The Decor of This 900-Square-Foot NYC Apartment Is Centered Around Books

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Disco ball reflections in dining room with wooden dining room table and paintings above dining table.
"Disco hour" in the eat / work / read / write area

Virginia McLure has been renting this one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment for eight years, and shares it with her husband and their cat, Quitleh: Rafa and I met in a creative writing masters program at NYU and, when we first moved in, we had mostly empty space and no extra money to decorate. Which was also fun because we treated it more like an event space: We had creative salons and Groupmuses and lots of parties. This is when I got very into rescuing furniture and objects from the street and scouring the free Craigslist section.

Now, as we’ve grown up together and built a life, the apartment feels much more like a reflection of our tastes and loves and how we want to spend our time: reading, writing, watching, lounging, cooking, snacking, and hanging out in Prospect Park. Recently we founded QTLH production studio (yes, named for our cat), so our home has also been a creative office for screenplay writing as well as fiction, poetry, and translation. Quitleh even has his own tiny laptop, but he tends to nap during meetings.

The loungiest couch in all of Brooklyn

I identify mostly as a book owner, and that’s reflected in how books are (artfully, I like to think) crammed into every room. That also informs much of my home design; mostly I have curated many spaces where it might be nice to read and maybe drink something. I’m not ultra-minimalist or ultra-modern. I favor what I think of as an “older” bohemian aesthetic — one that mixes ephemeral or quirky touches with objects made to last a long time. Less jungle-y, more garret-y. I love incorporating something old, like a Victorian-style filigree cabinet pull, on a modern-lined piece of furniture. Or using something for a new purpose: I actually found some old brass chair legs on Etsy and repurposed them into hooks for our keys.

Rather than a color palette or a design concept, I think of our home as a narrative with little moments all around: fossils from a trip to Utah, letters from poets Mary Ruefle and Charles Simic, the coffee cup from Mexico City, the broadside of a poem from a mentor, the pottery from Oaxaca, the wine glasses that we love but can’t remember who gave them to us, the eucalyptus in our shower from my best friend’s birthday bouquet, and tons of other little moments like that.

A mix of china, talavera, and our cat trying to break into his automatic feeder

Describe your home’s style in five words or fewer: A beautiful, comfy writer temple.

Origami above the bed, Oaxacan rugs underneath it

What is your favorite room and why? There’s something I love about all our rooms, which wasn’t always how I felt so it’s wonderful to be that way now. But our bedroom has three of my favorite things I’ve ever brought into our home. The first, origami hanging cranes above our bed, came from a book of origami and paper that Rafa bought me for our first married anniversary: the “paper anniversary.” Sometimes when I’m stressed, I just lie down on our bed and stare up at the cranes gently moving around. Hanging them also took *so long* and I mentally congratulate myself whenever I see them.

A vintage desk and modern chaise, for contemporary WFH

The second is my great-grandmother’s desk, which was hand-carved in a remote county of Alabama. She was a woman who went to college after she’d been married and had children, who was friends with Truman Capote and Harper Lee, and who by all accounts was a very wonderful and strange person. The desk has all these compartments, and when I first got it, it hadn’t been opened in 30 years so there were her old letters and photos and a few old magazines. It always feels like a special treasure. Finally, my chaise chair, which I bought for myself years ago when I had finished a first draft of a novel and I was still working at an agency. It was the first piece of nice furniture that I bought, and the first that I felt I would keep forever. Right now it’s my work-from-home station, and it always makes me sit up a bit straighter, feel a little more proud.

The grandest entryway mirror that a 1BR rental may have ever seen

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? This winter, I re-did our entryway and switched up our living room plan. My proudest score was a huge wooden carved mirror that I found on Providence, Rhode Island, Craigslist for $95! I also found another mirror, that used to attach to a headboard, on the street that I use as a foot mirror. The mirrors make the entryway feel so grand, and what used to be a squished hallway now feels like a *foyer,* darling. I also bought and painted a bookshelf (Craigslist) to make our media console, and found a sold-out CB2 Jaxon bookshelf for half-price (also on Craigslist).

I also found a beautiful 1940s side table, a proper globe, perfectly “aged” stools, and a table that was tall and skinny enough for my entryway but strong enough to hold that huge mirror, at two different antique centers: Antiques on Main in New Paltz, New York, and Clinton Antique Center in Clinton, Connecticut. I also properly installed hooks in the entryway, which have this modern look that still looks great alongside the old mirror.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Go slowly, and hunt for things you really love. Buy art from young artists. Have at least three places in your home besides your bed where you can read. Treat your home like a friend.

Thanks, Virginia!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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