Designing a Small, Bright Greenwich Village Apartment

Designing a Small, Bright Greenwich Village Apartment

If you're moving into a shiny new space and you're starting from scratch, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Do you buy a couch first? Paint the walls? Try to make everything match?

So for my next client, I thought I'd bring ya in from the start so you can see how I pulled together a design plan for a totally empty space.

I am extremely #blessed in the client department because this one happens to be A. my best friend who has very good taste and B. the new resident of a bright and beautiful one bedroom in Greenwich Village. What a dream!

My friend is starting with absolutely no furniture so it's pretty much a blank slate. Here's a few photos so you can see what's up:


The apartment is definitely small and cozy, but the light is amazing and it's been recently renovated so everything is in excellent condition. We are mostly focusing our design efforts on the living room because the bedroom is teeny tiny -- room for a bed and nightstand and that's it. 

Here's the floor plan for the living room if the photos don't make sense and you're interested (I'm always interested):

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Gathering Inspiration

The most important place to start is figuring out your style and the overall vibe for the room. Once you have a broad vision, it's much easier to go shopping for individual items.

This apartment feels super new inside but it's a historic building, so I wanted to bring a sense of vintage and warmth to the room. My friend isn't afraid of color, so I started envisioning vintage British dude library vibes -- leather couch, red oriental rug. Contrasted with the white walls, light wood floors, and big windows, I wasn't worried about it seeming too dark.

Once I had this general concept in my head, I went straight to Pinterest and searched literally: "white walls red oriental rug leather couch." And Pinterest delivered, per usual. Here's what we're drawing inspiration from:

Planning for your space

Once you have your design vibe in mind it's time to see what will actually work for your space. Most people don't have 15 foot ceilings like the photos on Pinterest, so here's where we add a dose of reality.

After measuring every single possible wall in the apartment, I input the dimensions into a floor plan (I like the tool Smart Draw) and we started considering different furniture layouts. Note, if it's possible to take really precise measurements before you move in, do it -- this way you can shop for rugs knowing the size you can accomodate. Make a list of all the measurements you need before you go, because it's surprisingly easy to forget when you're there in person.

We started with the most straightforward layout, with a tv/bookcase/shelves in the nook next to the fireplace, and a couch opposite the tv. This seemed fine, but not super inspiring -- we didn't like how it closed off the seating area to the back 2/3 of the room:

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Next we tried a sectional in place of the normal sofa. I am #team sectional and thought it would work well under the window. However, same issue with the room feeling squished toward the back. There also aren't many sectionals shorter than 84 inches wide:

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So we opened up the room and tried a sofa under the windows. That didn't seem like the best use of space (the wall to the right of the sofa would basically be dead).

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Next we tried a sectional under the windows, with the chaise part of the sectional in the nook next to the fireplace. But this felt too tight and like it would cut off the visual view of the sofa:

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Finally, we tried the sectional with the chaise part against the bedroom wall, and this seemed like the best option. The only downside is the dresser the tv is sitting on may be a little hard to access -- we'll have to find a shallow dresser or just do floor-to-ceiling shelves with baskets on the bottom.

But it makes the room feel most open. And there's the option of putting a chair against the stove and having it face into the room (although I've currently leaning toward a kitchen cart like this one next to the stove).

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Once we agreed on this overall layout, we were able to order the sectional and a rug to be delivered on moving day (since we could trip check dimensions). At a certain point you have to commit to one or two big items that will anchor the room, and then trust the rest of the design will follow. If you fall in love with a pink couch, for instance, order the couch and make that your starting place.

Finding specific pieces

Once you have your overall design plan and a sense of the individual items that will fit, it's time to go shopping.

Personally I like to create a Pinterest board for each project and use the Chrome extension to save anything that seems promising. This way even without any Photoshop skills, you can start to see the overall direction the individual objects are headed toward when they're all in a grid together.

Don't worry too much about furniture and objects matching, per se. You don't want to look too matchy-matchy. But the key to creating a cohesive look is picking 2-3 colors and making sure your furniture and accessories all tie back to this scheme. Within those colors you can experiment with different textures and finishes, but it keeps the whole vibe from looking too random. For the living room we're going with red (rug), warm brown tones (couch, coffee table) and white (walls, dining table), with black and natural accents (picture frames, baskets, art, etc.)

So here's the current inspiration board for the apartment. These aren't the exact items we're shopping for (I'm hoping to find a good deal of vintage/Craigslist), it gives you an idea of the plan. And I'm hoping to re-create my Ikea shelves in the nook next to the TV which is why my bedroom shelves make an appearance:

Jarrard Charles Apt 2.jpg

Sources, clockwise from top left: White wall shelving, framed block print, framed figure drawing, black ceramic planter, woven basket, brown leather sectional sofa, vintage oriental rug, black leather chair, vintage trunk, mid-century candle votives, black dining chair, white dresser

Have any questions about starting from scratch? Leave em in the comments!

(Note: This post contains affiliate links, so I may receive a commission if you like one of my suggestions)

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