There’s nothing like the joy of a clean slate when you first move in to a new apartment, or a “white-box moment,” as photographer Sean Litchfield refers to it. That’s especially true when your “box” comes outfitted with amenities like enormous light-filled windows and central air. “We really lucked out finding this building, which seems to be part of a new wave of well-designed apartment buildings in Brooklyn,” he says. Sean and his husband, architectural historian Zachary Violette previously lived in an 1880s tenement building that had seen better days. The updated amenities, along with design details like the herringbone-pattern tile found in the kitchen and bath, were not lost on them, at all.
The new apartment also had something else their former home lacked: a second bedroom. More space meant more possibilities for accommodating the couple working from home. “Zach needs a quiet, closed-off space to work during the day, whereas I’m content working on the sofa or at the dining table,” Sean explains.
With the second bedroom functioning as an office for Zach, the couple went all in on a custom shelving system to house his massive collection of architectural history books, a splurge they have no regrets about. “It’s such a beautiful collection,” Sean says. Creating a dedicated space to display and access the volume of books that respects the collection as a visual presence—as much as a practical one, was a priority.
Since they spend so much time at home, creating a “fun, colorful, comfortable space to be in” was super important, Sean says. For the couple, this means a thoughtful mix of power pieces like the new paprika-colored velvet sofa living alongside vintage gems, bold artwork, and treasured finds from travels abroad, like the Kurdish rugs they bought in Istanbul just a year prior, which feel even more meaningful now, given travel limitations due to the pandemic.
Sean looks forward to continuing to personalize their space, maybe adding wallpaper or leaning into some whimsical decor, and getting back out to flea markets once shopping becomes possible again. “We’re constantly changing things up as we acquire new pieces and this space has allowed for infinite variations,” he shares.
🛠 Do It Yourself
Find your power piece A bold or eye-catching piece draws the eye in and creates a focal point in a room. The area rug from Cold Picnic in the living room was a splurge for the couple, but it plays such an important role in tying the main room together. “I love how prominent it is and my eye goes right to it when I get home,” Sean says.
Consider new uses for favorite furnishings The Eastlake secretary is one of the couple’s most prized pieces, scored from an antique market in New Jersey. Instead of using it strictly in the traditional sense, it houses barware along with books and art. Initially they had their hearts set on a proper sideboard for the dining area but had to pivot when there just wasn’t room. The upright secretary holds much of what the sideboard would have, at a fraction of the floor space. Bonus: It comes apart in two pieces, so moving it is a breeze.
Keep it fresh with flowers Sean and Zach “always have fresh flowers scattered around.” A sprig of greenery or seasonal blooms breathe life into a room, and can really lift your spirits, especially when we’re spending so much time indoors. It’s also an opportunity to show off a gorgeous vase.
Put walls to work In a small space, opting for wall-mounted shelves, like those the couple installed in the living room and office, is a great space-saving solution for maximizing storage.
🛍 Shop It Out
Hannah Apartment sofa by Cobble Hill, from $1,500, abchome.com
Salt Flats rug by Cold Picnic, from $1,200, coldpicnic.com
SVALNAS Shelving System by IKEA, from $498, ikea.com
Linen bedding by Brooklinen, from $249, brooklinen.com
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest