How to Make a Small Apartment Feel Huge

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

Interior designer Whitney Parris-Lamb lives in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, with her husband, Chris, and their sweet dog, Grete. Their apartment is meticulously curated, but what really sets it apart is the creative use of space. Here’s how Whitney set up a bright, sprawling home in a technically small space…


Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

When you found the apartment four years ago, how did you know it was “the one”?
We were hoping for something unique, which was a challenge with our limited budget. After months of looking at cookie-cutter one-bedrooms all over Brooklyn, I saw this apartment. I walked in and immediately fell for the high ceilings and abundant natural light. The apartment had been on the market for some time — it’s a unique layout on the ground floor of a prewar building. The things I love about it — like having our own front door, right from the street, and the sleeping loft — made some folks nervous, so we got a good deal.

Paint color: Railings by Farrow & Ball. Turtle shell: vintage, via Yanatiba. Camel print: needlepoint by Whitney’s mom. Valet: Adam Hoff and Poul Ostergaard, via Dual Modern. Wooden chair: Sweeten Creek Antiques. Mirror, rug, chest: vintage.


Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

For a small apartment, what are your rules of thumb for choosing a sofa that’s the right scale?
Depth is often the thing that makes a sofa feel gigantic and oversized. For smaller spaces, I try to go for something smaller — between 34 to 36 inches deep. And choose a sofa with legs, which will feel a little airier and lighter.

Tell us about that great poster.
My great great grandfather was a surgeon in WWI and collected Liberty bond propaganda posters. A few years ago, we discovered an army trunk full of them and have since had a few of them framed.

Floor lamp: Akari Light Sculpture by Isamu Noguchi. Sofa: vintage mid century Danish. Coffee table: vintage Yngve Ekstrom. Floating shelf art: Leigh Suggs. Rug: Turkish midcentury, via Aero. End table: designed by Whitney’s mother using wood from an antique dining table from her great-grandmother’s house. Table lamp: vintage driftwood.

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

How did your dog get her name?
When my dad died a few years ago, I was struggling with grief. I needed something to love, and Chris was hesitant at first, but then his colleague was like, “Whitney’s smart — she knows a dog won’t replace her father, but if it’ll make her feel better, get her a dog!” My father was a big marathoner, so we named our dog after Grete Waitz, the famous marathoner. That helped me feel connected to my dad. Grete’s spoiled rotten and basically has free reign (although thankfully, she still hasn’t figured out how to climb the ladder and join us in the loft).

Side table: Canvas Home. Brown leather chair: vintage.

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

What are your tips on hanging art?
I try to hang single pieces with a center line around eye level. My husband and I are both tall, so average eye level for us hits around 5’7” — but I think a good rule of thumb for most people is to hang the center of the piece around 5’6”. For gallery walls with multiple pieces, I prepare the layout on the floor first. Then I carefully measure, mark and replicate the layout on the wall. If you look closely, most of my walls have little pencil marks around the art where I’ve noted locations before hanging!

Console: vintage Swedish midcentury, via Antique Tobacco Barn in Asheville, NC.


Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

What do you cook at home?
We are extreme creatures of habit! We always order ingredients from Fresh Direct for the same three meals: Veggie tacos. Beans and quinoa with avocado (sometimes with a poached egg on top) and kale salad. Chard and leek frittata. We literally eat the exact same food every week. It keeps things simple and healthy and saves us the brain space and time that goes into meal planning. Every Friday we order from Pizza Loves Emily in Clinton Hill — it’s the best!

Backsplash: Waterworks. Floating shelves: CB2. Rug: vintage.

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

Your framed family photos are so sweet.
I grew up in a small, rural, Southern town — the same small, rural, Southern town that my parents, grandparents and great grandparents also called home. So, I feel a very deep connection to Waynesville, North Carolina, and the people there. While I don’t think I could ever go back (twelve years in New York certainly changes you), I feel like so much of who I am comes out of that place. Having family photos helps keep those fond memories alive and reminds me where I come from.

