interior designInteriorssneak peeks

An Open and Industrial Loft in Brooklyn

by Lauren Chorpening Day

It’s not often that reconfiguring a home in terms of room size and family needs can come without remodeling or demolition of any kind — walls generally need to come down or go up and serious renovation plans are sometimes involved. In an open-concept loft, however, spaces are what we make them and the options are infinite. Furniture placement, rugs and clever dividers have given this industrial Brooklyn loft spatial definition while keeping the cool factor of the studio layout.

Natalie, a writer and blogger, Brandon, a tax attorney, and preschool-aged Huck Holbrook moved into this gorgeous space almost on a whim. They loved their West Side apartment, but when a Brooklyn loft in a better school district opened up at a great price, they were sold even before stepping inside. The blank canvas has given Natalie and Brandon a never-ending game of Tetris (that they kind of love). “We moved in on a Friday and I managed to get the entire place unpacked by Sunday, but the actual process of working within the space and finding the best layout took us almost a full year,” Natalie says. “It’s an open studio floor plan — one giant box — and so the furniture and space arrangement possibilities are endless. I’ve been very mindful the last few months of how we live and what we need our space to accomplish for us, and here and there I’ve been tweaking our space to accommodate.” The overall impact their loft has had on the Holbrook family’s lifestyle doesn’t stop there.

Without walls, keeping a clutter-free approach in each room is a necessity. “No bedrooms means no closets, and rather than stuff all our things into creative storage all over the place, we decided to just get rid of the stuff. We’ve learned to live with so much less, and it’s been life-changing,” Natalie says. “As a result, our space feels airy, clean, and calm. It’s been the most freeing, relaxing decision we’ve ever made. We absolutely love our new, light footprint.” Natalie and Brandon have turned their “giant box” into an intentional living space that is perfect for their current needs. And if those needs change, so will their home. —Lauren

Photography by Natalie Holbrook and Cheyenne Mojica

An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
A large, communal living space is more important to Natalie and Brandon than larger, defined bedrooms. Their open-concept space has allowed them to make the living area as expansive as they want. "Our primary goal has been to maximize every communal inch of the loft," says Natalie.
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
While they never planned to move, Natalie is certainly glad they found this place with beaming natural light and industrial elements. "Four out of five of our walls are brick-red brick! Brick, brick, brick! And the windows! The windows make my heart thud every time I see them. I can sit and stare at them for whole minutes at a time -- sometimes I do! At least three or four times a day I'll have to stop and pinch myself over how beautiful this raw space is," says Natalie.
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
"These windows will never not make me stop in my tracks," says Natalie. "The sunlight and scale of the thing are just amazing, we're so lucky to have found this space."
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
Natalie and Brandon have divided the living room from the bedroom with the back of the sofa. Their bedroom furniture works seamlessly with the living room aesthetic, so the two spaces work together.
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
Natalie's plant collection is seen throughout the loft. "I can't get over how long I've been able to keep these babies alive, I'd never had luck with houseplants until we moved here. It's probably all the sunlight from those windows, but I'll take the credit for it anyway," she says.
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
"One of our home-improvement white whales has been to find the perfect low-profile platform bed. It's been quite the search! After years with a box spring we moved our mattress to the floor and I've never slept better," Natalie says. "That giant bird of paradise is named Bob. We tend to give proper names to the silliest things at our house."
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
"The best part of this layout, for me, has been access to that window," says Natalie. "I love opening it at night to sleep under a cold winter breeze, and I love the bright light we wake up with in the mornings."
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
Room dividers can be anything, and Natalie and Brandon have created one out of a practical, beautiful piece they already had. "I had my clothes rack built for me by a local craftsman named Pat, and I think it might be my favorite piece in the house -- it's the most beautiful thing," Natalie says. "It's also helped me to be more mindful about my wardrobe purchases; I tend to be a clotheshorse. It also works as a bit of a room divider for the time being."
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
The Holbrook dining table might seem large for a family of three (plus a fish named Tee), but the table is regularly filled with lots of friends that head straight to the table as soon as they come over.
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
"Due to the nature of our old, crumbling, industrial building, plus the pitter-patter of little Huck feet, there is a bit of a soundproofing issue. We had to do a mad scramble to source enough rugs to fulfill that old 80% rule, that says that 80% of your floors must be covered in rugs. 80% is a lot of percents," says Natalie. "We're constantly moving rugs around. They kind of layer all strange, because that is a lot of rugs. Brandon is the worst, he is never satisfied with our rug layout. I'll come home to find an entirely new rug situation going on some days, the living room rug in the kitchen, the kitchen rug in the entryway, it kind of makes me laugh and also drives me completely crazy. Rugs are stressful! We joke all the time about inventing bubble boots for Huck that can completely muffle his footprints; seems like that would be an easier solution sometimes."
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
"This is easily the largest kitchen we've had in any of our New York City apartments yet. I've been dusting off my old favorite recipes and it's been such a pleasure," says Natalie. "Someday I'd love permission to tear the whole thing out and install some subway tile, but until then, we're pretty happy with her anyway."
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
Their airy bathroom gets tons of natural light and didn't need any updating. "The walls were that jewel-toned turquoise blue when we moved in, and it's really grown on us," says Natalie.
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
"We happily gave up showers when we moved to this apartment -- we just couldn't bear the idea of hiding that tub behind a shower curtain! And I love hot showers, so that's really saying something," says Natalie. "But it was a worthy sacrifice."
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
"Huck's room is actually a little alcove space in the southeast corner of the loft, tucked away behind a row of lockers I found on Craigslist for some privacy and soundproofing. He hasn't seemed to crave his own privacy just yet; he prefers to spend all his time in the main living areas with us, but someday I'm sure he will want a door to slam, and so when that happens, we've got temporary wall builders on speed dial," Natalie says.
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
The things the Holbrooks have hung onto have wound up on this shelf for the most part. While they got rid of a lot, they didn't have to get rid of things they really loved.
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft
"I consider these shelves a bit of a 'screw you!' to my old high school algebra teacher, who told me once that I was one of the worst math students she'd ever taught," Natalie says. "I managed to plan and install that sucker without a single error in measurement."
An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft

