A 600-Square-Foot Brooklyn Apartment Is Full of Mood-Boosting Colors and Great Ideas
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Name: Liz Moody, her husband Zack, and Bella the cat
Location: Brooklyn, NYC
Size: 600 square feet
Years Lived In: 3 years, renting
Liz Moody is dedicated to health and wellness. She’s a wellness journalist, the author of the cookbook “Healthier Together,” and the host of the Healthier Together Podcast. And though she might only live in 600 square feet with her husband and their cat, she’s made the small home work for her family and their health goals.
“I call my home a non-toxic, book and plant-filled Mexico City-inspired oasis. It’s essentially everything I love in the world—including my cat, husband, and reminders of friends and family—all captured in one teeny, tiny Brooklyn apartment,” she explains. “While I wanted the space to feel calm in the middle of NYC, both my husband and I work from home, and spend a lot of time there, so I wanted it to also feel dynamic and mood-boosting. I’ve struggled a ton with depression and anxiety in my life. At one point I interviewed a design psychologist for a piece I was writing (I’m a long-time journalist) and she explained how, contrary to the ever-popular Scandinavian minimalist style, bright colors have been shown in research to make people happy. While we try to keep the amount of things at a minimum so as not to stoke said anxiety, we took that as carte blanche to whack on bright corals, mustards, and turquoises. I really do think it’s helped my mental health!”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I’m a wellness journalist, so first and foremost, I knew I wanted the home to be filled with items that made me healthier. This meant things like having a place for shoes right by the door, so people weren’t tracking in the grit and grime of NYC, but also more out there elements, like using a paint that actually purifies the air, and making sure our mattress and sheets (where we spend one third of our lives!) were as organic as possible.
The research on plants is actually pretty mixed—some reports say that they purify the air, while others say they don’t really make a huge difference. Some new research also indicates that they release terpenes, which are one of the compounds that make CBD so anti-inflammatory and anxiety-relieving (it’s thought this is why the trendy Japanese practice of forest bathing is so beneficial!). Regardless of the studies, though, having plants in my view no matter which way I turn makes me feel really happy in the moment.
Finally, there were some design decisions that were as functional as they were aesthetic. I’m a cookbook author and we have the world’s teeniest kitchen, so we added in natural wood open shelves for extra storage (they also serve as a nice place to display some of the prettier ceramics I’ve collected for food photography). We also added marble contact paper to our child-sized fridge, which doesn’t make it more functional, but makes me less angry about how ridiculously nonfunctional it is whenever I open it.
Inspiration: I love the Mexico City aesthetic. I’m not a designer, but it feels as if the natural woods of Scandinavian architecture were combined with bold, non-primary colors and tons of plants. We actually themed our wedding off of a pillowcase I bought at a tiny beach town in Mexico (it’s the one that’s still on our couch!) and then ended up loving it so much that we designed our entire apartment around the same theme.
Favorite Element: I think our bed is my favorite part of our home. We had a queen-sized bed in the space for ages, and it looked awkward and my husband, very large cat, and I would often fight over the precious mattress space. One morning, we broke out a tape measure and found a king bed would just fit, and after a bit of hemming and hawing, we took the plunge. Now, I not only love how our bed looks, but somehow the mattress stretching all the way to the walls creates a dreamy, cozy treehouse-like vibe that makes the space even sweeter and more serene to crawl into every night. Both of our pillows are from friends who are designers—the silk pillowcases are naturally-dyed by the amazing Sarah from Studio Elemental, and the black speckled ones are from our former roommate, Jess Fugler, who owns the most gorgeous design studio called Other Kingdom. I love the color palette and it also feels wonderful to doze off surrounded by reminders of our amazing, talented friends.
The sheets and comforter are organic bamboo from an Aussie brand called Ettitude, and they’re so soft, and truly the first linens that haven’t resulted in me waking up sweaty. The mattress is non-toxic latex and organic cotton, made by a small company called Spindle, and it’s simply the best mattress we’ve ever slept on. It has the perfect mix of bounce while cradling your body, it doesn’t off-gas at all, and when we travel—even at some of the luxury hotels we get to stay at because of my job—we always look forward to coming home to it. Finally, I have an open-knit weighted blanket from a company called Bearaby. It’s far quieter and less hot than other weighted blankets, and I love how chic the color palettes are (we also have a mustard velvet one in the living room). It also helps tremendously with my insomnia and anxiety—when I wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts, I simply pull the Bearaby over me and I always fall right back asleep.
