A 525-Square-Foot Brooklyn Studio Features Clever Room Dividing and Storage Ideas

published Jan 29, 2020

A 525-Square-Foot Brooklyn Studio Features Clever Room Dividing and Storage Ideas

published Jan 29, 2020
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Name: Emily Edelman
Location: Fort Greene — Brooklyn, New York
Size: 525 square feet
Years Lived In: 5 years, owned

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There are plenty of flowery things I could write about Emily Edelman‘s apartment—I could make note of the airy space’s ability to feel much larger than its 525 square feet, or I could remark on the big windows that let in sunlight and provide grand views. But the most important thing about this Fort Greene apartment (and the reason it’s being featured on Apartment Therapy) is because it’s an amazing example of how powerful well-implemented design can be on a space. It’s a simple space that’s rich in detail. It’s a home worth poring over again and again for decor, layout, and storage ideas.

“When I lived in Manhattan, I spent half my time commuting to Brooklyn—to my social life or my job—and the Upper West Side apartment was a place to (sometimes) sleep,” confesses Emily, who is a Senior Event and Experiential Designer at David Stark Design and Production. “Moving here has allowed my apartment to become a home—a place I want to hang out with alone and just be. Because I knew I was in it for the long term, I relished the opportunity to design a space that would feel like I turned myself inside out, and the last five years have been an awesome journey in just that. My favorite part of the design adventure has been finding ways to combine new purchases with many, many vases, chairs, boxes, keys, clocks, and books from my four grandparents.”

Credit: Andrew Bui

Emily is inspired by Brutalism, and employs many of its philosophies in the small space to great success: She pits cool color palettes against warm accents, mixes visually “heavy” design elements with lighter details, and plays with idea of solid versus transparent materials. The end result is a space that has a timeless quality to it, that embraces light, that highlights architecture, and that impressively sprinkles in humor, too.

Credit: Andrew Bui

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My personal style includes a mix of down to earth, neutral materials and a sense of bold graphicness that gives the neutral an edge. I like symmetry, silhouette, and whimsy, all on a raw wood shelf.

Inspiration: I’m inspired by the art and architecture of Brutalism, and how it makes use of a seemingly cold and brooding material (concrete) to create soaring, light-filled structures. The contrasts of cold and warm, heavy and light, solid and transparent are important and inspiring design elements to me. I’m also really inspired by comedy and whimsy, and love that those delights can translate to decor.

Credit: Andrew Bui

Favorite Element: My favorite element of my apartment is one of both form and function: a graphically bold and simple window frame cut from a sheet of matte plastic material. It visually separates my bed area from the living room area of the studio apartment, and it loosely mimics the real casement windows of the apartment. It creates a conceptual barrier in the space without putting up walls, and allows light to beat down on my bed in the morning, which I badly need to wake up.

Biggest Challenge: In designing the apartment—my biggest challenge was budget, but more specifically—where to splurge and where to hold back. It’s tempting to splurge everywhere (of course!) with the excuse that “I’ll live here a long time!” and “I’ll use this stuff every day!” but different elements really call for different kinds of spend. For example—I redid the kitchen, but I didn’t splurge on cabinets. The lower-end options were basic and lovely, and because I didn’t spend so much on the dark cabinets that would disappear anyway (to a degree), I was able to spend more on the Calacatta marble backsplash that would stand out and stand up to the test of time.

Credit: Andrew Bui

Proudest DIY: Silly and small, but my favorite hand-made moment is the light switch in my kitchen. I was collaging one day, cutting out the heads of magazine figures, and in the scraps I found a perfect silhouette cut-out of a head and torso, complete with a little ear sticking out, and still wearing its shirt and jacket. I taped it to the wall so that, instead of a face, the man has a light switch. It’s been there for three years.

Biggest Indulgence: My biggest spend was on the stack of flat file drawers in the office nook that used to be a closet. You can store a surprising amount in drawers that are only 1.5″ high, including tools, jewelry, scarves, hats, memories in the form of papers and trinkets, and shells! I have been wanting a flat file cabinet since I started collecting handmade papers in college, so even though this was my biggest splurge, it was also something I’ve been thinking about buying for a long time.

