sneak peek: abby clawson of hi + low

today’s first sneak peek is courtesy of anne and takes us into the home of abby clawson low, designer and author of the blog hi + low. abby is a design director who specializes in identity and publication design. her studio projects range from logos and websites to books and collaborative projects. in addition to working for clients like chronicle books, west elm and takashimaya, abby also lent her creative talents to kate spade‘s in-house design team (where she was senior art director) from 2004 to 2007. abby now runs her own design studio and teaches at the fashion institute of technology (where i’ll be speaking tonight!) as an adjunct professor in the communication arts department. thanks to abby for sharing her beautiful home with us and thanks to anne for compiling this sneak peek. read on to hear abby’s descriptions of each photo below. as always, you can click here for full-sized (and many extra!) photos of abby’s lovely home (as well as detailed descriptions of the furniture and products in each room).

About 3 and a half years ago, after having lived in a cramped, 350 square foot space in Chinatown, Manhattan, my husband found this Park Slope, Brooklyn apartment on That same night I saw it and the next morning returned with my husband to sign the lease. We have been living here ever since. The apartment consists of half of the parlor floor of an old brownstone. Being on the parlor floor, we have the luxury of 13 foot ceilings and 9 foot windows — which give us incredible light.

I don’t think my husband and I ever thought, “Let’s do our apartment this way or that.” Everything just came together organically as we added a piece here and came across another there. Most of the items have some sort of significance to us (either the date on which they were purchased, or where/how they were found). And having grown up in a do-it-yourself household, my mother taught me a lot about finding the good in something old and how to work a unique piece of furniture into a room. Several of the pieces in our apartment today are purchases my mother made while visiting me here in New York City or sent to me from home. She has been a big inspiration.

In 2001, I bought my first piece of furniture here in the city. It was a George Nelson desk. The instant I saw it I knew I had to buy it. It has clean lines and incredible craftsmanship (the wooden piano-hinged extension is quite striking). Luckily, it was at the flea market, so I got a great deal. It was also the desk I sat and worked at in the first few months of going solo and starting my own design studio, HI + LOW, last May. (Fortunately this cramped arrangement didn’t last long; in July I rented a studio in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and now sit at a much larger desk — thank goodness.)

The second piece of furniture I acquired was the off-white upholstered chair in my living room. The chair was $35 at a thrift store in Salt Lake City, and covered in a floral yellow and orange vinyl. I was in Utah attending a family reunion at the time and didn’t think I could get it home to NYC. My mom bought it, drove it to California, reupholstered it herself, and freighted it to Brooklyn as a gift. So nice.

My best purchases, I would have to say, were the bookshelves in our living/dining room and bedroom. They are the standard galvanized steel and fiberboard shelves found in most hardware stores and garages. I really love the color of the fiberboard – a warm neutral – and the cool metal posts both nicely contrast everything we have in our apartment. And the price was incredibly cheap (each bookshelf cost $39.99). Since we LOVE books (my husband is an avid reader and I am an avid collector) we were able to add more shelves as our collection grew without breaking the bank.

Living in a rental apartment we are not able to paint the walls (they are the standard rental ‘white’), but we are able to let our very colorful collection of books express a rich and eclectic palette in an otherwise neutral space.

Besides books, I also love chairs. Right now we have 10 chairs in our 1 bedroom apartment. I would like to have more, but until we move to a bigger space, I’ll just have to admire other chairs from a distance. One of my favorite designers is Paul McCobb (his chairs are always listed on Ebay). Simple designs with interesting combinations of materials and great lines always catch my eye. Luckily, in the world of second-hand, you can come by vintage and antique chairs at fairly low prices, so it can be an exercise in control to limit yourself to buying a well-edited few. But I’m still working on that. For more information on the items and furniture in my photos, click here.

  1. Kendall says:

    Please, please, please reveal your source for the bookshelves! I am in desperate need of that cheap/chic solution for my large collection!

  2. zee says:

    Hi Abby, I absolutely adore your home’s clean color palette and eclectic mix of materials. Noticed an “Ace of Spades” cushion in your flickr set (but because I don’t have a flicr acct I’m asking here) – where did you get that? It’s too cute. :)

  3. Pamela says:

    Love it! Because of your beautiful design sense I actually like the standard white walls. It really lets everything in your apartment stand on it’s own. Picking wall colors seems to be such a traumatic event for most of us but the white just looks crisp and clean.

  4. Benita says:

    What an incredibly beautiful space! Love it!

