Name: Sarah & David
Location: Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York
Size: 1 bedroom + outdoor patio
Years lived in: 10 months; rented
Sarah and David's apartment is the perfect example of a great tenant/landlord relationship. Their apartment had great bones to begin with, with exposed brick, a beautiful chandelier, and lots of lovely traditional moldings that provide a nice contrast to the soon-to-be married pair's modern taste. In addition to that, their landlord refinished the floors and added a brand-new kitchen. And if that weren't wonderful enough, there's even a private patio, which the couple has tiled with wood patio flooring from IKEA (see last photo for a summer pic). In short, this place is every apartment dweller's dream.
Sarah is a therapist and David is a lawyer for non-profit. While their jobs require a more serious side, the couple has a fun and quirky sense of humor (evidence: David's framed NYS driver's license collection where he grows his hair out and makes silly faces), and they're also very gracious hosts (homemade chocolate cookies + espresso drinks).
Many items in their home were given to them by friends or family, including David's own mother's framed photography. Sarah makes David handmade greeting cards, which he has lovingly framed in a clear acrylic card holder that sits on the fireplace. Sarah even drew a picture of their new combined Brooklyn space after they closed the deal on this rental (see drawing in photo #25, so cute!) For the remaining pieces that weren't given to them by family, they have scoured nearby Brooklyn Flea (right down the block) for excellent vintage deals. David recently scored his glass Room & Board work desk off Craigslist for just a fraction of the original cost. Sarah and David make thrifted furniture look rich and beautiful.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: "Modern Hunter Gatherer."
We had a hard time with this one— negotiated classic? eclectic Brooklyn? modern Flea? We finally agreed that it's a mishmash of things that we found and like (and things David reluctantly agreed to, like the fur blanket in the living room). We moved from two very different apartments, one in Carroll Gardens and one on the Upper West Side, and we sold off or threw out most all of our old furniture. Building a home together and merging our two tastes was fun, but a lot of work as well. We were very fortunate in that our landlord takes wonderful care of her buildings and meticulously renovated our apartment before we moved in, including redoing the floors and walls and renovating the kitchen from top to bottom. We are very lucky — not many NYC landlords take such care with their property.
Inspiration: The building itself is so beautiful — we did everything based on what we thought would look good in the space. And we were inspired by the Brooklyn Flea; we live nearby, and we went there just about every weekend in the spring to wander around and pick up furniture, odds and ends, Blue Marble ice cream, etc...
Favorite Element: Both of us love the patio. It is such a treat to have outdoor space in the city, and ours is elevated and feels totally private — like a treehouse. We spent our summer out there, and David became addicted to wood decking that snaps into place like Lego. Other than that, David’s favorite thing in the apartment is the bathroom — it’s huge, has a nice tub and is pink, blue and crazy — and Sarah loves the elegant fireplace in the living room.
Biggest Challenge: Besides agreeing to furnish the apartment from scratch, our biggest challenge without a doubt was the picture rail. Because our walls are thick and stone, we can’t nail anything into them. Our landlord installed a picture rail for us, which was great, but proved a tremendous challenge for our physics-challenged eyes and hands. Hanging art is hard enough, but working with the picture rail was, for us, the home decor version of climbing K2. And not being the types to make things easy, we decided early on to create a gallery wall, with a mixture of art from our previous lives and David’s mother. We love the way it turned out, but picture hanging + fishing line + high ceilings + unskilled labor (Sarah) is not a recipe for easy weekends.
What Friends Say: We had a party a month after we moved in and our friends said it was a perfect Brooklyn apartment (and were impressed that we were so unpacked). And everyone is a big fan of the bathroom.
Biggest Embarrassment: We have divided up plant care — David waters the outside plants and Sarah waters the inside plants. The outside plants were thriving all spring, summer and fall. The inside plants are always just on the verge of dying. It may be time to re-think this one.
Proudest DIY: We repurposed some old furniture from our previous apartments with a little bit of paint. The bookcases in the dining area are perfect, but they are just those collapsible bookcases that everyone has in college, painted white this time. The high round bookcase in the corner has followed me through three apartments — Sarah found it in an apartment on the LES in 2005, and has painted it three times.
Biggest Indulgence: Our patio is covered in tar paper, which is messy and feels awful on your feet. We found outdoor wood-ish tiles at IKEA and thought we’d get a few to make it nicer out there; we ended up covering most of the ground. Expensive, but totally worth it. It’s so nice to walk on them, and we don’t track in dirt and rocks anymore.
Best Advice: It takes two to hang a picture. Especially when it’s from a picture rail. Also, when you need to shop, IKEA is like a ghost town on Friday nights, and patient hunting on Craigslist often leads to bagging that expensive piece of furniture you really want (a great glass desk or a regal chair) but can’t afford or otherwise wouldn’t buy. Finally, decorating, like so many things, is not an art but a science — of negotiation.
Dream Sources: The Brooklyn Flea has served us very well. Items of Interest, a store in Park Slope, has beautiful stuff.
Resources of Note:
Letter H - Brooklyn Flea
Bookshelves - Ikea
Coffee table - Brooklyn Flea
Couch - Crate & Barrel
Fur throw - Restoration Hardware
Plastic roller table- CB2 / Apartment Therapy classifieds
TV cart - West Elm
Glass desk- Room & Board / Craigslist
Desk chair (upholstered) - Brooklyn Flea
Gray end chair - Craigslist / CB2
White end chair - CB2
Dining table - Restoration Hardware
Corner bookshelf - found in old apartment
Outfit on chacha (Georgian grape vodka) bottle - Republic of Georgia
- Dishtowel - ABC Carpet
- Music stand- store going out of business on Smith Street selling it’s fixtures, we picked it up to use as a cookbook stand
- Collage of KitchenAid - Sarah’s mom
Bedside tables - Brooklyn Flea
Table with plants - Brooklyn Flea
White dresser - Craigslist
Wardrobe - Ikea
Brown dresser - flea market in Georgetown, Texas
Linen cabinet - Ikea
Ducks - dad’s duck collection
Thanks, Sarah & David!
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(Image credits: Andrea Sparacio; Sarah & David)