Biggest Challenge: The size of the apartment was definitely our biggest challenge. Our kitchen, dining room, and living room are essentially all one room, and our bedroom is literally the exact width of a king-sized bed. We overcame it by embracing, rather than fighting against, the size of the apartment. For instance, we’re on the ground floor, so we have super high ceilings (it’s called a parlor apartment, and in the old days, what’s now our apartment is where the rich families would welcome guests). We really tried to utilize every bit of vertical space with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a gallery wall that extends the whole height of the living room wall, and big plants placed on high shelves, so their leaves just brush the ceiling. In the bedroom, we actually got a king-sized bed, which literally goes wall-to-wall. Instead of having a sliver of barely-functional space alongside the bed, we have a dreamy nook that feels like crawling into pure luxury every night.
Proudest DIY: This was totally my husband’s idea (he’s a designer), but my food photography table. For great food photos, you want to be right by the window, and I used to constantly complain about not having a good surface to photograph on, or good light to take the pictures. Finally, my husband found a kitchen cart at IKEA and painted it with leftover coral paint from our entryway. He covered the top in marble contact paper from Amazon and voila—a little mobile food photography station that looks so chic and makes my life infinitely easier. It lives by our small bookshelf (also an IKEA purchase, but painted mustard!), and when I want to take a photo, I wheel it a few feet over to the window. As a bonus, it finally gave us a place to store our wine collection!
Biggest Indulgence: Definitely our couch. We had a cheap couch from Urban Outfitters for years before deciding to splurge on our Article couch, which I’m obsessed with. It’s both comfortable and a total statement piece—the color alone completely changes the look and feel of the room.
Best Advice: Go slowly. I used to move into a place and want it finished, like, yesterday. While I think it’s a very human desire to have a house feel like a home, it also often results in a lot of decor that doesn’t feel quite right, or that’s found in thousands of other homes. My favorite pieces in our home are the ones that are a bit more unique, that I stumbled upon while traveling or browsing a vintage store on a Sunday afternoon. Leaving room in your home for that will always result in a place that reflects you, and that you’re happy to spend your time in.
What’s your best home secret? Layer two small rugs to achieve the impact of a larger one is one of my favorite tips. We couldn’t afford any of the cute, larger rugs we found, so we purchased a runner and put it on top of a 6×8’ rug. I love how bohemian the effect is, and each rug was under $100.
This is a bit of a cookbook author tip and less decor based, but put your spices where you can see them! Spices lose their flavor and potency with time, and having them out will inspire you to use them when you cook. I like to pick a wall that doesn’t get a ton of direct sunlight (which can also degrade spice potency) and put all of my spices on racks, so each one is visible and I’m not jostling around for them in a deep cabinet.
Use clippings to have your plants beget more plants! Half of our plants in our house are little babies from other plants we owned. I also love to order plants online—Bloomscape is a great source for fun varieties, and they come pre-potted so there’s zero effort involved. I also love getting huge plants at IKEA—they cost $20 for a palm that might cost $200 at one of the fancier shops, and they’re surprisingly hardy. We have IKEA plants in this home that are going on three years old.
Using things other than pots as planters adds a really fun, quirky touch. I love finding cute ceramics and repotting small plants in them.
If you have a small space, use your every day, working items as decor! I love keeping my ceramics on open shelving and letting their handcrafted beauty be appreciated, even when I’m not actively photographing them or eating off of them!
PAINT & COLORS
- Air Purifying Paint — ECOS
- Hemnes Shoe Cabinet — IKEA
- Pacific Blue Sven Sofa — Article
- Sunbeam Velvet Napper Weighted Blanket — Bearaby
- BEKVÄM Kitchen Cart (painted coral and topped with marble contact paper) — IKEA
- VILTO shelf (painted mustard) — IKEA
- Kilburn Speaker — Marshall
- Fake fireplace heater—e-Flame USA
- Flameless candles — YIWER
- Marble coffee table — CB2
- Gallery wall — Framebridge