enough to let the sun shine right in on her face.”

5/23

In the living room, a shelving unit Chess painted gold houses Salvation Army record finds, trinkets, and cool coffee table books. Ash says, “Since moving to New York in 2010, my design aesthetic regarding home decor has remained very much the same for the most part, but with each room and apartment I’ve lived in up to this moment, I’ve been able to find my process along the way and fine tune it. Now, instead of taking home every single piece of garbage art or furniture I see on the street (the stuff people throw away, though!??) I am more selective of what I bring home. This goes for thrifting, buying new, and taking samples from my side design job.”

6/23

“These special windows in the house look onto nothing,” Ash reveals. “They’re cute, but why are they even there?! Beneath is a cool tiger [decorative] pillow that [I] designed at [my] freelance job a few years back.”

7/23

“Our living room is pink (Behr, ‘Youth Blush’ P170-1) because the greyish color the walls were before were just way darker than we thought. We would have had to do 3-4 coats of white, as opposed to 2 coats of pink. It was less work to paint them pink, so we did. And now our apartment is, like, really pink,” the couple explains.

8/23

“During off-season, we use our trade show booth decorations as furniture throughout the house. Our storage trunks work as a makeshift coffee table for the living room!”

Fill your space with things that call to you!

9/23

Looking towards the front of the apartment where the studio space is located. The living room is a constant study in layout configurations as Ash and Chess work to find the best flow given the room’s narrow shape.

10/23

“Awkward nooks throughout the living room give character and opportunity to make little sections that feel separate from the room as a whole,” Ash and Chess say. “Ash’s dad brought back this tiger tapestry from Taiwan in the 80s and [it] has been hanging in every room and apartment she’s ever lived in. Its her favorite piece of decor EVER.”

11/23

“The studio is in the front of the apartment. We painted it white so we would be able to work in a space that didn’t have too much pink influence over our work. And it’s fun to cover the walls in rainbow things because they really pop against white!”

12/23

“Our neon sign of our logo which we use for trade shows, surrounded by pretty art we love!”

13/23

“We like to pretend that Mafia is both the boss and our secretary when we’re working,” Ash and Chess say. In the foreground and background you can see many of the stationery offerings from .

14/23

“Before Ash + Chess was born, Ash used to design wallpaper for Aimée Wilder in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Pictured is a large framed cut of Wildflower in Flash above our bright pink fireplace (Behr, ‘High Maintenance’ P120-3)!”

15/23

The side of the studio serves as a small study where the couple stores inventory and more artwork.

16/23

In the desk space in the studio/office area, a more restrained aesthetic is in place than what Ash is usually accustomed to. She’s been working to be more thoughtful with her decor hand. Of her design process, she explains, “Each time I move into a new space, it’s a new opportunity to see what I can do with my things I’ve collected over the years. Where can I put the books besides on a bookshelf? Where does the special tiger tapestry go? How can we arrange our cute family of blue Darva dressers? Where will the rugs, couches and art prints go? It’s always my favorite challenge. I think that’s why I love to rearrange every few months. Figuring out where things just fit in the home is really so satisfying, and I’ve learned that some things can always have more than one home.”

17/23

The front windows in the studio and the study make our plants super happy!

18/23

“[The] studio looking into the study where our inventory is kept. Ash’s dad and Chess built our special pink card shelf! Hi dad!”

19/23

“We love collecting work from other artists that we’ve met along the way of owning a small business as well as artists we hope to meet someday! Aside from all of the greeting cards and art prints we wholesale to stores, we have been able to work on projects with other artists and small businesses, like Grl Supply and Belletrist, and we have designed several exclusive promotions for Plazastyle in Japan!”

20/23

Ash and Chess share, “We have a little entertainment setup in the very front of the studio because a lot of our job requires packaging products, which allows us to get in some TV time during the easy enveloping and cello-sleeving process!”

21/23

“Our study has a super cool exposed brick wall. It’s the perfect size room for cute storage and plants.”

22/23

“When the weather gets nice, we like to decorate the front steps with potted flowers and plants.” The couple was immediately charmed by their Bed-Stuy neighborhood upon moving there from New York’s Greenpoint. The beautiful brownstones, curb appeal of nearby homes, and friendliness of their neighbors are high on their list of favorite things in their new location.  Portrait by Lindsay Rodabaugh

23/23

“We love the exterior of our apartment because it’s so cute and there are no other buildings that look like it in the neighborhood!”

