This Super-Colorful NYC Home Is Full of Brilliant Little IKEA Storage Hacks

updated Feb 21, 2024
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Name:  Dinah Eke, her husband, and children, Max (almost 4) and Zack (almost 2)
Location: Long Island City, New York

Step inside Dinah Eke’s Long Island City home and you’re immediately greeted with vivid colors and eye-catching prints throughout the cheerful interior. On closer inspection, the kaleidoscopic space, thoughtfully designed by Dee, is an orderly and efficient haven for the lifestyle blogger, her husband, and their two little boys. “I’ve always been focused on organizing the space and less so on how pretty it looks,” says Dee. 

All of that changed in 2020, when the pandemic forced us all to fixate on every (mostly annoying) aspect of our home. Dee, a pharmaceutical researcher by day, started leaning into decorating and marrying her eye for color with her knack for functionality. “We maximize the hell out of the space,” she says, laughing. She also fearlessly tackled DIYs that most of us would turn to the pros for.  

Here, Dee shows us how to artfully wrangle toys, get savvy with our space, and most importantly, bring in joy during the process.

On living in Long Island City

When Dee and her husband first moved into the two-bedroom, two bath home in 2014, the trendy area was filled with young couples like them. Slowly the community evolved together. First came the dogs and then kids. But the duo decided that the waterfront neighborhood, with it’s open spaces and abundant parks, was a perfect place to raise their sons Max and Zack. Bonus: Their apartment features a balcony with city views. 

On their immaculate spice cabinet

“Typically, you wouldn’t have a two door cabinet full of spices but I happen to have married someone who is basically like a chef in his mind,” says Dee. To help rein his collection in she decanted the spices into glass jars from IKEA and labeled them using her label machine. “It’s my favorite thing in the whole world.”

On going vertical in bedroom decor

In small homes, every square foot counts. When the Eke’s first moved into the apartment they had a home office which now plays double duty as the kids room. After Max and Zack would go to sleep Dee would end up working on her bed. “It was impossible,” she says. This prompted her to get creative with the walls in the master bedroom.  “We had these side tables and I was like, ‘What about all the space going up?’” The fix: a sky high ladder style shelf system from CB2 that can house a desk on one side and drawers on the other. “My husband’s clutter is phenomenal so having a big drawer space for him was game changing.”

On her love of organizing

“My therapist says it’s a need to control my environment,” says Dee, laughing. “When there’s clutter around the house, which is pretty much daily with kids, I just feel so scattered.” Her solution is to have designated bins and drawers for everything, so her kids know where things go and where to put their stuff away. “If there’s no space for something, that’s when the clutter starts.” 

On keeping the kids’ room tidy

To encourage their love of reading (and keep things in order) Dee utilized vertical space again. She installed three columns of IKEA’s Flisat bookshelves (no longer available stateside, but here is an alternative) up the wall. But that’s not the entirety of their collection. “I’ll rotate the books,” she says. “Some of them are hidden away, like the Halloween books or Christmas books.” 

Taking one look at the orderly kids room makes you wonder, where are all the toys? To house their playthings Dee bought Room Copenhagen’s Lego storage boxes in a variety of colors to go under the crib. “Instead of labeling those boxes they are color coordinated so the kids know which toy goes in which color box,” she says.

On her rules for toys

“We’re very particular about the kids playing with one thing at a time because otherwise it gets too overwhelming,” says Dee. To help keep her little ones focused, Dee rotates their toys as well. She picks a selection for them to play with and stores the rest inside their closet in stackable IKEA Kuggis boxes.I have each of them labeled with what’s inside, so we have puzzles, art supplies, diapers, and wipes.”

Another guiding principle is bigger bulkier toys have to match the decor. Take their vintage looking metal car, for example. “It’s always parked in the middle of our living room but you don’t always notice it because it’s white and sleek.” Another item that blends in is the pretty Hape wooden toy kitchen, which is also a genius buy because it’s multifunctional. There’s a big blackboard on the backside so the kids can draw. “There’s not a lot of space in here so we just try to be mindful of the things we bring in.”

On colors and compromise 

“I’ve always gravitated towards color and pattern and in an earlier life I experimented with rainbows in my apartment,” says Dee. “Stripes, red walls, yellow walls, I’ve done it all. But then I realized color actually elicits a feeling. I learned very early on to stay away from a lot of red. It just did not calm me and I wanted to feel calm in my space.” To create a soothing environment Dee carefully picks her hues. “Even when I have a super bold pattern, the primary color doesn’t put you on. It calms you.” Another factor in her color choices is her husband’s affinity to neutrals. “I was like, ‘I’m not decorating my space brown, sorry,’” she says. But to honor his love of brown, Dee brings in a lot of wood tones. “The masculinity in the design is usually because of him. I’ll try to bring structured lines in so that it represents him as well.”  

On bringing in greenery

“I’m a self professed brown thumb, but for some reason this last year I figured it out,” says Dee. “It was like a light bulb. You’re just not placing them in the right spot.” With a little research and some simple tweaks, her plants are now thriving. “The reward is so great when your plants grow.” To step up her urban oasis, Dee recently created a moss live wall inspired by an idea from Hilton Carter. It’s complete with a (toy) frog!

On wallpapering the kitchen

To transform her rental kitchen from cookiecutter to wow-worthy, Dee painted the island in Clare paint’s Blackest and covered the room in Chasing Paper’s geometric Starburst pattern. The results are dazzling. And better yet, the pattern helps create distinct spaces within the open concept layout.

“When people come to visit they’re like, ‘Wow, these are like separate rooms,’” Dee says about the kitchen and adjoining living room. 

On her epic bedroom mural

To add some interest to a really long boring wall in her bedroom, Dee had her heart set on the African-inspired Kuba wallpaper from St. Frank, which reminded her of her West African heritage (her dad is from Ghana and her mom was from the Ukraine). But the wallcovering was not removable (a no-no for renters) and really expensive. “I was looking for a cheaper option and I decided to paint it,” she says.

Inspired by designer Carmeon Hamilton’s DIY kitchen wall, she took on the project, creating a stencil first. “The pattern looks simple but it’s pretty difficult to recreate it over and over again. It’s so winding, so I needed something to guide my hand,”she says. It was a mammoth of a project to take on and something most people would never attempt. “Just recently I’ve started embracing the fact that I’m artsy,” says Dee. “I’ve always been the DIY type of person. If I can’t figure out how to find something, I’ll make it myself.”

For those hesitant of experimenting in their home, Dee’s advice: “If you mess up you can just paint it over and it’s like it never happened. That is the beauty of a project like that.”

This article has been updated from its original publication in December 2021.