Amanda & Justin’s Bold & Blue Brooklyn Railroad Nook

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

Name: Amanda Bullock & Justin Taylor
Location: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, New York
Size: 1.5 bedroom; 600 square feet (estimated)
Years lived in: 11 months; rented

Amanda Bullock and Justin Taylor like books. Amanda came from the book publishing world and is now the Director of Public Programming at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe; Justin is an acclaimed author and teaches creative writing at a number of universities in the city. Their apartment is an ode to their passion for reading and their intense love of Herman Melville. When I first met Justin, he was Captain Ahab for Halloween and Amanda was dressed as Moby Dick. She even jokingly refers to their décor‎ style as “warm modern, with whales.”

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

It’s a rare treat to have ample closet space in a Brooklyn rental, though rather than stuffing closets to maximum capacity the couple had an even better idea. Since they enjoy having friends over and are whiskey aficionados, they decided to take the doors off one closet and create a mini bar. Amanda’s sister Rachel, an architect and designer, helped them design and build it. This is one beautiful bar closet! Though, if asked, Rachel will tell you it’s just a prototype and still a work in progress. Despite the middle room’s lack of natural light, they chose a charcoal gray backdrop; it’s an excellent choice against the glass bottles, while creating the perfect moody atmosphere for reading on the sofa.

Amanda and Justin’s home is modern yet cozy. The first image you see upon entering their apartment is a gallery wall showcasing their love of books, travel, friends, and art. The bright blue wall color pops, and the crystal chandelier is a great touch. Bold paint colors, the DIY bar closet, and a clean yet friendly aesthetic make this place truly unique.

For more on Amanda, visit Housing Works Bookstore or follow her twitter handle @amanda_leigh. She is the Director of Public Programming at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, which means she plans parties for nerds and happily blabbers about them on the internet all day long. She is a co-founder of Jugs & Capes, in one to two other book clubs at any given time, and organizes the Moby-Dick Marathon NYC which is returning November 14-16, 2014.

Justin Taylor is the author of the novel The Gospel of Anarchy and the story collection Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever — both New York Times Editor’s Choice selections. His work has appeared in journals, magazines and websites such as The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Bookforum,, and The Oxford American. Justin has a new story collection, Flings, coming out from HarperCollins in August. Visit him at

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: We want our home to be uncluttered but personal, considered but welcoming. We like modern, but not too cold and spare. There are undeniable nautical influences throughout, though we do try to limit the whale memorabilia to one or two pieces per room. So… warm modern with whales?

Inspiration: Past lives in teeny-tiny apartments/rooms?

Favorite Element: The dining table, and really the entire dining room. Our last apartment had a very small eat-in kitchen, and cooking is something we enjoy and that we learned (and are learning) how to do together. We’re happy to be able to entertain, which just wasn’t possible with the layout of our old apartment.

Biggest Challenge: Renting in general! It’s a lovely but old building, and a lot of the decisions that have been made over the years were not ones we would have made: the windows are too thin, there’s no door on the office, the door to the bathroom is a giant window, the electrical outlets are in the strangest places and half of them aren’t operational. etc.

What Friends Say: “You have a lot of books.”

Biggest Embarrassment: The bathroom is only accessible through the bedroom.

Proudest DIY: The bar closet, of course. We moved from a much smaller apartment and were pleasantly surprised by how much storage this one has, although we didn’t have enough stuff for two closets and the above-closet storage in the living room. We turned the “extra” closet into a closet-sized bar cart, essentially. This is just the prototype version — Amanda’s sister Rachel is a talented architect and designer and is still working on the final shelving unit, which won’t have the vertical space and will feature a drawer and proper wine racks. We’ll have to do an update on the bar when it’s ready!

Biggest Indulgence: Keeping the bar closet well stocked.

Best Advice: PAINT! Yes, even if you rent! It goes such a long way to making the space feel like your own. Usually as long as you paint it back to white when you move out, the landlord won’t mind. Also, GET RID OF THINGS regularly: yes, we have lots of books, but we go through our books and clothes every month or so and donate or recycle anything we’re ready to let go of.

Dream Sources: Exotic travels and custom furniture.

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

Resources of Note:


Benjamin Moore:

  • Blue Danube (kitchen, bathroom)
  • Spirit in the Sky (entry/dining room)
  • West Coast (library/living room, office)
  • Ashland Gray (bedroom, bar closet)


  • Artwork: Poe and Verne comic by Kate Beaton via Topaco; Horn! review of Justin’s novel The Gospel of Anarchy by Kevin Thomas; Moby-Dick Penguin Illustrated Classics cover by Tony Millionaire; Dismal Nitch and Cape Disappointment posters from the state park in Washington
  • Bookshelves: IKEA Billy in walnut
  • Side table: IKEA Hemnes in gray
  • Rug: Safavieh via
  • Couch: When we moved into our old place in South Park Slope the movers made fun of for having so many books and no furniture, then mentioned they had a couch they were trying to flip. I’ve tried to Google image search it to find out where it’s from with no luck! If anyone identifies it, I’d love to know.


  • Gallery wall (clockwise from left): This American Life poster by Lilli Carre, Two Sisters print by Matt Kindt, photo of street food in Hong Kong, The National tour poster, Instagram print, whale drawing from a friend, Lilli Carre print, photo of Iceland, Lucy Knisley cheese print from Society6, large Never Ever Even illustration from a story Justin had published in Lucky Peach, a drawing of a strange bird Amanda bought at Uncommon Goods after a couple beers in Austin TX, Mark Wagner print — the original is made of actual money, and the quote is from a poem Justin wrote.
  • Artwork: The trio of illustrations between the windows is also by Never Ever Even from the Lucky Peach story (“The Happy Valley, in the current issue “Street Food”)
  • Rug: West Elm Alyson Fox Stencil Wool Rug
  • Dining table: West Elm Emerson via Craigslist
  • Metal chairs: Crate and Barrel
  • Upholstered chair: West Elm Porter Side Chair in Iron Gray
  • Chandelier: IKEA
  • Kitchen cart: Target
  • Octopus key holder: Anthropologie
  • Orange wall hooks: CB2


  • Rental! We have no idea where or why most of the kitchen is the way it is.


  • Bedding: Calvin Klein Jacaranda collection
  • Armoire, nightstand and dressers: IKEA
  • Gray baskets: Bed, Bath and Beyond
  • Lamps: IKEA
  • Hamper: Crate and Barrel
  • Jewelry tree: Anthropologie
  • Large rug: Craigslist, seller claimed his girlfriend’s mom had purchased it while stationed in Iraq
  • Small rug: Gift, from Egypt


  • Shower curtain: Threshold by Target
  • Rugs and towels: Threshold by Target


  • Large desk: West Elm Parsons via Craigslist
  • Smaller desk: Purchased from a friend, family piece
  • White desk chair: Crate and Barrel
  • White shelves: CB2 Carlson Tower
  • Rug: Craigslist, same as bedroom rug

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

Thanks, Amanda & Justin!

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