SOURCE LIST

Living Room

Couch – IKEA
White Trunk Set – Beautify, Wayfair
Tarva Drawer – IKEA
Bar Cart – Cost World Market
Metal Chairs – our old neighbor’s backyard
Matching Porcelain Lamps – Goodwill
Pine Chairs – IKEA
Pink Tie Dye Flatweave Rug – Aelfie
Maroon Kilim Rug (hanging on wall) – Passion Tapis (in Paris)
Mahi Mahi Fish Trophy – lifted from gaudy crab legs restaurant in Destin, FL
Tiger Tapestry – from Taiwan, c. 1980s from Ash’s dad
Marijuana Sack – Some guy on Bedford Avenue was selling these.
Pink Lady Candy Dish – Anthropologie
Dawn Aquarius Tarot Deck – Dawn Aquarius
Pink Tumblers – Junk
Glass Star Tea Light Candle Holder – Red Pearl
All The Books Art Print – Belletrist x Ash + Chess
Merde Cat Painting – Kanibal Home
Brooklyn Brewery Sour Painting – Ashley Molesso

Bedroom

White Metal Bedframe – IKEA
Tarva Dressers – IKEA
Cowhide Rug – housewarming gift
Jungle Leaves Duvet – IKEA
Small Maroon Tapestry – Salvation Army
Red Kilim Rug (hanging on the wall) – Passion Tapis (in Paris)
Pink Crystal Orb Light – IKEA
Get Lit Art Print – Ash + Chess
Cute Cat in the Window art – Craigslist

Studio/Study

Yellow Mushroom Cross Latch Hook Tapestry – Yard sale on the side of the road in the Adirondacks
Shell Lamp – from the Philippines, c. 1980s from Ash’s dad
Silk Embroidered Shawl Curtain – Salvation Army in Bed-Stuy
Gold Spray Painted Plant Cart – IKEA
Ivar Wooden Shelving – IKEA
Bamboo and White Metal Desk – IKEA
White Table Desk – IKEA
Floor Lamp – IKEA
Desk Lamp – IKEA
Grey Couch – IKEA

Artwork

Wildflower Wallpaper – Aimée Wilder
Queer Wrapping Paper Sheet – Otherwild
Watercolor Titties Painting – Titty Pix by Fallon Smalberg, @titty_pix
Cute Queens Art Print – Ash + Chess
Pink Hair Girl Greeting Card – Bodil Jane for Red Cap Cards
Yellow Donkey Greeting Card – Krista Perry for Red Cap Cards
Ash + Chess Risograph Prints – Printed by Riso Hell
Embroidered Patches with Risograph Packaging – Poem Press
Heart Stickers, Chris Uphues/Beautiful Days
Hi From California Risograph Greeting Card – Yellow Owl Workshop
Year of the Womxn Sticker Pack – Grl Supply x Ash + Chess
Feminist Rainbow Patch – Hissy Fit
Queer Scouts Art Print – Mary Tremonte, justseeds.org
ACT UP Poster – Courtney Dailey & Act Up Philadelphia, justseeds.org
Good Times Ahead Small Art Print – Ash + Chess
The Devil Print – Theresa Baxter
Food Floral Wallpaper – Ash + Chess
Pink Black & Blue Smiley Print – Meg Fransee

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Comments

  • Crashing Ash + Chess for the win! When your site is back up I can’t wait to purchase that Get Lit print, and some of your other fanciness. Pink is never out of style. Good on you.

  • I can personally attest to the amazingness of Ash and Chess’s home. It’s so pink and wonderful and fun to be in!!! So glad they were featured :) their matching outfits are also seriously on point.

  • I love what you both have done to your place. I have an strange way of decorating. I only have one or two, maybe three of my own artwork {I have given many as gifts}. I have 6 maybe more of my father’s artwork. The rest are pictures of my two children and their children. I have 5 grandchildren, my son has daugther who just turned 13 at the end of April. His twin sons will be 11 this coming September. My daugther has a son who will be 8 this coming September. her daugther just turned 7 at the beginning of this past March.

    I have lived with bare walls in my studio apartment for the past 13 yrs, actually it will be 14 yrs this November. I look at them all the time. I just can not decide which ones to hang up. I know I will hang all of my fathers artwork, Mine maybe. I have a very large poster of Penguins that my boyfriend sent me for our first Christmas. He lives in the Midwest and I in New Jersey. November it will be 4 years that we are together.

    Even though we have never met, it is a very loving and interesting relationship. We will just pick up the phone or text each other to talk about something we just had to talk about. Funny we always know what each other are going to talk about 95.5% of the time. Well I have gotten off purpose of my letter, I just wanted to say Thank You both very much. I have become more inspired to get my things up on the wall including some needlework that I have been working on in between reading, working on all the other craft that I do. I try and read at least one book a week, sometimes two if the are short stories. I have so many books, I may actually stop and count them one day.
    Thank you again.
    Lovingly Dar

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