When Pretty Little Liars filming ended in October 2016, Ashley Benson was looking for a fresh start.
She sold her home in Los Angeles and moved to New York City, where she rented a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom apartment in downtown Manhattan.
“I kind of came empty handed,” Benson, 28, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I obviously couldn’t bring furniture from my [L.A.] house to New York—it would have been too crazy.”
So she enlisted the help of interior designer Nicole Gordon and home decor site AllModern to make her new house “feel like a home.”
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Because she was taking a year off of work, the actress — who next stars alongside Elizabeth Moss in the punk-rock drama Her Smell — knew she was going to be spending a lot of time at home, and wanted to personalize the space as much as possible.
She made a brave choice and painted the walls a warm blush pink (Benjamin Moore No. 2170-50 Teacup Rose), and added dashes of modern gold decor alongside gray and white furniture.
Benson hung Banksy art, a skull painting and Andy Warhol pieces on the walls for pops of color in every room.
“I just made bolder decisions and took more risks,” she says. “I’ve never really done that in any of my other houses, so that’s definitely a new thing for me. It was my first New York apartment and it was a really fun project.”
Although she admits her designers were the key in finishing the project, Benson says she was a willing and active participant in the decorating process. She began with mood boards and even painted her own powder room walls a deep forest green.
“Any time I walked in, I felt very happy,” Benson says of the color choice. “I’m not really girly, so I think I kind of threw that into the apartment a bit.”
She chose navy velvet chairs to surround her dining room table for a “fun and colorful” room where she can entertain friends, though she hadmits “I’m not the best cook. I usually have my friends come over and cook for me.”
While color is one of the main themes in Benson’s city sanctuary, she says the vibe in her new L.A. home, which she reportedly bought for a cool $1.8 million in January, is very different from this one, and features white walls and more Spanish-style accents.
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“I think it’s fun to have a completely different style in my L.A. home,” Benson says. “My L.A.house feels very European—kind of like a getaway—and then in New York, it’s like a fun Sex and the City-style house.”
For more of Ashley Benson’s apartment, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE.
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