Julio Quiñones is in the business of transformation. And sometimes he brings his business home. Take his Oak Lawn apartment. It’s changed a lot in the last 18 months. “When I found this place, it was a hot mess, a tickety tack,” the designer says. “The whole place was in shambles. My friend described it as a crack house before we started gutting the whole place.”
But Quiñones was undaunted—he knew that the 950-square-foot space had great potential. He made plans, hired a contractor, and six months later, every single thing in the apartment—from the electrical to the staircase and flooring to the patio—was resurfaced and redone. The place is far from static. Depending on his mood, “I can make the space whatever I want it to be. It’s like watching something grow,” Quiñones says. “I change out stuff all the time. I move on. It’s like fashion.”
At the moment, Quiñones is feeling a little French. “After I got it done, I turned it into more of a Parisian environment,” he says. He says it’s fun and easy to do—and it doesn’t have to cost a million dollars. His first tip: step away from the toile. Instead, add some cool candlesticks. “The French are known for fabulous candlesticks or any kind of bronze. They are best at bronze doré—they’re fabulous at casting things and making them super unique.” He suggests investing in a gold mirror for a bit of French influence. Look into adding some fringe here and there. He also recommends a trip to Restoration Hardware for good reproductions and a stop by Donald J. Embree Antiques for the real stuff. “They’re known for their French antiques,” he says.
But before forsaking everything inspired by any country other than France, take a sip of Perrier and calm down. Quiñones points out that the French are all about the mix. “That’s just part of the French,” he says. “They like a lot of Italian—not so much English, though—mixed in with French antiques.”
Taking his interiors from modern to Mediterranean is just one of the joys of homeownership Quiñones is experiencing. He likes to throw parties. (I ask if he serves red wine. His answer: “People can drink red wine. Except at parties.”) In the fall and winter, he treats his guests to fireside fetes. “Even if you have just one or two people, there’s nothing like a real fire, and I love that,” he says. “We’re so used to everything being so artificial, but it’s nice to start a fire, get it going, and then tend to it.”
One thing you won’t find at the party is a homemade menu. As open as the kitchen is to the rest of the apartment, Quiñones prefers to keep things pretty as opposed to practical. “I made meatballs once for a little summer dinner party, but I don’t really cook. But I will cater,” he says. He’s not opposed to the idea of cooking—in fact, he is obsessed with the Food Network. “I like pretending that I can cook. I do appreciate the art of cooking,” he says. (Quiñones is also obsessed with The Real Housewives, but that’s another story.)
Although his apartment has the feel of a peaceful and proper parlor, Quiñones is adjusting to big-city living. Oak Lawn can get a little noisy, especially in the early morning hours. “I didn’t realize how loud it was. I have to wear earplugs. The trucks come so early, and they hit you on both sides,” he says. But the positives of the area cancel out the garbage trucks. “I’m five minutes from my office. I can walk to Walgreens and Eatzi’s. I can meet a friend for a drink. Everything is nearby,” he says. “What could be better than that?”