A 400-Square-Foot Brooklyn Studio Fits a Ton of Color in a Small Space

updated Jan 26, 2021

A 400-Square-Foot Brooklyn Studio Fits a Ton of Color in a Small Space

updated Jan 26, 2021
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Name: Esi Agbemenu and her dog, Turkey
Location: Downtown Brooklyn
Size: 400-ish square feet
Years Lived In: 2.5 years, renting

“I’ve moved around a lot in New York—five times in three years to be exact—and when you move that often, the design of your home becomes less about aesthetic and more about function and what’s easiest to pack up and carry to the next place,” explains lawyer Esi Agbemenu. “The dream was to eventually find a place where I’d stay… maybe even renew a lease for once. I finally found that here in Downtown Brooklyn (comical given how many completely foolish years I spent insisting I’d never leave Manhattan). And once I found a space worth staying in, I was able to create a home that reflected me—no choosing furniture just because it was foldable for a future move, or buying bland decor in the hopes it would be inoffensive to roommates—just a space that is representative of me.”

Credit: Andrew Bui

“I work a lot (a lot) and so coming home has to feel special, like I’m walking into an Esi-specific sanctuary,” she writes. “For me that’s bold colors and fun patterns and more pillows than any one person needs. I also love to entertain. Having groups of people over for unnecessarily extravagant brunches or annual Canadian Thanksgiving dinners is essential—and that’s hard to accommodate when your entire apartment is one small rectangle. But I’ve managed to make it work. At the end of the day, my apartment is exactly what I wanted it to be—a space for me by me (with some help).”

Credit: Andrew Bui

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I’m drawn to fun, bold colors, big patterns, and glam accents. I like when someone’s aesthetic, whether it’s decor or clothes, etc., tells you something about them. Even if it’s a style not everyone loves, I think it’s more fun to have a point of view with your aesthetic.

Inspiration: Lots of random Instagram accounts. A lot of my apartment design was centered around pieces of art I love. I also often love the design of clothing boutiques, so I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from there as well.

Credit: Andrew Bui

Favorite Element: Probably the couch. I’d seen a similar (and much more expensive) one years ago and screenshot it hoping I’d one day have a couch like that. By the time I was ready to buy a couch, it was long gone, but I found this one instead after some A+ bargain hunting and it’s perfect. I love the living room space, and the couch does a lot of the heavy lifting in bringing that area together. Plus it’s super comfy, and Turkey loves it.

Biggest Challenge: It’s hard creating enough space to have people over in a small studio, but I’ve managed to cram a lot of seating in—between the couch, the ottomans, and the chairs there’s seating for eight. I also had a really hard time choosing the finishing touches for my apartment (paint color, some of the wall art, etc.). I used a designer from Havenly (Sierra Glasgow; @uniquehomedecorbysierra on Instagram) to help me pick those final elements and that brought the room together. 

Credit: Andrew Bui

Proudest DIY: It’s barely even a DIY, but I’m really proud of my shoe wall in the grand foyer (aka the entranceway that takes all of one second to walk through). I spray-painted the brackets and then had someone help me install the shelves. Which, given I had help, is more DIY-able than true DIY, but I think it counts.

Biggest Indulgence: The pillows. Both because I bought some really nice pillows, and also just due to the sheer quantity of pillows in my apartment.

Credit: Andrew Bui

Best Advice: Don’t worry too much about what a cohesive aesthetic “should” be. Just put things in your home that you’re really excited about and a cohesive aesthetic will naturally spring from that. Also, there’s no rush to make the perfect home and it doesn’t need to cost a ton of money. The homes we look at and love were usually built over many years, so just take your time and everything will come together.

What’s your best home secret? Wait for things to come on sale. It’s not a secret; it’s just a very good idea.


Credit: Andrew Bui


  • PPG Interior Paint in Night Watch (Living Room)
  • Behr Interior Paint in Vintage Grape (Bedroom)


  • Shelves and brackets – IKEA; IKEA
  • Coat hooks – ETSY
  • Vase – Second-hand from a friend
  • Art – Society6
Credit: Andrew Bui


Credit: Andrew Bui


Credit: Andrew Bui


Credit: Andrew Bui


  • Desk – Overstock
  • Chair – Second-hand from a friend
  • Lamp – Target

Thanks Esi!