Johanna & Mike's Stylish Small Space

Johanna & Mike's Stylish Small Space

Janel Laban
Feb 12, 2013

Name: Johanna & Mike
Location: Brooklyn Heights, NYC

As soon as our design-conscious friend heard we'd bought a 450- square-foot apartment, she gave us two Apartment Therapy books. Having grown up in hoarder households, we both wanted a space that felt bright and airy and uncluttered. Also, having just spent 5 years in graduate student housing, we wanted it to feel like a real home, no white walls, no beige cabinets; we needed color and whimsy and life. Space was the obvious problem, how to make a studio feel airy? Everything followed from that... 

1- The first challenge was the sleeping alcove; we wanted it to be separate from the rest of the room, but we didn't want to cut off that space. After considering Japanese sliding doors and a well-placed bookshelf, we decided on sheer muslin curtains, which allow light in, but hide that area when we have guests over.

2- Painting the kitchen pass-through wall tomato red was also an early decision; Mike was dubious, Johanna was bold (guess who's writing this!). 

3- Most of the furniture Mike had brought from LA where he'd lived before coming to NY for grad. school: The green mid-century medicine cabinet he found on the street and refurbished himself. 

4- We also needed something to do with our books (we're both writers); the built-ins are one of our greatest life achievements and took an embarrassingly long time to build; they make good use of a slim space behind the front door. We became obsessed with floating bookshelves too and used them for color-blocked books by the windows and to make a nightstand with a Chris Ware-desgned issue of McSweeney's. 

5- We took the big photo over the couch in Ireland, where Johanna's from, and had it blown up by a company in the UK. We like the idea of having two views of the Atlantic: the real one, out our window, looking towards Ireland, and the one over the couch, looking towards New York. 

6- One of our favorite ideas from the Apartment Therapy books was the "landing strip," which we quickly implemented in the form of an Umbra aluminum "envelope" affixed to the wall next to the front door. 

7- Because space was limited in the sleeping alcove, another idea we took from the Apartment Therapy book was to make a vintage-style hanging light, using an Edison bulb and Sundial wire. 

8- We painted the wall opposite the front door with chalkboard paint. Our only rule was that we weren't allowed to write "to do" lists on it!

Thanks, Johanna & Mike!

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(Images: Johanna & Mike)

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