Dana Scruggs Fit More Than 10 Seating Options in her 700-Square-Foot Brooklyn Homes

Landing the “perfect” apartment in New York City requires a combination of funds, flexibility, and fortuitousness. In the case of photographer Dana Scruggs’s ethereal abode, it also took bopping around 13 different roommate situations for about a year and a half until she found a home to call her own. 

“You get to a point in New York where you’re like: Am I ever going to be able to live by myself? And sometimes it feels like the answer is a resounding ‘no,’” says Scruggs. But when she crossed the threshold of her place back in 2018, she had an immediate sense that this was it. 

Tobias Chair, IKEA; Neotenic Lounge Chair, Jumbo.

Miraculously, the apartment had been sitting on the market for six months; there was no management company involved, just a discerning landlady two doors down and a Craigslist ad. What’s more, the 700-square-foot space had been preserved with care. Original doors, floors, moldings, and even two fireplaces remained intact, while the tiny kitchen was updated in keeping with the overall vintage aesthetic. Even the fact that the bathroom was technically outside the apartment didn’t register as a deal-breaker. 

“It’s a really gorgeous place, full of light. I love it here,” Scruggs says. She signed the lease and set about making it her own. 

Bookshelf next to marble fireplace

Scruggs, a highly sought-after creative director, brought her artist’s eye to the design process. A tête-à-tête settee made the move with her. But for new acquisitions, proportion and scale were the priority due to the size and period floor plan of the space, as was the ability to rearrange the setup if she wanted to. A CB2 bench serves as her sofa, while a smoked glass top table—purchased at Dobbin Street Vintage Co-Op—is used both for dining and as a desk, along with an IKEA chair that all but disappears into the room. 

“When there’s too much color, it can feel a bit aggressive to me,” explains Scruggs, so she has kept the palette largely neutral—the guiding adjectives are airy and rich. Bronze elements with glass and reflective surfaces create functional surface area without interrupting sight lines. 

Scruggs sourced lighting from Etsy as well as local dealers like Bedford Galleries in Brooklyn, where she spotted the Reggiani-inspired pendant lamp that hangs in her living room. The framed figural photographs above the mantel and bookcase are her own. 

Tile backsplash with white cabinets and art deco lamp
Tall cactus next to fridge in Brooklyn apartment

And then there’s her chair collection, which she estimates is 10 to 15 strong—impressive, considering her square footage. “There’s something about them. Their structure, how you can move them around and create different vignettes,” she says. “I realized that I’ve turned into my granny and my great-grandmother: None of the seating in their homes was comfortable; it was all wingback chairs and very ornate sofas bordered in wood carvings. I have so many memories of falling asleep on their couches and waking up with my face stuck to the plastic covers.” 

Desk with curved boucle chair
Roar & Rabbit Tete-a-Tete Chair, West Elm. AC Unit, Windmill.

In fact, the antique Japanese dragon chair across from the living room fireplace is an heirloom from Granny. “[She] sat in it every day, just looking out the window and perusing the neighborhood. It’s nice to have that piece of my history and my family’s legacy with me,” says Scruggs. Situated next to it is a chrome Neotenic lounge chair by Jumbo, which she first saw in a magazine spread years ago and never forgot. 

“It was a significant investment, and I hadn’t bought anything like that before,” she says. “But it gives me so much happiness, gazing at it from the door of my living room. It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” 

bedroom doorway showing bed with white sheets
Stacking Planter, Areaware.

For others navigating small-space existence, Scruggs emphasizes the importance of organized storage—and not necessarily the open kind—and just letting things go. “If you have a small space, a lot of stuff doesn’t allow your energy to move around. It doesn’t allow you to feel peaceful in your home.” So if something isn’t serving a purpose, it’s off to the stoop, where things disappear in a snap. “I’m never like: I wish I would have kept that random cord, or those shoes that I’ve never worn, or that cozy that I crocheted when I was 10.” 

circle mirror reflecting art

The flip side of that coin? Being hyper-intentional about what comes into the apartment in the first place. “Having your own place in New York, and being able to make it look the way you want, is a rare thing. It’s such a difficult city to achieve that in,” Scruggs explains. “Which is why looking around my apartment makes me feel really proud of myself. Because I stopped believing that I’d get to live my life in a place like this.” But it happened. Here she is. And it’s all something to behold. 

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