Inside Our Social Media Editor’s Primary-Colored, 650-Square-Foot Apartment
Take a tour of Alyssa Clough’s eclectic Brooklyn space.
Published Jul 28, 2018 5:05 AM
When my apartment hunt started in the winter of 2017, I had already been monitoring the market for almost a year. I was ready to live alone, I fantasized about it. The apartment I have now is the only unit I toured. I got the call, was fortuitously at brunch down the street, walked to see it, and put a deposit down—just like that.
The size—it’s a big “starter” one-bedroom—was perfect. There are two closets; for the past three years, I had been living with no closets. Zero. It was a “nervous, is this really happening, love at first sight” kind of experience. The space lured me out of Manhattan and into Brooklyn—South Williamsburg, to be exact—and I was excited for the change.
I took my time designing the space. I really wanted it to reflect my current life. I wanted you to walk in and know a twenty-something is living out her young New York life here. That was my goal. The color story evolved over time. Every wall in my last apartment was painted in a disjointed palette, so while I’m definitely not paint averse, I wanted to choose more wisely this time around.
Working at a design magazine armed me with the knowledge I needed to create my dream space, but it was a double-edged sword. The fallacy of choice definitely reared its ugly head. I’m a perfectionist and poring over site after site looking for the perfect this or that was something that happened on the daily. My friends still make fun of me for how long I lived out of boxes (did I mention I was not in a rush to furnish my new home?? I wasn’t). I wanted to live in the apartment and fill it gradually with pieces I really loved.
Every single piece of furniture and decor in my apartment was hand-selected, mostly from brands I’ve worked with, follow, fan-girl over, loved for years, etc. etc. I prefer to support small businesses, most women-founded, designed, and run, and also deeply believe in buying used and vintage.
My mom made all my pillows, which I really cherish. Many pieces were purchased locally in Brooklyn (in my spare time when I’m not on Instagram working, I’m on Instagram stalking my favorite vintage accounts).
If I had to define my home style, it would definitely be eclectic-leaning, colorful, vintage-filled, modern-inspired, with splashes of boho vibes. The rule is there are no rules.
All the big pieces were finally in place around the time I went on a trip to California. I scoured the Rose Bowl Flea (a dream come true) and local shops for trinkets for my shelves, and also picked up dishes and trays for almost every room. Addiction-wise, I’m definitely guilty of over-purchasing vessels. Vases, bowls, ceramics of any kind, dishes, you get the picture. I’m a minimalist’s worst nightmare.
My bedroom was by far the easiest to design. There is a perfect little nook for dresser(s), and I had been obsessing over the Floyd bed frame for months. That was the first real piece of furniture I bought for the apartment.
Instead of doing a traditional accent wall, I decided to paint the two corner walls different shades of blue. The slight variance in color makes me happy. My bedroom gets the least light in the apartment, and the bold walls help create a cozy corner that is more calming than you might think.
Blush bedding was a natural addition that softened the primary palette I was working with. I’m very proud of my powder coated steel bedside table, a $100 score from an ABC Carpet & Home blowout sale. It’s a perfect fit for the space.
I’m also obsessed with art—there’s art hanging on every wall of my space. There’s nothing like getting inspired by art. I’m always looking for and finding new pieces, and naturally, I’m super sentimental and each piece is really reflective of a time period in my life. All of the art leaning on my dressers is black and white.
Again—this was all curated over the course of a year and a half. I really worked to naturally create a space that felt collected over time, plus I absolutely did not have the cash to drop on all new furniture and accessories at once.
My second big purchase was the CB2 table and chairs. My previous apartment didn’t have any shared space—no living room—so I was most excited to finally be able to entertain people, and buying a dining room table (that seats four people!) was a big leap into feigned adulthood for me.
I love every room of my tiny home, but the living room really takes the cake. Everything about it is just so ME. First, I lucked out with some architectural features. The two big windows—natural light is a must—and the exposed brick wall with built-in bookshelves practically sold me on the apartment.
The features I added that I am most proud of are the Ikea credenza I spray painted for Domino and the back wall. When Loeffler Randall came out with their ric-rac-inspired collection in rainbow hues, I couldn’t get enough. I had toyed with painting a few different mural-esque designs on the wall, and nobody truly believed I would do it, but I did. It’s a statement that’s bigger than art, was very inexpensive to create (you can buy tiny tester paint pots for $5, and I already had half the colors anyway from other projects), and highlights the height of the ceiling, making the entire room feel larger.
It’s a little primary and a lot happy. It was a risk but the end result just makes me so happy. I’m also a plant lady (there’s currently 40 in my apartment), so the big guys naturally went up against the wall, which gets great light. The Sill is a great resource for beginner plant parents, lots of my babies are from their shops. I’m always in plant shops in my area—there’s Sprout Home, Nelly’s Flower Shop, Homecoming, Other Times Vintage, Crest Hardware, the list goes on.
Another item I knew would be a must-have for my apartment: a neon light. I’ve wanted one forever and Brite Lite Tribe hooked me up with this amazing custom SOS design, one of my go-to phrases. The red light paired with pink light from my floor lamp (you can read more about that decision here) creates a vibe at night, which is especially fun for entertaining.
My Arielle Vey piece (she is an awesome photographer—go follow her IG right now) found its home under the sign, framed by Framebridge (my go-to spot for framing, I will use their service forever and always). The wave is meaningful for a few different personal reasons, but it also just brings beachy vibes to my life, which every New Yorker needs.
