Erin’s Photo-Finish Pre-War Brooklyn Apartment

published Sep 18, 2014
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(Image credit: Erin Derby)

Location: Brooklyn, New York
Size: Approximately 750 square feet
Years lived in: 5.5 years; Rented

Upon entering my pre-war Brooklyn apartment, the first things you see are the dreamy period archways and the three large black and white photographs of my daughter as a newborn, framed against grey walls. My love of photographing interiors has influenced the style of my home just as my love of decorating influences my photography of beautiful spaces.

(Image credit: Erin Derby)

Originally hailing from California, I moved into the tiniest apartment in NYC across from Madison Square Garden, and loved it in my early twenties. Eventually, I transferred to Brooklyn and found it was the perfect fit. I’ve been in my current apartment for over 5 years now, and love the pre-war details, larger rooms, plus the actual foyer and eat-in kitchen, both luxuries in NYC.

You have to feel out a space before filling it up with stuff. Each space functions differently, and you differently within that space, so in my 5 years here things have really been evolving. I rearrange rooms and vignettes often, and I finally feel like I’m figuring out what works best! The space has evolved into a mix of a few modern pieces and lots of vintage and primitive pieces, with loads of details and textures.

I really believe in loving objects if you’re going to bring them into your home. And then using them. I adore the table in my entry, which was originally a wallpaper table. It is collapsable, and would be brought from job to job, unfolded, and then the wallpaper and paste would be rolled on the table. Then when the job was done the table would be folded back up, with it’s skinny legs folding in, and off to the next job it would go. I found it in someone’s kitchen in a farmhouse in upstate NY, and I offered them $200 for it, and have loved it ever since!

(Image credit: Erin Derby)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic with a mix of Vintage/Primitive and Modern.

Inspiration: Magazines, Pinterest, and Clients! I’ve obsessively looked at home decor magazines my whole life. Then Pinterest happened, which is basically my dream realized. Also, many of my clients are designers, and I pick their brains too!

Favorite Element: The apartment is actually many winding and separate spaces, so each space really can be its own thing. But somehow it all still comes together.

Biggest Challenge: Paring down. I owned a farmhouse upstate, so when I sold it I couldn’t part with all the furniture and pieces I had collected. Instead I moved them into this apartment, but it was overcrowded and just too much. It’s taken time to emotionally part with some pieces, but I’m on a roll now!

What Friends Say: That although I have a lot of stuff, it is all pretty stuff!

Biggest Embarrassment: It is a rental, so I can’t gut the kitchen and bathroom. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got!

Proudest DIY: I don’t actually know. I am not afraid of dramatic paint colors, or turning a bookcase on its side and making it into a console. And I love decorative nails. I’d like to add them to everything.

Biggest Indulgence: My couch. It wasn’t my dream couch, but it was affordable and huge and neutral, and turns out I love it. I love how I have this huge space for lounging and it goes with whatever decorative pillows I throw on it. Also, it’s stain resistant!

Best Advice: Don’t buy “temporary” pieces just because they are inexpensive, like that TV stand everyone buys “for now.” Because it ultimately becomes permanent. Wait for the piece you really love.

Dream Sources: Floor samples are a great way to get nice pieces for less. And don’t underestimate sales at the high end stores, or sample sales. You might have to wait in line, but you’ll get good stuff.

(Image credit: Erin Derby)

Resources of Note:


  • Table: Vintage Wall Paper Table
  • Star Mirror: Two’s Company
  • Chair Fabric: John Robshaw Textiles


  • Sofa:
  • Pillows: John Robshaw Textiles
  • Coffee Table: Restoration Hardware
  • Desk Top: Old barn door
  • Desk Base: Old machine base
  • Desk Lamp: Ikea


  • Table: Original Saarinen Base with Ikea top
  • Wall Paint Color: Wrought Iron – Glossy Benjamin Moore
  • Hanging Light: Ikea
  • Chevron Fabric on Chairs: ETSY


  • Bed Frame: Antique Metal Frame from upstate NY antique store
  • Side Table: Saarinen, from W. 26th Street Flea Market in NYC
  • White Lacquer Dresser: West Elm
  • Mirror: John Robshaw Textiles
  • Bedding and Pillows: John Robshaw Textiles
  • White and Wood Chair: Richard Wrightman
  • Bowls: Various, collected over time
(Image credit: Erin Derby)

Thanks, Erin!

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