Wow! Young Designers Jesse Neargarder and Shazia Kirmani

Jesse Neargarder and Shazia Kirmani are fresh out of school and amazing us with their creativity.

Lighting sources are everywhere in this room. Here, an unexpected object such as this tree branch becomes a chandelier when draped with optic lights from Ikea. A glowing orb (similar to the Fado table lamp, $9.99) on a shelf warms up the room. Rows of votives create romance. Lack side tables, $16.99 each; Lack wall shelves, $12.99 each; Fenja Rya rug, starts at $59.99; all from Ikea.


Jesse Neargarder and Shazia Kirmani are young, fresh out of design school, and already amazing us with their creativity.


Out of necessity comes invention. Cash-poor, talent-rich former design students Jesse Neargarder and Shazia Kirmani tackled the redesign of their east Dallas apartment with gusto and a shoestring budget. The result feels like great theater. From inexpensive garage sale finds to a tree branch festooned with Ikea lights as art, their apartment is a testament to creativity and economy. Hardwood floors, big windows with lush views, and a mid-century era floating staircase provided an interesting framework. But the plain white walls were boring, and with an almost non-existent budget for furniture and accessories, the friends were left with only one option: Imagination.

There’s nothing as homely as an apartment bathroom. Distract the eye with a pretty fixture like this Capiz shell one from World Market, and hang fabric to frame the edges of a wall mirror. Paint it a sassy color. Simple white vinyl from Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, hung in pleats behind the bed, makes a dramatic statement in a plain room. You won’t need a headboard if you do this.Shazia Kirmani sketched a simple pattern of a tree branch on the wall, then hot-glued decorative crystal beads. She’s of Pakistani descent, and the look reminded her of the ancient tradition of Mehndi, or henna body painting. CENTER: Kristaller chandelier from Ikea. Lillholmen wall lamps from Ikea are similar to those shown. RIGHT: White curved Mat Chair from Eurway. Floor lamp from Target.


Life magazine fashion covers make instant, inexpensive art (around $7 total). Hung high on the wall in rows, they provide impact without overwhelming the room. These were all fashion covers. Make sure yours have a single unifying theme. Old magazines like these can be found at Half Price Books. The frames came from Hobby Lobby, and the chandelier, which they draped with extra crystals, hails from The Great Indoors.

Here’s how they did it: First, they painted the walls in sumptuous hues of cantaloupe, turquoise, mint, and chocolate. Enticing colors like these help break up the monotony of plain rooms. Next, they created architectural interest where there was none. A tiny upstairs bath was the first room on the list. The duo swathed the unattractive walls in pretty white cotton, bought on the cheap from a fabric store on Harry Hines Boulevard. Instantly transformed from dingy to fresh, the bath was the inspiration for the rest of the apartment. Inexpensive vinyl was hung like pleated draperies behind Kirmani’s bed, as if concealing a window. It also acts as a dramatic headboard. Yards of fabric, hung between the open living and dining room areas, creates much-needed visual definition and interest. In Neargarder’s bedroom, picture molding accents on the walls and a closet door were cleverly faked with paint and masking tape.


An awkward, empty corner near the staircase in the living room posed a decorating challenge, but Neargarder and Kirmani handled it with the flair of set designers. A chandelier from eBay was hung, then showcased inside an empty picture frame. A 6-foot tree branch, cut from Neargarder’s mother’s yard, seems to burst through the exterior wall into the living room, magically lit with optic lights from Ikea. They removed ceiling fans and hung inexpensive or vintage fixtures instead, even in the bathrooms. By repeating similar objects and ideas, such as the white shelves with simple white vases and candles in the living room, and the framed magazine covers in the dining room, the look was spacious, not cluttered.

RIGHT: Buddhas found throughout the apartment, from World Market.
LEFT: Little Boy Blue oval print was a find of Neargarder’s. His dresser was handed down from his grandmother. The Thai puppet was a birthday gift from his father.
Small bedside lamps are good for reading, but don’t be afraid to add wall sconces (garage sale finds painted white) and a chandelier (from Urban Outfitters). Light should come from several different sources in a room and always be fitted with dimmers for mood control. Create architectural interest with paint and tape. It looks like real molding, but it’s faked. This door was white, so Neargarder stripped off rectangular areas with painter’s tape and painted over it all in black. The tape was pulled off, and voila! Buy small blank canvases at an art store and paint or stencil your own art onto them. Hang each an inch or two apart on all sides, so that contrasting wall color shows. Steamer trunks found at a garage sale were painted black and white for contrast and used as nightstands.




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