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A second opinion is always helpful when going to an apartment open house. So on a sunny morning in November 2022, I had a trusted friend meet me in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood to check out a studio I had spotted on StreetEasy the night before. We stepped into the 235-square-foot box (it’s 13.5-by-17.5 feet, to be exact), and she immediately said, “I don’t think I could ever live here, but you definitely could.” I took it as a compliment. 

Paint, Farrow & Ball; Custom Window Treatments, Wovn Home; Pillows, BR Home; Quilt, Toast; Duvet Set, Bed Threads; Lamp, Artemide; Print, 1stDibs.

Because what I knew she really meant was, you’re the style editor at two design magazines, you got this. Ignoring the size for a second, I started to see all the perks that most New Yorkers come to value: The rent was great, it had two large south-facing windows, and there was somehow even a dishwasher. The pros outweighed the cons, and the next thing I knew I was picking up my keys and mood boarding smart storage ideas.

My previous apartment, a spacious Williamsburg, Brooklyn, loft that I shared with two roommates, would have looked good with a haystack as a sofa; it had great bones. But there was nothing architecturally inspiring about my new studio. I had to create the beauty from scratch. My first task: paint it anything but white. Just before moving day, I drenched the walls—and anything that touched them, like my IKEA Ivar cabinets and simple Home Depot shelves—in Skylight by Farrow & Ball. My thinking was, if everything matched, my not-so-cute storage essentials would look less big box and a tad more like custom built-ins. And because the landlord said I could paint the walls magenta for all he cared as long as they were primed when I moved out, I had nothing to hold me back. Fast-forward 48 hours (leaving enough drying time is key to any successful paint project), and the space had a point of view before I carried the first box inside. 

Sofa, Sixpenny; Shelving, Home Depot; Desk, Horseman Antiques; Chair, Fritz Hansen; Vintage Lamp.

There was only one furniture layout I considered after consulting my best friend, Paris Fabrikant, who is conveniently studying interior design at Pratt Institute and is a pro with AutoCAD. As if decorating a hotel room (because, let’s be honest, that’s the size I’m working with), we decided to position my Malm storage bed in the center of the back wall facing the front door rather than nestled in the corner; that way, I wouldn’t be sleeping right next to the kitchen. While it might have seemed space savvy to shove the sofa up against the foot of the mattress, I wanted to have a pathway for walking to and from the kitchen and bathroom, so we left about a foot and a half in between the two pieces. Because I work from home most days, a desk was nonnegotiable. I found a narrow glass one at Horseman Antiques in Brooklyn, and I love that the see-through top creates the illusion of more space. 

In such tight quarters, it doesn’t only matter where the furniture goes but also what it looks like. I wanted to feel an overall sense of calm when walking in the door, so I kept the core pieces in the same cool, muted color family. I spent zero time looking for a sofa, because the Gabriel from Sixpenny was a true love-at-first-sight tale. (I initially spotted it when styling Jen Levy’s Baltimore home.) It perfectly blends my two styles: The slipcover gives it a relaxed cottage look, but the angular frame is clean and minimal. It’s also the perfect size, at 72 inches long and 31 inches deep once you remove the back cushions, which makes it comfortable for guests to sleep on. Having owned it for a year and a half now, I’m yet to see a sofa I’ve liked more.  

Hamper, Rejuvenation.

Achieving a striking focal point has never been the goal, because, frankly, this little room can’t handle it. I’ve found that just adding one patterned throw pillow to the sofa can disrupt the entire apartment (I promise I’m not being dramatic!), so I try to keep things simple and cohesive. With that said, when my duvet perfectly matched the color of my walls at first, I realized I may have taken the whole neutral thing a little too far. So I started experimenting with a more textured, dynamic bedding option. I landed on a quilt from Toast (this one is similar), and while it was a splurge, it demands just the right amount of attention. 

Armoire, Dobbin St. Vintage Co-op; Vintage Lamp, IKEA; Mirror, Horseman Antiques.
Vintage Nightstand.

Art is where I really like to mix and match. Pieces big, small, rectangular, and round frame my TV in an asymmetric manner. Each one reminds me of a different place, like the Christo and Jeanne-Claude print I picked up at Yvon Lambert in Paris, the fish-eye mirror from Maple Lawn in upstate New York, and the vintage yoke from Lichen in Brooklyn.

Cabinets, IKEA; Orb Lamp, IKEA; Small Accent Lamp, Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort & Co.; Print, Yvon Lambert.

I also have no shortage of vases, bowls, and books—it comes with the territory of being a style editor. Before heading off to a photo shoot, I often pull objects from my own collection. While I stash things such as cords and cloth napkins inside the freshly painted Ivar cabinets, items I actually enjoy looking at, like a terracotta bust I found at the Santa Monica Airport Flea Market and a framed New York Magazine cover that stars my former roommates’ dog, live on the shelves above my desk. 

The small-space challenge I’ve yet to overcome? Cooking and entertaining, something I loved to do in my previous apartments. While I’ve had up to four people over for dinner, it’s not exactly glamorous. We sit around the coffee table, a Danish mid-century piece I scored at Brimfield after six months of searching for the perfect thing, but usually end up laying across my bed by the end of the night. Sure, having a proper dining table would be nice, but until then, I’ll be making the most of shoebox life.

Rug, Armadillo.