This Cozy 200-Square-Foot NYC Apartment Is Inspired by English Country Decor
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Name: Bailey Heldmar
Location: Upper West Side, New York, NY
Size: 200 square feet
Type of Home: Studio apartment
Years lived in: 1 year, renting
Bailey Heldmar decided to go on an apartment hunt when her last roommate moved in with their boyfriend, starting the search by looking for another roommate, at first. “I originally started combing through roommate apps and listings because I never dreamed I could afford to live on my own in Manhattan,” she writes. “I wasn’t thrilled by this place originally, but I loved the location and could see potential — the exposed brick wall certainly added charm. But most importantly, it was in my budget.”
“My unit is on a low floor and doesn’t get a lot of light, so I sometimes call it my ‘cave.’ I leaned into it and made a cozy, warm retreat from the hustle of NYC. There are people in my building who have lived here for over 40 years, and it’s easy to see why. I immediately felt at home when I moved in. The block is picturesque and quiet, but it’s nestled between Central Park and a lively stretch of restaurants and bars for whenever I start to feel cooped up.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: The first thing people say when they see my apartment is “cozy,” and I think that’s an accurate description of my style in general. I love the lived-in, almost cluttered look of English country decor. It’s all about making heirloom pieces function for a modern lifestyle and layering in the new treasures you collect along the way. It’s style that tells a story.
Inspiration: I grew up surrounded by people with an eye for design, so I think I picked up a knack for it by osmosis. My taste has evolved over the years, but my grandma’s house is still a big source of inspiration for me. She’s great at blending antique and modern. A lot of my furniture is handed down from her and other family members, and I’ve hauled it from Tulsa to Memphis to Philadelphia to New York. It’s fun to see how I’ve carried all of their design influences with me to so many different apartments and put my own twist on it.
I follow too many interior designers on Instagram to count, but when I’m looking for something specific, it’s so easy to get caught up in someone else’s style or whatever is trending. I usually take the “I’ll know it when I see it” approach and find things when I least expect it.
Favorite Element: My most treasured piece is a sketch my mom drew of me as a little girl. She passed away when I was in college, and it’s a really special reminder of her. I have it leaning against the wall on top of my armoire, which is in my favorite corner of the apartment. I love to sit in the chair that belonged to her grandmother and read or people-watch out the window while I eat my breakfast. My mom instilled my love of reading and was always telling me that I’d move to New York someday. I brushed her off then, but now I often think that the home I’ve created here — bursting with books — is exactly what she was picturing for me.
Biggest Challenge: Not only is my apartment very tiny, but the placement of the front door, closet, and fireplace, made it tricky to figure out a workable furniture layout. I wasn’t able to get back in to take measurements for a few weeks after I signed the lease, but the listing had an interactive floor plan that I played around with a lot. By the time I moved in, I had a pretty good idea of where everything was going to go and the exact size couch I would need to find. It was a puzzle, and the armoire got shifted around a few times, but I’m still so pleased with how well my pieces worked in the space. (RIP to a beloved coffee table that found a new home courtesy of @stoopingnyc.)
Proudest DIY: I ignored my bathroom for the first six months I lived here because I couldn’t envision what to do with such a tiny space. When I finally made the time to paint the walls and ceiling a soothing sage green color [Benjamin Moore’s “Winchester Sage“], it made a massive difference. I also covered the awful particle-board vanity with black “wood” contact paper, swapped out the knobs, and added a shelf above the toilet. It doesn’t photograph well, but I promise it’s very cute!
Biggest Indulgence: I ended up spending more than I would have liked on the couch — particularly since it’s not a forever piece. I needed such a specific size, and supply-chain issues meant that most furniture was taking months to ship. I stumbled upon this one on Pottery Barn Teen that was the exact dimensions I needed and was ready to ship. Plus, the seats have storage! The extra storage space definitely made it worth it even though it’s not exactly the style I would have chosen.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I had to rethink how I used all of my furniture. I previously used the wood cubby piece (found in my grandma’s attic!) as a bookshelf, but I knew it would be great for extra kitchen storage. The coffee table used to be my bar “cart,” and the armoire that housed linens for many years offered a clever shoe-storage solution! There’s always been a rod in it, but the piece is too narrow to hang clothes. Several of these hanging shoe organizers turned out to fit perfectly.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? This rolling storage cart and these sweater boxes have probably been the best small-space investments other than the couch. One thing that surprised me moving into a studio was how expensive it was to get settled in. You need such specific items to help you stay organized, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind I have when everything has a place.
A more fun purchase was the checkered lamp shade above my desk. I usually try to avoid trends, and checkers are certainly a big one right now, but I love how it complements my more traditional pieces with a youthful pop.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Take advantage of any time you have in the space before moving your stuff in. Clean, clean, clean. The floors were filthy, and it would have been impossible to mop once the furniture was in. I also hired a handyman to hang the long wall shelf and my pegboard the day before I moved the furniture. It made unpacking my books and pots and pans so much easier since I had a place to put them.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? The one thing I always notice in other people’s apartments is when the furniture and rugs don’t quite fit the space. People either instinctually go for small pieces that counterintuitively make the room look even smaller or crowd the space with pieces that are too big. I’m sure there are guidelines out there for how to nail the right proportions, but I do it very much based on instinct and trial-and-error.
- Burnett Storage Loveseat — PB Teen
- Antique Brass Arc Table Lamps — CB2
- Coffee Table — Family
- Rug — Etsy
- Nesting Tables — Family
- “Libra” Pillow — Jonathan Adler
- Round Dining Table (and Desk!) — West Elm (via Marketplace)
- Checker Light Fixture — Urban Outfitters
- Skadis Pegboard — IKEA
- Wood/Metal Shelf — Family
- Floral Tapestry — Anthropologie
- Bed Frame — Mustard Seed Consignment Tulsa
- Bedside Lamp — Target
- Dresser — Craigslist
- Magazine Photography Print — Etsy
- Bust Canvas Print — Chez Dede
- Framed “Le Freak C’Est Chic” Scarf — Clare V
- Mirror — Thrifted
- Armoire — Family
- Linen Copper Throw Pillows — CB2
- Quilt — Anthropologie
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity. Share Your Style: House Tour & House Call Submission Form