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

You have a business partner, Amanda. What’s it like to work with your best friend?
We spend so much time together, it’s like I have a second marriage! Designing is a collaborative process, and a partnership feels natural. It’s nice to always have someone to bounce ideas off. She and I are really different in personality and taste, but that winds up making a very successful product for our clients.

Have you had any tricky moments at work?
We once built a custom nine-foot leather-and-lacquer door for a project in a high-rise building… and forgot to measure the freight elevator to make sure it would fit. The door had to be wrapped and brought up to the 17th floor on TOP of the elevator, which was completely terrifying.

Art: Jefferson Hayman.


Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

Do you have a favorite spot in the apartment?
The majority of our time is actually spent at the dining table. Chris and I try to eat dinner together most nights (both of our parents did this with us growing up and it stuck). It’s our chance to catch up and get some quality time in our otherwise busy schedules. And the dining chairs are probably my favorite piece of vintage furniture in the apartment. They were designed by an American mid-century designer named Mel Smilow — I was lucky to find them at The Screen Door and get them for a song.

Table: vintage, refinished in black lacquer. Mirror: Tricia Mirror by Aero. Bowl: vintage, from New Mexico. Candlesticks: Aero.


Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

Did you make any renovations?
We added a ton of storage in the loft, by enclosing one area to make a large closet, and by adding three built-in cabinets for storing clothes. We also added a wall of built-in bookshelves up there.

What are you reading right now?
An editor friend gave me a galley of Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon. It’s an incredibly even-handed and interesting history of pit bulls, a somewhat controversial breed. Since Grete is a pit pull mix, I couldn’t put the book down, but really anyone who is a dog lover or non-fiction buff would enjoy it.

Headboard: custom. Duvet, shams and sheets: Coyuchi. Night tables: plywood storage boxes by HoneyBadger Woodworks. Bedside lamps: Thomas O’Brien.

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

Your loft is so cozy! Do you have any tips for getting a good night’s sleep?
I actually have trouble sleeping. I still don’t have any perfect answers, but it helps if I have only one cup of coffee day. I sleep with a noise machine and an eye mask, and I try to be okay with waking up in the middle of the night instead of worrying about it. So if I do wake up at 2:30, I might read for an hour and go back to sleep.

Your husband is a book agent. Do you guys ever read the same books?
For a few years, when I was really struggling with insomnia, Chris would quietly read a book to me in bed to help me unwind. We got into classics we’d both missed in school, like Middlemarch, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. It was such a great bonding activity, and we spent a lot of time discussing the plots and characters. I highly recommend doing this — the only drawback is that it can take MONTHS to get through a book together that you could polish off pretty quickly on your own.

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

What’s the story behind the amazing drawing of Grete?
My good friend, Christopher Holt, happens to be a gifted artist, stayed with us recently, when he was visiting New York to paint a client’s mural. I had shown him some photos of the drawings Jean Cocteau did on the walls of a home he visited in the French Riviera and mentioned that I thought it was an amazing installation. I came home after work one evening to find that Christopher had done a charcoal drawing of Grete on our wall!

Wow! What was your reaction?
We love it. It definitely catches people’s attention. Sometimes, in the early summer when the windows are open, we’ll be sitting in the apartment right beneath the windows, and people outside on the street don’t realize that we’re two feet away. One time a couple stopped outside to comment on the drawing. The guy was like, “That’s really cool,” and the girl was like, “No, I would never do that.” They stayed there for three or four minutes discussing it. Other times, people will walk by and point it out to people they’re with. Having a high space on the ground floor, there are definitely people who will peek in and say things.

Wooden bookshelf: heirloom, from Whitney’s great grandfather’s library. Wooden table: designed by Whitney’s mom using antique wood from her great grandmother’s dining table. Wooden console: damaged floor sample from Crate & Barrel circa 2004. “I hate this thing, but it’s so functional I can’t seem to get rid of it!” Sheepskin throw: Ikea.


Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

What’s your philosophy on bathrooms?
Keep it clean! I am a devotee of elbow grease. I can’t stand a dirty or mildewed bathroom.

Shower curtain: Coyuchi. Turkish towel: Scents and Feel, via Aero.


Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

The paint color is incredible. Do you have any tips for choosing colors?
I like white walls in larger spaces and bathrooms, and selective use of color in smaller spaces and bedrooms. When I do use color, I prefer darker ones. It’s tough to make multiple bold hues work in one home, so I tend to pick one and then work in a range of whites/neutrals that complement that hue. I tend to prefer muddy, mixed colors that have some dimension and depth. Farrow and Ball is expensive, but their colors are so special — if you’re struggling with choices, you can’t go wrong with any of their hues.

Desk: vintage, Russell Wright’s American Modern collection refinished by Aero. Desk chair: vintage.

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

Paint color: Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball. Bedding: Common Thread in Taos, NM. Pillows: Etsy. Throw blanket: Hinterveld. Rug: Moroccan Berber rug flipped onto its back side.

When you don’t have visitors, how do you use the guest room?
It’s a quiet peaceful space for hanging out or reading or working at the desk. It’s also Grete’s cave. Anyone who stays over needs to be prepared to share a small bed with a 50-pound dog!

Whitney Parris-Lamb's Brooklyn Apartment

Thank you so much, Whitney!

P.S. More home tours, including 14 genius tips for small spaces and a Williamsburg loft.

(Photos by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo. Styling by Kate Jordan. Interview by Caroline Donofrio.)

  1. What a great space! I love the loft arrangement for the bedroom.

  2. Tayo Adeseye says...

    What a great use of space. I love the uniqueness of this apartment and I feel the same way about bathrooms.

  3. Marissa says...

    Love! But where did you get the ladder and railings to slide it along?!?

  4. Patrice says...

    I love the colors in the loft, and I love how its setup.

  5. Such a lovely idea to maintain the small space. I love the guest area space where you can do lot of things. Thanks!

  6. I love the harmony of colors!!

  7. . i have a question not about design, but about sweet grete! i’m looking to adopt a pitty mix her size and wondered if you have encountered any significant challenges to keeping her in that space?

  8. Moon says...

    Love the layout and thanks for all the great suggestions for small spaces.

  9. juliet says...

    Thanks for the great book recommendation. I love pitbulls, they are truly misunderstood and unfairly maligned. They are loving and loyal and are actually the great therapy dogs (mental health therapy dog, service dogs etc.) Grete is beautiful – so is your apartment.

  10. HC says...

    What a great space! I love that everything is so thoughtfully chosen. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Erin says...

    LOVE this place. Why don’t they sleep in the guest room? Too little?

  12. Eliza says...

    I’m curious: is a bedroom space like that even up to code? When we bought our house, our insurance company insisted that we put a railing on a flight of…three steps.

  13. What an incredible apartment!

  14. Alison says...

    love this apartment. and as a fellow North Carolina girl, love the tribute to your roots!

  15. Wow, this is such a fascinating place! I always love the places you show us, it’s so fun to have a little sneakpeek in someone’s home :) .

    xx B

  16. Emily says...

    As a fellow new working hunting for our first one bedroom in NYC next month any tips on finding and out-of-the-ordinary apartment in a budget? We’re currently in crown heights and love it, but ready to graduate from having roommates :) Thanks!!

  17. I love this place! That sliding ladder is right out of Beauty & the Beast.
    I wouldn’t trust myself with that loft after a big night out though!

  18. Mme Dubois says...

    I almost cried when I saw the ceramic tiles in the kitchen. It is perfect. With a 70’s twist but simple and just perfect. What a nice and genuine apartment. Thank you!

  19. Helen says...

    Beautiful home!
    Could you share some info on your ladder + hardware?

  20. I’m curious about getting dressed in the morning! It looks like the closets are up in the loft and you can’t stand in the loft. So is there no trying several outfits and standing in front of the mirror? Do you just wiggle into your clothes and then see how you did when you climb down the ladder?

    • Amanda says...

      I was wondering the exact. same. thing.

    • Whitney says...

      The loft closets are for off-season clothes and less used things likes skis and backpacking supplies. There is a double closet in the Guest Bedroom that we use for our day-to-day in-season clothing.

