Everything in the apartment is for sale, from the art hanging on the wall, to the clothes in the closet, and even the food! When you live in a small apartment, it's particularly challenging to find space saving chic decor items. But when you walk into The Apt. you can immediately see how everything fits together. Rather than trudging through the dizzying Ikea aisles, you can grab everything you need for a room right in one spot.
I was thrilled to sit down with the creative mind behind this novel idea, Nike Onile, just days after she revealed 'the shoppable apartment' to the media. This incredibly unique and creative space located in downtown Toronto is now open to the public by appointment and regularly scheduled 'Shopping Parties'.
Nike shared with us the journey to The Apt and why she felt it was just time to follow her passion.
Congratulations on the launch of this amazing space. You must be so excited how do you feel?
I'm feeling really blessed, very excited. I think I'm more nervous about the public seeing the space more than anything. I knew the media would like it because it something new. It was really easy for me to reveal to the media because it was like throwing a big party and you know me - I love throwing parties. But the Shopping Experience is new so I'm a bit nervous about that.
I can imagine. We have been friends for over 15 years but I want our readers to know “Who is Nike Onile”, what brought you to this chapter in your life? When we first talked you mentioned you are an Artist not an Interior Designer, which is an interesting distinction. Can you explain that?
Who I am? There is a lot. People can label me what they want and what they are comfortable with but I consider myself an artist. Because I didn't study Interior Design I've had trouble labeling myself a designer. I've always had an inclination for art. I've always been artistic. This is my medium of choice at this time in my life. I used to draw, I used to paint, I used to sculpt, so at this point in my life I'm sculpting, I'm painting, I'm drawing with furniture, with decor and clothes in this particular space which is The Apt. I feel most authentic when I classify myself as an artist.
All photos courtesy: Sasha Huebener
In terms of your life path, what had the most impact on your decision to display your art in this way?
I don't think there was a particular moment. For me it has really been an amalgamation. I guess I would say the early onset would be purchasing my home and having an outlet to display that [art]. Decorating it and finding that release of my art form. My art was refined working at Munge Leung. I didn't actually do any designing there but I was around it. They really helped me craft my art form by being around [design]. But there are tons of things that lead me to this point.
It evolved. It was me starting where I was. I knew I wanted to open up a furniture store and because my brand was 800sqft and I design for small spaces, I knew it needed to be in the downtown core. Retail real estate is just expensive downtown. What I saw in my vision wasn't in my budget, but I refused to let that defeat me. The solution became the vision. Then it developed into something that was more robust but that's where is came from.
You mentioned that 800sqft designs specifically for small spaces, what made you decide to focus on that particular audience?
800sqft wasn't planned. It was a blog that was an outlet. Someone challenged me to share it with the public and as a very private person that was difficult. When I finally did share it, it took on a life of its own. I was going through something difficult in my life and whenever that happens I release through my art. My art was my home.
When you first started the blog you featured a lot of DIYs and how to spruce up your space through repurposing items, thrifting and doing things on a budget. Is that theme carried through in The Apt.?
Not really. The Apt is a retail experience. For me to create individual pieces would be challenging so I've partnered with a number of other designers and artists, who use The Apt as a platform to showcase their art and their creations. There are a few pieces I've designed, but didn't fabricate in The Apt.
You use the term “experience” a lot when describing The Apt. What do you want shoppers to feel, what kind of experience are you creating in the space?
It’s difficult for me to define what I want people to feel, because everyone is going to feel something different. When you step into a friend’s home no two people experience it the same way, because you’re dealing with different people, different tastes, different likes and dislikes. So its not so much me defining what people experience but I want people to have a pleasurable experience, something new. The space feels like a home, it feels like an apartment. The challenge I think is also marrying the retail experience with that. It’s like creating a piece of art and telling people what you want them to feel, its impossible. But you want them to take something from it, to be changed a bit.
What’s next for 800sqft, The Apt.?
Right now we have the summer collection, moving forward we will flip the collection. I really want people to get a sense of the person, the urban dweller. So what is their life like in the fall. I literally want people to experience someone’s life when they come into the space. I really want people to connect with the lifestyle of the Urban Dweller. The home, the persona of the urban dweller in the summertime and it changes as the seasons change.
Nike still offers interior design and consultation services for small spaces through the firm 800sqft.