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  • I really love this place. It’s very pretty, warm, and light filled. I love the grey Ikea dresser. I miss that line. I always wanted the dresser and the wardrobe from that line but they discontinued it!

  • It’s a nice space with lots of potential for a young couple, but there’s no wall separation between their bedroom and their pre-school aged child’s bed except for some lockers? yikes…

    • Hi Emma

      Assuming that most parents respect the boundaries between private adult time and when children are home, what other objections do you have with their proximity?


  • Lovely space but… no showering? Her husband has to get up every morning and take a bath before work? What a pain!

  • I love this loft. My two and four year old children have their own rooms, but they typically play in our living room or at the dining room table—almost never in their own spaces. I’m sure they would love a place like this, and frankly, so would I. Every family is different!

  • Is that something to assume? I don’t think so. I think it’s pretty valid to comment on privacy issues in an apartment with 3 people and no bedrooms. Is there some reason you’re defensive about this? I thought the comments section is a space where we can give feedback on content?

    • Emma

      Responding to your comment isn’t being defensive. The reason I do respond to comments like this is because these people kindly offered to share a very personal space on our site, so yes, I do tend to stick up for them when I think people are making assumptions that aren’t necessarily in line. Does no one else have babysitters or family/friends who occasionally watch children to allow for private time?


  • RE: Grace to Emma,

    Since he is a preschool aged toddler I’m going to assume he doesn’t have a lot of errands to run or events to attend and therefore “private adult time” is at a bare minimum :)

    • Bek

      I really don’t think it’s for any of us to guess when they do and don’t have private adult time, period. Let’s just assume that not all people are irresponsible, and they find time for whatever they need to do without traumatizing their child. To see people jump to that conclusion always surprises me. (Also, I would bet they have a babysitter, like a lot of people, that occasionally allows for time alone)


  • I too have to side-eye a little (actually a lot) at the choice to forego a shower curtain.. she does know they’ve come a long way, right? Not to mention when not in use, it could be neatly gathered to back side of the tub so as not to be an eye-sore. I dunno, seems awfully sad to choose an blog-worthy space over one that is actually comfortable and practical for your family who actually lives there and uses it day-to-day. Pretty sure her readers or friends wouldn’t be shaking their heads over simple white curtain. Plus all the water wasting, yikes.

    • Crystal

      Why does a lack of a shower curtain mean water wasting? If you’re a neat shower/bath taker (which I assume they are from having practice), it shouldn’t be any more wasteful than an open standing shower that is so popular in modern homes.


  • Beautiful space. Love how “Bob” helps separate the bedroom.

    It seems clear from Natalie’s description that everything – including the open concept and the bath tub with no shower curtain – works for their family and makes them happy. And just a quick note because I work with kids and do some education on water consumption, over 90% of the water we use comes from the food we eat (especially meat) and the material items we use. The difference between a bath and a shower to the state of the world is miniscule.

  • Hi Grace. To clarify, I just meant that running a bath uses so much more water than a quick morning shower. (Also, yikes on my typos in initial comment. Tired typing.) :/

  • This is a beautiful space and this family seems very happy living in it so really that is all that matters. It is great to see people using their living space to suite their lives rather than following rules of what you are “supposed” to do. Also in many parts of the world children sleep in the same space/ room or same bed as their parents.

  • I look at this more as deciding to make an affordable rental work for a family, agreeing to put up with some of the more possibly challenging aspects, like the layout and the tub, in exchange for a neighborhood/aesthetic they like. It’s not like everyone wants to add walls in a rental. Though, yes, I’ve always liked the idea of form with function (and I think I’d include privacy as a function), rather than one over the other, as popular as the West Elm aesthetic can be.

    That said, I grew up in a loft, and I wouldn’t live in one again. It’s not just privacy but noise and light issues. If one person wants to listen to music, watch TV, stay up, then everyone does. You can also hear every snore, sniffle, cough, fart, giggle, and even whisper. In NYC especially, it’s kind of nice to have an indoor reprieve from the noises outside, and if you’re living with roommates or a family, a loft doesn’t always give you that.

  • Actually yes, your response was defensive. Because of your post about encouraging constructive and thoughtful discussion a couple weeks ago, I thought you actually wanted that. I didn’t realize that in order to read here or comment here, we had to be “in line” (your words) and post only adoring comments (which I sometimes do) :/ Not sure the greatest policy for keeping readers is to jump down their throats.

