How I Created a WFH Haven Out of My 525-Square-Foot Apartment

living and dining area in 525 square foot apartment

Nicole Kliest

I knew my apartment would be home the first time I stepped inside. Built in 1900 and situated just a block away from Prospect Park in the historic district of Park Slope, Brooklyn, the limestone residence retains its original charm thanks to stained glass windows, soft archways, and dramatic bay windows. What it doesn't offer is a whole lot of space.

The 525-square-foot one-bedroom apartment was a slightly tough sell to my boyfriend who is perpetually concerned about having enough room for storage (perhaps my overflowing closet has something to do with that...). However, I managed to quell his uncertainty and assure him we would make it work. And make it work we did.

I needed an environment that felt diverse and interesting enough to spark creativity and productivity—and I had to build all of that within the confines of a 525-square-foot apartment.

I've been a self-employed freelance writer for the last two-and-a-half years and as such, have cobbled together a WFH routine that is sustainable and successful. Moving into this new apartment at the beginning of autumn when the potential of another Coronavirus surge was looming, I knew I needed to be prepared to work entirely from home (I used to spread my time between my desk, coffee shops, and the library to keep my mind fresh). In other words, a simple desk wasn't going to cut it. I needed an environment that felt diverse and interesting enough to spark creativity and productivity—and I had to build all of that within the confines of a 525-square-foot apartment

bedroom with stained glass window

Nicole Kliest

I’m a firm believer that every successful work day must begin with a ritual and mine is a tranquil 15-minute meditation session in bed. It’s commonly recommended to meditate in a chair somewhere away from where you sleep, but there’s just something so soothing to me about sitting legs crossed on top of my Turkish cotton bedding with a Goliath stained glass window and snake plant to the right. I kept our bedroom simple with a wood bed frame and a small stool as my bedside table. An uncluttered start to the day — check!

closet with hanging jewelry storage

Nicole Kliest

One aspect of working from home that doesn’t get enough attention is the clothing you wear. I know the world waxed poetic about sweatpants earlier this year, but in my experience, if you don’t get dressed first thing in the morning it can set a less motivated tone for the workday.

clothing rack outside of a closet

Nicole Kliest

Keeping this in mind and knowing my closet space was limited, I made the decision to add a wardrobe rack. It makes finding my clothes and picking my outfits quick and painless, which is a recipe for WFH success in my book. Also, the over-the-door jewelry organizer and hanging sweater organizer are small-but-meaningful updates that pack a punch.

I ease into my workday by answering emails with coffee on the couch around 7:15 a.m. I spotted this off-white loveseat on OfferUp and dragged my boyfriend and a U-Haul van to Jackson Heights to retrieve it; no regrets.

living room with white leather sofa and large snake plant

Nicole Kliest

This area is nestled in the center of the room (it’s an office, living area, and dining room all in one). Because of this, I chose a circular glass coffee table to help open things up. Decor elements like the HumanHome lamp also help save space because it’s flush against the wall (it’s like hardware lighting without the hard wiring). To pull it all together, a stack of the coffee table books I’ve collected over the years to serve as a makeshift plant stand and a fun cowhide rug for a splash of texture.

hanging wall shelf/desk

Nicole Kliest

Once it’s time to move on to writing I mosey over to my ‘office’. The mounted desk is a relic from my last apartment and is a helpful space-saver. Something I never invested in before this apartment was a designated office chair and this architectural beauty from Dims genuinely makes the workday feel so much more special.

I am a huge candle fanatic so a seasonal scented candle is a must for my shelf. Throw in some stylish organizational accessories, a few plants, and my ceramic cup for pencils and paintbrushes et voila! A functional, visually-pleasing workspace that I actually look forward to sitting at each day.

living room with white leather sofa and keyboard

Nicole Kliest

My boyfriend is a sound composer and designer and though he doesn’t work from home, I wanted to make sure there was a space for him to create. The wall perpendicular to my desk is where his keyboard lives.

Since it’s facing away from the bay windows, I hung frames above the keyboard to draw the eye upward. He and I chose prints and artwork that held significance for both of us and sent them off to Framebridge to achieve a mixed frame gallery wall look. The pink collage is by our dear friend, Neelo Noory!

vignette i a living room by circular window

Nicole Kliest

I like to play music while I work (classical and jazz), which is why the media setup was important. I set the television on top of a vintage table I had and my boyfriend slid his antique chest underneath. We placed our record player on top with a few records within arm’s reach.

It’s definitely a bit hodge podge but it incorporates several pieces we love into one station—space-saving and sentimental! As always, we used plants to round things out as well as a few curated decor elements including my amber-hued incense holder and his ceramic vase from a trip to Japan.

bookshelf with several plants on the top shelf

Nicole Kliest

Speaking of houseplants, my boyfriend and I have a bit of an obsession. We counted the other day and we’re at 30 plants just in the living area (there are some stragglers hanging around in the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom as well). Suffice it to say, we are plant people and having pops of green in every corner and crevice of the room makes working from a small home—particularly in the winter—a revitalizing decision.

My old workdays entailed bouncing around the neighborhood between my at-home desk, the library, and coffee shops. My new workdays are far less on-the-go and the only way I can make up for this shift is by creating different areas of the room I can work depending on my mindset.

dining space in a 525 square foot apartment

Nicole Kliest

I found this Mid-century Modern walnut table on AptDeco for a really affordable price and it’s been a lifesaver; particularly because it lends the opportunity to look out of the bay windows. I’m also having fun decorating with candles as art accents. These HAY pillar color block candles by Dutch designer Lex Pott are so playful and fun to set my laptop beside.

Up until this year, the term ‘zoom cocktail’ would’ve elicited a confused expression. Now, as you all know, it’s ubiquitous and I am still having a virtual work drink about once a week and friend drinks a few times a month. This alone was justification enough to create an at-home bar cart!

well-stocked bar cart by a window

Nicole Kliest

I liked the look of this kitchen storage cart and kept the decor simple, with a jade plant in the back and an antique vase from my grandparents in the center. As for the liquor, I’m stocked up on the essentials: rum, gin, scotch, whiskey, vodka, a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red. Oh, and my cute new shaker set and glassware to make it feel extra official!

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