A Compact Apartment Shows How to Design a Serene, Minimal, Scandi-Inspired Space

A Compact Apartment Shows How to Design a Serene, Minimal, Scandi-Inspired Space

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Name: Leslie Stephens and Jonah Ollman and one cat, named Meesh (which means “cat” in the native q’eqchi language of Guatemala)
Location: West Hollywood, California
Size: 900 square feet
Years Lived In: 2 months, renting

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My fiancé Jonah and I moved to our current apartment for the most boring reason possible: to be closer to work. The hour-long commute from our previous home in Echo Park to our West Hollywood offices was soul-sucking (no matter the strength of our podcast queue), so we moved to an apartment that’s ten minutes away, even in rush hour.

I’m a homebody but also an extrovert (not an ideal combination), so we’re lucky if we find ourselves at home two or three nights a week. And even then, our friends are always welcome over—I often find myself entertaining in sweatpants. I have an extensive cookbook collection from when I worked as a food editor, so Jonah and I cook feasts in our small galley kitchen that’s really intended for one cook. There’s no place in the world I’d rather be than in our kitchen or, better yet, sitting in my reading chair with a glass of wine listening to Jonah cook in the next room.

When I bought four Sonos speakers for our previous apartment, which was just 500 square feet (yes, that’s almost one speaker per hundred square feet—but in my defense, there were as many rooms), Jonah thought I was insane. But music is synonymous with being home, for me. I light a candle and turn on music the minute I walk in the door. I rotate between playing jazz (I love the Spotify playlist ‘Coffee Table Jazz’), Paul Simon, and The Beatles, and right now I love the DS and Durga candle, ‘Portable Fireplace.’

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My fiancé Jonah and I have lived together our entire adult lives, so our style has evolved enormously from the single room we once shared in New York. But the overall strategy, has remained: Every single piece of art in our home has a personal significance, whether tied to a person, place, or meal we’ve loved. The photographs in our living room were taken by Jonah’s dad, Arthur Ollman, the masks in our living room and lace in our hallway are from my mom’s hometown in Guatemala, and the framed art in our kitchen are menus from meals we’ve loved, including a business card from our favorite restaurant in New York, Prune. But I’m not a collector—anything worth keeping is framed or put on display, and the rest is recycled or donated. I’m a nostalgic minimalist!

Inspiration: Jonah and I are both from California, but we met while studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m definitely drawn to the unique balance Danes strike between minimal and cozy, which is perfect because my ideal living situation would be a pillow fort, with books weighing down the corners.

Favorite Element: The stairs, the mantel, and the 1920s quirks, like the decorative molding that frames our kitchen and the casement windows!  

Biggest Challenge: Managing our cat’s hair! She sheds like crazy, which results in cat-sized tumbleweeds on our living room floor, but Jonah’s mom bought us the most genius housewarming gift: a Dyson Handheld Vacuum. The fact that it’s light and cordless means it’s easy to use daily. It’s been a game-changer. There’s also no storage in our bathroom, but it just encourages us (okay, me) to simplify my routine.

Proudest DIY: The closest I’ve ever gotten to a DIY is the bench I created for our kitchen nook. I created it by pushing together two children’s room benches from IKEA, then custom cutting foam to fit them, and enlisting the help of a friend in upholstering it.

Biggest Indulgence: My Lulu and Georgia reading chair, especially considering we didn’t “need” it, like we need a bed or a couch. But it’s amazing how a piece of furniture can completely change your habits. It’s the most comfortable chair and it elicits a Pavlovian response: As soon as I sit in it, I want to be reading a book. I’ve already finished several in it since getting it last month!

Best Advice: I once read a caption by Whitney Leigh Morris of Tiny Canal Cottage, who lives in a sub-400-square-foot cottage in Venice with her husband and their son. Under a photo of an unbelievably tidy living room, she wrote something along the lines of, “This is as messy as our apartment gets, because we don’t have that many things to make a mess with! “It was an ah-ha moment for me. When we moved from New York to Los Angeles three years ago, I donated so many boxes of things I thought I needed, but I can’t even remember what was in them.  These days, I’m much more intentional about what I bring into my home and thoughtfully parting with items I don’t need.

What’s your best home secret? Touch things once. Don’t pick something up just to put it down somewhere else—address messes and matters the moment you notice them and you’ll never end up with piles of mail, unwashed dishes, or cat hair tumbleweeds 😉



  • Mirror – Urban Outfitters
  • Coat Rack – Urban Outfitters
  • Japanese Woven Basket – The Good Liver in DTLA
  • Leather Magazine Rack — Anthropologie
  • Console — Cost Plus World Market Console
  • Lamp — IKEA Lamp
  • Dog Door Stopper — Vintage
  • Speaker — Sonos Speaker
  • Prints of California (Left) and Iceland (Right) — Vintage framed by Framed and Matted


  • Couch — West Elm Couch
  • Brass Coffee Table — Target
  • Reading Chair — Lulu and Georgia ‘Roz’ Chair
  • Dining Chairs — Vintage
  • Round Poufs — IKEA
  • Photographs Above Bar Cart — Photos by Arthur Ollman, framed by Framed and Matted
  • Bar Cart — Target
  • Throw Blanket — Lulu and Georgia
  • Throw Pillows — Suay Sew Shop Pillows
  • Lamp — IKEA Lamp
  • Masks — Vintage from Guatemala
  • Dog Bowl — Vintage
  • Art in Gold Frame — Heirloom
  • Glass Pitcher Vase — Food52
  • Curtains and Rods — IKEA


  • Tulip Table — Amazon
  • Faux Sheepskin — IKEA
  • Wicker Chair — Anthropologie
  • Clear Plastic Chair — IKEA
  • Benches — IKEA
  • Pillows — Katie Hodges
  • Fruit Bowl — Year & Day
  • Frames — Collected menus, framed by Framed and Matted





Thanks Leslie and Jonah!

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