  5. lauren says:

    What a beautiful home! Such an inspiration- thanks for sharing!

  6. Dana says:

    Oh my lord, this is my favorite sneak peek by far. I’m mildly obsessed with chairs too – what I wouldn’t give for the three in your living room! Beautiful home.

  7. Ohhh, this is a inspiration! Mirrors are so important in spaces (I’m in search of one for our dining room). I also love the dinning room chairs… perfect.

  8. kristina says:

    i have that book & chair disease also…

  9. Wow! Very nice home. The nelson desk is great!

  10. I’m an avid reader of Hi + Low and I just love this post (and the rooms)! The nitty gritty on all the items is also greatly appreciated ;-)

  11. lisa c says:

    beautiful beautiful.

  12. bh says:

    I am also wondering about the exact source for bookcases. Didn’t see that info. on Flickr. And the whole apt. is really to die for. So beautiful, light, and airy.

  13. T-H-A-N-K-S everyone! We are glad we could post about the place (as it has been our favorite NYC apartment in the 9 years we’ve been here).

    To answer a few questions:

    1. Pillows (apple + ace of spades) are from

    2. Bookshelves are the basic ones you find at a hardware store. These were bought about 3 years ago at Target, but are no longer sold there. I found others at:

    Pintchik Hardware
    478 Bergen St
    Brooklyn, NY 11217-2402
    Phone: (718) 783-3333

    about a year and a half ago. They should be pretty easy to find.

    You should be able to find the origins of most things in the comments section of the flickr photos.

    All best,

  14. Every week these “sneak peaks” make me dream. They’re all so different yet cozy and charming.
    I can imagine living in all/any of them. Thanks for sharing these homes with us every Monday. I love and look forward to them!

  15. Lauren says:

    love all the chairs!

  16. she is such an idol….love your style abby!

  17. what a lovely space. the apple pillow is wonderfully charming and such a nice splash of color. and that fireplace is simply exquisite….

  18. Jen says:

    What a lovely place. I love how clean and crisp it is…and the furniture-gorgeous!!

  19. Kathy says:

    Believe it or not I just found the tall steel and particle board shelving online at Wal-Mart :

    They are 72″ high though. I’m personally looking for 36″ high shelves so please do let me know if anyone finds them!

  20. lillie says:

    love it love it! gotta find some of those shelves…

  21. Hey Kathy,

    About the shorter shelves (you mentioned 36″ high versions of the same thing):

    If you buy the 72″ high ones they are assembled in many parts, and one being the height strips are actually two lengths put together, so you could make a shorter shelf very easily. We actually did that in our bedroom (see flickr set of lamp and framed art on shelf set).

    Good luck and glad you found them!


  22. Barb McMahon says:

    Looking at the pictures, I thought you chose the white paint for the walls – it works so well with everything you have in there!

  23. Jeska says:

    Great home! love the desk.

  24. martha says:

    Your home is just beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  25. Kelly says:

    Love this house! I ordered some shelves from walmart to try to do that to my living room. Thanks for the inspiration.

  26. Melissa says:

    Yes that house is truly amazing!

  27. Hey Abby,

    This is your cousin. Love your home. Aren’t bargains the best!

  28. Annie!

    I love my Barlow cousins!

  29. Late finding this post, but I’m so jealous. I desperately wanted those Hirsch Industries shelves for my office when my husband and I started our renovation last year. I love industrial shelving and those are the best of them, by far. I couldn’t find them anywhere locally (SF), and for the height I wanted, the shipping more than doubled the price. I couldn’t do it. So I wound up painting my old Ivars instead.

    Jealous, jealous, jealous.

  30. melissa barak says:

    Beautiful home!!! Where did you get the white metal chair?

  31. c16621 says:

    ….another sneek peek that shows a mastery of accessorization. Very nice. Just looking at these pictures made me relax….

  32. indyg says:

    beautiful – can i move in??!! and where oh where oh where did you find that beautiful map? loveliest print i’ve ever come across.

  33. Lene' says:

    This is my favorite peek I’ve checked out so far. So pulled together and nothing overdone or underdone.(Is “underdone” a word?)Beautiful!!!!

  34. mums4 says:

    what are the dimensions of the bookcases/shelves in the home? walmart has two and they are the same height but one is slightly smaller width and depth wise. are they adjustable? i noticed in photos one has more shelves than the other. just want to make sure i get it right when i order ;)

  35. abby jenkins says:

    Hi Abby, it’s Abby. I love books and chairs too, but I especially love that one your mom upholstered. That’s really special.


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