Taking a look around Eva Niewiadomski's two-bedroom Andersonville condo, you might find it hard to believe she was ever an accountant. It doesn't seem fitting, a corporate number cruncher living in this bright, whimsical environment, much less creating it. But that's where Niewiadomski, who's worked in finance and also as a brand manager for the Quaker Oats Company, would tell you you're wrong.
"Who wrote the rule saying that beige and cream are business colors?" she asks. Niewiadomski took it upon herself to rewrite that rule at Quaker, starting with her cubicle, which she decorated with Chinese lanterns and toys. ("People loved meeting at my desk.") She then turned two corridors into "innovation hallways"—covered floor to ceiling in retro-fabric panels with bold prints, the spaces became walk-in bulletin boards where anyone could post ideas—and put together a "creativity room." In 2002 she struck out on her own to found Catalyst Ranch, a event space designed to help suits brainstorm better.
Her apartment is similarly energizing. Even in rooms with white walls, there are vivid colors everywhere—in marionettes, folk art, woven textiles, and ceramics, lots of 'em. Niewiadomski says she's not a collector, but she enjoys surrounding herself with "things that are made with skill. If it's idiosyncratic, quirky, or wacky I tend to be drawn to it, because the artist is giving it their own personality." —Katherine Raz
"The birdcage is a vintage piece I found at an antique market. The 'stand' is actually from a vintage lamp from the 1920s, which I found later at a different antique market. The birds are a mix of blown glass Christmas ornaments with feather tails and painted ceramic birds from Guatemala.
"The dress on the dress form is a costume I purchased from the Civic Opera House when they did their warehouse sale a few years ago. The costume dates back to the 1910s."
"The vintage stained glass window I found at an outdoor antique market. I repainted the frame. The collection of vintage Chinese Cloisonne containers I found over the years and placed together.
"On the wall to the right of the window are four painted ceramic plates from Portugal that I purchased on a trip. Hanging from the ceiling are two incense burners. The ceramic one is from Greece, the bronze one is a vintage piece I found in Bohemia. The light fixture is a vintage piece from the 30s that I purchased at an outdoor antique market. My dad rewired & repainted it for me."
"The large 'painting' on the right is actually an embroidered textile piece that I purchased in Thailand and framed when I got home. It has three-dimensional components to it which give it extra personality. The statue on the trunk is also from Thailand, and is one of their goddesses. The necklace around her neck is from India. The stack of three jewelry boxes--two are from Poland, the top one is from Argentina and was actually made to store tea.The painting over the chest of drawers is a beautifully painted piece on old leather. I found that and the frame, separately, both in India.
"The furniture itself is a complete set from the 1930s. It was someone’s wedding set. The original owner matched the Lane chest to it. The rest of the pieces all have that same inlaid emblem. I purchased the set at an antique shop right after the owner went into a nursing home and they had just cleared out her house.
"The other three pictures--the one rectangular one and the two ovals on the left--are all original signed prints by the same artist. It’s a famous artist from the 1910s-1920s but I can’t recall his name right now.
"Then there are two vintage ceramic bird hooks from the 1940s, which I use to hang some of my necklaces."
"Those are actually decorative tin placemats used under plates when setting a table. They come in multiple sizes. I purchased them in Oaxaca, Mexico, on a trip there several years back. They have patterns along the edges that have been hammered into the tin. To me they looked like tin versions of old-fashioned doilies and I thought they would make a cool pattern mounted on a wall or a door. I just nailed them in the center with fancy finishing nails."