Interiorssneak peeks

A 425sf Lower East Side Apartment that Feels Light and Airy

by anne

Szeki Chan and her husband Richard Lai have been living together in this Clinton Street, Lower East Side Manhattan apartmen,t since 2006,  after they started dating. At 425sf, it’s all about making every inch usable and enjoyable. However, the condition of this place used to be beyond bad, and Szeki jokes that their friends used to call it “the crack house,” and when Richard first moved in the living room was covered with graffiti like a dive bar bathroom! Over the years they did some minor home improvements, but last year they truly gut renovated the whole apartment to really make it their home. To help make it feel more spacious Szeki used a lot of white, and says that when the sunlight hits the negative space it feels like a breath of fresh air. In terms of furniture, she is drawn to mid-century modern, as something that is both elegant and humble. As a designer, Szeki runs her own [fashion] brand 7115 by Szeki, which has had a lot of success in Japan. She started to design her own line a couple years ago, wanting to create something that was high quality and thoughtfully designed, but friendly to her customer’s pockets. She also owns a little shop, SZEKI, located down the street from their apartment, and for 2014, 7115 by Szeki will be opening in Williamsburg in the Spring -so, exciting times ahead! Many thanks to Szeki (who also happens to be talented with photography)!  –Anne

Image above: l love this side table. We got it from a thrift store in Williamsburg and use it as the coffee table.  Most coffee tables are too big for our apartment.

Image above: I adore my 72” wide work desk, which is actually an Ikea kitchen counter top. It’s the one place where I’m unrestrained with space. It gives me all the workspace I need.


See more of this tiny NYC apartment after the jump!

Image above: These are our favorite vintage pieces. We just recently dug them out from the basement. They belonged to Richard’s dad so they’re extra special and we thought our coffee table would be a good home for them.


Image above: This odd little window in our living room actually used to be in the bathroom. We love it, and it reminds us of our old beat-up apartment.

Image above: The couch is Luna sofa by True Modern. The lamp is from Jonathan Adler’s Happy Chic collection. The floor is natural hickory.

Image above: I introduced pops of color in the kitchen because it’s my happy place.

Image above: The dining table is CB2. It’s perfect for two and it can fit eight once it’s expended. Finding a small dining table was the hardest thing to find. We found the chairs in our basement. We don’t know where they came from, but the color works so perfectly with the rest of the apartment – a happy accident! The cabinet is from Jonathan Adler’s Happy Chic collection.

Image above: A little sand box for Richard’s dad. Daddy was a very romantic, outdoorsy guy.

Image above: Where we enjoy food!! The picture-frame is a old copy of a newspaper that I wrote and distributed for my thesis project at Parsons in 2006. It was all about me and Richard and the fun things we did together. This very apartment was in it countless times.

Image above: It’s our wall of fame (the inside of our front door) where we put up Polaroids and photo booth photos of our friends and family.



Image above: The bedding is Ikea.


Image above: Our dog, Kuna.


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  • Everything about this apartment is spot on buuutttt I really especially love that ikea bedding and the coffee table. Lovely!

  • Beautiful!
    What kind of dog is it, we have Norwegian Buhund called Ronja and it looks very similar.. It is the same or a Finnish Spitz? Kuna is very pretty!

  • Makes me realize I should be really precise with what I choose in my apartment. Everything must have a purpose. I like that it feels airy even though it’s small. Waste not want not!

  • I love small apartments and this one is quite nice. However, I don’t think 424 sq.ft. is all that “small” in NY. I know people who would kill for that much space.

  • hi Glit and everyone, glad you all like my little place :)
    the butcher countertop and filing cabinets is from ikea, but also look into Muji stationary. Although there are not in the photos, I use a lot of muji products in the office , they compliment each other very well.

  • Very lovely space! I really love the ‘sandbox’ with pictures. What a great way to display favorite vacation photos–changing out sand/stones/dried flora, or terrarium-style plants that suit the memories you are displaying.
    I also love your nice big window ledges, the plants and simple pretty objects expand the spaces beautifully.

  • I’m just wondering how comfortable a drop leaf dining room table really is to use daily. It looks like you can barely slide under it and position yourself to eat properly. They’re wonderful when opened for a crowd … but this hard to use on a daily basis.

  • Hi there,
    Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I feel so humbled.

    To answer your questions, our dog, Kuna, is a Shiba Inu. Good spotting. His food bowls are just glass pyrex bowls – I like that they look so clean. The desk worktop is actually just a kitchen countertop from ikea that we attached to a separate desk base. It works really well with lots of space for notes and sketches and fabric books.

    Thanks again everyone!

    • Hi, I’d really like to know which countertop from IKEA it is, which kind of wood? I guess it might be “beech”? Did you apply any oil or something to it? It has a really nice color!
      Thanks in advance for your answer.

  • This is an amazing use of the space you have – it looks like you really thought long and hard about every detail of the apartment, and the white definitely makes it a cheerful place. The tiny photos and lovely pieces of jewellery on the coffee table make it a delicate space as well, which shows in how much sentiment you’ve put into the decor. Great job!

  • I would love to know where I can find the book featured in the picture of their small window entitled “Jewelry Design”… I tried searching on amazon but was unable to find anything resembling it.

  • Shiba! Love your place! How do yo like your Luna sofa? I am thinking about buying one. Can you comment on the quality, etc? Thanks again!

  • Lovely! I am working on a similar work space – may I ask what you used for bracing the other end of the desk? And did you need something in the middle to support such a long countertop? Thanks for any information you can give!