sneak peek: christen maxwell

Many people claim their abode is small, but designer Christen Maxwell’s West Village apartment is positively tiny — it measures only 7-ft. wide by 53-ft. long. Christen describes it as “the size of a semi-truck container!” It is two bedrooms (one bedroom is used as a studio/warehouse) and since it’s only only 375 sq. ft., Christen has had to get creative, as every item in her home must be multifunctional. Since she’s not allowed to paint or make any structural changes, she relies on textiles to warm things up — hot pink pillows in the summer and metallics in the winter. And because the space is so tiny, small changes make a big impact. Christen offers some great small-space decorating tips, and be sure to check out the floor plan at the end of the peek! Thanks, Christen! And a big thanks to E. Adam Attia for the lovely photos! — Amy A.

I have lived in over 10 apartments in every corner of Manhattan over the last eight years — from the East Village, to the Upper East, to Harlem, to the Financial District (my second fave area in NY!), and most recently, for the last year and a half on Morton Street in the West Village, the most amazing place in NY. It feels a lot like Portland, Maine (where I’m from). I bike along the waterfront, go to local coffeeshops, have access to the most amazing restaurants (check out The Little Owl!) and can always see the sky (there are no skyscrapers ’round here). I believe your decorating style has to fit the bones of your space and has to fit within what your landlord will allow. It’s in my lease that I cannot paint, replace hardware or doors (had to hang fabric over the closets!), or install new cabinetry (what I’d do for floor-to-ceiling glossy white kitchen cabinets — oh the storage!). I love to host cocktail parties and knew that I didn’t want my friends to feel like they couldn’t touch something or that if they spilled something, I’d freak (though I do have a white loveseat!), so I aimed to create a space that is warm yet modern and pretty but practical.

Image above: The living/kitchen space was tricky to lay out. I don’t believe in designing a room around a TV so I knew I’d need to hide it right away (mine is hidden behind the curtains.) With a small room, you want to try and break up the room as much as possible to give the illusion of space without going too far and making the room appear smaller. Every object in the design needs to fit multiple uses and hide as much as it stands out. For example, when entertaining, the coffee table’s scrolls become magazine racks or the perfect spot to stash a handbag. The console becomes a buffet, and African baskets under the lucite chairs stand in as the “junk drawer.” A designer tip for making a small space feel larger is to keep the same color palette for every room. This way, you won’t feel as though you’re entering tiny, precious jewel boxes; rather, you’ll feel a continuation of cohesive space. Another tip: hang mirrors, lots of mirrors!

Image above: I found the empty picture frames hanging above the bed in front of my apartment. I couldn’t find a side table I liked to save my life, so I flipped over a huge flower pot and used the saucer as the tray. The pillows are part of my collection. The throw is from Scents and Feel (love them!).

Image above: Being a designer in New York is like being a vintner in Bordeaux; you have everything at your fingertips and all you have to do is cultivate it to perfection. I came to the city to study painting, later transferring to Parsons to study product design. Upon graduating, I worked for industry leaders and this past year I launched my own collection, Christen Maxwell Home. All of our printed linen is proudly hand-screened, hand-cut and hand-sewn in the USA.

CLICK HERE for more of Christen’s West Village apartment!

Image above: I found this console out front in the trash. It had a broken door so the neighbors must have thought it was done, but I thought the open half could make a bookshelf/display. My TV and speakers are hidden behind the drapes in the living room.

Image above: I love the mix of textures, prints, metallics and reflections in this photo. There are so many things going on, from the repetition of the bricks to the stacks of art reflected, but everything stays calm and collected in this color palette.

Image above: Looking into the living room from the kitchen. I made the art in the frames for $32 each — $30 IKEA Ribba frames are fabulous, then I just painted black and silver abstract art with acrylic paint and silver colored pencil on illustration board ($1.50 per sheet at Pearl Paint).

Image above: A view sitting on the windowseat looking at my bed. IKEA pendent. Must have flowers always! Pillows from the collection.

  1. carolyn says:

    oh my! i know it’s so simple, but that corkboard hung by a ribbon is so wonderful. great ideas here :)

  2. Kristan says:

    What a gorgeous home and sense of style!! I love the chair in the first shot, the coffee table in the second, and the flower pot side table. How clever!

  3. Tammy says:

    thanks for the inspiration! And I thought my place was small :) I’m going to try to incorporate some of your tips!

  4. peter says:


  5. Memo says:

    That couch is great. What is it? I too have a tiny NYC apartment…

  6. Joanna says:

    Wow this is to tiny, but so calm and peaceful!

  7. Jen says:

    I had kitchen cupboards like that in my last apartment – sort of cream-coloured laminate. That would have been fine, except the rest of the cupboards were painted bright white. I put white contact paper over the cream laminate so the colours would match, and then I added a layer of cherry-tinted varnish over the wood parts to make the wood a little nicer. My landlord never noticed, and the contact paper was completely removable. It made a world of difference.

    1. Dunkin says:

      Awesome Idea Jen. I will try this in my nephews 1st apartment.

  8. Holy MOLY that’s small! She’s done a great job with it – LOVE the shadows from those cool pendant lights!

  9. erika says:

    Cute lamp!

  10. Jaime says:

    Great ideas for small spaces. I live in twice this size place now, but will likely go smaller after my big move.

    I can definitely do it!

  11. Caroline says:

    Apologies if I missed it in the article, but where are the round pendant lamps from?

  12. Oh my. I am in love with your apartment. Excellent use of space. Brilliant bedside table!

  13. I love those metallic pillows. Easily my favorite items in the entire space. Funny how the little things make a huge difference.

  14. Luxx says:

    Beautiful and cozy, filled with great ideas for small spaces. Thank you for this, I love her pillows and fabric as well!

  15. Wow, that is tiny but I love the way it’s decorated!

  16. I’m dying to see her studio space too! We only peeked at the bedroom and living areas! My landlord wont let me paint or screw anything into the walls! Ugh! The plight of being a renter! :)

  17. annawithlove says:

    These are absolutely gorgeous, love everything!!

  18. I love it!, looks so chic and comfy. And the bedside table very original.

  19. Christine says:

    Can I ask how you found this place… friend, Craigslist, broker? I’m looking for something similar in the same area & am overwhelmed by where to start!

  20. Lauren says:

    Love the fabric on the chair in the first pic (white and yellow/orange floral?)! Could we get the source for it? Thanks!

  21. Jen Selk says:

    [Re: Caroline. Apologies if I missed it in the article, but where are the round pendant lamps from?]

    Almost all the lighting I see in this post, including the pendants, is from IKEA! :) The while, round pendant is the PS Maskros light.

  22. Green Key says:

    Awesome. That’s all I can say. I love it!

  23. Andreea says:

    Indeed it is a great job,great sense of design.I got the fouta towels from and love them ,too!

  24. I am not lying when I say it’s my fantasy to live in a tiny space like this one. Love it!

  25. Cojo says:

    7ft wide…Good thing you aren’t dating a basketball player or you wouldn’t be able to fit in the bed together.

  26. elle says:

    perfection. i would move in and hardly change a thing!

  27. RLTarch says:

    I never tire of the exposed brick look! Our first home in German Village (Columbus OH) was solid brick and we fell in love with the texture and color!

  28. RLTarch says:

    The floor plan is intriguing – would love to find a way to completely eliminate the hallway!

  29. Rudy says:

    do you drive a Mini?

  30. Andrea says:

    Yes!!! More small spaces like this one — please?!

  31. Rudy says:

    where do you keep your bike?

  32. Stephen says:

    I see Swann’s Way and Devil in the White City on her bedside. High approval of her reading list!

  33. gorgeous furnitures, love the couch and bed, great pillow covers and curtains, like them very much

  34. Martyna says:

    Christen Maxwell, Your apartment is very veyr cozy ;)

  35. Soledad says:

    She probably drives a Smart car.

    Beautiful home!

  36. It’s amazing what people can do with small spaces. This looks perfectly live-able and perfectly lovely. Thanks for sharing.
    -Deb for Ecover

  37. meg says:

    What a cute place!

    I like that wooden table lamp. Anyone have any idea where it’s from?

  38. I like the mixture of materials new and old (brick). It is quite artful.

  39. jill says:

    someone loves ikea!! good on ya!

  40. Krissy says:

    The pattern created by the lights is so magical looking!

  41. Anna says:

    I love it! it looks so cozy with all the fabrics.

  42. Hannah says:

    Wow, what an inspiring space. I have a teeny flat too with a similar colour palette, looks great here.

  43. fabiola says:


  44. sarah says:

    Lovely, but are there any windows? Is this underground? Curious …

  45. Beth Anne says:

    Can anyone tell me where to source those pendant lights? I love the patterned light they cast?


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.