  21. Wow, what an incredible place to live! Grete is beautiful too and I love the loft arrangement for the bedroom.

    Elese |

  22. LJ says...

    What paint color and brand is the white wall paint used throughout? It’s so fresh and clean but also glowy and warm feeling.

    • Whitney says...

      It’s Benjamin Moore White Dove

  23. D says...

    Where did you get that chicken foot mail holder? It is amazing.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I know!! It was a gift from a friend.

  24. Kate S says...

    I love this post, but I selfishly hate how much attention Pizza Loves Emily is getting as of late. I love that little gem of a pizza spot and now it’s starting to enter the Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s realm. Sad pizza face.

    • Belle says...

      You and me both! It’s impossible to get in now and I will cry real tears if the quality starts to drop. My husband and I literally almost took an apartment because it was across the street from Emily.

    • Whitney says...

      We always call ahead for takeout and avoid the crowds!

  25. Barbara says...

    After having lived in large houses all my life, I am presently entertaining the idea of helping my daughter by selling my house, tearing down her garage and rebuilding with a suite above for me. I realized that in my current house I use only the kitchen and adjoining sunroom, bathroom and bedroom, so seeing what can be done with minimal, well-thought out space was terrific. Since I’m also at the ‘paring-down’ phase of my life, all the things that were so important to amass (cookware and dishes and glasses of every imaginable type) can easily be distilled to what I actually use.

    • Whitney says...

      Barbara, this is so interesting. My own Mother is also considering a move (and major downsize) to be closer to family and is going through a very similar process. It’s amazing how much one collects in a lifetime! I wish you the best of luck and hope you find your new small space and the resulting quality time with your daughter to be liberating!

  26. clay terry says...

    Love this apt…….the use of space, color, & such careful curation / selection of furnishings! And very interested to read reference to Waynesville, NC, one of my all time favorite places on earth. I so want to live there but my family is in FL & I am returning there after 35 yrs in Atlanta. Hope to be able to be a part time Waynesville resident in the near future.

  27. Tyler says...

    so minimal, I love it. This is my aesthetic to a T.

  28. Cynthia says...

    I’ve been thinking about this apartment for hours. Yes, it’s gorgeous and everything has its place which makes for clutter-free living. But what is really sticking with me is how the people save oodles of time and money by eating the same weekday meals which probably allows them to enjoy all that the city has to offer on the weekends. Despite having four times the square footage and a wonderful metropolitan smorgasbord at my own feet, I am going to be even more conscious about stuff and simplicity in all aspects of living. Thank you!

  29. omg this is amazing. can she come and redecorate my apartment for me? i’ll pay her in cookies and sweet treats lol I love that the loft is basically like a bedroom. It’s even bigger then my sad one bedroom apt that we have.


  30. What a sweet space! My family of three just purchased our first home: a little spot with tons of character in Seattle! We need all of the inspiration we can get. Thank you!

  31. Natasha says...

    Definitely the best apartment you’ve ever featured! Amazing!

  32. kendra says...

    gorgeous! i lived in funky new york apartments for a few years, and now live in a similarly sized space in reno, nv. i have a question not about design, but about sweet grete! i’m looking to adopt a pitty mix her size and wondered if you have encountered any significant challenges to keeping her in that space?

  33. Nicole Brant says...

    I love these apartment tour pieces! Thank you for even more good ideas!

  34. DeniG says...

    I would love it if you could include a floor plan for the spaces you show, even a quickly sketched one, so that we can get an idea of the flow and how spaces relate to each other. I find myself scrolling up and down and up and down trying to match pictures to each other to figure out where the kitchen is in relation to the living room, etc. Please, please, please! :) And thank you in advance!

    • Emily says...


    • Miriam says...

      Yes I’d love that!

    • Amy P says...

      Ditto this! When we were house hunting, the house we ended up buying included a rough floor plan in the photos online. So, so helpful. If you’re selling your place – consider it!

    • Finn says...

      Was just thinking about this!

    • Martha says...