  • Love it, very beautiful use of space for a couple and a young child, and it’s great to see a family living together in such a natural way. For some weird reason the majority of the Western world thinks little kids need to sleep in their own rooms with closed doors.

    Plus, you gotta do what you gotta do for a great school district!

  • Hear! Hear! to Erin. I’m sure as the child grows they will adapt their space as required. It is a gorgeous space and I for one would love to live somewhere like that with all its quirks if I was in their situation.

  • I love this loft… I would love for my family to have a more communal living arrangement like that! Privacy when you have little kids is pretty much non existent anyway, oh and kids can sleep through anything ;-)

  • The space is beautiful, but it’s not really practical for a family – especially since Nat has written a lot about how she’s trying for baby number two! Hopefully they don’t have too onerous of a lease and it’ll be easy to move out.

    There’s just a few things that are way too impractical for a family. The bathtub with no shower curtain I just cannot see, although I totally get wanting to showcase such a pretty bathtub! And having her son have no real space to himself… I just can’t get behind that. But I wasn’t a huge fan of the “closet bedroom” from the last place, either – at least that was a private space, I guess, and made sense for NYC-ers trying to make the most of what they have.

    I love the light and the brick, but this space just doesn’t seem right for a family, especially one in the midst of trying to become a growing family!

    That said, I didn’t know that about the rugs thing. Is that a local ordinance/law? I learned something here today.

    • Katie + Emma,

      This may not be practical for your family, but it is practical for theirs. Blanket statements like that are something that should be made with consideration, because they’re typically highly personal statements. It’s always a very Western thing to assume that all people “need” privacy and separation or certain living styles. In other countries that’s highly common and although it may not be as common here, it doesn’t make it wrong/bad/impractical for everyone here.

      Emma- I’m not jumping down your throat. I’m defending a home owner from personal attacks and judgements about her parenting style and choices. Those are not constructive comments, period.


  • whoa, that’s a lot of chairs! :-) my two cents from a long-time loft dweller: i do think this space could be utilized a bit more efficiently without full-on walls being built (and maybe space-saving stackable/foldable chairs? ;-) ). some clever partitions would go a long way to create quasi-private spaces, and extra storage. these configurations may take shape as they figure out how the space works for them.

  • Woah – I am NOT judging her parenting style. Saying I don’t think a space is practical for a family = a personal opinion on a space, not a statement on her parenting style/skills. I’m pretty offended to have it implied that I’m saying something about her ability to parent her son just by making a statement about space and privacy.

    • Katie

      That comment was directed toward Emma’s previous comments, as indicated below.

      But yes, this home owner and many others feel judged by comments like this, so it’s good to keep in mind that calling someone else’s way of living impractical for everyone does have an effect on the way they feel.


  • Hi Grace,
    Please don’t make wild and offensive accusations. I never once commented on her parenting style or attacked her personally as I have no idea who this person is. I stated my opinion about her loft layout. What’s the point of even having a comment section if you don’t want to hear anyone else’s opinion?

    I’ve been a long-time fan, but don’t worry, I won’t read here again. You’ve made it very clear here that the tone of this website is incredibly negative and defensive. There are plenty of other lovely blogs and websites that I feel are a safe space where the moderator/author doesn’t resort to attacking and ripping her readers to shreds.

    • Emma + Allison

      I think we’re at an impasse here. Your viewpoints aren’t be restricted in any way, they’re being shared here and published like everyone else’s. However, I am responding to them in the same way every other commenter is allowed to. I will never understand why people feel that me responding to negative comments on here is the same as attacking, censoring or ripping them to shreds. I’m responding, which is the same right we all have. If you didn’t have that right on this site, your comments wouldn’t appear, but they do.

      Emma, you’re certainly welcome to read elsewhere. I hear and publish other people’s opinions all day, every day. Just because I disagreed with your comment and spoke up about it doesn’t make that a personal attack.

      Allison, I’m sorry if you feel that trying to curtail personal judgements and personal attacks are the same thing as censoring any disagreement. To me, your comment here is a perfect example of what personal judgement sounds like, “They have too much time on their hands and shouldn’t continue to make money off commercializing their lives.”

      Those sorts of comments aren’t welcome here and I understand if you prefer to read and comment elsewhere. We take our readers and homeowner’s concerns seriously and having a comment section where people feel they will not be personally attacked is of the utmost importance. Neither of you have had, or ever will have, your personal lives questioned here at DS (my issue is with the comments you left) and I want to keep it that way for everyone who participates in conversation here.


  • If somebody chooses to continually live and showcase their life online, then that person should be able to accept differing viewpoints. This attitude that any whiff of disagreement or criticism is a personal attack is absurd and immature. If this family feels judged because others don’t agree with their decision to forego a shower curtain for aesthetics, they have too much time on their hands and shouldn’t continue to make money off commercializing their lives. And yes I am judging them for having a guitar sitting directly in front of the heat/AC vent. That’s terrible for an instrument.

  • Grace,
    We certainly do have different viewpoints and I see that as healthy and don’t understand why you find it unacceptable on your site. In any case, this will be the last time I comment here. The point I was expressing is that there are a lot of things in the world to get upset about. Getting upset because someone might feel judged for having/not having a shower curtain doesn’t seem like it should be high on that list. When you choose to publicize parts of your life or yourself, whether it’s through art, music, writing, blogging, you will receive some criticism. No it’s not always fun, but you can choose to feel attacked, let it roll of your back, or use it to learn or grow.

