A Rented New York Apartment With a Sense of Heritage

Sheena Murphy lives in the ex-industrial part of Brooklyn, known as DUMBO.  Her rented apartment exudes class, elegance and style, but keeps a sense of heritage. Here she tells Heart Home how she achieved it.

Sheena’s apartment is located in the DUMBO neighbourhood of Brooklyn, which she explains is “on the East River, nestled between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges” .  “It used to be a manufacturing neighbourhood, with lots of warehouses which have now been converted into residences.  The area is now home to lots of artists, designers and technology folk” she says.

 “It is approximately 650 square feet with one bedroom and a den (which essentially is a very small second bedroom with no windows!)” She says modestly.  “It was previously one of the warehouses in the area, which was renovated in 2010, so the bones were great and all modern conveniences had been installed by the time we moved in.”

Sheena has been renting the property for three years with her husband Paul and their Cavalier King Charles, William. It is effortlessly stylish and has all the charm and character of someone living there for twenty years. You would never guess it was rented, which is exactly what Sheena set out to achieve.

“For us, it was about creating a comfortable, interesting home, which didn’t feel like a rented home, and one which satisfied the opposing styles of my husband and I!” She jests. “We also wanted to ensure that whatever we did, the view was still the star of the show. Not being from New York, the view is a very novel part of living where we do.”

Sheena goes onto tells me that she actually grew up in Hertfordshire; she left when she was 25 and spent the rest of her twenties globetrotting through Bangalore, London and Seattle before moving to New York. It was here she enrolled at Parsons The New School for Design to undertake a graduate degree in interior design. She now runs her own boutique interior design studio, Sheep + Stone, which launched in May 2015.

Looking at her apartment, there is no denying she has a great talent. Be it her training, her natural flare, or a combination of both- she has created a striking and incredibly handsome (rented!) home.

She tells us how the apartment was “a white box with original exposed beams; it already had a designed and installed kitchen and bathroom, so what I did was strictly decorative in scope.” Arguably however, she did a lot more than that! Her skills went well beyond soft furnishings and delved deeper into the realms of light, space and form.

“The biggest challenge was the shape of the living/dining area; it is a relatively long and narrow space with high ceilings. It was important to design the layout so we didn't feel like we were living in a corridor! One of the most impactful things I did was hang curtains either side of the window. This not only added a layer of softness, but also created the illusion of a wider wall” says Sheena.

Sheena’s furniture and colour palette nestles beautifully into the industrial bone structure; it complements the rawness, but also makes it feel homely.  Softer textiles are contrasted with utilitarian light fittings and angular furniture.  The bold walls (with paint by Benjamin Moore) add drama and depth, but also inject warmth.

“Don’t be afraid to mix and match materials!” Says Sheena, freely giving up advice: “people are often nervous to use different metals and woods side-by-side, but doing this can provide interesting dimension and richness in a space.”

Another top tip from Sheena: “Shop high and low; invest money in the larger, most-used pieces in your home, such as your sofa or bed, and pair these with flea market finds and more affordable items to create a collected, less contrived feel. This strategy also helps to manage the budget!”

Sheena not only understands interior design, but the purpose of it. Her studio was launched out of her desire to “create interiors that truly enhance the way people live, through thoughtful responsible design; space impacts our mood behaviours and experiences in so many more ways than those we are conscious of, so it’s important to get it right!”

To see more of Sheena's work visit sheepandstone.com

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Heart Home magazine.

Photographs by Seth Caplan. Words by Liggy Griffiths.