      A floor plan would be awesome! I’d love to see how this lovely, tiny place is laid out. Thank you for these incredible house tours :)

  35. Maddy says...

    Hola– what a great apartment and cool post. People have such awesome brains to be able to see the space and know its capabilities. I little bit of shameless self promotion but their approach to meals is something similar to what I do. To cut down on options but not to be as limited or repetitive as this couple, I cook exclusively from one cookbook every week. I document my progress on instagram as LetsCookTheBook Its a great tool to learn different recipes, cut down on time at the grocery store and organize myself and family. I would love for you guys to check it out. Chef Anne Burrell even commented this week on my progress tackling her book.

  36. KT says...

    I’m curious about the space that’s next to the charcoal drawing of Grete. Is it adjacent to the sleeping quarters in the loft? What is it used for? Can they stand up in that space?

  37. what an incredible use of space and color! so envious of all of the natural light it gets. this was a great house tour- thanks for sharing :)

  38. Katrina says...

    I love this apartment! I agree that F&B paints are THE BEST and worth every penny. My house is painted Railings but it looks much less blue than in Whitney’s place. It’s the most beautiful coverage, I highly recommend their paint to everyone.

  39. Alicia says...

    I love the house/apartment tours…they are so inspiring. I love seeing how unique every area is!

  40. Maia says...

    The husband reading her books to fall asleep…what a dream.

  41. Sarah says...

    I love everything, and for some reason the dog bed too. Where is Grete’s bed in the living room from?

    • Kristi says...

      I just came here to ask the same thing! What a dog bed!

    • Whitney says...

      It’s from Dawg Tired – the top fabric is Woolrich and the underside is waxed cotton.

  42. Samantha says...

    Beautiful home! I love that green paint color.

  43. Amanda says...

    Wow. Perfect.

  44. Gorgeous space! The low ceilings in the loft freak me out though – I hate the thought of not being able to stand up.

  45. Lisa says...

    The paint color in the guest bedroom is to die for. And the natural light…one can dream. Overall agree, this place appears larger than my rowhome. Well done!

  46. “While I don’t think I could ever go back (twelve years in New York certainly changes you), I feel like so much of who I am comes out of that place.” Thank you for articulating a feeling I have had for many years now! Your home is incredibly lovely, Whitney.

  47. Trish O says...

    This is beautiful. The little loft bedroom would freak me out (I think I would squeeze into the quest room) but it is beautiful for folks it would not bother. Great use of space.

  48. Beautiful home! This makes me want to try a little harder to find things at vintage markets. I had a lofted bedroom once and I miss it, despite the inconvenience of the bathroom on a different floor. Ditto to the questions about ceiling height in the loft!! Can you stand or do you have to duck/crawl?

  49. My very first apartment was in Washington D.C. and I quickly learned how to live in a small space (under 700sq ft). At first it seemed like such a shoe box, but I quickly learned to love my little space. You are more thoughtful with each item you bring into your home and learn to be less wasteful. You simply don’t have the room for impulse items. Years after living in D.C. I moved to Europe where small spaces are the absolute norm. These days I hardly can imagine how people live in such big houses…what do you do with all that space? :)

  50. jeannie says...

    This is completely beautiful! I love the aesthetic, and the many personal touches. I would love to live in a place like this!

  51. Alyssa Leister says...

    Being a middle of the night bathroom-goer, the idea of climbing down a ladder, half-awake is terrifying. :)

    • Talia says...

      I thought the very same thing!! I have such a fear of heights! That said, it is a lovely space.

  52. ciara says...

    Just stunning…my boyfriend and I are getting married in December, and with he just having got a job, and I being a PhD student, I know we are going to have to think creatively to together make a space that is cosy, and homely on a really tight budget!

  53. Where was it that you found your clothing closets? I would appreciate something more antique looking and not so boxy and or plain???
    I love that you have a big ‘ole dog in a tiny space, it’s adorable!

  54. What a unique layout – it seems to have two distinct loft spaces? Very cool! Love her use of white with natural wood, leather, and textiles as well as the dark guest room wall color.

