A Couple’s 450-Square-Foot NYC Rental Boasts Brilliant Budget Book Storage Solutions
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“We moved into this apartment during the pandemic, since we got a great deal on rent and needed a little more space because we were both working from home at the time,” Brendan begins. Though very small, the apartment actually sports two tiny bedrooms, one of which they transformed into an office they affectionately call the “library.”
“Our combined interests of art and books are clearly reflected in our home,” he continues. “I am also a ceramic artist working out of a community studio in Brooklyn (BKLYN Clay). Kiersten is a teacher but also has a voracious reader and has her own ‘bookstagram‘ (she reads over 200 books a year). I installed multiple bookshelves throughout the space to house our large book collection as well as the extensive collection of ceramics and other objects. We also love collecting artwork from our travels and I have done some art exchanges with friends which helps us diversify the stuff we have on the walls. We wanted our home to be colorful, and the mixture of books and art really adds to the vibrancy of the apartment!”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Practical Eclectic Modern
Inspiration: We’re inspired by so much! I am a big fan of Italian Modern design (Osvaldo Borsani, Ernesto Gismondi, and Enzo Mari) as well as Noguchi and contemporary interior designers such as Billy Cotton (who I used to work for) and Neal Beckstedt.
Favorite Element: My favorite element is definitely the library. The light that comes in through the large east-facing windows is wonderful, and it’s the perfect room for both of us to hang out and read, or cuddle with Lottie. We have most of our houseplants in that room too, which gives it a very lively feeling. I also love watching the bluejays and mourning doves through the window when they stop by.
Biggest Challenge: I think the biggest challenge for us was deciding where to put the couch. We wanted to keep the second bedroom as a library/home office, so we had to figure out how the couch could fit in the main living space. The kitchen opens into the small living space, so we wanted to utilize the room in the most efficient way. We ended up going on Craigslist and finding a Metro Shelving unit on wheels with a wooden top that we used as a kitchen island to add more counter space. We put our sofa directly in front of it which separated the kitchen and living room while also allowing us to use the TV while we meal prep for the week!
Proudest DIY: I built the daybed in our library from two IKEA kitchen cabinets and a cushion from Urban Outfitters. It not only provides extra seating to the room, but also adds lots of storage underneath. I also made the “farmhouse modern” crate for Lottie that also doubles as a great side table.
Budget: I think overall we tried to keep everything fairly low budget by either buying used furniture, searching Craigslist, or DIY-ing projects. We ended up getting a new IKEA couch (because the custom West Elm sofa we ordered wouldn’t fit through the door of our last apartment) but pretty much everything else was bought second hand.
Some of my favorite deals are my mid-century modern desk that I bought for $25 on Craigslist and the rustic bench that we rescued from the sidewalk before a rainstorm. Our budget for the bookshelves was pretty low as well. I think the bookshelves in the library cost us less than $200 in materials (it is just pine boards from Home Depot, and adjustable wall brackets from Knape & Vogt).
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Something unique is that we turned the second bedroom into the library/home office. It was sort of a bonus room for us, so we wanted to make it as cozy as possible by adding the lounge chair and daybed.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: It’s important to have a place for everything so the space doesn’t feel cluttered. I recommend using statement pieces of furniture that also double as storage (such as our daybed, credenza, and kitchen island). Moveable furniture is also very handy! We have a postmodern tray on wheels that we use as a coffee table, but can store it away when not in use. Our kitchen island also covers up our dishwasher and we just move it out of the way when we need to fill or empty it. Also, use wall art to cover up any unsightly features on the wall (we covered up our breaker box with a watercolor from Kiersten’s cousin).
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Don’t be afraid of shelves! In a small space, shelves are a great way to add tons of storage without taking up floor space. They also can add color and brighten up the space a lot.
- French Foldable Sewing Table — eBay
- Vintage Magnus Olesen Series 8000 Stacking Chairs — Amsterdam Modern
- Metro Shelving Kitchen Island — Craigslist
Thanks Brendan and Kiersten!
This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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