Name: Danny & Joni
Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
Size: 690 square feet
Years lived in: 3.5 years
How do you make 690 square feet feel absolutely enormous? Add tall ceilings, lots and lots of windows, and some clever DIY storage solutions.
Danny and Joni have come up with plenty of creative solutions for living in an apartment that is essentially just a single room — and that only has one closet, which also houses the water heater. To your right, immediately after you enter the apartment, is a wall of IKEA wardrobes, which helps the couple keep their space tidy and uncluttered. Bikes hang on the wall, coats hang on a door, and the space above the cabinets gets utilized, too. But the most striking of the storage solutions is the platform they had custom-built for their bed, which serves the double purpose of creating a cozy spot for the bed in a large, open space and also incorporating lots of extra storage.
The couple are both big fans of midcentury design, and it shows in the apartment’s minimal, streamlined feel, and in the interesting pieces that you find scattered throughout the space. The Calder-style mobile above the bed is the perfect finishing touch for the little bedroom, and can be seen from the rest of the apartment, too. Above the wardrobes is a collection of midcentury children’s chairs, which allows the couple to indulge their love of design on a small scale. And then there’s the (full sized) Bertoia Bird Chair, which adds a delicious pop of red that can be seen throughout the space.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Urban Industrial, Mid-Century Modern, Scandinavian.
Inspiration: We love mid-century modern architecture, and make a point of visiting notable spots when we can. So far, we’ve visited Philip Johnson’s Glass House, the Eames’ Case Study house, the Schindler House, and Joni has been to Falling Water. We have an unhealthy obsession with design blogs, and Danny keeps a Tumblr blog to document some of the best things he finds online. And NYC has no shortage of inspiration from admiring well-designed offices, bars and restaurants, to lazy weekend afternoons wandering vintage furniture stores.
Danny was fortunate to grow up with great design influences in his life, with one Great-Aunt who was an artist and interior designer, and another with a penchant for mid-century modern design. Their style has been a great influence on ours.
Favorite Element: The bed. Hands down. (Although the mid-century modern children’s chairs we have been collecting on top of the closets take a close second.)
We spent two years in the apartment with a functional wooden bed frame, and were constantly fighting for more storage space (see biggest challenge below). After considering a number of options for new bed frames and storage, we decided to get over our hesitations about putting a little money into building in a rental, and decided to design something that would fit our needs better than a standard out-of-the-box solution. We had fallen in love with a number of custom built-ins we saw online, and decided to use them as our inspiration for designing a lofted storage bed with plenty of space to hold our growing collection of books. We found an awesome carpenter on Craigslist who worked with us to keep the build within our modest budget, and fit the bed exactly to our space. All-in, it cost us about the same as what a nice bed frame would have, but it’s completely custom, and offers a ton of storage!
Biggest Challenge: Storage. Our apartment has exactly one closet that’s dominated by a water heater. Every time we turn around, we’re looking for new solutions to hide away the stuff that inevitably collects in an apartment, which hasn’t been any easier since we got married this last fall. Since moving in, we’ve doubled our wardrobe space and added the bed for additional storage. Creating nooks and crannies to store things really helps us keep the clean aesthetic we love without feeling like we have to constantly get rid of things.
What Friends Say: Friends tend to fall into one of two camps: jealous admiration or a distaste for one-room living. We feel really lucky to have found a space that is such a blank canvas — just a white box with plenty of room to make what we would like out of it. Having such an open space can be pretty hard to find in New York, so folks tend to be fairly surprised by that after coming through the raw, industrial common areas in our building.
We love having friends over, and for a while we were regularly hosting Brunch Club (think supper club, but for brunch) and frequent work sessions at our place. We’d host every 6 weeks or so, and we’ve easily hosted 12 (maybe more) people around our dining table. We really wanted our space to work well for cooking and creating together with friends, so we keep a lot of things within easy reach of the dining table — like whiteboard markers to sketch out ideas on the closets, butcher paper to cover the dining table or island for pasta and cookie making, and the projector in the living room that has come in handy for YouTube video marathons and impromptu karaoke sessions.
Biggest Embarrassment: We had a leaky roof that almost destroyed our bathroom. For over a year, after any rainfall, our bathroom walls looked like they had leprosy. We avoided having folks over for a while, but eventually we got over it and just apologized to our friends for the inconvenience (and the bucket on the floor to catch the rain water).
Proudest DIY: Definitely, the bed has been one of the best decisions we’ve made for the space. We’ve made a lot of small changes to other things in the apartment along the way, like creating a stair gate out of pegboard and a perch behind the couch for our dog, Ernest, and adding legs to our IKEA shelves so they would sit flush with the wall and hover over the baseboard heaters. I think we’ve both learned not to be too reverent with design and try out new things to make our space work better for us. The next project we want to tackle is to transform Joni’s vintage trunk into a liquor cabinet.
Biggest Indulgence: The Bird Chair. Danny is a HUGE fan of mid-century furniture. He’d been eyeballing a Bird Chair for years, but had held off due to the cost and the difficulty in finding the perfect specimen. Then during a wander around the neighborhood one day,we stopped by a vintage store called RePop. Sitting right up front was a pristine white-with-red cushions Bird Chair at a price that we couldn’t pass up.
Best Advice: Don’t let a rental slow you down. If you’re even remotely confident that you’re going to stick around for a while, do what you have to do to make the apartment your home. Build a little custom furniture, or customize what you have to make it better fit your needs. And never stop exploring and considering new options, new layouts, and new arrangements. We’ve had a few iterations of the apartment over the years, as Joni and our dog, Ernest, moved in, and we’ve had a chance to upgrade things here and there. Making changes to the apartment to fit our needs and lifestyle really makes it a place where we love to spend time together.
• 2×2 Cubby Unit: IKEA Expedit
• Wall-mounted Bike Rack: Container Store
• Prints: Josef Albers, Dr. Seuss, and Austin Kleon
• Wardrobes: IKEA (Get the glossy white doors and they work as white boards!)
• Paramount Sofa: BluDot
• Coffee Table: DoubleButter
• Bertoia Bird Chair: Knoll, found at RePop
• Mirror: IKEA
• 4×1 Cubby Units: IKEA Expedit
• Prints: Josef Albers
• Things on the bookshelf: Mostly vintage ephemera, Carol Padberg prints
• Partner’s Desk (in work area): Cobbled together from IKEA countertop and legs
• Artwork (over desk): artist unknown (was a gift from Danny’s Great Aunt, Lillian Pierce), framed invitation to an event at the Cooper Hewitt based on a sketch by Frank Lloyd Wright, a brochure from the Case Study House, and an art project of Joni’s
• Table Legs: Hay Studio
• Table Top: IKEA Kitchen Counter
• Reclaimed Wood Benches: Etsy
• Trunk: Vintage garage sale piece that Joni has had since she was little
• Artwork: Danny’s Great Aunt, Lillian Pierce
• Island: IKEA; custom painted, with extra hardware for the butcher paper
• Expandable shelf over the stove: IKEA
• Bed: Custom design/built by Sebastian Paulson
• Vases: Heath
• Blanket: Pendleton
• Artwork: Danny’s Great Aunt, Lillian Pierce
• Mobile: inspired by Alexander Calder from MoMA Design Store