  55. Moving into my very first, very tiny, adult-like, apartment this weekend and this makes me even more excited to bring out charm in the details. Can’t wait to love every single square inch :)

  56. I don’t believe that all that fits in 625 feet. I would love to see a floor plan – they are masters of maximizing space! (And picking paint colors).

    • Amy P says...

      I’m guessing it’s because the loft’s ‘floorspace’ isn’t counted; just the square footage on the bottom level. Which both makes sense…and doesn’t. I would love clarification on that when lofts are featured because it almost feels like cheating to claim such a small square footage otherwise!

  57. Such an awesome space. Thanks for sharing!

  58. Hannah says...

    This is absolutely gorgeous! Love the natural light and creativity of the space.

  59. Caroline, you’ve found my internet kryptonite – small apartment tours. I could look at hundreds of these.

  60. Amy says...

    I love this space, so inspiring and beautiful!

  61. The pictures are lovely! I can’t really get a sense of her space though, like how small it’s supposed to be. The design is great. I tried to find an Instagram account for her brand from its site but couldn’t find anything :/ Love the story of the drawing of her dog!

    • Whitney says...

      You can find on instagram @jesseparrislamb

  62. Louise says...

    P.S. Caroline, I miss you already!!

  63. Louise says...

    LOVE this apartment especially the sofa, dog drawing, and guest bedroom paint color. Thank you for sharing!

  64. Beautiful home! I’ve been looking for a good deep shade of green for my bedroom, and I think I’ve found it now. ;)

  65. Ella says...

    I’m from Asheville! So exciting to see a fellow Carolinian featured. Beautiful space!

    • Carrie says...

      I lived in Asheville for a few years, in one of those great big houses on Charlotte St. across from Two Guys! I miss it so much! There’s nothing like summer in Asheville, I’d walk downtown and there was always so much going on. Dancing at Bobo was my favorite on a Friday night. It was easily the most amazing city I’ve ever lived in!

    • april says...

      Me too! I was so excited when I saw Sweeten Creek Antiques and The Screen Door mentioned!

  66. Samantha says...

    I’m wondering if they can stand straight in the loft since they’re tall and it looks quite small. Other than that, I loved the apartment, dog included.

  67. I love this space. Can she come decorate my apartment please? And bring her husband so we can talk books???

  68. Nina says...

    so do you just crawl around up top? down to the area with the table you hate? I’m so confused…lovely apt. but where is everything? I don’t feel like I have much stuff but looking at these, I think I need to pare my stuff down way way down.

    • freya says...


    • Whitney says...

      Hahah – it’s all in the closets! That’s why we built so many when we renovated. The ladder is actually on wheels and can be easily moved to any location where you see the horizontal black metal bar. So it accesses both lofted areas as well as some of the more utilitarian zones like our boiler room (which sits over the entry vestibule).

  69. 625 feet of pure charm! How does that space feel bigger than my home?! I love all of the personal touches—it feels cozy, tangible and well lived. I especially love the tribute to your father with your sweet pup, Grete. You can tell how thoughtful you are from this post. Thank you for sharing, Whitney!

  70. s.montgomery says...

    These home tours are on my list of top 5 favorite things!! Thanks for giving us a peek into this little world and I love the dog wall sketch…unexpected and fun!

  71. Beautiful home, but my god, the occasional sleepwalker in me almost passed out at the sight of that bedroom! Wouldn’t want to fall off there haha. Despite that, really great use of space!

    Charlotte x

    • Samantha says...

      I thought the same thing! But because I’m afraid of heights. I can only imagine myself falling off the bed and rolling off to the first floor. I’d definitely install something there.

    • Carla says...

      I had the same thought! One misstep…

      Lovely home and a great use of limited space.

    • dhannon says...

      not just the height, but having to get up at night to use the bathroom! ugh…other than that, love the apartment

    • Living with a sleepwalker who jumps out of bed at least 2-3 times a month, i think I would not be able to sleep at all in this bedroom! But the apartment is lovely, so simple yet with so much personality.

    • Lauren E. says...

      When I first started dating my (now) fiance he had a terrible nightmare in the middle of the night and ran out of bed to the front door, thinking someone was trying to break in. He would not fare well in this apartment :)