Design + Architecture

"Sex and the City" set decorator Christina Tonkin shares tips on glamming up a small space

By Sharon Krum  | February 13, 2014 - 8:59AM

When TV showrunners want to put their characters in chic New York City apartments, they call veteran set decorator Christina Tonkin. If you loved the interiors on “Sex and the City,” “Gossip Girl” and now “The Carrie Diaries,” Tonkin’s eye is the reason.

When she’s not creating dream apartments for TV characters, she works as an interior designer for private and commercial clients as well as an art consultant. For a peek into her own home, read on.

Where do you live?

I live in Astoria with my fiancée and beloved rescue dog Atticus Finch. It’s wonderful because I grew up two blocks away from where I am now. We had a lovely apartment on the Upper East Side, but I moved because I wanted more space. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of art that I’ve collected working with different artists either for clients or TV shows.

Rent or own?

Right now we’re renting two floors in a three-story house, but I would like to buy it. We have a view of the park and the Triborough Bridge. It’s perfect. We have three bedrooms; however, one is my dressing room. It’s lined with industrial rolling racks [to hang clothes].

As a set decorator, there must be pressure for your home to wow people.

I’m sure. [Laughs.] My home is decorated around the artwork. The color palette is cream, monochromatic; I do like brightly colored lamps, and to keep walls neutral so the art pops.

Any favorite pieces in your home?

My grandfather’s mid-century dresser. I had it stripped down and I use it as a TV stand. And I have a Todd Hase mirror in my bedroom, which was in Charlotte’s  apartment in “Sex and the City."

What is your fantasy buy?

I would buy a Vermeer. Actually I would buy several and I would never leave the house.

Any tips for making an apartment look glam on a small budget?

I always advise to scale down. Buy quality not quantity. And stick to three colors, so the room will look designed and balanced.

What's your favorite restaurant in your neighborhood?

I’m Italian and we never go out to eat (who can compete with home cooking?) but I love L’incontro. It’s the one place I will bring people who are important to me because the food is amazing. 

Best store in your neighborhood if you’re decorating?

I shop at Nook n’ crannie all the time, and for all the shows I’ve  worked on. They’re a secondhand thrift store with some great vintage furniture.

Which TV character’s apartment would you like to live in?

Mary Tyler Moore, absolutely! I loved Mary and I loved her sunken living room.  I always wanted one.  

Five Minutes With gives you the inside scoop on a celeb's NYC dwelling experience--in the time it takes to grab a coffee.

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