Growing up in Arkansas, Savvy Shields Wolfe—a former Miss Arkansas who went on to win the title of Miss America in 2017—never would have guessed that she’d one day be living full-time on New York City’s Upper East Side. “I had only visited NYC a few different times for dance conventions over the summers and was always amazed by it,” Savvy said. “It wasn’t until I met my husband, Nate, did I think there was an actual possibility to move there!”
Savvy and Nate, a Kansas City native, began dating while he was in law school at Georgetown University—the two met at a wedding while in their early twenties. “We did long distance for three years before we got married, and throughout our relationship spent multiple weekends in New York,” Savvy explained. “It was during these weekends that the dream for us to create a life in New York City really started.”
Today, Savvy and Nate (and puppy Fitz!) have settled into a gorgeous Manhattan apartment filled with architectural charm, thoughtful DIY upgrades, and plenty of cozy touches. “Nate jokes that my favorite word is ‘cozy,’ and it’s so true,” Savvy said. Keep reading for a glimpse into Savvy’s space and to learn more about her favorite seasonal decorating hacks, where she sources art, and why she isn’t afraid of a bit of paint.
Savvy Shields Wolfe’s Cozy New York City Apartment
Name: Savvy Shields Wolfe
Location: Upper East Side, New York City
You’re so lucky to have found an apartment with such amazing architectural features: crown moldings, a fireplace, built-ins, etc. How did you find your apartment, and how do you work to enhance its features?
It was a combination of me having every single alert on my phone on loud, staying up late looking at apartment after apartment, being in the right place at the right time, and luck! I can’t take too much credit—we found a gem of an apartment. When it came to styling the space, I really wanted to make these architectural features central.
What do you enjoy most about living in a New York City apartment?
My favorite part of living in this apartment is how much character it already has baked into it. We feel so fortunate with our apartment and how it holds so much beauty without us putting in any effort. Instead of feeling like a chore, it became so exciting to bring in our own style to add to it!
How do you and Nate compromise to fuse together both of your styles within a relatively small space?
Nate and I both gravitate toward somewhat similar styles! The key word is somewhat. He favors more mid-century modern and timeless pieces, while I like more eccentric items. I would define my style as cozy and traditional with a little splash of eccentricity! When it comes to the big pieces that anchor a space, we like to compromise, but for smaller, individual pieces, we tend to find what we each like and fill the space with that, so when it all comes together, the space feels like both of ours.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges of being a renter in a small space, and how have you worked around them?
When we first moved to NYC, we minimized our lifestyle extremely, only bringing up the absolute essentials. Nowadays, we also do “spring cleaning” about 10 times a year to keep my nostalgic self from not keeping every single item of memory in our home!
You do such a great job decorating your space for the seasons, and your apartment always looks so cozy. What are some of your favorite seasonal upgrades that don’t involve spending much money or buying tons of brand-new items?
Thank you so much! I often joke with my husband about how we were both the type of kids that would rearrange our rooms multiple times a year, and now we get to do that as adults. One of my favorite ways (and the coziest way) to seasonally transition our space is over time gathering fun blankets, foliage, family photos, and other fun mementos. Not only does it help in not having to re-purchase new items each year, but it becomes that much sweeter and more nostalgic to bring out seasonal items that hold sentimental value.
You have lots of meaningful, sentimental pieces on display in your apartment, including mementos from your Miss America days. Can you tell us about some of these special items?
On the built-ins, you’ll see a banjo that bears a license plate from 1964 that states “Arkansas: Home of Miss America.” These plates were made when the first Miss Arkansas became Miss America in 1964, and this banjo was placed on my parents’ doorstep on the day of my wedding. We have no idea who gifted it to us, but it is such a fun and special piece of history of which I’m proud to be a part.
We also have a beautiful collection of Nate’s grandmother’s old New Yorker covers from the 1960s that are hung up all around our apartment. They create such a familial feel while also playing to the life we live now.
You studied art in college and still seem to enjoy painting and creating your own art today. Do you have any of your own pieces on display in the apartment? If so, tell us about them!
I do! But truthfully, my artistic style has evolved so much since college! I do love the art I created in college and after I was Miss America—but are they moody and a little emo? Absolutely. Do I love them? More than life. But a lot of these pieces now live in either friends’ or family’s homes across the country! My current art style has gravitated toward capturing memories in the moment—Central Park benches, flowers I see and want to remember, friends’ apartment buildings, etc.
Where else do you source your art?
All of the art in our apartment was either from my art school days in college or collected from Nate’s and my travels. Wherever we go, we love collecting maps, postcards, vintage letters, menus, book covers, etc. from the places we visit together, and it makes each corner of our home a little memory.
Tell us about the gallery wall in your dining nook. What are some of your favorite pieces on display and what tips do you have for assembling a cohesive gallery wall?
I love this gallery wall! With each gallery wall, I like to think of some sort of singular thematic element to help tie them all together. On this wall, it’s pretty simple: all black and white photos, drawings, book covers, magazine clips, etc.
Can you tell us about your recent kitchen transformation?
When I say it just got done, it JUST got done. We are still in the “cozy-ifying” phase of this room. It’s gone through several renter-friendly transformations over the years—peel-and-stick countertops and tile, painting of the cabinets, etc.—but it just recently got a real facelift and I couldn’t be happier. We are still renters, so we didn’t get much say in the exact changes, but having an updated apartment in NYC is such a gift!
You’ve done some amazing DIY projects in your space—we specifically love the painted faces on your bathroom walls and the painted built-ins in the living room. What tips do you have for fellow renters who may be hesitant to alter their spaces in this way?
It’s just paint! At the end of the day, if you hate it, you can paint over it! I attribute my “lack of fear” regarding paint to my art school days, but I find so much peace and satisfaction in taking on big projects. Even when it came to the faux-molding in our apartment, the original fear of “I have no idea how to do this” was quickly silenced by one YouTube tutorial and a little bit of delusional confidence with some power tools.
You’ve just announced that you’re expecting a little one—congrats! How do you plan to make your apartment baby-friendly without sacrificing your own style?
We are! The plan is to turn our office/second bedroom/room of requirement into a nursery! Full transparency: I’m not sure yet what it will look like. I’ve been gathering so much inspiration from other creatives I love, and all I know is that I gravitate towards beautiful wallpaper and soft blankets. So hopefully it will be a room that BB Wolfe and I will both love.
What does an ideal evening at home look like for you?
An ideal evening at home is a movie marathon on, candles lit, sushi on the way, tea in the pot, and in bed by 9.