Three years ago, when my boyfriend and I decided to pick up our lives in Denver and head east to Brooklyn, we knew we would have to majorly downsize. We had been living in a spacious townhouse with two bedrooms and two and a half baths, which in Denver (or most places outside of New York City) seemed pretty standard. We had visions of our new life in Brooklyn as a fresh start, and we knew we’d have to purge a lot of our stuff before we left Colorado. However, no matter how much we prepared before packing up, moving into our much smaller Williamsburg apartment still wasn’t the easiest of transitions for either of us.
We’ve managed to make it work, but not without a little decorating creativity, a lot of learning, and plenty of compromise.
CUT DOWN ON CLUTTER
The first habit we both had to break was not buying things just for the sake of buying things. Pre–New York me loved a good tchotchke. A tiny Eiffel Tower from my trip to Paris in 2006? I couldn’t possibly get rid of that! A stack of my favorite issues of Vogue from the last five years? How would I live without them? A tiny Buddha figurine from a store in my college town? Necessary! As we unpacked all of our things in our new Brooklyn abode, it became abundantly clear that only items with serious sentimental value or a practical purpose would make the cut.
I kept the Eiffel Tower but tossed the magazines.
WORK WITH WHAT YOU'VE GOT
My boyfriend, Scott, also picked up a hobby after our move that didn’t exactly leave a small footprint in our new home: surfing. His new passion made for an interesting design challenge: How can we incorporate his eight-foot surfboard into the design of our space? We didn’t have a storage unit that would fit the board, so we had no other choice but to make it work as a part of our design. After a lot of trial and error, with a little inspiration from the book Surf Shack, we found the perfect place for it.
It now sits in our living room behind my favorite West Elm planter and our thriving snake plant. At first, I was hesitant to have it showcased so dominantly in our home, but it’s become one of my favorite features.
TWO FUNCTIONS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
One of the biggest rules for small-space decorating is that everything should serve more than one purpose. This isn’t a novel revelation, and I had been told this so many times when consulting friends for design tips, yet I had to learn it the hard way. One of my biggest decorating regrets was not keeping this in mind when shopping for furniture—specifically, our entryway table. The minimal and open design that I love so much has zero storage space, and in a home where storage spaces are few and far between, any additional room to hide things is necessary.
HAVE FUN WITH IT
One of the best things about living in New York is the steady stream of people who visit from out of town. We’re lucky enough to have a guest bedroom to host family and friends, and we wanted to make sure the space was welcoming and comfortable. To make sure this room worked well for anyone visiting us, we left the décor fairly minimal so there was plenty of space for suitcases, shopping bags, etc. It felt like a great area to go a little bolder with color, as we wouldn’t be living in it day-to-day like with the rest of the apartment.
We bought the orange bed frame in Denver, and it makes the guest room feel a bit more fun and playful.
A LITTLE GREENERY GOES A LONG WAY
Having plants in our home has become increasingly important to us. Not only do they provide air filtration in our city home, but having a little bit of life in each room also helps us to cope with the lack of greenery around us. We’ve picked up all of our plants from a great little shop in our neighborhood called Sprout Home.
While it might have seemed daunting at the time, moving halfway across the country to Brooklyn was, while challenging, one of the most exciting times in our relationship. We learned to let go of so many material things, work together, and really figure out how to compromise. Now, I can’t help but feel lucky when I look around our apartment. Three years later, this rental really does feel like home.