Styled by Julia Stevens

Photography by Belle Morizio

Published on February 9, 2021

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Brooklyn couple Alden Anderson and Parker Thompson love a theme. For years I’ve attended their annual holiday house party, always dubbed “Merry Texmas” (they both hail from the Lone Star State) and always brimming with fresh margaritas; homemade tamales; and warm, kindhearted cheer—until the white elephant game starts, at least. 

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Then there’s the spring crawfish boils, the summer movie nights, and, one time, a toga party. So when COVID hit and the pair couldn’t throw energy into their epic parties—or their biggest bash to date, their June 2020 wedding—they pivoted, redirecting all their creative fuel toward a new 450-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn Heights. (They did gleefully get married, however, in a small ceremony back home.) 

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“We wanted to go bold, because we’re not sure how long we’ll stay in this apartment, and we think of it as our honeymoon suite,” says Anderson. “We were like, let’s just have fun with design.” And because they love a theme—in parties, as in life—their view of the East River influenced the maritime motif in their home.

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For a month before they moved in, the creative duo gathered inspiration by watching sea-themed movies—from The Lighthouse to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Kon-Tiki—and bought books with a similar nautical vibe. Today a vintage copy of Moby Dick lives on their mantel next to Anderson’s aquascaping. They have their limits, though: “It’s been seven months, and Alden still won’t let me watch Splash again,” jokes Thompson. 

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But diving in headfirst is all a part of their process. “When we get a theme in our minds, it governs everything we do,” says Anderson. “A theme is like a design constraint, except it actually makes designing easier because it gives you parameters.” Another limitation that they made work? The teeny, 450-square-foot-space, which would need to act as their living room, dining room, bedroom, home office, and kitchen. Thankfully, because of their day jobs, the pair was able to draw the space up in CAD, a software program for architects, and mock up the furniture layout before moving in. 

“When we get a theme in our minds, it governs everything we do,” says Anderson.

Still the couple says that starting with amazing bones helps everything fall into place. “The molding, the fireplace, the oak floors—they do the work for you,” notes Anderson. “Anything you add to it is going to look beautiful.” Another detail they couldn’t ignore, the one that made this apartment stand out from the 40 (!) others they looked at, was the terrace, from which they have a direct view of the Statue of Liberty. But it’s not just a pretty place to sit on a Saturday. It’s also where Thompson stores his lathe, which he uses to churn out delicate wood bowls for his new project, Sunlathe. It’s also where they hope to host gatherings with friends again soon. I, for one, will be there, margarita in hand. 

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Tone It Down

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Inspired by their view of the Statue of Liberty, Anderson painted the entire room in—what else?— Benjamin Moore’s Lady Liberty, mixed with 50 percent white, an alteration that toned down the super-saturated hue. “Everyone says not to paint your home green—you’ll look sick,” he says. “This is a bit more peaceful.” To visually lengthen the room, he took the color all the way up past the picture molding and onto the crown molding, too.

Work With What You’ve Got

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One of the challenges of decorating their small studio was using the furniture they already owned. Or as Thompson puts it, “How do we move and not buy a whole bunch of new stuff?” As it turns out, their old wood table—a $100 DIY that took up residence on their last apartment’s patio—was too large for their new pad, so they spliced it in two: Now one part is out on the terrace and the other is their main dining table inside. 

When they weren’t sure where to store Thompson’s spindle blanks for his lathe, they arranged the wood in the hearth. (Bonus: It’s decor!) And instead of buying a new sofa, their gray L-shaped IKEA one got new life thanks to an emerald Bemz slipcover. 

Yes, You Can Reno a Rental

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To make the room WFH-friendly, Anderson and Thompson added three shelves (held up by vintage brackets) and a desk next to the fireplace. In the kitchen, a pegboard displays and stores kitchen utensils. And in the bathroom, Anderson placed a piece of scrap wood on top of the bathtub to hold shampoo bottles (easiest renter hack ever), and a vintage welding curtain got new life as a shower curtain. 

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The Goods

Go-to local vintage shop: Holler & Squall for window-shopping, but Humble House is more our budget. 

Favorite local decor retailer: Bruno’s Hardware for DIYs; Whisk for kitchen supplies. We also love everything from Siren Song Curiosities, especially the marbled dinnerware and pillows. 

Favorite source for plants: James Weir, Brooklyn’s oldest florist since 1853. The Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket is a good source for fresh stems. And Pacific Aquarium for Brian’s fishbowl aquascaping needs.

Go-to online home store: @noihsaf.home has a great curated feed of resale homewares on Instagram—like a curated Craigslist. Also, A Vida Portuguesa really fits our current aesthetic. 

The most affordable thing in our home that gives us the most joy: Our new trunk/coffee table from Biltmore Trunk Mfg

The object that gets the most use: Our copper Atlas Mills pepper grinder. Or whatever giant fruit/produce bowl we’re using at the moment (by Sunlathe of course). Also our Trusco toolbox.

Our biggest splurge: Parker’s custom outdoor lathe cabinet/tiki bar by Jay Brennan Fine Woodworking in Cold Spring, New York. Our Midea U-shaped AC unit that allows us to open the window. Also our jute area rug from One Kings Lane.

This textile pattern is so us:  Cabana-striped roman blinds (made by Parker’s mom). 

Who to Know

The electrician who can do no wrong: We wired our light ourselves, but did many things wrong I’m sure.

Pristine painter: Alden did a fine job painting! 

Genius gardener: Stella’s our girl at James Weir.

Our Winter Renovation issue is here! Subscribe now to step inside Leanne Ford’s latest project—her own historic Pennsylvania home. Plus discover our new rules of reno.

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