As far as we’re concerned, Alice Gao is the definition of cool. This NYC-based photographer is beyond talented and effortlessly chic. And with an Instagram following well over 600k, we’ll assume we’re not the first ones to catch on. When we heard Alice’s good friend (and fellow photographer) Ashley Kelemen would be paying a visit to the Big Apple, we knew a home tour was in order. Take a look into Alice’s relaxing apartment, find out how her photography background determined the design, and gain insight into her unique morning coffee routine. We’ve got a feeling you’ll be a big fan of Alice, too:

You’re a photographer, but obviously have a knack for interior design. Has this always been a passion of yours?
Not so much! I mean, I do think I cared a bit more about my dorm furniture and decorating situation than my peers, but I didn’t really get into interior design until more recently. I still am really limited in what I can do, since we (my boyfriend and I) rent our space, so I can’t tear up the kitchen as I would like to.

Ah, the joys of renting! Does your photography background ever sway your interior design choices?
Oh, definitely. I painted the wall a dark bluish grey because I knew it’d make for more interesting and moody photos. I like keeping my apartment nice and neutral for the most part, so I can shoot in it easily without having, say, a hot pink item casting a glow onto my ‘set’. Even if I did have a separate studio space, I’d probably still stick to neutrals though. It just makes me happy. One thing I wish I had done when I first moved in was white-wash the floors. The yellow kills me every time I see it casting its shade in photos.

Tell us about the design process. Where did you begin when you first moved in?
Hah, I got the floor plan before we moved in and I literally drew every piece of furniture we had, and planned to acquire, onto it exactly how I envisioned it. It was good, because when the movers brought in the furniture, I could direct them to place things exactly where I had planned it. It was a great starting point, but since I like to rearrange my furniture often, I’ve done that a few times since then! Many large pieces, we actually bought for this apartment specifically. I sold a ton of our old furniture from our old space so we could start somewhat anew. The couch, coffee table, tripod lamp, dining room chairs, and dining table were all bought for this space.

We love that planning process! What was your top priority in the decor of your space?
I’d say aesthetics first, with slightly less of an emphasis on function. I wanted everything to feel more cohesive, because that was the biggest gripe I had with the pieces in our last apartment. Nothing felt like it belonged to the same apartment. I also wanted to be more thoughtful about what pieces I would actually buy, as our place is quite tiny and every piece needs to be something I really love.

We couldn’t help but notice you have quite a healthy Instagram following. What tips would you give readers hoping to grow their own following?
I’d say to shoot first and foremost for yourself and post only what you are happy with. Don’t feel like you need to post multiple photos every day. Find your style and stay with it. Some instagrammers come up with a personal series, and they steadily add to that – I think that can be very powerful. And of course, don’t forget to have fun with it too. Oh, and for the love of god, please don’t add 50 hashtags to your photo and spam others.

Ha!! We so appreciate the honesty! Now, we’re told you’re a coffee aficionado. We’d love to hear about your daily coffee routine!
Every morning, I start up a kettle to get it to 200 degrees F. Our Bonavita lets us set the right temperature for optimal coffee brewing.

Then I weigh out my beans on a .1g scale and grind them in my Rancilio Rocky burr grinder (no skimping on steps here). Oh and when I buy beans, I make sure they’ve been roasted just a few days ago, and I make sure to use up the bag within 1-2 weeks. Otherwise they go past their prime, and they are demoted to the beans I use when I need to make coffee for props in photos. I wish I were kidding. Coffee is one thing I do not bullshit. 🙂

My preferred method of brewing is a simple V60 pour over.

That’s devotion- and our early-morning laziness clearly needs to be whipped into shape.

Lastly, we’d love to hear your Top 5 Tips to readers for creating an at-home sanctuary, as you’ve done:
1. If it’s not useful or beautiful or has significant sentimental value, get rid of it. (I hold the same attitude for my closet.)
2. Don’t be afraid to rearrange your furniture often. You never know what configuration will work the best for you.
3. Go with your gut. I can’t tell you how many sofas I considered, even though I knew I wanted this one from the beginning.
4. Splurge a little. This might be a bit of an unpopular tip, but I think it’s justifiable to buy pricier furniture that will last you. I mean, how many Ikea things have we all just tossed to the streets when we move or have simply broken in transit? (Oh, is that just me?)
5. A dark wall does wonders.

Unpopular or not (we say not), those tips are truly helpful for curating a dreamy space. Thank you for welcoming Rue into your home!

For more information on Alice, click here.

LIVING: 1. Rocker // 2. Rug // 3. Sofa // 4. Coffee Table // 5. Wooden Chair // 6. Lamp
DINING: 1. Flowers // 2. Table // 3. Dining Chairs (here and here) // 4. Bookshelf
BEDROOM: 1. Bed // 2. Dresser
OFFICE: 1. Desk // 2. Desk Chair // 3. Desk Lamp // 4. Bookshelf