My 600sqft: How interior designer Habiba Koroma keeps her grown-up Harlem home kid-friendly

July 16, 2019

Our series “My sqft” checks out the homes of New Yorkers across all five boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to interior decorator Habiba Koroma’s apartment in Central Harlem. Want to see your home featured here? Get in touch!

Habiba Koroma always had an eye for design, but she never imagined her passion could be pursued professionally. It was not until her mother became ill that she gained the courage to follow her decorating dreams. But it wasn’t simple. After leaving her job at a nonprofit, Habiba went on many informational interviews, held an internship at a residential firm, and received her degree from the Parsons School of Design. Now as an interior design consultant for Restoration Hardware, Habiba has been able to surround herself with the latest trends, all while learning about materials and getting inspiration for her own place.

Both Habiba’s skill set and enthusiasm for design are on display in her Central Harlem apartment, which has been featured on Apartment Therapy and wallpaper company Spoonflower. Not only has she expertly mixed colors and patterns, but she’s also created a special–and kid-friendly–space for her three-year-old son Miles. Habiba transformed an IKEA bunk bed into a fun hideout for Miles, filled with books, toys, and a whiteboard. There’s even a colorful ball pit on the top bunk. Ahead, meet Habiba, tour her apartment, and learn how she keeps things Miles-friendly without ever sacrificing style.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
Habiba added pops of color throughout her home, including the rainbow abacus from Etsy.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
Habiba was able to make three separate spaces in one room; The “hello” coat rack by the front door is from Block Design.

Tell us about yourself and your background.

I am a native New Yorker with a passion for all things design. With experience in residential, retail, event, and visual design, I have honed the capacity to create beautiful, textured and dynamic spaces.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
Habiba shows off her custom “girls with difficult names” print. Behind her, there’s a photo of her mom.

What brought you to Harlem?

I have always loved Harlem. It wasn’t until I started working in Harlem for Abyssinian Development Corporation, that I began to seriously consider living there. When the opportunity came to move, I jumped at the chance to finally call Harlem my home.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
On the coffee table, there is a ceramic pottery piece that Habiba found in Santorini, Greece.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlemAbove the couch hangs a bright orange Juju hat, modeled after a traditional ceremonial headdress from Cameroon

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
She bought the cotton canvas pennant from Rayo and Honey.

Do you have any favorite spots in your neighborhood?

There are a ton of amazing spots in Harlem. I love Barawine for happy hours, Red Rooster for amazing live music on Monday nights, The Schomburg for First Fridays, the JCC Harlem for fun family events, and NiLu Gift Boutique for unique finds.

Before you were an interior decorator, you worked at a nonprofit. Can you talk about that career change?

I have always had a passion for design, but as an undergraduate, I did not know that interior design was a career option. I instead ventured into a career in communications and nonprofit management. While my path was rewarding, it was not until I was faced with my mother’s illness that I gained the courage to actually consider following my dream of becoming a designer. After a number of informational interviews, I was fortunate to intern at a high-end residential firm which eventually turned into my first job in the field.

The experience was a great boot camp, teaching me so much about residential design and the industry overall. It was from this early experience, that I realized that I definitely wanted to move forward with a career in interior design, and more importantly that I needed to go back to school to enhance my technical and professional skills.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
The bedroom’s wallpaper is from Spoonflower.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
This bookshelf serves as the perfect divider between Miles’ play area and the living room.

What are some trends you’re seeing in interior design right now?

Cane everything, fringe, chunky and sculptural silhouettes, and I’m not sure if it’s a trend, but I am obsessed with the color oxblood.

Where do you draw inspiration from when decorating your place?

For my apartment, honestly, my mom and the way she decorated our home. She was a school teacher, but it was always well-curated and designed, from her own creativity. I draw a lot of inspiration from her.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
Habiba transformed an IKEA Kura bunk bed into a playing nook for Miles. The top bunk is now a ball pit.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
Miles shows off his friend Elmo and his trains.

The crafty nook includes a library and a whiteboard.

How did Miles influence or change the way you designed your apartment?

Preparing for Miles was a challenge because I didn’t want to sacrifice style and sophistication as I transitioned to a kid-friendly space. I managed to strike a great balance by adding pops of bright color and whimsical accents like the large abacus hung over the bar, which used to be Miles’ changing table. I also swapped out pieces with hard edges and delicate finishes with furniture that was round, upholstered, and sturdy.

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem

habiba koroma, mysqft house tours, harlem
A large rasterized photo of Miles hangs behind the ball pit

For New Yorkers living with kids in apartments, do you have any suggestions for storage and organization?

My main piece of advice is to get closed storage to hide the crazy. Inside the closed storage, I have bins that I have labeled with a P-Touch. My other advice is to purge often.

If you could only keep three pieces from your apartment, which would you choose?

I would choose my sofa, bed and a one-of-a-kind ceramic pottery piece that I picked up from a visit to Santorini, Greece.


All photos by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft. Photos are not to be reproduced without written permission from 6sqft

Get Inspired by NYC.

Location: Harlem

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