Botanical, Bookish Brooklyn Apartment of an Artist and Musician

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Name: Maggie Mae and Jesse
Location: Park Slope, Brooklyn, NYC
Size: 800 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years lived in: 1.5 years, renting

“From the moment we clapped eyes on the building’s emerald green turret,” says Maggie Slover, “we knew. It was a freezing spring during the pandemic and my partner and I got to the apartment showing an hour early. Within minutes, a line formed behind us around the block, longer than Dominique Ansel’s after the annunciation of a new cronut. We’d barely made a lap around the space (gasping, both because of the four flights of stairs and because we were in love) before we submitted our application.”

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“Somehow, we got it. On the first day we were given the keys, we danced around the empty living room and lay giddily in the puddles of sun on the floor. Then, we felt it. The entire top floor was vibrating. Because the building housed an Italian restaurant at street level, the pizza oven was connected to a vent just above our bedroom. It was so deafening we had to shout to hear each other. My partner is a jazz musician who needs to record his work and the noise was a deal breaker. We backed out of the lease. Devastated, we continued our search, only to find scores of mildewy, basement apartments… nothing like our charming treehouse. Assuming it had been snapped up long ago, I was shocked to see the apartment re-listed. I immediately called the landlord and learned the noise had been fixed. At the risk of losing my job, I abandoned my desk in the middle of a Tuesday, sprinted to the nearest train from Upper Manhattan to Park Slope, and managed to re-sign the lease milliseconds before another couple did. It was a joyful deja vu.”

“We dined at the restaurant downstairs that would have been our nemesis. The pizza was wildly delicious. Our home has its idiosyncrasies, to be sure. There’s a terrifying situation under the kitchen sink that looks like it could be water damage or the aftermath of a possum rager. The wood floors creak and snap when you walk across them and we’ve had to add a plethora of thick rugs so as not to sound like we’re River Dancing to our downstairs neighbors. The bathroom has antique tile (and antique dust between said tiles) that took ages to exhume. But whenever we’ve met with adamantine concrete in a wall we innocently wanted to a hang a picture on, or ogled other people’s closets (we have two the size of phone booths), or longed for more outlets, we remember the early days and the ecstasy of making this home ours. And we couldn’t be happier.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Botanical bookish. Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House meets Brooklyn. Jesse came with a lot (a lot) of instruments, so we dispersed them throughout the rooms. Who knew I’d be sleeping next to an organ? At first it felt like we were trying to meld two wildly different aesthetics, but they work wonderfully together. For instance, you’ll see my Bauhaus teacup collection and his David Bowie artwork get along just fine. We’re both big readers, but the bookshelves — IKEA BILLY book cases FTW — are very his and hers. He’s got gobs of musician biographies and plays and I love my art books and modernist novels and poetry. We sometimes ransack the other’s shelves when we need to broaden our horizons. Plants have also hugely come into play. They’ve just sort of… amassed. It’s all thanks to the wonderful little bodega down the street which basically has a nursery attached to it.

Inspiration: The Bloomsbury Group, Mid-Century Berlin, Botanical Gardens and Natural History museums, the palettes of Cezanne.

Favorite Element: I could live in the kitchen. Morning doves like to sit and sing in the tree outside and the plants in that window are just so verdant and happy. All my mismatched dishes, the spices, the tomatoes warming in the sun… it’s where I make food for the people I adore and look out at the world waking up each morning with a freshly-brewed cup of PG Tips.

Biggest Challenge: Our biggest hurdle was sound-treating the apartment. My partner is a professional musician but our neighbors are very sensitive to sound. It didn’t help that the floors and walls are basically made from the early 20th century papier-mâché. We spent an exorbitant sum on the special foam under the living room rug, topped by a shag piece made from New Zealand sheep’s wool and a vintage Turkish number I got off Etsy (spoiler alert: they can still hear us).

Proudest DIY: We’re extremely proud of how we’ve created storage solutions from thin air in a space with virtually no closets. From a special bed frame that allows us to use sliding IKEA storage boxes, to a re-painted medicine cabinet-turned-pantry we found on the street and hung above the kitchen table (no mice on our watch), we’ve really tried to make the most of every square inch.

Rent: $2,400 per month. To be clear, I was paying about this much on my own for a studio in the Upper West Side. Now we spend our savings on pastries at Winner. It’s all a wash, really.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? The bedroom is also a makeshift studio. I’ll crack the window open to let out the fumes from the oil paint. Between Jesse’s organ and my easel, it’s a very creative space. I love painting while he makes music. It’s a very symbiotic process.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Share a large dresser! Seriously… we built this one ourselves and it’s not only helped me purchase clothing more intentionally, but also made the space feel more congruent. We also used a charming Danish dresser in the living room as a linen closet/ record player station. Peg board in the kitchen is a game changer.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? If you can’t find a vintage mirror you like, opt instead for a great frame. A glass cutting or framing shop will outfit it with a mirror for far less than you’d pay for both together. Plus, it makes your space feel infinitely more expansive.

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