    • Allison

      Yes, we disagree. I believe criticism is only helpful when it’s constructive. I don’t think criticism that doesn’t seek to help or better anyone through its commentary does much to advance or benefit the general online population. And none of us here at DS are here to contribute, or publish, any more non-constructive criticism online (there’s already plenty).

      The reason I chose to speak up here is because I think my commentary on your comment style here (I have no idea how you comment elsewhere) was part of an effort to explain why and how we moderate comments here. “They have too much time on their hands and shouldn’t continue to make money off commercializing their lives.” is a personal judgement on their lives and lifestyle (not the photos of their home, which is what we’re discussing) and is in no-way constructive.


  • It’s a beautiful space that must function for them just wonderfully! As seen in photo 8 in the slide, “be kind” are words we should remember. Thank you Natalie and Brandon for sharing a glimpse into your personal space. :)

  • Talk about a space with great bones. Quick question: Where are the white, wall-mount wall shelves from? I’d love them for my own bedroom.

  • Grace – you can tell yourself that, but it’s not true. Your lack of insight into the aggressive way you respond to readers (customers, really) is a poor business model.

    • Emma

      I’m sorry you feel that way and if my concern for protecting our subjects here came across as aggressive. Also, please check your email re: another issue I noticed regarding this commentary.


  • I had a good laugh about the wandering rugs…and I can totally understand the need to sit and be amazed at those windows…is there such a thing as window envy? It’s a lovely light and airy space with some wonderful elements. (Bath vanity is too cute!)

  • Grace, thank you for featuring this home. This type of home is not for everyone, and it is very rare to find a family (with a toddler-aged child or older) living in an open loft. How many homes have you featured with this living style? Typically, in the United States, one sees young singles or child-less couples adopting this loft-living lifestyle.

    Some commenters above noted that this is a common living arrangement in many other parts of the world or for people who live in poverty. However, we can probably agree that those are not the people who are reading Design*Sponge.

    Perhaps some of the comments above were from a lack of understanding how this living situation works, and unfortunately, the article nor the responding comments made an attempt to educate or teach about “making it work” and your comments are rather defensive (but I see the intent and understand the responses, just not the tone).

    I think that there was a missed opportunity to discuss this unique living situation in more detail. I would have appreciated to hear how this family lives in the space communally. What do they do when the parents want to stay up late to watch TV? How do they adjust to different sleeping schedules, or does everyone go to bed/wake up at the same time? How do they address any food smells from the kitchen permeating the rest of the space? (I live in an apt where the kitchen and living room are connected, and love garlicky and fried food, but hate the lingering smell, therefore, I am happy to have a closet in a separate room to store my clothes.)

    Additionally, I have been finding that a lot of the home tours over the last year have seem to become repetitive, and I no longer find them interesting or insightful about how different people live/style their homes. I’m not sure if that’s because I have changed, or because the content has changed, but definitely some food for thought, and I value your response if there is one.

    • Christina

      I’m sorry if you find these tours to be repetitive. It’s definitely always a challenge to find enough great home tours to run that showcase current trends, without going too far into the trend itself. Did you see the Decatur tour this past Monday? That was a particularly sweet and meaningful one to me and didn’t get too “trend”-conscious to me. Also, we hired several new home tour editors a few months ago to make a HUGE effort to get a wider range of homes and home owners, so those will be coming into play soon. It typically takes 2-4 months from outreach email to finished home tour on the site.

      I understand your questions here and hopefully the dialogue can continue in that tone and with the interest of learning more about their home and its needs. I think the tone got outside of the constructive realm we try to maintain for a while (not your comment) and that makes home owners less likely to jump in or want to explain their design decisions.


  • Thank you for showcasing this beautiful home. I loved it so much when I saw it yesterday that I came back today to have another peek—and was dismayed at some of the comments I found below. I don’t think that every comment needs to be cheerlead-y, but it saddens me that the homeowners could read those comments here, and I think you were right to call the commenters on their assumptions (which you did calmly and respectfully). Talk about blowing things out of proportion.

    My husband and I shared our bedroom with our daughter until she was two. Space sharing is not only totally feasible, it’s economical and, I think, can have a really great impact on your relationship with your child(ren). Who cares where/how/when these parents get their “adult time”—I’m sure they have found a solution that works for them, as all of us space-sharers have had to do.

    Thanks again for all the amazing home tours you provide on this site.

  • I, personally, think that Natalie’s loft is a gorgeous space. But, I have to agree with some of the other commenters; while I would love the space for my husband and I, I would not want to live in it with a child. It would not be practical for the way that I would want to run things. But, I am glad that it works for them. I love the idea of something that open and airy. On a less happy note, I wasn’t previously a reader of Design Sponge. I found you because of this feature. I have to say, I agree with earlier commenters. Your policy for replying to commenters is upsetting. Because of the comment section of this post, I won’t be returning to Design Sponge. As one commenter mentioned, the readers are your customers. Good business dictates that the customer is always right. None of the comments on this post were profane or contained personal attacks. They simply shared that this living situation would not work well for them. I especially think that you have taken it to far by emailing commenters to continue a disagreement in the comments. Emma’s comments were pretty measured throughout. A personal email seems like you are taking advantage of the fact that we all have to provide and email address.

