Whenever artist Deneane Niebergall has an art opening she composes her outfit as intentionally as one of her paintings. “I’ll go a little crazy,” says the hands-on creative who never reads fashion magazines and loves bright colors and vintage pieces. “An outfit has to balance various elements; it has to contrast textures and have different weights. I’ll work through all sorts of creative choices, like ‘should I wear a turquoise necklace with that dress?” Niebergall’s style is eclectic and playful. She’s never afraid to mix patterns and materials, and she carefully considers the mood she’s going for. “It’s like I’m putting on a costume,” she says. However, no matter how varied her ensemble, she inevitably gets the same reaction from friends. “Everyone always says that I’ve dressed just like my paintings,” says Niebergall. “It’s never intentional, really it’s always just intuitive, but that continuity signals authenticity to me.”
Niebergall turns that approach on its head when styling her two-bedroom apartment. “I love taking a piece of clothing that has a great pattern or color scheme and then translating it into an interior,” she says. “Dressing a home is very similar to dressing a body or making visual art. It’s all the same creative process—the curation, the editing, and the evolving composition. My inherent style is the thread that ties everything together.”
Sandwiched in the middle of a three-story Italianate on a buckled sidewalk lane of the Rondout neighborhood in Kingston, her floor-through apartment is splashed with a mishmash of bohemian, vintage, Mid-Century Modern, and Scandi design details. An antique Indian wedding chest is paired with a bold printed ’60s poster; her favorite Mid-Century Modern walnut dresser is paired with an open rack of colorful vintage dresses; and her own abstract acrylic-on-panel art plays off the apartment’s high tin ceilings, arched windows, and sloping hardwood floors.
Added to the mix are music posters, woven fiber art, blue and green decorative glass bottles, and plants potted in a vibrant range of ceramics. “I take my design inspiration from my other passions: Art, fashion, and music all blend together in my home decor,” she says. “When people say my home is very like me, I take it as a given and a compliment.”
Mining Gold from San Francisco Streets
A Poughkeepsie native, Niebergall spent time in Boston and New York City before moving across the country to attend the San Francisco Art Institute and study painting. She learned all about high art while earning her MFA and developed her taste for everyday design while walking the city streets and scouring its flea markets and secondhand stores to furnish her Victorian apartment. “I found an amazing Salvation Army around the corner from my house,” she recalls. “It was a goldmine, and I would hit it weekly, which I learned was key to finding killer stuff as soon as it comes in.”
Niebergall developed a knack for finding quality items for cheap or free and learned to look twice at discarded furniture. “Living in a large city was pretty fruitful for sidewalk scores,” she explains. “I got my Indian wedding chest for a pittance at a sidewalk sale down my block. I found my great MCM side table in my lobby—I couldn’t believe anyone would abandon it.”
She also began reading the West Coast magazine Anthology and following the blog The Selby, which profiles creatives in their homes. “Seeing other creatives and how they live and work, and how their lifestyle overlaps is very inspiring,” she says. Elle Decor UK and Living Etc. also became one of her go-to favorite mags. She also still loves ’60s and ’70s films for the period decor. “Even if a film isn’t great, I’d watch it just for the set design,” she says.
Shopping and Propping
Over time, Niebergall honed her eye for aesthetic quality and her talent for sourcing unusual and rare pieces. After completing her MFA program, she put those creative skills to work styling commercial photo shoots—or “shopping and propping” in industry lingo.
She returned to the Hudson Valley in 2015 and began working as a set dresser for the region’s indie film industry. It was a job that often sent her to the far corners of the region and its subcultures to locate just the right prop for a film. “A big part of the job is considering how a character lives in a space, but it’s more multifaceted than that,” Niebergall explains. “If a character lives in a junky house; you have to zero in on exactly what junky chair the character might have. You can really go down the rabbit hole.”
She found her 1,000-square-foot apartment through a friend and moved in sight unseen. “Little did I know what a great place I’d lucked into,” she says. “I guess I have great karma for apartments.” Over her eight years in the space, she’s refined its interior and parlayed her set-dressing experience into a career staging homes for the real estate market.
Most of Niebergall’s decor is secondhand vintage, with a few smaller, first-hand splurges thrown in. And almost every piece has a great story behind it. Take the black, faux-fur loveseat anchoring her giant, open-concept living room and kitchen—a cast-off from an old friend in San Francisco. “He said, take it, my wife hates it,” she explains. “The previous tenant in his apartment had left it for him and it wasn’t his style—but it was totally mine.” She got it back to her apartment and found a carbon copy of the original handwritten purchase receipt tucked between the cushions. “It came from a Sears in Palo Alto in the ’70s, and at a ridiculously low price,” Niebergall says. “It’s so cool to have the backstory. I couldn’t believe he just gave it to me.”
She paired the couch with a mod side table from Anthropologie. “I loved its unique, organic, linear inlay pattern,” she says. Along the facing wall sits a Mid-Century Modern teak console that she found in the lobby of her apartment building in San Francisco.
The living room tableau is completed by Niebergall’s only foray into reupholstering—a Danish Modern side chair gleaned from Goodwill in San Francisco. “The wood was fine but the upholstery was trashed,” she explains. “Since it had a beautiful frame for a super price, I sourced some really wonderful black-and-yellow fabric for its cover. I thought the project would be fairly easy. Not!” Despite the challenge, Niebergall loves the results. Still, she says, “I’ll probably leave reupholstery to the professionals from now on.”
Outside, Niebergall’s wide, covered terrace looks across overgrown gardens to the Wurts Street Bridge. The ample outdoor space is decorated with potted plants and a few film set finds. “There’s a sweet vintage ’60s metal cafe table and chair set I got from a film shot in Uptown Kingston,” says Niebergall. “I had been eyeing it on set and after we wrapped [shooting on Then Came You,] I was lucky enough to nab it.” Taking set pieces home is a great perk for working as a set dresser and Niebergall’s benefited many times. “I love it when that happens,” she adds. “Plus the cafe table and chairs are famous.”
Besides her on-set finds, Niebergall has grown to love the Hudson Valley’s secondhand scene as much as the one she found in the Bay Area. “You have to work a little more here and get in the car and drive but it’s out there if you put in the effort,” she says. Since moving back to the region, she’s found a credenza at New Paltz Salvation Army and multiple pieces at the Ulster ReStore and Stuff HV, which used to have a storefront in Uptown Kingston. “Newburgh Vintage Emporium is like a candy store,” she says. She’s also a big fan of Hyde Park and Kingston consignment shops.
Nierbergall’s bedroom faces through arched French doors onto a wrought iron balcony and the surrounding Rondout neighborhood below. Recently, at the Rosendale Street Fair, she found a vintage dress that caught her eye and brought it home. She realized immediately that it matched her bedroom’s color scheme of orange, green, pink, black, and white perfectly. “My home is an extension of my personality and a reflection of my lifestyle, interests, tastes, and, most importantly, a certain energy,” she says. “My design choices are considered, but ultimately they’re very intuitive.”
This profile was a collaboration with our sister publication Upstater, sponsored by the Ulster County Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The subject was crowdsourced through a contest on Upstater’s Instagram in which followers submitted photos of their apartments for a chance at a professional photo shoot, a spread in the magazine, and a $500 gift card to the ReStore; and other followers voted on their favorite. The apartment profile is a new feature aimed at showcasing the design chops of renters. Follow Upstater’s Instagram for future contests. @Upstater