Making the Most of a Tiny Studio

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This tiny apartment in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn is the happy home of Kay Wang, her boyfriends Christopher Tryens, the couple’s dog, Corn (short for Conquistador), Chops, the cat, and Sushi, the cat. In case you’re counting, that’s two humans and three animals under one tiny live/work studio apartment. The apartment is a rental in what was formerly an old textile factory built in 1959, that was gutted in 2011 and turned into  studio and one-bedroom apartments. Before that, it sat vacant for a number of years (Kay says that Google street view still shows the building abandoned and boarded up prior to its conversion.). Initially, it was a huge challenge to make the space feel both spacious but comfortably lived in while still allowing for two people to have the space to breathe. In addition, to just finding space to live, the apartment is also where Kay designs and fabricates her jewelry line, The Things We Keep. Prior to her work as a jeweler, she was a marketing executive for nearly nine years. She wasn’t happy in the corporate world so she began to teach herself the basics of silversmithing/lost wax and was able to make the switch to full-time jeweler a year and half ago. Faced with the lack of space, Kay decided to design the home by highlighting only those things particularly meaningful to her. It’s now a happy (albeit tiny space) for both living and working.  -Amy

Image above: This is the second home of my workbench as I’ve continually tweaked the configuration of our live/work space (it used to live underneath the lofted bedroom area) and the new found space has been a breath of fresh air. The green enameled lampshade was a lucky swap meet score, the magnifying doctor’s lamp was scored at a studio lot sale in LA for mere pennies due to the fact that it was broken, but fixing it required nothing more than a bit of patience and finessing a few new wires and parts. :) The shelf above was put up as a place to house some of my favorite things: a little blue and white sculpture made in my first ceramics class, a sculpture from Morgan Peck, and a painting of my dog Corn by a dear friend’s eight year old daughter.

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Image above: In the area that used to house my workbench, I’d fulfilled a two year dream of finally finding a space to put a small dining room table so our guests finally have somewhere to sit when they come over for dinner. The white enamel lamp shade was another lucky swap meet find, the strung elephants and stuffed cloth birds in the foreground were brought home from separate trips to Istanbul and Vietnam, and the pile of wood in the background is an everyday reminder there are more spoons to carve and more cutting boards to make.

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See more of this small Brooklyn apartment after the jump!

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Image above: These are our only windows in the entire apartment which, while luckily flooding our space with light during the day, presented a challenge to maintain privacy since our unit is on the ground floor on a street that does get foot traffic (frosted windowpanes on the lower thirds and semi-opaque white roller blinds on the upper two-thirds addressed the problem). Of all the pieces that dot our apartment picked up from previous travels, the kilim saddlebag on the far wall is by far one of my favorites; it was negotiated at length over multiple cups of Turkish tea and scraps of paper passed back and forth in English and Turkish from a gentleman who owned the most fascinating junk/treasure shop in central Turkey.

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Image above: The loft was built by Chris’ uncle, and was intentionally built just big enough to hold our bed but not much more. There’s no closet in our apartment other than a tiny hallway closet next to the front door, so we built a track closet system underneath the loft to hold our clothes and shoes, and hid that behind some white curtains. My favorite thrifty score ever has to be the dark green card catalog drawers underneath the stairs; we found these in an abandoned warehouse near where we were staying when we first moved to Brooklyn and hauled them down four very precarious flights of fire escapes, and I’m pretty sure it was also raining that night. Not dangerous at all, and totally worth it. 

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Image above: We’ve traveled a bit in the last few years, and one of my favorite things to decorate with has been the treasures brought back from our trips due to the memories they evoke. The weaving adjacent to the shelf was handwoven by the Red Dao people of Sapa, brought back by Chris from a recent trip to Vietnam, the hanging ceramic ball was hand thrown by a family of ceramicists who have been working out of a cave in Avanos, the pottery capital of Turkey, for hundreds of years and the textile underneath the shelf is actually a small rug I hung up on the wall because…well, why not hang a rug on the wall?! More textiles are stacked on the shelf above the bed from travels to Iceland and Vietnam, and the lamp by the far wall was cobbled together from an antique baking pan, a vintage folding folding ruler and vintage knob pulls.