    • S

      I wish you had chosen to leave your name and speak openly here. It’s saddening to see people decide not to stand behind the comments they leave publicly online.

      I don’t think that responding to comments is something bloggers should be prohibited from doing. In your version of this blog world I’m expected to provide free content, absorb rude remarks and sit in silence while other (non-paying) “customers” judge a fellow “customer” and blogger?

      I don’t see anyone as a “customer” here per se, primarily because this is a free site. The vast majority of people reading here (over 70%) come from an RSS reader and rarely ever view or click the ads we use to support our writers. That’s completely fine and I’m used to this new system, but I find the idea that people are entitled to attack me or others because “the customer is always right” unrealistic.

      My favorite businesses are the ones that stand up for and protect the people that generously share their lives, stories and homes with them. If you find my desire to keep the comments here constructive when it comes to a very real person and their home life, then yes, this will not be the site for you. We’ve moderated and responded to comments to protect subjects and commenters on posts at this site since day one, this is not a new practice.

      My email correspondence with Emma was actually an important discussion that ended well with both of us understanding each other and I feel as if I heard her concerns and she heard mine. I email at least 30-40 commenters a week to discuss their comments and concerns and most of them end well and with us seeing each other more clearly and with an improved tone and relationship. I don’t think that judging someone based on photos of their home, saying they have “too much time and money on their hands” or anything like that is good for the business we care about, which is trying to connect with and relate to people in our community


  • They moved here so their son could be in a better school district. I think that’s great parenting. And I’m excited to see the space transform with walls when he gets older that she mentioned in the post she would build as soon as needed. Lofts are hard to make work and I think they’re being completely mindful of what they need right now and how to adapt in the future.

  • Way to handle yourself Grace! Personally love this eclectic home. No babies here yet but when/if I have them would gladly live in a space like this. Big cities don’t always offer 4 bedroom/3 bathroom homes that are within a working persons means. (There’s a great topic for discussion, n’est pas?!) Feels like a really great design challenge and a great opportunity to live in a great location as well as space. Thanks for sharing.

  • Grace,

    If I can make a suggestion — just delete comments you find inappropriate and, if you want, send their authors a private note as to why. People hate moderation but they hate public comment fights even more.

    • Annabelle

      Believe me, if I thought that would solve the problem, I would do that. But if the conversation doesn’t happen in a place where everyone can learn from it, it doesn’t improve the situation at all. And after 10 years of moderating comments, I’ve learned our community here has definitely benefitted from hashing this stuff out and having people from all sides weigh in. Also, people only get angrier if you delete their comments and their voice and then they yell at you via email or on social media or some other site about how much you suck. I’ve learned the best way to have a real discussion, even a tense one, is to do it where the commenter started the conversation. I’ve had plenty of tense conversations via email, that were started there, too.

      The only person who hates these public arguments more than you or me is the person they’re about- those are the people who have to deal with what people are implying about them and what people feel the need to assert they have the right to say- or judge- about other people. I’ve spoken with those people every time and they always appreciate being defended and never ask me to delete anyone’s comments.


  • I love this loft as you can tell its greatly filled with love. As for the bath, I have to assume that most imagine that the bath version of a quick morning shower requires the whole bath to be filled… it doesn’t. Although, an attached shower head hose type thing allows for you to control where the water goes for the sake of a tall visitor or Brandon. Anyway, who cares. If they love it, then they love it. As for the privacy thing– I just remembered that growing up, my best friend’s family grew up in a one bedroom apartment. The girls’ got the room, but the door was never closed except maybe slightly when they were getting dressed (I would close it when I slept over which was very often). The parents lived in this awesome loft like thing. I can’t describe it, but trust me when I say that in the end the apartment was just as opened as Natalie’s. Privacy wasn’t an issue ever. The girls grew up to be two wonderful women and the parents are as madly in love now as they were then. And although I personally grew up in a more private living space, I spent almost all my free time with my family on a sail boat and that really allows for very little privacy. I think privacy from our thoughts is much more important than physical privacy if that makes sense.

  • Grace and Natalie,

    Thank you for sharing this home. One reason I come to Design Sponge every day is to see how other people live. I am typically inspired by their space and the diversity in design mentality is also an education for me.

    Grace, I appreciate the standard you keep here. An unfortunate downside of the Internet is a culture of entitled monologues. It is often forgotten that there are people on the other side of the screen. Respect for others should never waver, regardless of medium. I support the community you fight hard to maintain.

    Natalie, keep being rad. Thanks for sharing your space. I love to see how you divided it up to work for you guys. Huck is a riot.

  • The customer is NOT always right, but neither is the person on the other side of the counter, so to speak: infallibility and omniscience just don’t exist this side of heaven. There’s a lot to be said for hesitating before hitting the “send” button, friends, and acknowledging that we ALL need reminders of this sort of thing is the beginning of wisdom.

  • dear goodness! I just wanted to chime in and give Natalie some good juju and Grace a high five. opening the floor to comments seems to have left the kindness and humanity at the door. bottom line.. gorgeous space. Natalie, you continue to challenge perspectives on things..I’ve always admired that about you. I love that the two of you have collaborated to bring us this beauty ;)

  • There’s plenty of quiet times for adults after children have gone to bed. And what are the other options if you do have walls and doors? Shut the door on your toddler and tell them to stay there while Mummy and Daddy have some quiet time? Ha!

