This Brooklyn Apartment Makeover Is a Lesson in Clever Small-Space Design

Deep blue built-ins? Yes, please!

A Brooklyn apartment packed with small-space ideas | Clare Paint

When interior designer Nina Blair first laid eyes on the Brooklyn apartment she’d been hired to refresh, she knew the space was in dire need of some personality. “It had been gut-renovated, and stripped of its moldings and architectural details,” she explains. “It was basically a white box.” So, she pulled in a palette of deep blues and calm grays to elevate the space. 

Brooklyn Apartment Small Space Design | Clare Paint

Nestled on the second floor of a prewar building in the Fort Greene neighborhood, the small yet cozy one-bedroom has dreamy, front-facing vistas of the trees lining the street, which sparked an aha moment for Nina. “The views made it feel like a treehouse,” she says. “So I thought: Let’s enhance the beautiful light and views by bringing some nature-inspired elements into the space.” Here, she shares how she created a serene sanctuary despite limited square footage.

Brooklyn Apartment Design | Deep Dive by Clare Paint

Use Moody Blues to Make a Statement

Though Nina’s client, a literary agent, was skeptical about incorporating bold hues into the space, she convinced him to give a dark shade of blue-green a try by painting a wall of built-in bookcases and a sliding door in the living room Deep Dive. “He had boxes and boxes of books he was planning to move into storage, but I wanted to incorporate those into the design in a practical way,” she explains. “We choose Deep Dive because it draws from the warm blue hues of the sky, and when the light hits, it changes intensity and cocoons the space.”

Nina Blair Brooklyn Apartment | Seize the Gray by Clare Paint

Offset Bold Hues With Warm Gray Walls

To balance out the deep blue shelving system and door, Nina painted the walls of the living room Seize the Gray, an airy shade of light gray with minimal undertones. “My client is a big fan of the mid century modern aesthetic, so we needed a warm hue that would complement the blue but also serve as a backdrop for his furniture and decor,” she says. “So often, blues and grays can make a space feel icy, but these hues feel warm and enveloping.”

Brooklyn Apartment Design | Blue Ivy by Clare Paint

Use a Lighter Shade of Blue in the Bedroom

To give each room in the apartment a “distinct personality,” Nina persuaded her client to paint all four walls of his bedroom Blue Ivy, a true medium tone blue that reads a touch lighter than Deep Dive. “When the light hits the bedroom in the morning, it warms up the blue, but not so much that you have to open the shades,” she explains. “If the room were white, it would be too stark and bright—Blue Ivy feels very cozy yet cohesive with the paint hues in the living room.”

Brooklyn Apartment Small Space Design | Blue Ivy by Clare Paint

Drum Up Some Organic Drama With Earth Tones

Along with providing texture and a sense of contrast, Nina says she used rich earth tone decor, such as terracotta-colored bedding, solid wood side tables, and a leather-topped desk, to usher some outdoorsy vibes into the space. “Natural colors and materials help bring some of the outside in, “ she explains. “Not only do they breathe fresh life into a dated apartment, they make you feel good, which is more important than ever now that we’re spending so much time at home.”  

Brooklyn Apartment Design | Motor City by Clare Paint

Think Outside the Tile Bathroom Box

Since Nina couldn’t hang any art in the tile-walled bathroom of the Brooklyn apartment, she painted the ceiling in medium-gray Motor City and sourced a colorful shower curtain with an eye-catching geometrical motif. “The gray paint helps bring the ceiling down so the space feels more intimate, and the shower curtain doubles as artwork while drawing from other hues in the home.”

Brooklyn Apartment Entryway | Seize the Gray by Clare Paint

Brooklyn Apartment Bedroom & Home Office | Blue Ivy paint color by Clare

Brooklyn Apartment Design by Nina Blair Interiors featuring paint by Clare

Interior designer Nina Blair

Photos by David A. Land


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