A 550-Square-Foot NYC Rental Is Organized, Colorful, and Decorated for Under $4K

updated Oct 31, 2019
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.
1 / 16
Elaine Burns of Pistachio Designs designed Shelbi Jones' 550-square-foot "junior" apartment in Manhattan. This is Shelbi’s first solo apartment in New York, and she was ready to embrace color and create a space she could entertain in.

Renter’s name: Shelbi Jones
Designer: Elaine Burns of Pistachio Designs
Location: New York, NY
Size: 550 square feet
Years lived in: 8 months, renting

According to Elaine Burns of Pistachio Designs, her client Shelbi Jones is fun and “always traveling, socializing, and checking out what is new in the city—so her apartment needed to reflect her bright personality.” This is Shelbi’s first solo apartment in New York, and she was ready to embrace color and create a space she could entertain in. “Must-haves for Shelbi were: a space for entertaining, a dedicated area for her to work from home, and a sofa and/or daybed that could be converted into a comfortable spot for guests should she have last minute visitors. A lot for such a tiny home! But we always find a way to make it work in NYC, so sourcing furniture that could serve dual purposes (i.e. storage and functionality) was key,” reports Elaine.

Designing successful and stylish small spaces is Elaine’s expertise, as you can see in her tiny studio apartment tour (which sports one of my favorite room divider ideas of all time). Shelbi’s rental apartment isn’t a studio apartment like Elaine’s but it’s not far off; Elaine describes the home as a “junior” one-bedroom, which means there is a wall that separates the bedroom, but that separate bedroom is a petite 70 square feet! “I worked to infuse her small home with ample seating for movie nights and enough colorful accents to not overwhelm the space but still showcase her bright personality. Pillows are primarily from World Market, the desk (a perfect fit in that little nook!) was from West Elm, and the punchy (removable) wall covering in the bedroom is Society6—perfect for a renter.”

The total cost for completely furnishing this small apartment including furniture and decor? Under $4000. Not bad, considering how stylish the small space is… but also for how functional it is for Shelbi and her lifestyle.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Style: Modern, Eclectic, Colorful

Inspiration: Mid-century with a bright twist. I pulled inspiration from some of Shelbi’s favorite social accounts like 83oranges and Restyle to pull together a cohesive color palette.

Favorite Element: As a decorator, I absolutely love how the desk nook came together. The furniture pieces are minimal, while still looking luxe as everything fits perfectly within this small space. It almost feels custom!

Biggest Challenge: The ceiling height in this space (only about 6.5-7’!) was definitely tricky. My usual design tactic for smaller spaces is to design storage vertically, but that was not much of an option in this apartment! Shelbi and I got creative with storage solutions (her one closet is really utilized to the max!) and sourced really beautiful storage furniture–like her dresser.

I was also very considerate with lighting selections due to the lower ceilings. Most of the lighting in the space are sconces or table lamps. There is one floor lamp in the entire apartment–by the sofa–and it is a thinner brass piece to seamlessly blend into the rest of the decor and not bring attention to the lower ceilings.

Proudest DIY: Hanging the wallpaper in the bedroom! Is is removable and the pattern is abstract, which helped to simplify the install process. Now that it is installed, it makes a huge difference in the space and truly provides the pop of color Shelbi wanted.

Biggest Indulgence: The beautiful bedding. The details are so delicate and feminine–it looks like the bed is a cloud!

Best Advice: You can never have too many pillows! It may feel counter intuitive in a smaller space to bring in anything “extra,” but pillows add warmth and depth to even tiny homes. Plus they offer a great canvas for mixing colors and textiles.

Best home secret: Hang (or swap out!) artwork often. It will keep the space feeling fresh and will keep your home feeling completely you.




Thanks Elaine and Shelbi!

More great House Tour reads: