Jynne & Louie’s Small & Colorful Brooklyn Duplex

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

Name: Jynne Dilling Martin & Louie Saletan
Location: Park Slope; Brooklyn, New York
Size: 500 square foot split-level duplex + 400 square foot backyard
Years lived in: 2 years; Rent

Jynne Dilling Martin is the Associate Publisher of Riverhead Books (and author of We Mammals in Hospitable Times, a book of poetry). A Texas transplant, Louie Saletan taught Russian language to the first crew of NASA astronauts to fly on a joint Space Shuttle flight with their Russian cosmonaut counterparts. Together, this amazing literary couple have turned a small, odd duplex with a windowless basement into a colorful writers’ retreat.

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

The interior feels much larger than 500 square feet. Accent walls keep areas designated, and the spiral staircase splits the apartment into two floors. Louie created an insulated structure that houses both the window AC and a pet door for their two cats, with kitty steps floating down the wall for easy cat access. The basement receives no natural light, so they painted the walls an electric orange to liven the room up, also adding more attractive flooring with snap-and-click bamboo. Neon clouds hang over the bed like a headboard, adding the perfect touch of brightness to a bedroom that would be otherwise dark.

As two writers sharing the same space, they needed a work area to feel creative within. The little office is just off the bedroom in the basement, surrounded by corkboard, photographs, and a polar bear mobile. Kitty litters and other household items are tucked away just past the desk; a clever way to keep the less sightly things hidden in a small space without any storage closets.

It’s such a rare treat to have a private backyard in city living. Louie & Jynne take great care of their outdoor space, making it both functional and beautiful. A large hammock makes it a peaceful retreat away from the busy streets. Louie built custom planter boxes for the garden, which contain an engineered subirrigation system so the plants stay watered. When asked where someone would even begin with such a complex idea, he shared that he had taken a class at Brooklyn Botanical Garden to learn more. Louie and Jynne’s apartment shows us that if we put our minds to it, anything is possible; even clouds that glow at night.

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Luis Barragán meets the Collyer Brothers. The apartment ebbs between ever-accumulating heaps of books, and Jynne’s Virgo ferocity for cleanliness, minimalism and beauty. We both love bold colors and creative use of light, and we use a wide variety of lighting (neon, colored LED uplights, strings of bulbs, candles) to evoke different moods throughout day and night in the various spaces.

Inspiration: Louie: Try to pare down thirty years’ accumulation of Texas-sized possessions into a Brooklyn apartment. That will inspire you real fast.

Jynne: Try telling a Texan he can no longer own seven pairs of scissors.

Favorite Element: The salon wall! And all our art from so many beloved family and friends. It is like being cloaked in their love and creativity, to have their work all around our home.

Biggest Challenge: As with everyone in Brooklyn, the storage situation is grim. We got a medicine cabinet from Ikea to tuck behind the front door (just a few inches deep, it fits in a tight space but can still hold shoes, umbrellas, hats, gloves, etc.); and we must pay homage to Ikea’s Varde kitchen island – we don’t like relying too much on Ikea, but this one has been a lifesaver for its deep, layered drawers giving us much-needed pantry and cutlery storage. Downstairs, we created a small office and storage area using both shelving and hanging fabric to make faux walls.

What Friends Say: “And I thought I had a lot of books!” As well as many requests to come over for a glass of wine in the garden, or a nap in the hammock.

Biggest Embarrassment: Three cat litter boxes, and the commensurate amounts of litter that get tracked everywhere, not to mention smells that waft around. We are still waiting for some cat-owning genius to solve this.

Proudest DIY: All of Louie’s touches. The custom planter boxes he built for the garden contain a complex engineered subirrigation system so the plants stay watered. Hidden color LED uplights in our stairwell that magically change the mood of a room. And the envy of every cat owner we know: the insulated window unit that Louie built to house both the AC unit and the cat door, with floating Luis Barragán-style cedar cat steps leading up to the exit.

Biggest Indulgence: The two green Eames chairs, which were immediately requisitioned by both cats, so we never get to sit in them.

Best Advice: Make it your own, even if you rent. At minimum, it’s still a full year of your life! We painted all the walls, replaced all the chintzy chandeliers and sconces with our own lighting fixtures, and even refloored the basement with snap-and-click bamboo flooring (which was remarkably affordable, and transformed the space from dank and musty to warm and snug). Although we’re dreading un-doing all our work in some distant year to come, it’s so worth it to come home to a beautiful space each and every day.

Dream Sources: Our travels around the world, and the artwork of our friends and family.

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

Resources of Note:


  • Kitchen/living room accent wall: Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal
  • Kitchen/living room other soft grey walls: Benjamin Moore Whirlpool
  • Bedroom: Benjamin Moore Calypso Orange
  • Bathroom: Benjamin Moore Olive Moss


• Artwork:
Erika deVries, Asako Narahashi, Bill Jirsa, Mary Ellen Carroll, Holly Troy & more • Vintage Eames chairs: Green in Saugerties, NY • Side table lamp & overhead pendant lamp: All Modern

• Faux sheepskin rug: Hollywood Love Rugs


• Artwork: Glenn Ligon • Wooden fruit bowl: Two Buttons • Black crow: Duane Reade Halloween sale • Kitchen table: Brooklyn Woods


(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

Thanks, Jynne & Louie!

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