A 500-Square-Foot NYC Studio Has an Ingenious Room Divider
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Name: Elaine Burns
Location: Prospect Lefferts Garden – Brooklyn, New York
Size: 500 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, owned
Elaine completed the search for an apartment of her own a little over six months ago; her home hunt was even featured in the New York Times. With the excitement of a new homeowner and the creative eye of a stylist, she had the layout of her space planned even before she finished moving in, selecting furniture and decor and envisioning how to create a separate living room and bedroom area in a studio apartment.
“Since I live in essentially one large room, I wanted to be sure that my main room felt separated into a living room area—acceptable for entertaining—and a bedroom. Creating clear vignettes using furniture and art helped to define these areas without making the space feel cramped,” she says.
On top of creating vignettes and art to define the spaces in her apartment, she also had the unique idea to create a plantation shutter faux wall to hide the bed and separate it from the entryway. She reached out to American Blinds to have the wall custom built. “Ensuring the dimensions/my vision would work required a lengthy call with a customer service representative there who seemed very skeptical of my idea!” she says. The shutters are made of wood and they work, perfect for privacy when closed and to let light through when open. She says the shutters sit within a frame that is attached to the floor and ceiling.
Elaine, a freelance interior decorator, adds personal touches and celebrates memories in her apartment’s design. Travel mementos fitted in custom frames hang on the wall; coasters collected from her favorite restaurants are fanned out on her coffee table or stacked on the bar cart. The coffee table—her proudest DIY—also tells a travel story: “I found the live-edge wood plank in a thrift store while on a weekend trip to Vermont and transformed it into my coffee table with some inexpensive hairpin legs,” recounts Elaine. “The rustic charm of the wood complements the other natural elements throughout my apartment and the legs add a juxtaposition of style while simultaneously tying the living area together. I sanded and varnished the wood myself and never need to worry about coffee rings since I know I can easily refinish it again,” she says, explaining why “it’s a piece that will live with [her] forever.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Modern with a vintage twist.
Inspiration: I have always been drawn to delicate details, feminine embellishments, and brass/gold accents. I wanted to incorporate all of my favorite design elements while keeping the space feeling airy and relaxing.
Favorite Element: My plantation shutter faux wall. Because of how I positioned my bed, it is the first thing visitors see when walking into my apartment! Creating a divider wall using shutters allowed for a clear division of space while letting light and air through—keeping the area feeling spacious and more visually interesting than a bed against a wall.
Biggest Challenge: Since I live in essentially one large room, I wanted to be sure that my main room felt separated into a living room area—acceptable for entertaining—and a bedroom.
Creating clear vignettes using furniture and art helped to define these areas without making the space feel cramped.
What Friends Say: Everyone who has visited thinks the space is a perfect representation of my design tastes and they comment on all of the details and personal touches. The saying “A place for everything and everything in its place” definitely rings true in my home.
Biggest Embarrassment: Needing to repair my freshly tiled and newly enameled bathtub just weeks after moving in because the original hanging planter I installed crashed down from the ceiling. Thankfully, I was able to track down the contractor that completed the renovations on the apartment for the repair!
Proudest DIY: My coffee table. I found the live-edge wood plank in a thrift store while on a weekend trip to Vermont and transformed it into my coffee table with some inexpensive hairpin legs. The rustic charm of the wood complements the other natural elements throughout my apartment and the legs add a juxtaposition of style while simultaneously tying the living area together.
I sanded and varnished the wood myself and never need to worry about coffee rings since I know I can easily refinish it again; it’s a piece that will live with me forever.
Biggest Indulgence: My entryway light fixture. As soon as I stumbled across it online, I HAD to have it, even though the existing entryway light was completely functional and inoffensive. The intricate glass pieces are geometric and bold, but when arranged and layered together look like a flower—adding the feminine charm that fits perfectly with the rest of my decor.
It turned out to be a big challenge to install with old wiring in the ceiling, but I love that it’s the first thing I see when I arrive home each day.
- You can never have too many plants!
- Don’t underestimate how much storage you will need. I keep so much under my bed and in my rolling desk drawer system. The storage pieces I use work seamlessly with the rest of my decor—so much so that they barely stand out.
- Hang panel curtains in the windows—it always makes the space feel polished.
Dream Sources: Serena and Lily, Rejuvenation, Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
Bar Cart – TJ Maxx
Cocktail Shaker – Anthropologie
Ceramic Jar — Early Bird Designs, similar here
“Tequila Mockingbird” Recipe Book
Most Cart Bar Accessories – Thrift store finds (including the 1960s “shot dispenser”), coasters collected from my favorite bars
Marble Utensil Holder – West Elm
Book Poster – Pop Chart Lab
Table – World Market
Chairs – Poly and Bark
Pink Velvet Chair – Amazon
Wall Hanging – Thrift store
Brass Lamp – Urban Outfitters
Curtains – Target
Gallery Wall Art – Family, 20×200, Society6, Minted
Sofa – Ikea
Coffee Table – Wood plank, legs from hairpinlegs.com
Baskets — Ikea
Rug – Wayfair
Magazine Rack – Thrift store
Club Chair – Thrift store (Re-Store)
Trays and Baubles – Vintage and travel mementos
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