A 490-Square-Foot New York City Studio Strikes a Beautiful Balance

Name: Nicole Lockhart and Fig Isaac Newton, my dog
Location: New York City, New York
Type of home: Condo
Size: 490 square feet
Years lived in: 8.5 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: My dog Fig Isaac Newton would say he lives there more than I do, but he doesn’t help pay the bills. I’ve lived here eight and a half years and it’s always been a true sanctuary for me. Part of making it a sacred space is reimagining it from time to time. Of course, I had only just started redecorating before COVID shut everything down. I stopped working on it for months when I was out of the city. Coming back I threw myself at finishing La Casita, as I like to call it. It’s amazing what fresh eyes on an old space can do. I found myself wanting to keep a lot of things I had planned to sell. In a way it was like falling in love all over again with my things, my space, and my neighborhood.

Is your identity reflected in your home? Most everything in the apartment is inspired by my world travels. I have things from South Korea, Morocco, Mexico, Egypt, Denmark, France, Germany, Taiwan, Iceland, Australia… I value the whimsy of foreign objects but need the cohesion of minimalism in such a small place. Balance is super important to me so I utilized feng shui principles to make sure the space flowed freely. The apartment has such a grounding energy that I have always loved. No matter if I’m returning from halfway around the world or just downtown, I feel a sense of relief being here. And that’s a feeling I’ve always associated with home.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Urban cowgirl’s world traveling retreat

What is your favorite room and why? The kitchen wins for favorite room. When I first moved in, I remember my mom saying the kitchen takes up half the apartment! It’s not an exaggeration on her part. As someone who loves to cook it was important to have enough space to spread out. The dining table is new though, so finally my guests and I can sit and eat inside as opposed to on the roof. When I travel I come back with spices and other ingredients to cook with. It’s like a little international market. The hand-woven Southwestern runner is such a conversation piece. There’s also a quirky vintage postcard of a whale washed up on the beach of a small town. And of course there’s wine there.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? This magnificent antique Chinese carved chair with pearl inlays was my last purchase for the apartment. I won it in a Housing Works auction. It is very dramatic. So dramatic that when I went to pick it up from the store, it fell apart. Thanks to Jane Henry Studios, antique restorer extraordinaire, it became a spiritually meaningful restoration project. To me both dining chairs represent masculine and feminine design. The mid-century Scandinavian armchair feels so crisp and modern. This new armchair with the delicate floral carvings has an old-world vibe. There’s an irony to it. But neither is stronger than the other and they both hold their own at the same table.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Nothing comes in the home unless you absolutely love it. Because I moved so much growing up, I’ve always held my belongings super close to heart. I curate carefully, however. Edit when you feel it’s time to part with something or the space is too cluttered. If you’re open to the sustainability aspect of buying second hand, that’s a great way to add character whenever you’re feeling bland. Shopping flea markets, estate sales, and thrift stores is something I have always done and have found unique items. Lastly, support makers and artisans—especially those of color locally or indigenously abroad. Chances are if it was made by a big brand, it was made first by someone lesser known you could find by doing a simple image search. For something really special I would recommend making your own art pieces. You’d be surprised how good your own personal photography or drawings look in a frame.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

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