We have to talk about the grounding piece that inspired and helped define the aesthetic of my apartment, too. The Periodic Table of NYC Trash hangs between my two windows and is by far the largest piece of art in the space. The dimensions were perfect and if you’ve ever been to New York, you’ve witnessed the trash. It’s everywhere and while trash and pollution is no laughing matter, there are funny trash tropes that become a part of your life here.
My friend, a California transplant, started calling Manhattan SGI, Sweaty Garbage Island, and I found this print around that time, and it just felt right, like it was fate for me to have this garbage print hanging in my home. (We later featured the wedding of the designer who crafted it, which I geeked out about.) The colors are also good—punchy and bright. It’s a silly, nerdy, and colorful piece of art that really could be described as the cornerstone of my style.
As for the sofa and coffee table, they took me on a journey. I agonized over finding a coffee table for a solid year, and have been in a state of relief since stealing this Art Deco design from Adaptations (again—on sale!).
I finally, thankfully, ditched my clunky Ikea sofa and upgraded to this Article beauty. The amount of joy I experience sitting on it, looking at it, having it in my life, is borderline concerning. It’s perfect in every way and really adds a needed sophisticated, modern feel to the space and took 90 seconds to assemble.
The girl who lived here before me had a really wacky set up, the feng shui was terrible. The TV was so far from the sofa and a high-top table was between the windows. Creating a walkway into the kitchen was key for me, and my bar cart found its way in front of the window instantly. I bought it on sale at Target for $20 years ago, and it is the only piece of furniture I still have from the original U-Haul I drove into the city after college.
I created an entryway of sorts with hooks from Umbra, where a large number of totes live, a Wall Willy by Eric Trine for my keys, and an ironic cross stitch I made while binge-watching 30 Rock after moving to New York with no job (not pictured).
I painted an Ikea IVAR cabinet emerald green after discovering @spencer.monk on Instagram. The art is a daily reminder to give love more freely (unfortunately, it’s not available anymore, but here’s a closer look). All my paints, craft supplies, and files are stored in there. The mirror was a $12 thrift find from Dobbin Street Vintage Co-Op, another one of my favorite spots. I have been known to stop by all three of their locations in one day, and I’m only a little embarrassed.
Though the bathroom is not pictured (it’s skinny and dark and impossible to photograph and I wish it wasn’t but that’s the truth), there’s lots of fun color and art in there, of course. Beth Hoeckel is my favorite collage artist, and I have a few of her pieces in my bathroom, and she also designed my shower curtain.
The rugs are from a local Brooklyn company called Quiet Town—I got one in each of their colorways. Replacing my toilet paper holder with a New Made LA design was an easy renter’s fix. Switching things out is so easy and if you haven’t personalized your rental yet, hop to it!
Last but not least, we’re on to the kitchen. I love it here. I don’t cook as much as I should, but man was this a transformation. I immediately switched out the knobs for brass rectangles from CB2 (total cost $65) and completely changed the vibe. If I commit to staying here for longer, I plan on adding a backsplash, painting the cabinets (fingers crossed for permission from my landlord), and figuring out a fix for the terrible countertop surface.
I love my kitchen because it feels personal. There are photos and mementos up on my refrigerator, wallpaper test sheets (that cost anywhere from $5-15) are taped up along a tiny slice of wall, and the statement art was made custom. I was at my best friend’s new apartment and her neighbor knocked on the door to introduce himself. Turns out he’s an artist, we see his stuff, and both commission paintings.
I gave him a palette from a Color of the Year event I was at and here it is. If you don’t happen upon artists in your everyday life, there are so many people online now (hello, Etsy!) who can custom make anything for you. Or you can DIY it. It’s incredible and inspiring. So that is definitely one of my favorite things in my space. Lots of accessories are from Yamazaki, a Japanese company that has every single small space solution you could ever dream of. I am their number one fan.
Another proud moment is my shelves, which I’ve already waxed poetic about on Domino. My parents helped DIY them with me—wood is from Lowe’s, brackets are from The Home Depot—and it gave me the exposed storage I wanted for a fraction of the cost that most shelving units cost (Team DIY forever). Collecting dishware and glassware is a hobby of sorts, and I really was looking to put some of my favorites on display. The food collage is everything kitchen art should be, in my humble opinion.
My tips on designing your dream home:
I’m all about finding deals and DIY-ing. Many of my favorite finds are sale steals or one-of-a-kind vintage pieces that I put in major legwork to get. Being lazy and ordering pieces online (I’m a big proponent of saving on shipping costs, not to mention the packaging waste) at full price is an easy way to rack up costs. If you want something you don’t see on the market, working to create it yourself usually ends up costing a fraction of the price.
I know it’s tempting to move in and immediately furnish your apartment, but finding furniture and accessories over time and allowing your space to grow with you is way more fulfilling. It not only feels more natural, but allows you to tell your story in a way that doesn’t feel rushed. Being intentional can also mean purchasing from brands you believe in (whether it’s their company ethos, the fact that a woman is their CEO or head of design, they work with sustainable materials, etc.) and asking yourself if you really need or want something, or if you’re just going to buy it for the sake of buying it, to either clutter your space or discard it months later.
Find your style
I have a very strong sense of what I like and what I don’t. It’s easy for me to immediately be sure that I’ll love something in my space and I clearly have no problem committing to a strong palette or statement piece. I realize that’s not the case for everyone. So before filling your apartment with things, sit down and try and identify what you like, what brings you joy, and why. I love color, and it’s important for me to be surrounded by it. Before pressing purchase, be sure whatever you’re will contribute to the overall feeling you want to have when you’re in your home.
My home may be kind of small, but it feels large to a solo city dweller, and it’s a true representation of my style and everything that I love. Leave any questions you have below and I’ll get back to you with an answer.