Architects Used Bright Colors to Spark Joy in Their $2250-a-Month Brooklyn Rental

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natural wood book shelf, orange curtains, grey couch, black and white geometric pattern rug, green walls, landscape art, throw pillow, door way to kitchen, wood floors
Credit: Sepi Maleki

Sepi Maleki and her partner have rented this Brooklyn home for three years: My partner and I are both architects with a great love for interior design. We moved to New York and into this home in January 2020, ready to take on the city we had always dreamed of living in with no clue about the year that lay ahead. As the pandemic hit and work slowed down, we found ourselves hyper-fixating on our living space as a creative release as well as a desperate attempt to make the 600 square feet we were sharing feel less like it was shrinking by the minute.

We turned to paint immediately; we wanted bright colors that could spark joy while retaining a sense of peacefulness. We went through a few iterations of each color to find the perfect shades that wouldn’t overwhelm the space. We considered that we were going stir-crazy in our multiple attempts, but once we landed on the perfect shade we were reassured that the efforts were not in vain. A few months with a too-dark green on all the walls of your living room that you can’t leave will definitely take an emotional toll — take it from us.

Credit: Sepi Maleki

Our space is a typical Brooklyn railroad floor plan, meaning it is relatively long and incredibly narrow, requiring walking through one space to get to the next. Our bedroom and living room both actually make up for their lack in width by having ample space in length. Both rooms are so long, in fact, that we felt they could break up to include more programmatic areas. We wanted to avoid putting in any barriers to do so, such as partition walls or screens because any barrier would mean cutting up that length and making each room feel even smaller. We realized we could use the paint to break up and define space to create perimeters without creating a barrier of any sort.

Credit: Sepi Maleki

We did this in both the bedroom and the living room and it resulted in the opportunity to define two new spaces: two offices, one per room. We immediately fell in love with the resulting feeling in the living room and bedroom as well. Each space in our home now felt delineated, encapsulated, and cozy. Instead of one long and ongoing “railroad,” we now had little intentional zones that would break up our day into each activity, much like multiple rooms would in a typical house. This helped our mindset a lot throughout the pandemic, as well as after the city returned back to its relatively normal glory. We are homebodies, pandemic or not, so having a space that we could stand being in for long hours is always a priority.

Credit: Sepi Maleki

The colors on the walls set the tone for all our furnishings and decor from then on. We really played up color and pattern in our space. My partner, Garrett, is also an illustrator. He writes and illustrates children’s poems and stories and his artwork consists of bold, deliberate line work and the union of bright and vivid contrasting colors. His art covers our walls, with an added sprinkling of pieces we’ve collected over time, layering in even more splashes of color, and influencing each piece we continue to add into our space.

We identify heavily with emotive design. We want to feel the space we live in — for it to not only complement our lives, but also inspire our creativity daily. We want our space to feel uniquely ours. We attempt to accomplish that here through the use of our own color palettes, artwork, and designs and builds (i.e., the coffee table top I tiled on the floor of our living room to sit atop the base that Garrett welded in college).

Credit: Sepi Maleki

Garrett’s art is another way our space feels uniquely ours; it is highly representative of the way the use of color in our space can both influence and be influenced by our other creative work.

We also collect and hold on to a lot. The decor throughout our apartment consists heavily of toys and books we grew up with and images of shows, movies, and music we love. We’re here for anything that sparks a specific and special feeling.

Describe your home’s style in five words or fewer: Narrow, but bold and mighty.

Credit: Sepi Maleki

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room is the bathroom. I love the old horror movie posters on the wall. They are graphically so beautiful and unique to a specific time. I think they complement the pink walls and ceiling by bringing a bit of harshness to the soft color.

Credit: Sepi Maleki

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing we bought (and found!) is the yellow space-age armoire that sits behind Garrett’s desk. This is a 1970s Raymond Loewy-inspired armoire or “tallboy” by Broyhill. We had been admiring it online for a bit of time, and then happened to spot one buried in the back of our favorite local vintage/antique shop: Dream Fishing Tackle in Greenpoint.

Credit: Sepi Maleki

Any advice for creating a home you love? Don’t hold back in fear of standing out or going overboard. You can always feel the love put into a space by anyone.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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