  • Grace, I love your site. LOVE! But I have to admit this post was one of the most disappointing I’ve seen here. I’m not sure who these people are, but the way Natalie describes her home is so weird here. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I really didn’t like this post. :(

  • I’ve been a longtime reader of designsponge, and I’ve never commented before, but… sheesh. Do people who contribute their homes have some kind of contract saying they won’t receive any negative feedback? I mean, we’re not talking offensive trolls here, just some differing opinions. I feel like one comment “This is just what works for us, I know its not for everyone” from the home owners would have diffused the comment situation, instead of degenerating into this weird petty argument over water use statistics and whether or not people are being appropriate.

    I get the desire to create a safe and respectful space, but this is a bit ridiculous. Adults should be able to handle some criticism, constructive or not, especially when it’s intermingled with a barrage of fawning and some pretty massive publicity.

    • Ratalie

      Thank you for illustrating the types of comments we deal with here and for giving me another chance to show that we do allow and publish them, we just don’t encourage them. That was the crux of my discussion here- everyone is welcome to ask questions and want to know more about how/why people make the design decisions they show here. But they’re not welcome to make rude or judgmental assumptions about someone’s life and parenting just because they don’t personally identify with the design/lifestyle shown.


  • Awesome loft but the decor is very cookie cutter like so many apartments that are featured on blogs…. such as the same furniture, animal head, swiss plus sign stuff.

  • Love Natalie’s blog and I love that she shared her home through this feature! I don’t live like this at all! Which is part of why it’s fascinatig! I’m also curious how she makes it work. That’s not an invalid or rude question but it can certainly come across that way when there is an underlying tone that because I don’t understand it must be horrible or wrong. Why do we even need to say, “this is so impractical for me!” Why can’t we just say, “wow, interesting, Id love to hear more about how this works for them. It must work since they clearly love it.” It’s a tone issue– so many of us don’t hear how we sound.

    Grace, I actually found it refreshing and awesome to see you so active in the comments and defending Natalie. I may be wrong but I get the sense that you weren’t forbidding any genuinely curious questions about how the Holbrooks live, but instead picking up on judgemental intent behind some of the comments.

  • I love this house. I’ve been a reader of Natalie’s for a few years and it’s been exciting watching them move and live in such a gorgeous loft.

    I’m not sure if natalie will read here, or maybe you know the answer, Grace, but I was curious as to where Natalie’s husband keeps his clothes? How does that work? If I recall, he is a lawyer (?) and so I imagine he has a large wardrobe of business suits. Is it a pain for him not to have his own closet or clothes rack?

    I live in a big suburban house in utah and cannot imagine living simply enough for a loft such as this. Kudos to the holbrooks for making it look so easy and dreamy!

  • I think it’s odd that people are repeatedly referring to Natalie as “the homeowner” when she is renting this space. Maybe that has some impact on what their family can and cannot do with regards to errecting walls, it may not be up to them to make that decision. That being said, they made the decision to rent an open concept loft space when they also could’ve made the decision to rent a space with a bedroom. I agree with an earlier comment – more insight into how they conduct themselves as a family in this kind of communal living space, especially because it’s rarely seen here on Design Sponge, would’ve been so interesting.

  • Gorgeous space Natalie! I love it – Those windows are breathtaking! I’ve never lived in such an open space, but we do live in a tiny house, and I enjoy the closeness it brings – with a young family there is hardly any privacy anyways!
    Grace, thank you for defending the homeowners who share here. I admire your willingness to speak up for what you think is right.

  • Wow! I’m new here. Where does one ask about the source list for the bookshelf? It’s great! -c

  • All the replies saying that communal living only occurs in third world countries or by the poor are completely wrong, co-sleeping/room-sharing is highly prevalent in industrialised Asian and South American countries, among others. Cbf’d posting study links ^_^

  • I love love love this space! The communal living area is exactly what I’d like in my home – time to break down some walls and spend more time together! As for privacy issues, my two girlies (2 and 4) share a double bed in their shared room, and will do so until they move out or beg and plead and I give in! We have a 4-bed house, but I like a spare room for guests and an office to keep junk. Such a modern idea to me that people need their own individual spaces…go outside and take a walk if you need some space to think, is what I say! But thankfully everyone is different, and parents differently, and lives differently, or else gah, we’d all be so bored with one another!

  • This is a killer space! Having lived in Brooklyn, Park Slope myself for 5 years in 450 sq ft, 4 of those years with two kids, I totally get this space. It’s how NY-ers live. There’s no such thing as a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home in NYC unless you make a gazillion dollars a year. Great find Natalie! I would have killed for a loft space like that. We had great light in our old space too and that makes any NY day seem glorious. Communal living, while not for everyone, lends itself to greater family ties. I loved it and miss it now that we live in a more traditional home in Seattle. Thanks for opening your home Natalie, love your style, and thanks for showcasing her place Grace.

  • I almost didn’t check back after my last comment, but I’ve decided to anyway – and Grace, I’d like to thank you for your clarification. I was pretty hurt at the idea that someone thought I was dissing Natalie’s parenting – I’ve been reading her WAY too long (although not nearly so long as some of her readers!) to ever feel that way.

