An Artist’s “Natural History Museum” Style NYC Studio

updated Apr 30, 2019

An Artist’s “Natural History Museum” Style NYC Studio

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Name: Sara Blake
Location: Greenwich Village — New York City, New York
Size: 450 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years, owned

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Sara’s Greenwich Village apartment exudes cool — prints by her friends and artists she admires fill her space. The illustrator, designer, and creative director moved in about five years ago, and her renovations (plus investing in custom furnishings) have created a beautiful, functioning home in only one room.

White walls with black accents help the studio feel cohesive and clean, while her shy black cat Eugene and plants inject a sense of life. For a comfortable home, the artist advocates for custom furniture and meaningful pieces that share a story.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Natural History Museum meets mid-century modern

Inspiration: Function, Gertrude Stein’s salon

Favorite Element: Desk, arched doorways

Biggest Challenge: Live/work, creating areas for different “modes”

What Friends Say: “It feels like home.” “I love your art collection.”

Biggest Embarrassment: Having a cat and finding a solution for the litter box in a one-room living space. Being very short but having lots of vertical storage.

Proudest DIY:

  1. Built-in pull-out step drawer in kitchen to reach open shelving
  2. Faux fireplace Craigslist find that magically fit perfectly
  3. Don’t have a TV so use swiveling second Mac monitor on my desk that doubles as Netflix TV if I turn it around toward the bed.

Biggest Indulgence: I can’t pick, I have two 🙂

  1. 1972 Arne Vodder executive desk found on Etsy after a month of hunting—definitely the most expensive and beautiful piece of furniture I’ve ever owned. It had to be the centerpiece of the apartment because I only had room for a bed and one other large piece of furniture. My whole apartment is built around being able to work from home, so it was a worthwhile indulgence to me.
  2. Black Dornbracht rain shower in the bathroom. When I renovated, I switched the location of the bathtub and the toilet to make a huge walk-in rain shower and I knew I wanted something with a black finish. I wanted everything to be black, white, grey, and silver. I dig the contrast against the white subway tile, but plays nicely with the other black accents in the hardware and tile.

Best Advice: Picture ledges and built-in shelving! I love lots of art in a home, but one should be allowed to evolve and change their mind without paying for it every time with holes in the wall. Picture ledges are incredibly practical for storage and art, and can take the weight to turn objects and books into art as well.

If you are going to be in a space long enough, even if you are a renter, I’ve gotten a lot of value out of custom-built furniture to fit and function the way I need. It matters a lot in smaller spaces. If you do the math on how long you want to stay, and how much you’re willing to pay, it often makes sense.

Make your decor meaningful and try and rescue second-hand pieces and art if you can. It’s less wasteful, often you can get a way better deal. It’s nice to have a story or experience attached to it.

Plants are your friends.

Dream Sources: Wyeth for the inspiration but Craigslist, Etsy, and eBay, flea markets to find the cooler, affordable versions 🙂


Benjamin Moore — Glacier White (ceiling), Stormy Monday (trim), Silver Satin (walls)
Farrow & Ball — Brinjal (entry foyer)

Custom-made bench that doubles as storage and litter box
Demi-lune table — West Elm
Various collected art from friends and travel
Mirrored coat hook with shelf — Restoration Hardware

Sorensen Couch — Restoration Hardware
Kilim footrest (aka cat scratching post) — $40 Ebay
Mini farm table w/ plants — flea market
Desk, 1972 Arne Vodder executive desk — Etsy
Desk painted lamp — found from trash room just had to re-wire
Drafting table — vintage salvage from Adaptations in Brooklyn
Drafting table chair — designer knockoff, $35 from Craigslist
Floating shelves — custom from salvaged wood
Rugs — various antiques

Custom cabinets
Salvaged wood floating shelves
Fixtures — Dornbracht
Miele appliances
Hardware — Restoration Hardware

Tate bed — West Elm
Mongolian lamb pillows — West Elm
Picture ledges — custom
Black shelving — Vitsoe
Faux fireplace — Craigslist

Custom cabinetry — Dornbracht fixtures, Restoration hardware hooks

Thanks, Sara!

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