Lori Mooney’s one-bedroom apartment looks like it was clipped right from a magazine. Or, rather, thousands of them.
The 40-year-old resident of the Bronx, New York, covers every surface of her 525-square-foot living space — from the kitchen floor to the blinds on her windows — with collages of magazine clippings.
It’s “a visual assault,” Mooney tells CNBC Make It. “When you come in the door, I like a ton of colors and a ton of different things hitting you in the face as soon as you walk in.”
Her apartment is both nostalgic and practical, she says. A television producer for syndicated reality show “The People’s Court,” Mooney lives on the same street where she grew up, in the Pelham Gardens neighborhood of the Bronx, New York.
She pays $1,000 per month for the apartment, where she’s lived for nine years. The median asking rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx is $1,750, compared to $3,000 in Manhattan, according to StreetEasy data.
Mooney finds other ways to live frugally, too. Her parents live next door, so she can use their parking spaces, washer or dryer whenever she needs. Since she never uses her stove or oven, she had her gas shut off in the kitchen to save money.
In addition to her rent, Mooney pays about $200 per month for her internet, phone and cable, plus $45 per month for electricity.
But for Mooney, the apartment’s allure doesn’t come entirely from its price tag. “It’s just happenstance that I am saving money,” she says.
Creating a pop culture collage
The massive wall collages started long ago in Mooney’s childhood bedroom. And when she moved into her apartment from her parents’ place in 2012, she brought some of her original collages with her.
“I’ve always wanted my spaces to reflect my interest,” Mooney says. “I just love arts and crafts, I love TV, I love projects… it’s all just one huge conglomeration of all the things that I love to do.”
Today, her process for creating them involves collecting old entertainment magazines and books, cutting out her favorite images and attaching them individually to the wall using reusable adhesive putty. Her goal: Leave no space uncovered.
That also goes for her floors, blinds and everything else. Blinds, Mooney says, are particularly challenging: “Literally, I was cutting each individual piece of magazine photos and then gluing them each individually onto each slat of the blind.”
Some rooms follow a theme. The bathroom features photos of iconic TV and movie scenes that take place in bathrooms, with contact paper over the walls to safeguard against moisture.
The kitchen floor is decoupaged with photos of food, and since Mooney doesn’t cook much, her stove is a display case for food-related tchotchkes.
“Little by little, I’m adding different things to different places that I never thought about before and that I love,” she says.
In the living room, Mooney displays TV memorabilia and souvenirs like fleece blankets, stuffed animals, action figures and framed posters. She says her favorite shows are “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Office” and “Schitt’s Creek.”
“Sometimes I specifically start watching television shows just because I know they have a lot of merch,” she says.
In Mooney’s eyes, the design is perfectly imperfect. “I just have to live with the fact that sometimes things are going to look bent or crooked, and sometimes they’re going to fall down,” she says.
Planning for the future
Most renters have to follow strict rules about decorating the walls or hanging items, but Mooney says her landlord is on board.
“One time [the landlord] was here fixing something, and then after about 10 to 15 minutes, his wife was here for a tour. And then his daughters came in to check out the space, because they’d never seen anything like it,” she says. “He told me, as long as I keep it clean then it’s good, we’re good.”
Mooney appreciates her neighborhood’s quiet blocks, green spaces and proximity to the subway, calling it “as you can get to the suburbs and still be in the city.” Her job, roughly 20 miles northeast in Stamford, Connecticut, is an easy drive away — though she’s currently working from home, she says.
She says doesn’t have plans to buy a home anytime soon, and that she’s content with her space the way it is. “I have no shame in being this way and for people to see that this is how I live,” she says.
Her eclectic style, of course, may not be for everyone. “I know people will say that it’s childish or like, ‘How old are you?’” Mooney says. “I like it. I can be 40 years old and like color and television show figurines.”