This Small Brooklyn Studio Has a Neat Plant Stand, Cool Coffee Station, and Smart Layout Ideas
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Name: Aurora Yim and dog Daisy
Location: Brooklyn — New York City, New York
Size: 800 square feet
Type of Home: Studio apartment in a factory loft conversion
Years Lived In: 3 years, renting
It’s the industrial architectural details in this studio apartment that appealed to Aurora Yim the most. “I love the details that show the building’s conversion from a factory to loft apartments like the tall ceilings, the exposed pipes, the huge windows, etc. It had been on the market for a while so I was able to get an incredible deal on it, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon,” she describes of the 800-square-foot space she’s been renting for three years.
Originally from Seattle, after a stint in Southern California, Aurora is now a Brooklynite, but while you can take the person out of Seattle, you can’t take the Seattle completely out of the person. “Growing up in Seattle, especially during the grunge and post-grunge era, incontrovertibly influenced my overall aesthetic,” she writes below. “It’s a lot of industrial and brutalist elements — plus a bunch of green plants.” It’s also reflected in the custom neon sign that reads “Public Market Center,” a not-so-subtle nod to Seattle’s Pike Place Market’s own iconic sign.
It’s not just odes to her birthplace that defines Aurora’s home, it’s also all the smart layout and small-space ideas found in her one-room studio apartment. She used a giant rug to visually define the living room area, she created the coziest sleeping nook with storage shelves and a very cool plant stand, and she brilliantly wields glass door cabinets to add extra space and bounce light around the space, making it feel larger and brighter.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Industrial, with eclectic, mid-century, and vintage accents.
I’m a big believer in embracing the space. I’ve always been drawn to industrial spaces so I jumped on this pre-war, factory-loft conversion. Ideally my home would be filled with darker colors but because I have a studio with west-facing windows, a dark color palette didn’t make sense. Instead, I used lighter neutrals, which help make the space feel larger. I did paint one wall black, but it’s the wall with my only windows so it doesn’t absorb the natural light that streams in.
Inspiration: I was raised in Seattle, and I’ve been told that it shows. Growing up in Seattle, especially during the grunge and post-grunge era, incontrovertibly influenced my overall aesthetic. It’s a lot of industrial and brutalist elements — plus a bunch of green plants.
Favorite Element: My custom neon sign. I actually had a friend recommend I get it in green because she thought it would match my home better, but that sign in any other color than red would just be blasphemous. If you know, you know.
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was finding ways to separate spaces, while simultaneously making everything feel cohesive since it’s just one large room.
I ended up using a large rug to separate the living room area from the rest of the space. I also had to be a bit unconventional with the layout. For example, all my clothes are in wardrobes next to my dining table, while the bed is tucked away in a dark corner on the other side of the room. I also made sure the flow of the entire space made sense. All the taller, bulkier furniture pieces are towards the perimeter of the apartment so nothing blocks the natural eyeline.
Proudest DIY: My entryway/coffee station. I use the right side as a pantry and coffee station, while the drawers on the left act as entryway storage for things like my keys, bags, mail, dog leash, etc.
I bought my media console second hand but didn’t want to get rid of my old one because it was still in good condition. I ended up moving it to my entryway and by the grace of god it JUST fit. However, because the walls aren’t at a 90-degree angle, it didn’t align seamlessly with the kitchen countertops, leaving a large triangle-shaped gap in between the kitchen countertop and the console that looked odd and wasted space. Thankfully I was able to source a free IKEA butcherblock countertop from Craigslist to lay on top of the console and cut it to the shape and size so that fit perfectly. It was a super messy project that left sawdust all over my apartment, but the result was so satisfying. Then I painted the console, and replaced the hardware to match my kitchen.
Biggest Indulgence: Without a doubt my espresso machine. It’s been a pipe dream to own it and I saved up for years but could never bring myself to actually buy it. Then the pandemic hit, I couldn’t visit my favorite coffee shops, and I got a super good discount so I bit the bullet and have absolutely no regrets. I started drinking coffee way too young and coffee is always a highlight of any day so getting to make café quality espresso drinks for me and my friends at home is such a luxury. Especially because I like drinking coffee at night, and no coffee shop was ever open late enough for me to get an 11pm cortado, and now I can just make it at home.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I have a reasonable number of books and not a whole lot of space so instead of opting for a bookshelf, I stack them on top of each other. I know all the books I have, and I have my own organization system that makes it easy for me to find the book I want. It’s definitely not for everyone but for me it works.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Three of my favorite things in my home are:
1) The Tweedy Bird cookie jar in my living room, which I stole from my parents’ kitchen when I was maybe 8 years old. I’m pretty sure that cookie jar is older than I am. It’s falling apart, chipped, and cracked but it’s nostalgic and reminds me of my dad who loved the Looney Tunes.
2) The vintage 1820s German coffee grinder, which I found at the Brooklyn Flea in Dumbo. I’m in love with coffee and vintage items so this was a great find.
3) The DeKalb Avenue subway sign that I got for free from a construction worker when the station was getting updated. It feels like I have a piece of the city in my apartment.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I know it’s something that everyone says but use mirrors and place them strategically. I used mirrored doors for my wardrobe and placed them on the opposite side of my windows so that they could reflect the natural light that streams in, making my apartment brighter and feel a lot bigger than it actually is.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Before buying anything, check second-hand websites, and take a walk around your neighborhood, especially if you live in a big city. Almost all of my home was furnished secondhand. Living in New York City, people are constantly moving and therefore getting rid of and/or selling their stuff making it easier to get pieces that I would otherwise never be able to afford. I can’t tell you the amount of times I found pieces from Anthropologie, West Elm, etc. and searched for those specific pieces on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc. and found the exact items I was looking for at a fraction of the cost. IKEA is affordable, but IKEA second hand is even better! I’ve also found amazing pieces free on the sidewalk.
Additionally, if you live in a smaller space, which in big cities is usually the case, opt for multi-purpose furniture. For example, my coffee table has hidden storage as does my couch, which can also pull out into a bed. Likewise, instead of having a full-length mirror, I used mirrored doors on cabinets so I get the functionality of a mirror plus storage.
PAINT & COLORS
- Entryway Console — Benjamin Moore “Edgecombe Grey”
- Window Wall and Entryway Door — Portola “Black Star”
- Entryway Storage — Craigslist
- Entryway Butcherblock Countertop — IKEA
- Custom Neon Sign — Yellowpop.com
- Vertical Plant Stands — Craigslist
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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