Interiorssneak peeks

In NYC, A 400-Square-Foot Sanctuary

by Garrett Fleming

When I first moved to Chicago, I lived in a 300-square-foot studio… with a roommate. I could cook, do dishes and snuggle into bed all without moving an inch. What the apartment lacked in square footage, however, it made up for in granite countertops, new appliances and hardwood floors. The contrast of theses fancy touches with the apartment’s lack of practical space always cracked me up. So much so, I grew to love the silliness of it. So the second I saw freelance writer and restaurant consultant Tarajia Morrell’s studio in Gramercy, NYC, I grinned. As was the case with my small apartment, her space’s tiny footprint is outfitted with a grand touch: a fabulous fireplace.

She would never claim to have technically “designed” the apartment, but as Tarajia began laying out the space, highlighting that amazing hearth was definitely a priority. She’s cleverly positioned every piece of furniture and accessory in her home in a manner that draws visitors’ eyes to the grandiose detail. You’ll also notice how she’s layered gifts from friends and vintage finds on its surrounding walls. It seems a bit counterintuitive to put a lot of things in a little space, but it truly works in her home’s favor. It takes guests longer to digest so many decorations — perhaps tricking them into thinking the home is much larger than it actually is.

Similar to her guests, Tarajia barely notices how quaint her home is anymore. On the contrary, it fits her like a glove. There’s no place she’d rather be while writing for her blog The Lovage, recounting all of the fabulous restaurants she’s dined in, a log crackling in the hearth and her pup Lola snoozing in her lap. “There’s magic to cozying up by the fire on the most brutal of New York winter nights,” Tarajia shares. It may not be much, but clearly this little sanctuary shelters her from all of the hustle and bustle that NYC is known for, and that’s enough for her. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography courtesy of Nick Solares

400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
When Tarajia moved in three years ago, she only had one decorating strategy: make the fireplace the focal point. Many of the accessories surrounding it, such as this Moroccan rug, serape blanket and the African indigos, come from Tarajia's best friend Emilie's shop Xenomania.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
Tarajia describes herself as a "scavenger extraordinaire." If an item has a good patina, she is sold. Here she sits in her casually-curated apartment with her 15-year-old dachshund Lola.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
Tarajia is an avid reader. Her many cookbooks and novels about artwork are kept as tidy as possible here under this quaint table. It may seem like an abundant collection, but this is only a portion of it. Since her home is so small, the rest of her collection has to live in upstate New York.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
Vintage paintings from upstate New York and Paris and a hat from Sevilla are just a few of the pretty pieces seen here in the dressing area. The Japanese and Indian textiles in the lower-right-hand corner will eventually be made into pillows.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
A majority of the studio's decorations were given to Tarajia by friends or brought back from far reaches of the world. Either way, many are sentimental in one way or another. A "snake charmer blanket" she picked up on a trip to Jaipur lays on the bed in between these little table lamps from a friend's childhood bedroom. They sit under illustrations of poppies – a flower that Tarajia has fond memories of.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
These botanicals came from a close friend's childhood home. They hang above a leopard settee from Michael Bargo and a needlepoint pillow and stool made by Tarajia's great-great-grandmother.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
Tarajia grew up in New York City, in a bedroom she says was made out of a closet. That being said, compact living doesn't phase her in the least bit. "I've changed [a lot] since I moved in here. It’s hard to pinpoint, but there is [an] incredible energy in this little place. I've never felt a space was so much my own. It's sheltered me during a crucial time," Tarajia shares.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
Tarajia describes this tea set as "gaudy," but I love how eccentric the pattern is. Its over-the-top look is so unique. She picked it up in a flea market in Barcelona, and it sits on another one of her cherished Japanese indigos.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
"Dear Tiny home, I love you because you're my sanctuary – my quiet, cozy shelter from the storm." -- Tarajia Morrell
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
The home only has 10 inches of counter space, but the kitchen's clean, white look and original, 1904-era cupboard make up for its impracticality. "It's absurdly small, and for some reason I just love it," she says. She'd choose this look any day over the larger-than-life kitchens she often sees in newer homes. Atop the shelves lives a collection of Dansk cookware Tarajia's mother began collecting after she married Tarajia's father.
400 Square Feet of Sanctuary in NYC, Design*Sponge
At night, from the 110-year-old apartment's bed, you can see the Empire State Building light up the sky.

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  • This is a lovely space with original style. It’s so refreshing to see the cleverly chosen pieces beautifully collated. I wonder if we could also see Tarajia’s upstate place too. Hint hint :)

  • Charming — and though filled with beautiful things — retains a humbleness that welcomes. These surroundings make me like the occupant, though we’ve never met!

    And here’s a smooch for the lovely Lola.

  • It looks so cozy and pretty at the same time… this is how I imagine a happy home to look. With a small yard though ) So cute, even with lil’ Lola <3

  • I am a minimalist at heart but this space is so well done! Somehow all the items look like they have a real purpose, you can tell how much she loves each piece and honors it. Love this space!

  • The colors of this apartment are beautiful and soothing. I think the word lovely is appropriate to describe this space.

  • Love that this place feels grown-up, yet playful. I have much more space, but far less grace. Well done!

  • Who would not want a warm and lovely “cocoon” like this in the heart of Manhattan?!!!

  • I live in a little NYC apartment, too, and loved looking at this one. Wanted to let you know that the teaset PATTERN is “Gaudy Welsh”. It refers to a style of brightly colored British-made (Swansea pottery) every-day ware. It was called “Gaudy Welsh” in America because it was colorful and beloved in particular by Welsh immigrants. Search ebay and you’ll see other examples! This set is beautiful.

  • All is good …. however, with some professional help could be great.
    Missing photos of what In assume is the exterior window wall. What is happening there? Interested in some free pro help?