Post Image
Cherub Stewart of Florida Water Interiors and her daughter live in this loft space in New Jersey that’s bursting with color, texture, and plants.

You’ll Never Believe This Bohemian Loft Was Once a Garage

published Oct 12, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Most parents would balk at the prospect of moving into a former garage with their child, but designer Cherub Stewart of Florida Water Interiors, saw the potential in a lofty converted garage in the Newark, New Jersey area. With her background in interior design, Cherub could look past the concrete interior and parking lot outside to see the space’s good bones.

Cherub found the 1,200-square-foot loft on Zillow when she and her daughter’s father had decided to live in different homes, and actually viewed the property via FaceTime when her daughter’s father toured it. “We are great, absolutely dear friends and parted amicably, yet it was challenging moving with a baby,” says Cherub. “I truly wanted a place that felt, warm, welcoming, had lots of character and space for a growing child, was safe, yet would accommodate my budget.” Cherub decided to take the former garage, knowing that there is almost nothing that a little paint, a whole lot of textiles and a jungle of houseplants couldn’t fix. 

The bold purple wall color is Behr's "Chakra Purple." The Balian Bamboo Coconut Wood Dining Table and
Armoire were both purchased from Midnight Sun, a boutique in Jacksonville, Florida. The ceilings are draped in vintage saris, which Cherub sources from eBay.

It’s been more than a year since Cherub and her daughter moved in, and you would not recognize the loft from the images Cherub first saw on Zillow. When friends visit, they always talk about how wonderful it smells and how welcome and warm they feel. While her decorating prowess and generous hosting style are the secret to the loft’s warmth, Cherub was helped in part by a friendly landlord. Before moving in, Cherub’s landlord generously allowed Cherub to select carpet to cover the concrete floors and install shades to screen the windows that face the parking lot—and he didn’t bat an eye when Cherub requested red carpeting. 

Cherub opted for low-to-the-ground beds for two reasons. First, she finds that sleeping close to the earth helps her feel grounded. One a more practical note, she was still breastfeeding when she moved in and the low bed was ideal for a co-sleeping set-up where her daughter would be safe, if she did roll or climb out of bed. The Carved Wooden Room Divider is from World Market. The serape-style blankets are from El Paso Designs. The yellow wall color is Behr's B"Extreme Yellow" in a semi-gloss finish.

Cherub believes in the power of color to impact the energy that a space gives off—color therapy, if you will. She chose red as the foundation for the space because it is the color typically associated with the root chakra, which is associated with a feeling of safety and grounding. “From that first design choice I deemed this place a healing den, and chose colors that reflected the energy portals of the body, the chakras,” says Cherub. 

She chose to paint the walls orange, yellow, green, purple, and blue. Then she welcomed good vibes with all of her design decisions. “I had the place blessed with the energetic plants of sage and palo santo, and proceeded to pour love and intention in,” she says, “My child and I have returned to recharge, regenerate, create, play, and rest in this blessed space.”

Cherub Stewart reupholstered her 70-year-old couch with indigo mudcloth. The pom-pom garland is from Swoon, a boutique in Montclair, New Jersey.

In addition to filling the space with color, Cherub channeled history, nature, and art to bring warmth and comfort to her home. Throughout the loft there are fabrics and artifacts, which come from artisans from all over the African Diaspora. “It is important for me to see the beauty and work of my ancestors when I enter my space,” says Cherub. “I have over 15 African masks in my home and that is just the start of my collection!”

Cherub Stewart commissioned the N'debele-inspired mural from artist Kelly Loopz.

Through her design firm Florida Water Interiors Cherub also commissioned a mural with cultural significance from her colleague and friend, artist Kelly Loopz. “I came to her with a huge request to create an N’debele-inspired mural and we went back and forth for months on the sketch and feeling behind the mural. She studied the N’debele people of South Africa and hand painted an immaculate piece on a large wall in my hallway,” explains Cherub. “She completely captured my feeling and intention in the piece. In the 18th century, the N’debele began using house paintings as a form of communication and cultural resistance. I am beyond grateful to fill my home with relics of strength, pride, and great history.”

Behr's "Park Picnic Green" is the backdrop for a collection of houseplants.

Plants are also integral to Cerub’s design—both in her own home and in clients’—and she believes that filling her home with plant life is a way to pay homage to Mother Earth. “Plants spread love, oxygen, and automatic warmth to any space, so they are always welcome,” says Cherub. “Plants are alive and if well, create healing and depth in spaces that are devoid of intention. I can always tell how my plants are feeling especially if my vibe is off. If I haven’t had enough water, chances are they are thirsty, too!”

Cherub dreamed up the DIY birch-log curtain rods on the windows as a way to hang plants, crystals, and other decorations.

Cherub also brought in nature through lots of natural wood furnishings and Florida Water Interiors ethically-sourced, birch wood curtain rods. (Although they are not used for curtains: Instead, Cherub hand-tied the ropes to hang plants, crystals, and colorful pom-poms.) The former garage door creates a literal connection to the outside, opening up to a small patio area outdoors.

Cherub also strove to balance her needs and her child’s needs. “Sometimes, I see homes where people have allowed for a child’s toys/things to take over, or the opposite, where it is almost impossible to tell that a child lives in the home,” says Cherub. “It is important for both child and parent to feel seen in their home.” Cherub’s strategy was to curate her child’s toys, furniture, and storage to compliment her home decor. For example, when choosing a toy trunk, she choose to repurpose a green antique cedar trunk she had owned for years—and she put it right in the middle of the grown-up living space.

Cherub made over the basic kitchen with Behr's "Beacon Blue" on the walls.

“It is important to integrate children’s spaces throughout the home to encourage a shared existence, so little ones don’t just have to disappear to their rooms in order to have fun,” Cherub says, noting that integrating shared spaces throughout also encourages children to play independently in the company of their loved ones. “And we all know, during these times, being able to get anything done with the children around is of great importance.”

The resulting home is a work of art in its own right. “I feel if you are an artist, it is seen in everything you do,” says Cherub, who in addition to being an interior designer is a musician and a creative educator. “Art is everywhere in my life!” she says, pointing to a quote by actress Helena Bonham Carter, “I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How you’re writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.” The former garage is also now a refuge. “Space is sacred,” says Cherub. “The home has been referred to as the heart because it dictates the rhythm of movement we all participate in.”

Cherub's daughter's sunny yellow dress is right at home in their colorful loft.

Thank you, Cherub, for welcoming us into your home!

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: This Afro-Bohemian Loft Is Like Color Therapy for Your Eyes