This Artist Has Maximized Every Inch of Her 350-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment
This Artist Has Maximized Every Inch of Her 350-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment
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Name: Clare Spooner
Location: Gramercy, New York City, New York
Size: 350 square feet
Type of Home: Studio apartment
Years lived in: 6 years, renting
Artist Clare Spooner‘s home may be tiny, but that hasn’t stopped her from filling it with an intriguing array of the things she loves. There are the layers of rugs from the her time living in the Middle East, her own art, and also a lot of budget-friendly DIY projects. She’s also had to maximize every single inch of this small apartment since it’s not just her home, it’s her painting studio, shipping area for her business, and more.
“Oh, the many facets of this little studio apartment! It has seen me through all of my years in New York City, from fresh out of college with my first real job to starting my own business,” explains Clare. “I’ve surrounded myself with everything I love, so it feels like the ultimate in luxury and comfort, despite — or perhaps because of — its petite-ness. It’s my refuge from the wild and crazy (and exhilarating) antics of NYC.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: More is more, honey.
Inspiration: An early childhood in the Middle East, before moving to Virginia, meant that I spent much time climbing on rug piles while my parents carpet shopped, and we traveled throughout Europe while going between Saudi Arabia and the States, frequenting the great European museums as we passed through. These experiences trained my eye from a young age to recognize and love beautiful things. And I remind myself to slow down and look up — this city is a feast for the eyes.
Some specifics: The way Givenchy’s couture draped Audrey Hepburn; the fuchsia sofas in Lee Radziwill’s Parisian home; the Klimts and Schieles at the Belvedere in Vienna; the beautifully laid floors at the Musée Jacquemart-Andre in Paris; the way the moonlight hits the church domes in Venice; the Chrysler building’s architecture; the storefront designs on Madison Avenue; the mountain views in the back roads of Charlottesville; the woodwork details on the townhouses in the West Village; the way tulips open in the sunlight.
Favorite Element: The carpets: wool, flat-weave kilims from my childhood in Saudi Arabia. They’re hardy, hide a multitude of sins, and are always a conversation-starter.
Biggest Challenge: Budget — but the most fun, too. When I first moved in, I was on an absolute shoestring, so I bought vintage, thrifted, and shopped my parents’ attic. I love the patina on old furniture and the way that it only gets better with age. I’ve upgraded as I’ve been able; my favorite is the loveseat, which my mother found at a church tag sale for a song. I’ve just had it properly reupholstered in this mossy green velvet that I’ve been dreaming of for ages; well worth the wait.
Proudest DIY: Decoupaging an old IKEA desk with pages from a 1989 atlas, both found in my parents’ attic. I used maps from places I’ve lived and traveled and made sure to include the ones that still note today’s Russia as the USSR (!).
Biggest Indulgence: The leopard, carved-wood armchair is a vintage piece that I bought years ago in desperate need of some serious reupholstery — springs popping through the muslin, just a mess. I kept it in storage until I could splurge on this leopard fabric that I absolutely love and had it recovered. If you look at the carving on the back, you’ll see a Green Man, which is a mythical (or is it?) creature of the forest, the spirit of the trees; I named him Godric — an old English name fits him, no? — after the protagonist of a Frederick Buechner novel.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? If you haven’t noticed yet, this space is so much more than just a place to lounge, eat, and sleep. I base my business out of here, too, which means it’s a painting studio and a pack-n-ship and an interior design studio and a picture framer and… you get the idea. To maximize work space, I move the coffee table out of the way and spread out on the floor and bed. And I wouldn’t change a thing!
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I just really love Aesop hand soap and always keep it by the sink. When I first was living in the city, I promised myself I would one day splurge on quotidian indulgences like wonderful-smelling hand soap. It’s important to keep promises, particularly to yourself.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I happen to be a bit of a packrat and am running a business from this little room. Thank heavens for the three closets, but I do have to get creative and extra organized. To begin, I take 10 minutes — on the timer — as part of my morning routine to pick up whatever disorder came from the day before: a game-changer for staying tidy.
Otherwise, lofting my bed, dorm-room style, has given me an enormous amount of under-bed storage. I’m rather petite, at 5’2”, so it also elicits lots of practical questions and jokes about needing a running start to get in bed (not true, for the record).
