Robbie & Dan’s Rustic, Historic Brooklyn Rental (& Backyard!)

published Jan 1, 2016
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Name: Robbie and Dan
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Size: 635 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Rented

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Robbie and Dan have lived in their apartment for a little over two years. Since this is their first home together, they wanted to find a place that matched both of their lifestyles and tastes. After persevering through the rat-race of apartment hunting in New York, the couple finally landed this fantastic place in Brooklyn. The rustic elements of the space, such as the wide planked hardwood floors and real (read: working!) fireplace, won Robbie and Dan over instantly—not to mention that they have full access to a private backyard, perfect for exercising their green thumbs and having BBQs with friends in the warmer months.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

The couple were lucky to find a place that came with great character, design, and history. The apartment was built in the 1850s by a sailor in the US Navy. It was then converted into three separate units, and Robbie and Dan occupy the ground floor. The living room is at the front end of the house, and the bedroom and bathroom are in the back. The kitchen—which Robbie and Dan consider the heart of the home, since they love to entertain and cook with friends—is in the middle of the apartment. From the bedroom, they can walk out to a peaceful backyard in the center of Brooklyn.

Dan is your typical country person, having spent his summers at the family cabin in Michigan. He enjoys the outdoors and is determined to make almost anything by hand. Robbie grew up on the West Coast and brings her laid-back and bohemian influence into the space. They have done a good job combining woodsy and rustic with beachy and earthy decor throughout the space. Their biggest design inspiration is the natural landscape—from the ocean to the woods, and even the deserts in between.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We have two different styles that we’ve combined. Dan’s woodsy style is rooted in summers spent in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Robbie’s a California beach girl with earthy influences. We try and keep things modern yet rustic. But most of all we want the apartment to feel inviting and practical.

Inspiration: We both love nature and cozy cabins. Even though we live in the city, we try and bring nature to us so you’ll find things we’ve found on hikes scattered about the house. We let the house tell us what it wants and don’t force anything that would be out of place or unnecessary. Emily Henderson’s book Styled was a great help as well.

Favorite Element: The history. In the middle of all these huge ugly condos going up all over town, it’s so nice to be in a small house built in the early 1850s by sailor based in the nearby Navy Yard who fought in the Civil War. We have a picture of the ship he worked on up in the house to pay tribute. The square footage is small, but the high ceilings make it feel much bigger. The wide plank wood floors are beautiful and the crowning jewel is the beautiful still-working marble fireplace.

Biggest Challenge: Keeping plants alive. We don’t get much sunlight. Also, there’s no coat closet. Hanging the wallpaper in the bathroom was also a real challenge.

What Friends Say: Your kitchen is huge and the fireplace works!??!

Proudest DIY: Dan made a cool bench from reclaimed barn wood and pipes. Also, many of the photographs and art in the house are things we’ve made. Robbie makes ceramics and Dan has a lot of hobbies that he does in the house (home-brewing, soap-making, candle-making) that make the apartment feel like a DIY factory.

Biggest Indulgence: It’s our first apartment together and it’s a rental, so we haven’t really spent a lot of money. The dining room table would probably be the biggest expense, but buying it on Etsy was still cheaper than many tables we looked at in stores.

Best Advice: When we moved in together, we had a lot of elements that we didn’t think would go together and we thought the other person should just get rid of. Turns out they work great.

The art wall had been taken down and put back up so many times until we found what worked. Try and re-work with what you have instead of running out and spending money on something new. Buy direct from artists and artisans at flea markets or on Etsy when you can to support talented individuals instead of corporations. You’ll find things that are made better and cheaper than from a factory. Also, pay someone else to hang wallpaper.

Dream Sources: Old barns. Joshua Tree. Big Sur. The Double RL Ranch. Log cabins.


(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Kitchen gallery wall: Farrow & Ball Hague Blue
  • Bedroom: Benjamin Moore Timberwolf
  • All other walls: landlord white
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Side table: West Elm
  • Coat hooks: Crate & Barrel
  • Rug: Chumash Indian rug from Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
  • Ceramic dish: made by Robbie
  • Photograph: taken by Dan
  • Lucky horseshoe: found while digging in the yard
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Eames molded plywood chair: DWR
  • 1920s Iranian rug: flea market
  • Couch: Room & Board
  • Deerskin: shot by Dan’s dad in Michigan
  • Danish chairs: gift from a friend—Robbie and Dan would love more info if anyone has it. They are stamped “Store-Hedding Made in Denmark.”
  • Coffee table: West Elm
  • Trout: caught by Dan
  • Pillow: Chumash Indian pillow from Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
  • Wood lamp: A&G Merch in Brooklyn
  • Porthole mirror: A&G Merch in Brooklyn
  • Deer skull: found in the woods
  • Horse skull: found in a field
  • Side table lamp: Crate & Barrel
  • Arrow: Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, Chicago
  • Fishing flies: tied by Dan’s dad
  • Floor vase: CB2
  • Wall hanging: Etsy
  • Floor pillow: flea market
  • Candlestick holders: Anthropologie
  • Cameras: Dan’s grandfathers on both sides
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Reclaimed barn wood table: Metal Fred Designs on Etsy
  • Wishbone dining chairs: DWR
  • Salt dining chairs: DWR
  • Bench: made by Dan
  • Fishing flies: tied by Dan’s dad
  • Closet: IKEA
  • Floral arrangement: Viva Voce Designs (Robbie’s sister)
  • Art wall: things we’ve photographed, made, and collected
  • (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


    • Wall rug: a shop in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
    • Floor rug: West Elm
    • Tie-dye sheet set: Upstate
    • Vanity: flea market
    • Chair: flea market
    • Pillows: West Elm
    • Ceramic dish: made by Robbie
    • Trunk: Recycled Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Flea
    • Nightstand: Bo Concepts
    • Lamp: West Elm
    • Moon calendar: Circle And Crescent
    • Art: Tom Long
    • Art: Steven Weinberg
    (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


    • Wallpaper: York Wallcoverings Casabella II Rhododendron
    • Photographs: Dan
    (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


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    The entry. (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

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    Thanks, Robbie & Dan!