An Upper East Sider’s 400-Square-Foot Apartment Is Crisp and Clean in a Neutral Palette

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A tan couch next to a white round coffee table
Credit: Haley Poling
A shot of my couch that pulls out into a sofa bed and has extra storage.

Name: Hayley Brown
Location: Upper East Side — New York, New York
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 400 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, renting

Credit: Haley Poling

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: This apartment came at an interesting time in my life. I had just gotten out of a serious relationship and had to move out of his apartment; I was starting over. I am still not sure how I landed this place. It was during the summer of 2022 where demand was high and availability was very low! I’d like to think it was the universe helping me out a bit.

Credit: Haley Poling
My bedroom with floating nightstands from Nathan James.

It was a new chapter, and I wanted the space to really mirror that and feel like my home. It was also the first time in years without a roommate, so I was excited to create a space that was just for ME!

I think my identity is reflected in this apartment. You might even say this space is a metaphor for this fresh start I had to dive into. I loved the idea of neutral color palette and the apartment already had great natural light, tall ceilings, and bright white painted brick. I wanted it to feel new and fresh and clean.

Credit: Haley Poling
My bar cart with vintage martini glasses that a friend gifted me-I will cherish them forever.

I didn’t have any furniture, so I opted for pieces that were beige, white, and brown and made sure everything had extra storage. (It is key to have smart storage in NYC!) I added in a gold bar cart and some black accents for color variation, but everything really stayed within those neutral shades.

For decorative items, I wanted to keep things simple! Neutral-colored vases, candles, beautiful glassware for the bar cart. The first fun decorative, but useful, item I bought for my apartment was a record player — which is now accompanied by a fun little collection of records I adore. I also incorporated items that I had collected in my life and from my travels.

Credit: Haley Poling
My TV console featuring extra storage space and my record player.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: A calm, cozy, crisp hideaway

Credit: Haley Poling

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room is the living/dining room. I needed this space to serve three purposes: A place to work from home, a place to lounge and relax, and a place to host. During the day, the white brick and natural light really make the space feel big and bright. In the evenings, I can use the dimmable recessed lighting to create a more elevated vibe for entertaining. This really is the focus of the apartment and where I spend 90 percent of my time!

Credit: Haley Poling
My dining area with framed images of my favorite places and battery operated gallery lights.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? One of the finishing touches I purchased for my apartment were battery-operated gallery lights. I used these to enhance the artwork I hung behind the dining table and to add additional dimmable lighting to the space. When you’re renting, you must get creative because you can’t make that many modifications to the lighting, wiring, etc. These were easy to install and have a remote to quickly turn the lights on and off. I have already had a few friends purchase these and everyone loves them!

Credit: Haley Poling
An embroidered picture of my first puppy, Lily, who I miss everyday. And a framed tapestry from a trip to Panama.

Any advice for creating a home you love? I think anytime you can incorporate items that are important to you in your decorating process, it adds an emotional element to your space. They are also great talking points for when you’re hosting. Some of the personal things I added to my space were photographs I took of some of my favorite places, framed pages from my favorite book, a tapestry I picked up in Panama, an embroidered piece of canvas featuring my first puppy. And while I shopped around for many decorative items, the ones that hold meaning feel very special.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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