Dancers Rent This $1700-per-Month Bushwick Railroad Apartment That’s Narrow but Cozy

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Square feet
Sq ft
Living room with pale neutral sofa with patterned cream, black throw pillows, black framed mirror on wall behind, teal hanging lamp/lantern, greenish yellow leather chair, wood coffee table, wood armchair, wood floors, plants, white walls

Brighid Greene has lived in this rental apartment in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood for five years. She tells her home’s story: My partner and I live together in our apartment. He moved here in 2012, and I moved in with him in 2018. Our landlord grew up in this building, and so we are very fortunate to have low rent and a landlord more concerned about the people in the building rather than how much profit he can make. When my partner moved in my landlord offered that he could renovate, but the price would go up.

Living room looking into the living room from the kitchen. A built-in bookcase where the fireplace once was with live edge wood shelves. The dresser has been repurposed. This window gets light from an air shaft at a very specific time around noon as seen here, which is perfect for the low light ZZ plant. Down the hall is the bathroom and the front door.

My partner said no and so we have amazing tin ceilings and kitchen cabinets from the 1970s. The building is from 1931; it’s a six-unit walk-up with two units per floor, and is railroad style, typical of many Bushwick apartments. Our open kitchen/living room is in the back of the building, with a long hallway alongside the air shaft leading to the front door that has a closet and the bathroom. Off the front door you first go through our bedroom to then reach the studio room that is at the front of the building. Our apartment could kind of fold in half at the center of the hallway and be symmetrical.

We are both dancers, and so a comfortable apartment with floor space has driven a lot of our design and layout decisions. I also love design — and want to live in a home that is both beautiful and functional. The flow of an apartment could be thought of as choreography. Architecture and dance are similar, in that they deal with how bodies occupy, move through, and use space. This concept informs how we live. As artists, my partner and I don’t have a lot of expendable income, and so much of our apartment is secondhand from family and friends or Craigslist and vintage stores. We have Persian rugs, my partner is Persian, from his mom, a coat rack from the set of a show I was in, an old wood architecture desk that was built by my family in Indiana in the early 1900s, plants from a friend who moved to California, and art on the walls from friends.

Of course the bathroom plays with blue. The photo is from a family friend of Big Sur, near where I grew up. I often use dried plants as permanent floral structures.

While our style is mixed, it all works together because it is relational and the origin stories behind our things hold it all together. We have a lot of wood furniture and surfaces and the most prevalent color in our apartment is blue. Additional pops of color are red, mauve, pink, green, bright orange, and golden yellow. I think we lean towards earthy hues, wanting a place to ground us in the chaos that is NYC.

Kitchen — this was captured as the afternoon light slices diagonally through from the west. On the right is the wood desk from my family. Beads hang as a partition between the living room and kitchen.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or fewer: Lived-in, found, organic, calming, patterned.

What was once the bedroom, has become a studio. The rag rug acts as a place to do bodywork, and the chair is a nice place to sit and look out the window. I always want a space where I can get close to the window and peer out, to feel less confined in a small apartment. The bookcase a friend made for me and I got the orange filing cabinet from another friend.

What is your rent per month? It’s $1700 — our landlord has not raised the rent in over a decade.

In the studio opposite the chair is the desk area. The armoire our landlord was giving away, so we gladly took it in. The desk looks out to the street, and is framed nicely by the armoire to create a cozy nook. Below is an alter space, for meditation on the soft shaggy rug.

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room currently is our bedroom. Because we have a railroad apartment, you have to walk through a middle room to get to the front room. This middle room only has a window to the air shaft and is therefore small, dark, and quiet. Recently we decided to embrace this and made it our bedroom. The bed only fits longways and so it floats in the room and a dresser behind it acts as a wall of sorts. Another dresser is opposite that, creating a dressing nook. A beautiful soft silk rug my dad gave me is in between the two dressers, creating a truly luxurious space to get dressed. The bedroom is right off the front door, and so to create more privacy we recently bought Noren curtains to add a soft barrier into the bedroom. The front room, which used to be the bedroom, is much bigger and has much more light, but also faces the loud street. We turned that into an office and a second living room with enough floor space to do bodywork. I spent a lot of time detailing floor plans to make sure all the furniture would fit before we moved all our furniture because there would be no room to spare. It was incredibly rewarding to see this come to life.

The bedroom is now in the middle room of our railroad, to embrace the quiet and dark for sleeping. The window looks out to the air shaft, so the blinds are usually closed. A dresser acts as a wall behind the bed, which only fit lengthwise. A friend took the photo of the beach, and the amazing tin ceiling adds another nice thing to look at when in bed.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? We bought Noren curtains, to separate the bedroom from the entryway from Etsy.

Foyer off the front door. To the left are Noren curtains to create a soft barrier between the entryway and our bedroom, with a ceramic tile I had in my childhood bedroom reminding you not to get caught up in the details.

Any advice for creating a home you love? I would say allow yourself to live in the home and find what you want and need over time. Start simply and build from there, and more meaning will come. I learned this from an old roommate who was a painter and slowly our apartment filled with amazing art from friends. I also just read a quote from Kurt Vonnegut via Rachel Meade Smith, an artist who works with found objects, to put her work simply. The quote goes: “A flaw of human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” Known for being quite blunt, Vonnegut sums up a bit of how we got to this period of the human era, reckoning with our waste and a failing climate. Rachel Meade Smith’s approach to art is to make new with the old, to do maintenance — recognizing that we have so much on earth already and fixing and rebuilding are ways to manage the excess created by capitalism.

The living room is attached to the kitchen in an open floor plan. Visible are Persian pillows from my partner's aunt. The mirror is from a dresser that sits on the opposite wall we got from our landlord. The chairs I’ve collected over the years from various vintage stores, and same with the beautiful pendent that matches the tin ceiling. Blankets are very important in our household so there are always plenty to go around.

When designing an apartment, I think aiming to rebuild and find secondhand is a way to build something that is uniquely yours and invigorates a lifestyle stemming from regeneration. You’ll be proud of your own creativity, how you’ve matched what you’ve found to your own aesthetic. Or even how you’ve changed something — how you’ve repainted it maybe, or changed its purpose. For example, a desk became storage for pots and pans and an extra surface in our kitchen. Saying this, we do of course buy things new, but it is with careful consideration. I think these ideas point towards ways where your own individuality can come forward — you’re not just following the latest trend. It’s a process of self-discovery and your home becomes a reflection of you more distinctly, which is comforting, satisfying, and brings much joy.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
Share your styleHouse Tour & House Call Submission Form