A 400-Square-Foot Brooklyn Apartment Is Filled With Incredible Color and DIY Projects

updated Mar 13, 2020

A 400-Square-Foot Brooklyn Apartment Is Filled With Incredible Color and DIY Projects

updated Mar 13, 2020
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Name: Jackie Cantwell
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Size: 400 square feet
Years Lived In: 3 years, renting

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In Jackie Cantwell’s Brooklyn rental apartment, the decor started with the colorful piece of art in the living room, which was painted by her dad. The colors that fill this small space—all 400 square feet or so of it—are inspired by the hues found in the energetic abstract painting. But it’s not just color that she’s packed her home with.

As an artist, teacher, co-founder of SHIM Art Network (an arts organization empowering artists through collectives), co-founder of The Bishop (a community art gallery in Bed-Stuy), facilitator of Medi Club, resident sound practitioner/social media person for for The Big Quiet, and founder of Camp Remember (a camp dedicated to helping kids remember it’s cool to be yourself), Jackie has made room for all of her passions (even Elvis Presley memorabilia) in a tiny space by embracing the DIY spirit.

In her colorful kitchen, for instance, she made more room for cooking by installing a pull-out counter made from an old microwave stand. She has extra wood she can place on top of the sink to create more counter space. With only one tiny closet for the whole apartment, she had to get creative when it came to storage, like in the bedroom where matching boxes from IKEA are used for art supplies.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: ’60s DIY eclectic.

Inspiration: I am inspired by color and life and plants and art! I get really inspired after traveling to new countries, and always try to incorporate at least one item from each trip into my apartment. I grew up in a house stacked high with artwork, and all of our walls were painted groovy colors. One of my dad’s best friends, Pat O’Brien, painted interiors. I’m talking floor to ceiling, cabinets, doors, all of it—hand-painted with the most amazing designs and patterns. His personal home was a dream. I always wanted a home like that, so rich with color and texture. I actually paint custom interiors (much like my kitchen and bathroom) myself now, all around New York City and Brooklyn; I’m available for hire!

Favorite Element: I really love my bedroom. Maybe it’s living in New York for eight years that got me used to a room without a window, but science says that humans sleep best in cave-like conditions. If I could make sweet love to my bed I would.

Biggest Challenge: The closet. I Marie Kondo the shit out of my place on the monthly, but since the actual series came out it’s giving me the itch to tackle this space again. I keep one season in a bag under the bed, and the other in the closet. It’s a very small closet; it’s kind of mayhem no matter how hard I try.

What Friends Say: I asked my friend/neighbor Micky what he thought and he said, “If Stevie Nicks, Ram Dass, and Andy Warhol had a child this would be their apartment.”

Biggest Embarrassment: That it took me so long to figure out how to keep plants alive in here, sorry little guys! And the ceiling in the bathroom.

Proudest DIY: My window bench in the kitchen! Or the paint jobs. Or the pegboard/flip-out counter.

Biggest Indulgence: Groceries!

Best Advice: Don’t be afraid of color! I know New Yorkers love monochrome, but have you heard of Chromotherapy? It’s legit color therapy. Color can balance energy wherever our bodies are lacking—whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. If you don’t know where to start, let one piece you really love speak to you. I started this apartment out with the one big painting my dad made, and pulled colors from there. Also, YOU CAN DO IT. Everything you ever wanted to DIY is on YouTube.


Benjamin Moore — Spring Leaf
Benjamin Moore — Calypso Green
Benjamin Moore — Blue Flower
Benjamin Moore — Admiral Blue
Benjamin Moore — Lotus Flower
Benjamin Moore — Jade Green
Benjamin Moore — Rumba Orange
Benjamin Moore — Sparkling Sun
Benjamin Moore — Peach

FOTO Plug-in Pendant Lamp — IKEA
Mid Century Wishbone Chairs — Rove Concepts
Faux Wool Mongolian Lamb Fur Pillow — Overstock
Numark PT-O1 Portable Turntable — Google Express
Plants — Chelsea Garden Center
Black Vase — IKEA
Skinny Mirror — IKEA
Art — Doug Brown
Table — Vintage by my grandpa
Curtains — India
Spoons — Africa
Brass Teapot — Vintage Turkey

Elvis Clock — Amazon
Silk Monstera and Bird of Paradise — Lasting Art
DOLCE Viscose Pile Rug — Land of Rugs
White Marble Vase — Rove Concepts
Wire Rack — Home Depot
Japanese Antique Porcelain Mugs — Makari Japanese Antiques and Fine Art
Bowls — Target
Tumbler Glasses — IKEA
Glass Clamp Jars — Container Store
Pegboard Hooks — Amazon
Hario Pour Over Kettle — Amazon
Trash Cans — IKEA
Extra Flip-out Counter Space — DIY
Decorative Turkish Plates — Vintage from my mom
Spice Rack — DIY
Window Seat — DIY
Pegboard — Any hardware store
Clamp Lamp — Dollar Store
Stools — Dollar Store
Shelves — DIY
Elvis Mug — Vintage, Florida
Wooden Bowls — Vintage from grandma
Sake Set — Vintage, LA
Ceramic Teapot — Vintage
Tin Artwork — Oaxaca, Mexico City
Wooden Shoes — Switzerland
Brass Lunch Box — Turkey
Black & White Striped Vase — Made by my grandpa
Mexican Shadow Box — Oaxaca
Stacking Dolls — Russia

Shelving — Container Store
RANARP Clamp Lamp — IKEA
Marble Mid-Century Tripod Side Table — Etsy
Platform Bed Frame — Overstock
Round Wall Mirror — Target
Faceted Lantern — West Elm
All Bedding — West Elm
Pure White Ceramic Vases (assorted) — West Elm
Guitar — Martin Guitar
White Storage Boxes — IKEA
Wicker Baskets — IKEA
Artwork — Roberto Jamora
Tibetan Singing Bowls — Nepal
Gold Tray — Vintage Air Force from grandma

Mirrors — All IKEA
ELF Shelving — Container Store
Baskets — Dollar Store
Towels — Amazon

Thanks, Jackie!