It’s a New York story: Boy meets girl meets loft apartment. “There’s no 'he said, she said,'” declares interior designer and architect-in-training Jennifer Vaughn about her relationship with fiancé Derrick Miller, who is creative director of the men's accessories label Barker Black and its Manhattan shop. “There’s only 'we said.'” It's a good thing, because their apartment’s small size (just over 500 square feet) and their shoestring budget to fix it up posed enough challenges. Both inherent classicists in their respective design sensibilities, the couple made the close quarters—a living area and nook of a kitchen topped by a miniscule sleeping loft—feel quite grand. But when your pad is this petite, function is tantamount. Vaughn credits her mentor and boss, Laura Bohn, with teaching her to design more livable spaces. At home, that meant mostly streamlined furniture and creative solutions for much-needed storage. Such efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of personality, though: There are choice moments of character (the beat-up club chair) and decadence (the fur pillows), and Vaughn and Miller have peppered the apartment with a well-edited array of keepsakes and decorative objects—most found on the cheap at the flea markets they comb together.
“The only piles you’ll see here are of books,” says Vaughn, who uses the stacks as functional sculpture on a Design Within Reach bookcase. Making sure that all clutter and clothing stays out of sight is a major feat. “What
saved us was this modular IKEA unit.” The width of the shelves is set, but heights are adjustable; after careful planning, Vaughn organized a grid that was visually pleasing and compartmentalized by category. (Off-season togs stay at a nearby U-Haul storage center.) Not enamored of the unit’s shiny glass, the couple tried flipping it over. The result: a more opaque, matte side that hides contents. Above are large wicker boxes for housing photos and art supplies. The IKEA dresser on the opposite wall (see above) easily adapts to a living-room setting. “I would much rather see an open console. But at the end of the day, I need drawers,” Vaughn says. She compromised by choosing a lighter-looking piece with a utilitarian vibe that doesn’t scream “bedroom” and that shares the palette of its surroundings.
In the cramped kitchen, there are only four narrow cabinets. An upper ledge, already built in, has become a crucial place for storage, but the exposed vantage means that everything on it has to look appealing. Realizing dishware was her best option, Vaughn kept things simple: clean white plates and lightweight glasses in basic shapes. “In New York City, with no dishwasher, washing wineglasses? Not practical.
We use bistro glasses for wine.” To maximize wall space, they found some attractive, reasonably priced knives from Bodum and mounted a magnetic strip on which to hang them. Originally, there were two bare light bulbs sticking out of the ceiling. The couple replaced these with inexpensive but sleek, adjustable Home Depot fixtures, which are perfect for task lighting.