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Image above: The quilts stacked on the rocking chair were lucky finds between various secondhand stores and auctions, and the two wildebeest skulls along with the African impala horns were similarly lucky scores in Maine. The longhorns were a great find from a friend’s mother’s vintage shop in LA and were in pretty poor shape when I got them, and in even poorer shape when we moved cross country with them, but they’ve since been restored to their original 6-foot-plus grandeur – they’re super heavy, and huge!

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Image above: The small quilt square was originally going to be a patchwork pillow at Caitlin Mociun’s ‘Soften the Blow’ show, and was made with various scraps I dyed and sewed together, but after the initial front was completed I fell in love with it and couldn’t bear to let it go. The couch is a vintage Vatne Mobler, and in the foreground are my two cats, Chopsticks and Sushi.

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Image above: A remnant from when this area used to house my workspace is the repurposed driftwood necklace rack, otherwise all the shelves have found new residents for my ceramic and woodwork, either at its completion (as mugs and cutting/bread boards within easy reaching distance of guests at the table) or while it’s still a work in progress (my growing pile of bisque may need to soon find a new home :). The rope basket on the bottom right was a trade from my friend Doug Johnston who makes amazing hand sewn rope coiled baskets and bags, the mugs and tumblers are a mix of self made ceramics and ceramics from friends, and the three cutting boards at front are self-made hanging out with one from my dear friend and neighbor, Ariele Alasko.

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Image above: The wooden plane was a super random find at one of my favorite swap meets in the country, the Pasadena City College swap meet in Pasadena, California. I don’t know what attracted me initially to it (and still don’t), but I must’ve walked by it at least three times when I first saw it perched carelessly atop a vendor tent, and every time I walked by the tent the plane was perched in a more and more strategically placed spot. Finally I caved and asked the vendor about it, and after a few friendly exchanges, I walked away with this oversized boy’s toy for only a small chunk of change (and yes, it really flies!).

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Elizabeth W.

What an exquisite creation of space for living and work! It’s totally beautiful and how awesome to be a neighbor and friend of Ariele Alasko! I LOVE your cutting boards, as well as hers!

Michelle

I too have my workspace within my small SF living space, so this was super inspiring! Pretty home and very pretty work.

Frances Marin

Such an incredible space! It’s amazing that it is decorated so nicely, yet is a fully functioning workspace. So inspiring!

Anna

This is just beautiful! I’m curious, how did you hide your electronics cables?

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hi susan! the kitchen is a galley setup in that very long, very unusable hallway, which gets pretty much none of the light the rest of the living space receives, and was thus incredibly hard to photograph well. and at the very depths of said hallway is our bathroom. :)

anna – some of the cables are hidden underneath, and some are behind the wall.

Marlene-Sweet Honor Jewelry

What an inspiring space. I too have a studio apartment that also is my work studio. Still can’t figure out how to work in a couch yet. How wonderful they have found a harmonious balance and with all the lovely fur babies to boot! Bravo!

Alex

Super cute!! Though as someone who’s dopey dogs fall off the bed on a regular basis, that bed makes me super nervous, haha.

Karen A

I love it! POsts like this make me more calm about moving to NYC. I’m scared my boyfriend, our dog, and I are going to end up in a teeny tiny space!

Maya from House Nerd

Arrrghh! So inspiring, light-filled and quirky, cute and fun. Love the exposed piping on the ceiling and that awesome wooden shelving. And she has enviable hand lettering!

Natalie

There are so many things that I love about this feature. I love how they have arranged and decorated the space to make a tiny living space look incredibly roomy. I love that the building used to be a textile factory (I love textiles!!) I love that Kay is self-taught. Most of all, I love that she was finally able to quit corporate and practice her passion full time. A very inspiring story for those of us that dream about practicing our craft full time. Cheers to you!

Paul

Really inspiring from young designers. Thank you for running such a wonderful and informative website. Love the entire website……..

firehorse jane

Love the height and light, but yes, the end of the bed makes me nervous too! ;)

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