Interiorssneak peeks

An Old Hospital Becomes a Home

by Garrett Fleming

My home city of Chicago is an architecture fan’s dream city. There are so many different styles of buildings all crammed together, that five years into living here I still find myself walking to work with my neck craned upward. I can’t even imagine all the striking stories these buildings could tell. I am sure my apartment building — a 100-year-old walkup — can tell its fair share of stories, but I haven’t discovered much beyond finding out it’s been home to three generations of my landlord’s family. So when I heard that New York-based prop-stylist Kira and her photographer partner Scott found out their rent-controlled Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment was actually part of an old converted hospital, I was excited to hear more about their building’s history.

Both Kira and Scott hail from small, New England towns that are a far cry from the buzzing, 24-hour marathon that New York can be. The hustle and bustle of the city is something the couple truly loves, but when they were on the hunt for their home, they wanted to ensure that their new space provided a calming refuge from the city. The old hospital conversion that they stumbled upon was not only convenient to public transportation, but to famers’ markets, the Brooklyn Museum, the public library and much more. “There was a lot to do within walking distance and there are tons of great restaurants, bars and coffee shops,” Kira says. The one-bedroom’s abundance of light was a huge selling point for the couple, as well as its ability to be changed to suit their lives. “After a few years this apartment definitely feels like home, especially since we have customized it so much to meet our needs. We’ve done things gradually, but it’s a process that never really feels finished,” Kira says. “We could go on tweaking and improving forever.” Being renters, it was important that the couple’s tweaks be minimally invasive so the changes were, “mostly just painting and making the occasional hole in the wall for a shelf or painting.” When planning, Kira and Scott’s aim was, “to create a space that felt like us, our colors and mood, but we also paid a lot of attention to having multiple functioning spaces in one.” Click through to see what a wonderful job they’ve done creating a space that’s unique to them while cleverly tackling their home’s challenges. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Alice Gao

An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
"I devised the extra 'pipe' as a method to hang the vintage enameled lampshade over the table," Kira says.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
The Michael Sowa print was a gift from Scott and the wall is painted in Poppyseed by Behr.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
"We painted the kitchen nook with chalkboard paint and often I will write out a week's worth of dinner menu ideas next to the stove or list all of the week's fresh produce gathered from the farmers' market so we know what's in the fridge."
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
Scott gave Kira this hanging heart leaf philodendron plant when they first started dating years ago. The couple now uses it as a canopy for their bed. "The large print is by our friend Kyle Dorosz," the couple explains.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
This bedroom side table is vintage, the lamp is from West Elm and the bed is from IKEA.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
Kira's best friend made the embroidered cat piece that sits above the vintage dresser. "The bedroom is only 8.5x8.5, but it fits a full-size bed (no queen for us, wah wah), dresser and side table just perfectly."
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
Kira handmade the small cat figurines seen here on the couple's bedroom dresser.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
The warm light is one of Kira, Scott and their cats' favorite parts of the home.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
Having a bathroom window, a rarity in New York, was a major selling point for the couple.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
"Our poor couch is petite, very cute, and modern in shape (from Macy's!), but the cats have made it their scratching post. Up there on my to-do list is to get it recovered. That open side under the island is where we'll eventually put a backing board and stool. The next step we're debating is painting the island. Do we paint it white to meld with the old school cabinets or maybe just stain and seal it?" Kira wonders.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
"The chair and bench are vintage, the shelves and rug are IKEA."
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
The couple's entire home is only about 300-square-feet, so they strategically purchased smaller furniture that would allow them to achieve an open concept in such a tight squeeze.
An Old Hospital Becomes a Home, on Design*Sponge
Vingage canisters hold the couple's many cooking utensils. "Day to day we love to come home after work, cook dinner, and sit down to eat together. It's a central part of how we unwind. We're not the type of New Yorkers who use their kitchen cabinets for shoe storage."

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  • Wow! That is a stunning and amazing apartment–not at all what I would expect from a converted hospital. Beautiful. I don’t think I could live in such a place as I would probably find a way to convince myself that it was haunted :)

  • Wow what a cool apartment! I’m visiting Chicago this summer so it’ll be great to see the architecture.

    Sophie | Dreams and Colour Schemes

  • Could you let me know where the rug comes from in the 12th picture with the yellow geometric pattern? Thanks!

  • Oh, my goodness! I love that dining space. I cannot believe this entire home is is only 300 sq ft! Great selection of items and colors!

  • I really like their style! The use of navy blue is gorgeous and works well with the small space and the little groupings of objets are great.

  • really charming!! You said that windows in NYC bathrooms was rare….is it really? Almost every apartment I’ve been in has a little window in the shower- I actually was thinking its a NYC trademark

  • This has nothing to do with this beautiful space but —

    Did you set up your slide shows so that the arrows to move to the next slide are all in the same place?

    Fabulous! Makes it so much easier!

    THANKS for such a thoughtful change

  • You probably mean rent stabilized and not rent controlled — very different things!

    I cast my vote for staining and sealing the kitchen island (to match the table perhaps?) also where is that adorable tea kettle from??

  • This is literally one of my favorite posts on DS to date… I LOVE the colors, I love the relaxed feel, the coziness, everything. I’m loving the pineapple prints, and it’s inspired me to just TAPE SOMETHING UP dang it, because anything’s better than a blank wall at this point in my house. No need to make a big fuss about wall art. :)

  • You have a serene and well-thought out apartment, so I have to ask, where do you keep the litter box?

  • Hi, That stereo/turntable looks compact. We’re looking for something similar. Would mind sharing the brand? Thanks!

  • Love this tour. I looked at it 3 times already and shared it on Facebook. I love colour and can go crazy with layered patterns but I appreciate this very appealing small space. They somehow managed to keep it airy and effortless. Too many spaces are getting predictable or forced and filled with the cliché must haves. I like that even though they keep improving and changing things, they keep it simple and it seems to be a gradual process. Those are the best spaces because it’s only with time that we can really feel what our homes (owned or rented), need to be improved.

    Love the effect of the wooden table and everything that pops against that poppy seed colour from Behr. I have a dresser by our front door with the same wooden tones and I’ve been tempted to paint a similar dark grey colour (or navy) behind it for years but I’m hesitating since I did an entire wall in our dining space 3 years ago with black chalkboard paint. The chalk doodles from the children (and us) give a greyish/blueish hue that I love. I know it’s been done a million times but I never looked back and I’m far from sick of it.

    Maybe I’ll just go for it anyway. Thanks for sharing!

  • it’s hard to believe from the photos that this place is only 300 square feet…they’ve done such a great job laying out the furniture and buying the right pieces to use the space in the best possible ways! really love the small vignettes around the house as well.

  • I love the way the oil splatters look on the chalkboard paint by the stove. I’m so doing that! my favorite sneak peak in a while