After a DIY Reno and Smart Space Planning, This Studio is Now Four Rooms in One
Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox
Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter
Name: Irene and Louanne (my eight-pound Italian Greyhound/Chihuahua mix)
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Size: 300 square feet
Type of Home: Studio Apartment
Years Lived In: 6 months, owned
Irene Shamas says she wasn’t actually in the market to buy an apartment. But when she saw a “too-good-to-be-true” listing in another unit in the building she now lives in, she had to investigate. “I really just wanted to know what was wrong with it — mainly because the price seemed so far below market and actually within something I felt I could potentially purchase,” Irene admits. “When I got in touch with the listing agent, I found out that the unit I was interested in was already under contract, but that there were a few others in the building available — unlisted and sponsor units! We walked into the first unit and I totally knew.”
Irene was able to look past the small unit’s flaws to see its potential. “It was small, yes, but the morning sun was bathing the pre-war molding and (surprisingly well kept) floors with the most amazing light. The bathroom was small and left much to be desired, but the large tub and two closets were definitely speaking to me. The kitchen was almost non-existent. No oven, just a cooktop with a mini-fridge, a microwave, and the tiniest sad sink in the corner. We looked at two other units in the building — each more or less equal in size and “amenities,” but I hardly needed more than to glance through the doors to know that there was something special about that first unit,” Irene writes.
But the unit was going to need more than just a couple of coats of paint. Irene knew it would need a lot of work to be a functional home for her and Louanne, an eight-pound pup.
“First and foremost, I needed a kitchen, and not just one to ‘get the job done,'” Irene explains. “Anyone who knows me knows that cooking (and hosting) is practically essential to my personality. In order to turn this box of an apartment (albeit with great light and awesome potential) into a comfortable, cozy space that did not resemble an overgrown dorm room, I knew I would need help. And that is how I found Luki Anderson of Studio Officina. As soon as we Zoomed for the first time to chat, I knew instantly that she was perfect for the job. I was very passionate about doing as much of the work myself as possible, and she didn’t even once tell me what a foolish idea that was. Fast forward to three months later when I’d be hanging kitchen cabinets solo and grouting backsplash tiles in 95+ degree weather and I may have wished she had… but nonetheless. Luki listened to my wants and needs and, with the utmost attention to detail, helped me to craft a space that truly feels like an embodiment of my personality.”
“This home allows me to host dinner for six, to film auditions easily, to read in the sun, sleep in perfect peace, and cook up as much of a storm as my heart desires. While I am constantly tweaking, picking, and prodding at minute details that always seem to catch my eye at the wrong moment, I truly could not be happier in my little haven of a studio. The sun still shocks me each morning with its intense glow, and the ability for my space to morph to hold whatever new use I throw at it is seemingly endless,” says Irene.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I would describe my style as eclectic with minimalist aspirations. The fact that this apartment is a one-room studio has definitely brought out my more minimalist leanings. I love bright colors and kooky wallpapers, but I have had to rein in those tendencies with this project.
Inspiration: I wanted to bring function and a bit of fun to the studio without erasing its history and design. I took a lot of inspiration from Never Too Small (on YouTube) — they feature some amazing renovations in older buildings that manage to enhance utility and style without over modernizing the spaces.
Favorite Element: The unobstructed morning light, hands down. I have three windows and they all face east with nearly unobstructed views. In the summer this has the potential to turn the place into a real life sauna (shout out to my black out curtains for lowering my electric bill), but it is a life saver in the darker winter months.
Biggest Challenge: I worked really hard (with Luki’s help!) to make sure that my apartment felt like a real home and not a glorified dorm room. I feel very strongly that a bed is for sleeping and very little else. The murphy bed was the perfect solution for me.
Proudest DIY: My apartment has been a total labor of love (sweat and tears). Aside from hiring a contractor (major thanks to Eiffel of EDR Construction!) to remove a wall and install appliances, most everything in this renovation was a DIY. In hindsight, I probably should have enlisted help to hang my upper kitchen cabinets. I was probably just sleep deprived enough to think it was a good idea. Luckily, no dogs were harmed in the making of this kitchen. The kitchen tile, on the other hand, was the most gratifying project. I’m so happy with how this came out–and even more happy with how much I enjoyed the process.
Biggest Indulgence: Cooking is very important to me, and I did not skimp on the kitchen appliances. I can say now that it was 100 percent worth it. I’m in love with my two-burner Miele cooktop and my small (but very mighty) convection oven.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? When I tell people I have a murphy bed (and that I actually put it up nearly every morning) people are definitely a bit shocked. The uniqueness of it is fun, but mostly I love how it opens up my space during the day and ensures that I don’t feel like I’m living in my bedroom.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Almost as soon as I got the keys — which was nearly six months before I moved in — I bought a set of cutlery. It’s a little silly and totally sentimental, but growing up we had these yellow-handled silverware that have always felt synonymous with childhood comfort to me. As soon as I knew I was going to be living on my own, I found the brand online and picked out a bright orange set for myself. It feels like a little ode to my upbringing and the love for food and cooking that my parents instilled in me from a young age. Plus I think they’re totally awesome looking and have a very nice heft to them without being bulky.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: First thing is to get really good at getting rid of things. I don’t even bring junk mail into my apartment — straight to the recycling! I also got into the habit years ago of sorting through my closet at the end of every season and donating or selling anything I haven’t worn in a while. As for the kitchen, my rule of thumb is that everything has to have at least three uses. Sadly no waffle iron or air popper here — but I can’t say I miss either one!
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? I am really not good at this, because I am so impulsive, but I have found that patience is your best friend when it comes to sourcing furniture and decor. I am a fast decision maker — when I see something I like, I don’t hem and haw (and 97% of the time this works out just fine for me). But sometimes I have a very clear idea of what I want or I have a very specific idea of a feeling or vibe I want it to evoke, and in these two cases I have found it is best to take your time and hold out for that perfect item, instead of buying the quickest, closest choice.
PAINT & COLORS
- Main Room — Benjamin Moore “Super White”
- Bathroom — Benjamin Moore “Cloud Cover”
- Mirror — Brooklyn Flea Market, Vintage
- Table — IKEA
- Cook Top — Miele
- Convection Oven — PC Richard
- Mini Fridge — Avanti
- Cabinets — IKEA
- Ceiling Light — Commune Design
- Murphy Bed — Breda Beds “Urban Murphy Bed with Hutch”
- Light Fixture — Cedar and Moss “Lexi”
This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
Share Your Style: House Tour & House Call Submission Form
This is an updated version of a House Tour first published in 2022.