Small Apartment Design: How Three People Maximized Space in a One-Bedroom

Small Apartment Design: How Three People Maximized Space In A One-Bedroom

In “Small Apartment Design: How Three People Maximized Space in a One-Bedroom,” you'll discover the resourceful journey of Molly Garber, Braden Pierce, and their 1-year-old daughter Lillian as they reimagined their cozy Brooklyn duplex. Despite the limitations imposed by co-op rules that prevented adding an additional bedroom, this creative trio found an ingenious that transformed their home. By redesigning their 1,000-square-foot space, they managed to carve out a sleeping niche and a functional home office, providing the essential areas they needed without compromising on style or comfort. This article highlights their clever design choices and the utilization of every nook and cranny to create a harmonious living environment that suits their growing family's needs. Have you ever wondered how three people can comfortably live in a one-bedroom apartment without feeling cramped or cluttered? Well, you're in luck. Today, we're diving into the amazing story of Molly Garber, Braden Pierce, and their one-year-old daughter Lillian, who managed to maximize the space in their charming Fort Greene duplex, all without breaking any co-op rules or making substantial structural changes.

Small Apartment Design: How Three People Maximized Space In A One-Bedroom

The Charm and Challenges of a One-Bedroom Apartment

Living in a one-bedroom apartment can be both a delight and a challenge. On the one hand, you have cozy confines that promote closeness and make every square foot of living space count. On the other, fitting a growing family into a single-bedroom unit can seem almost impossible. Molly and Braden were in a similar scenario when they moved into their 1,000-square-foot co-op in Brooklyn. With plans to start a family, they had to think strategically about how to make their space work for three.

Initial Impressions and Layout

The Structure of the Duplex

The duplex, situated in a classic 1930 brick townhouse, was divided into an upper and lower level. The upstairs housed a single bedroom and a full bathroom. The lower level, which was partially below grade, held an all-purpose room with a half bathroom. Despite its below-grade situation, the lower floor was pleasantly bright, boasting windows on two exposures, and even connected to a small private garden.

The Aesthetic Charm

Their new home came with many charming elements—hardwood floors, beamed ceilings, exposed brick walls, and working fireplaces. These elements gave the space character and a sense of history, making it all the more appealing. But the same features that enhanced its aesthetic also presented practical challenges, especially when it came to storage.

The Problem: Co-op Restrictions

One significant hurdle they faced was the co-op rules, which specifically prevented them from adding another bedroom to the property. This restriction made it clear that they couldn't simply “build out” more space. They needed a clever, minimalistic to accommodate their growing family.

The Vision: A Three-Person Home in a One-Bedroom Space

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Molly and Braden decided to enlist the help of Ryan Brooke Thomas, a talented designer who also happened to live in the same building. With Ryan's expertise, they aimed to create a functional yet stylish living space that could meet the needs of all three family members without violating any co-op policies.

The Master Plan

The strategy focused on making the lower level multifunctional. They planned to use clever design choices to section off areas for various purposes without making the space feel fragmented or confined.

Area Functionality Improvement
Living Room Incorporated storage solutions and a flexible seating area that could also function as guest sleeping space.
Dining Area Custom dining table and banquette to offer additional seating and storage.
Office Niche Created a distinct work-from-home space without sacrificing communal areas.

Small Apartment Design: How Three People Maximized Space In A One-Bedroom

Renovation Highlights

The Lower Level Transformation

The emphasis of the renovation was on making the most of the lower level. They were strategic about creating distinct zones without erecting solid walls, which would have broken up the space unnecessarily.

The Sleeping Niche

A corner of the lower level was transformed into a sleeping niche. This area featured a built-in bed with underneath storage, offering a cozy yet practical sleeping for guests. The built-in shelving and carefully chosen decor ensured that the area felt unintrusive and blended seamlessly into the overall design.

The Home Office

Given that both Molly and Braden occasionally work from home, having a dedicated office space was essential. They carved out a niche that served as a functional and comfortable home office. The design included a streamlined desk, ergonomic seating, and sufficient storage to keep the workspace clutter-free.

The Upper Level Rejuvenation

While much of the heavy lifting happened on the lower level, the upper level also saw some key improvements.

The Bedroom

The single bedroom was optimized for the family by making smart choices about furniture placement and storage. A bed with built-in drawers, floating shelves, and wall-mounted lighting helped maximize the usability of the space.

The Bathroom

Though the bathroom layout remained largely the same, adding extra storage solutions like mirrored medicine cabinets and over-the-door hooks made a significant difference.

Design Elements That Made a Difference

Multi-Functional Furniture

One of their primary strategies was to use multi-functional furniture. For example, the custom dining table and banquette provided seating and storage. The sofa in the living area could be converted into a bed for additional sleeping space.

Vertical Space Utilization

Maximizing vertical space was another critical aspect of their design. Wall-mounted shelving and storage solutions helped keep the floors clear, making the apartment feel more spacious.

Light and

They used light colors and ample lighting to make the space feel larger. Mirrors strategically placed around the apartment helped reflect light and create the illusion of more space.

Customized Solutions

Customized furniture and fittings were a game-changer. From built-in beds to custom shelving units, every piece was designed with their specific needs in mind, ensuring no inch of space went to waste.

Custom Solution Benefits
Built-in bed Extra storage, streamlined appearance
Custom dining table Dual-purpose (dining and storage)
Built-in shelves Optimal use of wall space, reduced clutter

Small Apartment Design: How Three People Maximized Space In A One-Bedroom

Practical Tips for Your Small Space

Declutter Regularly

In a small space, every item counts. Regularly assess what you actually use and need. Donate or sell items that no longer serve a purpose.

Invest in Dual-Purpose Furniture

Look for furniture pieces that can serve multiple functions. Whether it's a sofa bed, an ottoman with storage, or a fold-out dining table, these pieces will help you get the most out of your small space.

Utilize Every Nook and Cranny

From the space under the bed to the back of doors, make sure you're utilizing all available space. Hanging organizers, under-bed storage bins, and wall-mounted racks can be lifesavers.

Open Up Your Space

If possible, consider an open-plan layout. Removing unnecessary walls or partitions can make your space feel larger and more connected.

Personalize with Intent

Finally, personalize your space thoughtfully. Choose decor and furniture that reflect your style but also meet practical needs. This creates a home that's both beautiful and functional.

The Result: A Home That Grows with Them

Thanks to their thoughtful planning and strategic design choices, Molly, Braden, and Lillian now live comfortably in their one-bedroom duplex. They've created a space that not only meets their current needs but also has the flexibility to grow with them. Their success story serves as an excellent example for anyone facing similar challenges in a small space.

Small Apartment Design: How Three People Maximized Space In A One-Bedroom

A Word from the Designer

Ryan Brooke Thomas, the designer behind this transformative project, emphasizes the of personalization. “Every family and every space is different,” he says. “The key is to really understand your own needs and preferences, and then find ways to creatively meet those within the constraints you have.”

Final Thoughts

Living in a one-bedroom apartment with three people might seem daunting at first, but with creativity and smart planning, it can be both comfortable and functional. Molly, Braden, and Lillian's story is a testament to the power of thoughtful design. If they can make it work in their charming Fort Greene duplex, so can you in your unique space.

Do you have a small space living hack or story? Share it with us. We'd love to hear how you've made your small space work for you.


By reading this detailed account, we hope you gained some valuable insights and inspiration for making the most out of your own small space. Whether you're living in a one-bedroom apartment or a compact studio, remember that a bit of clever design can go a long way.

Small Apartment Design: How Three People Maximized Space In A One-Bedroom

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