Stacks of Books Double as Decor in This 420-Square-Foot Brooklyn Apartment

The stacks of books and magazines that occupy every spare nook of Madeline Merin’s Brooklyn Heights apartment serve multiple purposes. For one, the interior designer references her collection of design tomes and back issues of Architectural Digest when she’s working. The piles also double as decor, adding texture and interest to each room. Most importantly, the heaps of reading material represent Madeline’s overall approach to her 420-square-foot studio: She wanted to create an inspiring retreat specifically for herself.

“In a lot of small rentals, people optimize the space for visitors or dinner parties,” Madeline explains. “If that’s your priority, that’s totally a valid thing to do, but I really needed to make every bit of space work for me and what I wanted. The result is a very serene place that really feels like an oasis.”

Madeline poses elegantly in her apartment.

©Kirsten Francis Photography

Madeline’s first step towards maximizing the compact home was convincing the owners of the prewar building to construct a kitchen peninsula for additional storage. Then she sought to highlight the historic moldings that had disappeared under layers of paint. She used a laser level to define where the detail would’ve started and taped it off while she gave the walls a coat of calming blue gray, leaving the trim white. “It’s a trompe l’oeil effect, in a way,” she says. “It brought back a lot of the original character.”

A classic Christopher Spitzmiller lamp sits on Madeline’s big IKEA desk, balancing the silhouette of the column to the left.

©Kirsten Francis Photography