    I think it’s worth having these things hash themselves out. Like you said – if the conversation doesn’t happen here, it’s going to happen somewhere. But I also think there’s an element of “but you put your home out to be discussed” here! Natalie invited us to take a look at her space, and the idea that we can’t discuss it unless everything is perfect and wonderful forever isn’t very honest. I think people should be allowed to say “well, but this doesn’t make sense to me” without it becoming a huge dramatic thing. Your home really isn’t YOU, it’s a space you live in. Saying a home isn’t super practical doesn’t equal an insult to the person living there.

  • I dream of a gorgeous space such as this! Windows and loads of natural light will trump many other downsides for me when it comes to choosing a city apartment. Natalie has created a cozy and stylish home working with a space she loves in a way that supports her family’s way of living, which is what each of us do when we sign a lease or buy a house – we take the good and the bad and make it work as best we can. This end result is lovely and inspirational and I appreciate her indulging our voyeurism by sharing her home.

    Regarding the comments, I am a first time DS visitor and after reading through, I appreciate Grace’s form of moderation. It appears as though some don’t realize how the phrasing of their comments communicates judgment and/or insult, as opposed to curiosity and/or fascination about the vast difference in preference and family needs. It seems one thing to say “This space is too impractical for a family of three ” and another to acknowledge “I have a hard time imagining how practical this is for a family of three (and would love to hear more).” I am glad for lively comment discussions when such respect is shown.

    Thank you, Grace, for the free content and encouragement to be our best selves even when commenting on a home tour of a loft in Brooklyn. I’ll be back to DS.

  • This is much like how we lived in Korea. We only had a bath tub, too. For quick showers, you use a stool and faucet attachment. It is very common. Some family members in our city had ‘shower rooms’, fully tiled rooms with drains in the middle. Those are fantastic too but not everyone has one.

    I think this space is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it!

  • This is a beautiful space that will feel foreign to most outside of a city. My husband and I lived in a 400 sq ft 2 bedroom (!!!) apartment in Japan together, so pretty much everything else we’ve lived in feels opulently roomy. I’d also like to say that many Americans also have shared sleeping arrangements. You can look up the concept of a “family bed” if you’re interested to learn more.

  • Thanks to the Holbrooks and Grace for sharing this space! Gosh, those lovely windows. I agree that expressing genuine curiosity about people’s lifestyles sparks great conversation, versus writing to sneer at someone else’s home choices under the guise of free expression. Frankly, we are ALL better than that, even on our worst days. :) Bravo to attempts at building a gracious online community, welcoming to differing opinions but not rewarding outright derision.

  • I guess I use the term homeowner loosely, “renter” just sounds terrible to me, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting term (though I am and have only ever been a renter!) I understand that sometimes you have to deal with not so perfect spaces – I just don’t think it’s something worth getting defensive over. None of our lives and places are perfect and people have different standards of what is workable or admirable.

    I wanted to comment again because I totally forgot to say that I LOVE the bathroom! I would personally throw a shower curtain around that beauty, and I do think it’s silly not to for the sake of looks – I lived without a shower for the first 15 years of my life, and baths just take so much more time! (Btw, Izola shower curtains are beautiful and you don’t have to use an outer curtain with them, so you can still show off the tub!) But if you have the time, baths are awesome and luxurious. The deep red rug and teal wall combo is *perfect*.

  • The comment section of this feature is crazy. I’m so turned off by Grace’s responses to some of the commenters. I’m not familiar with the blogger, and I only check out the comment sections on D*S occasionally, so I don’t know if this kind of debate is a regular occurence, but it’s really really off-putting.

    I think people should have the right to voice their opinions without an overly-defensive administrator stepping in. Grace, you seem way too involved with this lady/her family, and it’s not a good look to argue with your readers.

  • I found this blog from Natalie’s instagram, and holy comments. I have to agree with a few of the commenters above, defensive replies from an administrator don’t help a situation. I think readers should be allowed to post a response, even if it isn’t one that praises a feature. And if you look through these comments, none of them are really rude, profane, or mean. It’s simply criticism, which will, and should, happen when someone creates a website and puts it out there in public. I think the posters who mentioned that maybe we could have gotten more info out of how Natalie and her family make this space work is great, and helpful, criticism. It saddens me that anyone who leaves constructive criticism is looked at as a rude person or a “hater.” But because of how the situation was handled, I don’t think I’ll be reading here again.

  • What a beautiful space. Growing up in a home with paper-thin walls and being afraid of the dark so my door was always open, I think most families are used to a lack of privacy! And, for a three year old, it works and I love how Natalie talked about how she imagines the space changing as their family’s needs shifted. I also adore that bath tub! I’ve stuck my head under a faucet so many times when I didn’t have enough time even for a full on shower and it works! Thank you for sharing unique spaces, Grace. I’ve always loved the idea of a loft but wondered if I’d feel like my bedroom was an eyesore- this changes my mind completely! Cheers!

  • Grace – I’ve never read through comment threads on here before, and am taken aback by your responses to people’s opinions. You come across very defensive, but I do admire that you actually take the time to read through and defend your subjects. It bugs me though that by doing so, you aren’t encouraging people to speak freely.

    Advice: Stay away from GOMI, you’ll drive yourself crazy ;)

  • Grace, thanks for the response. I’m looking forward to some fresh writers. I did not click through from my reader to the Decatur home tour, but I just read it, and it was a beautiful home. The owners have great style, and I pinned the image of their guest bedroom for inspiration.