I’m also a big fan of baskets and attractive storage pieces to hide things in plain sight. I take advantage of every inch of this apartment: the steamer-trunk-turned-coffee-table holds spare linens; stacks of picture frames go under the vanity; enough drawing pads to open a small art supply store are behind the sofa. And when entertaining [before the pandemic] and really in a pinch for more space, I load up the bathtub with anything extra and cover with the shower curtain!
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Buy what you love—cliché, perhaps, but true because everything will work together in that way. And educate, educate, educate. I read a lot and follow many designers and tastemakers, past and present, and am always learning more about what makes good design. Then I take what I’ve learned and go vintage shopping! I snag almost all of my finds in person so I can really see the quality and lines and feel a connection with the pieces: The story and soul of the thing is important to me. I always carry a mini tape measure and have any dimensions for items I’m looking for in my phone’s notes in case I unexpectedly stumble upon something fantastic and can then make a quick decision if needed. And the inverse: if I’m going to splurge on something, I sleep on it!
- Green chest — Vintage, painted by yours truly and switched out the knobs with blue and white ones from TJ Maxx (similar on Etsy)
- Accessories and art — Thrifted
- Sofa — thrifted, recovered in Schumacher mossy velvet with Samuel and Sons contrast piping and tape
- Throw pillows — Design on a Dime (2015)
- Rugs — Desert Designs (in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, circa 1995); they are flatweave Kilim rugs that should be readily available on Chairish or from a Middle Eastern rug dealer
- Steamer trunk — Family attic from my great-great-grandmother (similar at Chairish)
- Red bentwood chair — Family attic (similar on Etsy, spray painted many times (this is Ace Hardware Banner Red)
- Green ceramic bowl — Handmade by my dear friend Lindsay Colby
- Green Man “Godric” chair — Vintage from Class and Trash outside of Richmond, Virginia and reupholstered in Schumacher leopard (here) with Samuel and Sons grosgrain ribbon
- Pink itty bitty lumbar pillow on Godric chair — Custom from a tiny bit of fuchsia silk from NYC’s Garment District
- White etagere — IKEA
- Mannequin head, named Zelda — Vintage, bought at a closing sale in Fort Greene and dressed for the seasons
- Black and white standing lamp — Kate Spade x West Elm (no longer made)
- Crystal lamp on red bentwood chair — Vintage with IKEA shade
- Map desk — Old IKEA desk, found in family attic, and recovered by yours truly with the pages of a 1989 atlas
- White bench — Craigslist find, covered in an IKEA sheepskin
- Shoe ladder — Made by my father (!) from the wood that made up the crates our belongings were shipped in when we moved back from Saudi Arabia
- Artwork — From travels or by my grandparents or me, framed in thrifted or IKEA frames
- Fiddle leaf fig trees (shh—they’re faux!) — Pottery Barn
- Fig tree basket — World Market
- Vanity dresser — Vintage
- Milk glass lamp on vanity — Vintage with an IKEA lampshade that I covered in a Miles Redd x Schumacher wallpaper
- Bed frame — Vintage (found in a friend’s garage, stripped it of its paint, and refinished)
- Bedding — Ralph Lauren (at TJ Maxx, a great source for good, inexpensive bedding)
- Coverlet — HomeGoods
- Rusty red-orange foot blanket — From my grandmother’s 1976 trip to Greece
- Lumbar pillow on bed — Custom in Lee Jofa fabric
- Curtains — Made by my mother from IKEA fabric (this colorway is no longer made but IKEA has great, inexpensive fabrics) and tied on with grosgrain ribbon from Samuel and Sons
- Bed skirt — Made by me from a painter’s drop cloth and these great giant pom-poms from Samuel and Sons
- Artwork — Nicolas Sanchez drawing in an IKEA frame spray-painted red
- Easel — Mabef
- Yellow rolling cabinet — IKEA via Craigslist (no longer made)
- Vases — TJ Maxx
- Artwork — My own (aside from some inspiration pieces I have tacked up)
- All accessories are vintage/thrifted
- Books — Mostly from the Strand
- Flowers are a mix of the local bodega and the Union Square farmer’s market
This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.
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