Credit: Andrew Bui

Best Advice: I truly am both a minimalist and an eager collector, and I think that few and far between could fit neatly into one of those categories, rather than landing somewhere on the spectrum. The best way to indulge both your desire for minimalism, and a desire to display your loved goods is to have different, clearly defined areas for each. A wide, white, minimally adorned wall can be the necessary breathing space next to a series of shelves full of collected tchotchkes. But you have to be strict with the separation!

Having a mix of new and old in one place is a great way to curate a unique style. The new helps a space feel fresh and clean, and the old gives the space some history and mystery, whether it’s thrifted or a hand-me-down.


Credit: Andrew Bui


Eggshell white — Benjamin Moore

Credit: Andrew Bui


  • Sofa — Gus
  • Rug — Dalyn Rug Company
  • Coffee table — Floyd; when my parents sold their house, they sold a big burled wood dining table, but kept the two leaves, which became the coffee tables in both our apartments. For the legs, I used Floyd coffee table legs in white.
  • Side tables — molo. a huge fan of paper arts, I LOVE the company molo—furniture made from an expanding and collapsing weave of paper. I have two of their products called Folding Paper Stool / Bench that I mostly use as stools, but can open up, connect together, and create one long bench. They are simply matte butcher paper, but take on a patina from use that contrasts nicely with the lush green plants and a piece of rabbit fur I got at a Native American powwow when I was 7.
  • Pillows by designer Christian Rathbone — two handmade-in-Turkey pillows which both add a little soft, subtle color to the very black-white-brown living room. I found them at the Brooklyn Flea in 2015.
  • Luanne Ruffle Throw Pillow in black — Wayfair, but no longer available
  • Textured Knitted Super Soft Blanket in Black — Goufes from Wayfair, they’re incredibly soft, lasting, and at a great price.
  • Handcrafted Throw in black by Chandra Lulu — Wayfair, but can be found here.
  • Marius stool — IKEA, super versatile and ridiculously well priced.
  • Vintage boat chair — bought by my grandparents at least 50 years ago
  • Decorative Plate Bacosi — vintage hand-painted plate, purchased by my grandparents in the 80s in Italy. there’s an illustrated fish surrounded by vegetables. eBay
  • collection of vintage binoculars from various grandparents
  • Crushed lobster shell coasters that look like shells, gravel, or granite — company unknown
Credit: Andrew Bui


  • Table — Recycled Brooklyn; custom counter-height table. the top is matte-lacquered red oak wood, and the legs are black steel that becomes wood at the bottoms. found at Brooklyn Flea in 2015.
  • Stools — no longer available at Ikea, and can’t find online (purchased about ten years ago)
  • Shelves — Tribeca Grain in Hoboken, custom made red oak wood shelves, came across their shop a few years ago, walked in and struck up a shelves deal.
  • Brackets — Meza Modern Designs from Etsy
  • Light — Home On Earth (shop in Berlin). Japanese Bamboo Lamp size XL. the bamboo is flexible enough that the lamp can collapse into itself and exist in a variety of shapes.
  • Coasters — Galactic Tile; with leftover tiles from sampling counter material, I added soft “feet” and now have an eclectic collection of marble-y coasters.
  • misc pots, vases, jugs, and plates — my grandparents old apartment
  • Nosh Bowl with lavender interior — Studio Goodie
  • Planter — Studio Goodie
  • Dome Pitcher jug. matte-glazed gray Memphis-style-inspired pitcher — High Gloss
  • Mini Rubber Glove Mold in gray — Fish’s Eddy
  • Vintage Rubber Glove mold — found on eBay: fun to look through the options online because a lot of the molds are stamped with a date from when they were made
Credit: Andrew Bui


  • Pillows — City Pleat euro sham pillow covers from DKNY. Bought at Bed Bath & Beyond, but now can be found at Bloomingdales
  • Cotton Seersucker Duvet Covet in white — PHF on Amazon
  • Lamp — From my grandparent’s old house – a touch-activated black metal cylinder with a break for light
  • Side table — Wood table made by my uncle when he was in high school
Credit: Andrew Bui


  • Flat file cabinets — black metal drawers that store papers, tools, jewelry, scarves, hats, and other trinkets and memos from Wayfair
  • Brackets — Meza Modern Designs from Etsy
  • 1940s File organizer — a green-gray high-stacking file organizer. love this piece because its so architectural – it looks like an art deco skyscraper of a file organizer. Yesterday’s News thrift store in Carroll Gardens:
  • Rock potSun at Six (a beautiful furniture company that is starting to use clay for various products)

Thanks Emily!