A 520-Square-Foot NYC Studio’s Secret Is Flexible Furniture and Drop-Dead Gorgeous Architectural Details

published Nov 1, 2022

A 520-Square-Foot NYC Studio’s Secret Is Flexible Furniture and Drop-Dead Gorgeous Architectural Details

published Nov 1, 2022
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Name: Jessica Rachel Williams
Location: Upper West Side — New York, New York
Size: 520 square feet
Type of Home: Studio Apartment in a Brownstone
Years Lived In: 5 years, renting

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The first thing about this 520-square-foot studio apartment in a brownstone on New York City’s Upper West Side that intrigued Jessica Rachel Williams was a large, picturesque unique window facing the building’s back courtyard. Five years ago, Jessica’s plans to remain in New York City hinged on whether she’d be able to find an “incredible” apartment within budget. On her final apartment search, she applied for — and got — this studio apartment that had been listed that day.

“I love that it’s an original brownstone built in 1885 and that I’m steps away from Central Park,” exclaims Jessica of the rental, which is actually what was known as the brownstone’s “parlor” room.

Credit: Erin Derby

The apartment’s ties to history doesn’t stop at its former parlor days, though. Jessica says the bathroom was likely a former kitchen due to the presence of a dumbwaiter and a fireplace. And the entire home is full of historic architectural details, from the original herringbone wood floors, original dog-bone tiles in the bathroom, mirrored cabinet in the kitchen, gorgeous crown moldings on the walls, and the high ceilings, which Jessica says make the studio feel spacious. And of course, there’s the window that first caught Jessica’s eye.

“The oversized window overlooks the back courtyard, which reminds me of my childhood in France. Its curved window panes are repeated throughout the apartment in the form of French doors in the kitchen and these same arches frame the mirrored door to the bathroom,” Jessica explains. “The entire brownstone is immaculately maintained. You can feel the landlord’s love and care for her property, even from the outside.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Intentional. Personal. Organic. The thread that ties everything together is my love of each thing. This is why I encourage people to not be afraid to mix styles. Sustainable — most of my furniture pieces are repurposed.

Inspiration: Nature is my primary muse. I love biomorphic shapes. Textures. Unexpected pops of color. Global artisanry. Timeless design.

Credit: Erin Derby

Favorite Element: The window overlooking the courtyard. The unexpected way it opens reminds me of origami. Top arch folds in, center window open out.

Biggest Challenge: Having a studio apartment, where practically everything takes place in one room. I overcame it by making my kitchen welcoming as a room and creating a lounge feel in my bathroom. I also focused on pieces that can be interchangeable, so I can easily switch layouts. I have had iterations with my bed against the window, with my couch in front of the fireplace, and so on. I love to take pictures and create art, so having a space to move and to create is paramount.

Credit: Erin Derby

Proudest DIY: Redesigning the studio during the pandemic. I had a vision to transform the studio by painting the walls black. I had to hire experts who carefully hand painted around the moldings. Since the kitchen, I’ve redone the light fixture twice and most recently the floors.

Credit: Erin Derby

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Photo studio, art studio, the bathroom closet is for coat and shoe storage, the kitchen for clothing and shoe storage, and the dumb-boy waiter in the bathroom is for toiletry and luggage storage.

Credit: Erin Derby

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Declutter! If you don’t use it, give it away. Don’t even waste time on sites trying to sell items if they don’t hold much value. The time you will waste doesn’t come close to the joy you can give someone by scoring a free find! That energy always comes back, so it’s not leaving you lacking.

Buy items that you can easily move around! Having a “mobile” concept creates a canvas for variety in the home. That jumbo plush extra large couch? Maybe rethink that if you have a smaller space. You won’t always want to be in that same spot within that space. A modular set up has been key to my many interactions in a studio.

Credit: Erin Derby

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Home is a reflection of you. It’s normal for your taste and needs to evolve. Take inventory of anything that doesn’t serve or bring you joy and be open to giving it away.

Focus on what you want to feel when you come home, and work from there. It’s never too late to reinvent or create a new vibe.


Credit: Erin Derby


  • ‘Calder-like” lamps on mantel — West Elm
  • Cotton Velvet curtains in blush (over front door) — West Elm
  • Floor mirrors — CB2
  • Floor lamp — CB2
  • Marble table lamp — CB2
  • Marble side tables (grey pentagon and white triangle) — CB2
  • Room divider bookshelf — CB2
  • Blue couch — CB2
  • Custom pillows on couch — Etsy
  • Burlwood highboy dresser — Etsy
  • ’80s Coffee table — Etsy
  • ’80s marble credenza — Etsy
  • Henry Bertoia Diamond Lounge Chair
  • Spiral bookshelf — Design Within Reach
  • Grey cowhide — Cowhides International and
  • Marble pedestals — Astoria Furniture Market (Now closed)
  • Speaker — La Boite x Native Union
  • Serif TV — Samsung
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Platform mango wood bed frame — Wayfair
  • Radio headboard — Etsy
  • Bed canopy — Etsy
  • Storage bags under by bed — Container Store
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Bathroom Mirror on Marble Stand — CB2
  • bathroom curtain — Etsy
  • Calfskins in bathroom — Cowhides International
  • Swivel full-body mirror in bathroom — Astoria Furniture Market (Now closed)
  • Mirrored Shelving unit in bathroom — Astoria Furniture Market (Now closed)
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Art Cart in kitchen Jerry’s Artarama
  • black cowhide — Cowhides International
  • Floor mirrors — CB2

Thanks Jessica!

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