When a couple of creatives first found their 800 square foot apartment in Brooklyn Heights, they were drawn to its secluded, tree house feel in a historic brownstone. Of course, as much as that may have been an enticing factor, it also meant having to work with a few obstacles. With just 800 square feet, the couple need it to feel as big and bright as possible, to become a sanctuary for them when coming home from long business trips. Sarah Zames, of General Assembly was called on to the project and turned an impractical yet beautiful attic apartment into a creative’s retreat atop a brownstone.

The project itself had many moments that felt like milestones for the couple. When the studio and bedroom were flipped around, and the workspace was opened up into the living room, the new layout that allowed better flow started to form. Sarah placed a large pocket door in the study so that the west wall could be opened up, joining the two rooms. Another milestone was the opening up of the ceiling to put in skylight windows. With new light flooding into the living room and bathroom, those spaces completely transformed into the bright and airy apartment that the homeowners were hoping for.

Sarah’s biggest design risk was to include a heavy, conventionally cold material like concrete into a smaller space like this one. “We used a lot of concrete in the apartment and we applied it differently depending on where it was and how the light would be hitting it,” she explained, “If done correctly, it can make the cozy spaces feel warmer and the airy spaces brighter.” Indeed, by keeping the color palette limited to similar shades of creams and beiges in the bathroom, the concrete in the space gives it a warm earthy feel, washed over by a flood of golden light from the overhead window.

But the apartment that came with so much charm had to be made practical. Sarah took advantage of the ceiling height and created custom millwork to increase storage. Bookshelves were designed for every nook and cranny to accommodate the homeowners’ extensive collection. However, it was important to maintain the apartment’s original charm. Sarah creatively included a sliding cat ladder in the main living room, allowing for yet another bookshelf to be tucked away near the ceiling. It’s these kinds of details, along with the cozy seating and calming color palette that make this attic apartment the perfect place for those looking for a retreat from the tedium of long distance travel.