Location: Fort Greene — Brooklyn, New York
Size: 240 square feet
Years lived in: 17 years, renting
Darini has made this 240-square-foot Fort Greene studio apartment into a cozy, tidy home, a space she’s rented for almost two decades. “I’m an anthropologist and sociologist, who along with my students explore such topics as our consumption habits and the ways in which we could bridge our lives with the natural world in creative, cohesive, and environmentally sustainable ways,” explains Darini. “Living in a tiny space poses many challenges, such as the obvious limited space and storage options, so it’s taught me to enjoy living with less and by default also consuming less,” she writes. “My tiny apartment has taught me to keep clutter at bay and creating space for things that are functional yet provide an aesthetically pleasing environment.”
Living in under 300 square feet for 17 years has taught Darini a thing or two about small space organization, and along with her academic career, she’s launching an organizing consultancy business called Declutterbug LLC, where she’ll “help clients declutter and organize their living spaces, so they can enjoy a more manageable and rewarding life.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: My style tends to be calming, relaxing, and peaceful with a splash of boho charm.
Inspiration: Caribbean beaches, nature, and wildlife inspire my home.
Favorite Element: My favorite part of my home is the natural light and the sun I get streaming in from the southeast. The natural light casts mysterious shades of minty pistachio green hues throughout the day on my kitchen’s back wall/backsplash painted in “Daquiri Ice” from Benjamin Moore.
Biggest Challenge: Living in a tiny space poses many challenges, such as the obvious limited space and storage options, so it’s taught me to enjoy living with less and by default also consuming less. My tiny apartment has taught me to keep clutter at bay and creating space for things that are functional yet provide an aesthetically pleasing environment. However, my biggest challenge living in the tiny space, is that cannot part with books easily because being in the academy I often find that I need to be able to access them quickly, especially as I recall information visually and need to make references to them in my work, so I proudly showcase my library. So, I began downsizing my books by selling a few philosophy and literary books to Un-nameable Books, a local secondhand bookstore, and I donated the remainder to Housing Works and Goodwill. I gave away the books that had never been read and all the fiction that I had read once. That was a start.
Proudest DIY: My big DIY was stripping my gray kitchen cabinets and the paint off my window moldings, plastering old cracks in the wall and painting them. I began the task with two kinds of pseudo green and non-toxic chemical brands to peel away eight layers of paint back to the 1920s or so. I didn’t realize what I’d gotten myself into when I decided to strip down the gray paint, but in the end it felt like a fun archaeological project discovering the different colors that previous tenants had painted the cabinets over the past hundred years or so, which ranged from many surprising hues of bright yellow to salmon pink to even a shade of burgundy. Once the cabinets were stripped, I machine and hand sanded them and painted them in Benjamin Moore’s “Chantilly Lace.” The entire project update took me close to 30 days and cost about $600.
Biggest Indulgence: My biggest indulgence over the years has been upgrading my pieces of furniture to a more modern and functional aesthetic from the vintage pieces I had collected from an antique barn in Vermont prior to moving to NY. The latest acquisition has been my rattan boho coffee table from West Elm, which wasn’t cheap as the price went up 30% in recent months, but it completes my space.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I use my home as a respite from the hustle and bustle of NY life and its busy and loud streets. According to friends, my abode apparently imparts the vibe of a treehouse. My apartment is on the top floor of a lovely 200-year-old brownstone that faces east and overlooks a lovely backyard, which is teaming with nature, a huge oak tree, apple tree, squirrels, birds like mourning doves, blue jays, cardinals, a feral cat and on occasion even invites a hungry Cooper’s Hawk to hang out.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I have enjoyed the process of getting rid of things and furniture and clutter over the years, and choosing to keep and bring objects into my home that I think will only enhance or brighten up my space. I’ve had to give away an old New England rocking chair that was hard to maneuver around its sharp-edged legs. Yes, a small space requires a few pieces of furniture that are easy to move around, so pieces with rounded edges are best. I’ve enjoyed assembling a mid-century modern record player stand, which I bought from Ashley Homestore, and it has become my pride and joy, as I listen to my growing record collection. I’ve enjoyed buying colorful cushions from Joss and Main, hand woven Agowa Senagalese cane baskets of all shapes and sizes from Agowa at our Ft. Greene artisan market, and most recently some uniquely hand crafted pieces like a Laureate pitcher and a hilamos shopping bag from Plaza Bolivar, a local woman-run business that sells indigenous artisanal crafts from her native Colombia.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Bring nature in with plants, and if you prefer a calm environment keep it simple with a neutral palette and add a splash of color to brighten up the space. Lastly, for every three-five items you’re able give away, allow yourself to bring one object into your home that captures your heart.
This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.