    I was thinking more about why I don’t click through as often, and I think it’s because a lot of the same trends are repeated over and over. That is not a comment on this website, but a comment on the current state of things in the design world. Again, though, there is a certain lifestyle and aesthetic that appeals to this site’s readers, so perhaps it can’t be avoided. Also, there are so many posts daily, and once they start piling up, it’s hard to motivate ones self to read them, and easier to just ignore.

  • Grace,
    I’m sure those readers will be coming back…
    I completely agree with you that you commenting on comments makes sense for this particular environment (for the home owners sake).
    And really, why should people be telling you what a good business model is anyway. I’m sure you don’t need any advice from people who are off put by “different” lifestyles. And they’re not even different! I think Natalie’s home, family, lifestyle is inspiring, and people should be more open to communal living.

  • I’ve been reading both Design Sponge & Hey Natalie Jean for a long time (…even back to when she was Nat the Fat Rat!) I’ve never taken the time to read the comments on here, but for some reason I did today. I understand why Grace would want to protect those who share their homes, but I personally do not think that any of the comments I read crossed that line. But, it’s not my blog.

    I know that Natalie is suuuuuper open about things though (the post that comes to mind is her bikini wax way back when!) That’s what I love so much about her. I know she’s probably busy with her book tour in Europe, but if she reads this, it might be cool to address some of the questions/concerns that were raised here on her blog? I’m getting married in a month, and beginning to think about really starting a “home.” Even if it doesn’t end up working for me, it would be really fun to learn about a different living space arrangement and the benefits/drawbacks. (I grew up in Iowa – tons of privacy, but I had to drive to go anywhere!)

    And even if we’re divided on function… I think most of us could agree that Natalie has some kick butt style!

  • I would have loved to see a wide shot of the whole space. It seems odd to talk about how open and airy it is and not show how all of the little vignettes work together and where the “bedroom” is in relation to the dining area. I wish more design blogs would show entire rooms instead of so many detail shots.

    But it seems like a really fun space. Who wouldn’t fall in love with that apartment!

  • I live in a small town in middle America – no one lives in a loft, so I find it very interesting. I’ve always enjoyed seeing people turn unusual places into homes – old schools, churches, etc…

    I would of liked to have seen a wide shot of the entire space – that would of been really good and I wonder why this was omitted.

    Blogs have really changed in the past couple of years. It seems highly competitive and interwoven. I am always trying to get a handle on the amount of money really being made – it must be quite lucrative for the big popular bloggers. This tends to color things a little different now.

    Sometimes it comes across as a elite protective club. This is simply my opinion..nothing more. Thanks.

    • Cynthia

      Just so you have an idea of how our blog runs, we aren’t making much more than the national average salary in the US for people with a college degree. I would be much happier if I could pay my team and myself more than that, but blogs are not the money makers people think they are. Fashion and beauty blogs make a lot of press for having million dollar salaries, but that’s because beauty and fashion brands have WAY bigger budgets than home brands (their markets are just doing MUCH better than the home field right now) and so they spend a lot more money on advertising and sponsorships. That said, most of those blogger that get press for those sorts of salaries are running solo blogs without paid employees. Once you bring that sort of overhead on board (with salaries, insurance, payroll taxes, etc.) the numbers drop down very quickly. I’m happy and thankful to be able to support our team in a tough economy, but the assumption that we’re somehow elite or raking in the money is far off base for most blogger in the home niche. I hope that one day home brands get their budgets back and are able to compete with the beauty/fashion sphere because I feel strongly that our team deserves to be paid more than they are, but until that day, we’ll keep running the very tight and efficient ship we do.


      • Thanks for the information, Grace. What you say makes sense – I cannot imagine all the hard work you (and your staff) do and I can appreciate that. You have built something to be proud of – Design Sponge is a leader in the home/decor realm.

        After I wrote my previous comment I started thinking about it a little more. Really, the bigger well known home/decor sites – like Design Sponge – do seem much more professionally, legitimately done. Some of the popular lifestyle/mommy/beauty sites are rather sketchy at times – there is where I see more of a interwoven alliance so to speak and its all about that particular person/family – I really can’t understand wanting to be in such a harsh limelight, especially for the kids of these people. Look what happened here, to this popular blogger. I do wonder what the fallout will be for some of these bloggers later on.

        Anyway, thanks for clearing up some things – I’ve owned a couple of business’ and yes – taxes, payroll, overhead…it all quickly adds up. But I think for those that are doing things above board and legitimately (like Design Sponge) it will pay off in the end. I do enjoy this site – Thank you to you and your staff.

  • I’m so tired after today I managed to misspell my own name – “Cynriah”sounds like some dreaded disease. La la la.

  • great post. i love seeing how they divided the space up, and seeing how this family lives in such an open environment. really lovely home.

  • What a gorgeous home, it really is the kind of space that you dream about after watching a movie set in NYC! I love the enormous table, the bathroom, the WINDOWS OMGAWD!!! And bob the plant is magnificent!

    I think it’s a wonderful way for a family to live, and I’m amazed that they can make it work with a child! It must be hard when a time out is needed, or perhaps having this kind of home leads to not needing them?

  • Absolutely beautiful and fun. I lived in NYC in tiny spaces that we made lovely but always with minimal natural light. This light is amazing. As we say now, “next house, Windows!!!” Beautiful.