Jane Mount and Darko Karas

Photograph by Boris Breuer, styling by Allison Reynolds

Living in New York can be an endless series of compromises, which is how Jane Mount, who grew up in Atlanta, found herself buying a fifth-floor walk-up in a tenement once occupied by squatters.

She has not, however, let the difficulty of hauling furniture up four flights of steep stairs get in the way of meticulously decorating her narrow floor-through apartment. Despite her home's size—just 645 square feet—Jane manages to live large, ingeniously squeezing in a king-size bed, a full-size range, and a dining-room table that comfortably seats ten.

"When you have very little space, you can care about every inch," says Jane, 35, an online furniture importer and artist, who bought the apartment in 2005 with her boyfriend, Darko Karas, 38, a Swiss-born graphic designer. "The most important thing was to do the floor plan," she adds.

The key was carving up the apartment—a railroad flat, with each room leading to the next—into distinct spaces with specific purposes. "I love that every zone has its own mood," Darko says.
The winter forest kitchen

Photograph by Boris Breuer, styling by Allison Reynolds

The apartment's front door opens directly into the kitchen, where the crisp contrast between rich black granite countertops and snowy white Ikea cabinets gives the room the formality of a proper foyer. So does the startling black-and-white Cole & Son wallpaper of a winter forest, which Jane turned into a graphic back-splash by covering it with glass.

The couple made the space appear larger than it is by hanging over-the-counter cabinets horizontally rather than vertically.

Although she lives in the takeout capital of the world, Jane believes that cooking is essential to creating a sense of home. So the kitchen's centerpiece is a brawny, 30-inch stainless-steel Viking stove and matching hood. "I wanted a gas range and an electric oven so I could cook well and bake at the same time," she says.
Chalkboard paint by the refrigerator

Photograph by Boris Breuer, styling by Allison Reynolds

A stainless-steel refrigerator is surrounded by cabinets painted with blackboard paint, and Jane and Darko draw chalk pictures to remind themselves where they've stored things. Their wine "cellar" is over the fridge, and they use chalk to list what they have in stock. "We write down only the bottles that we don't plan to drink right away," she says. "Otherwise, we would be updating the list every night."

The couple always knows which cabinet holds seltzer or sugar. Jane and Darko painted the cupboards around their Frigidaire with Benjamin Moore Studio Finishes chalkboard paint, at $11.99 a quart, and then had fun drawing their own pictures. "The paint can says 'black,' but it dries a deep charcoal gray," says Jane, who used two coats. "Don't use primer," she adds. And make sure the cabinet isn't too smooth or glossy. "It needs a little tooth to it."
The photomural closet doors

Photograph by Boris Breuer, styling by Allison Reynolds

The king-size bed is inches from the kitchen, separated by a frosted-glass wall and a sliding door, but the bedroom feels like another world. "We wanted to bring a little bit of nature into our home," says Jane, whose wall of freestanding Ikea closets is camouflaged by a photomural of a verdant woodland scene, which creates a sense of depth and makes the room feel expansive.

"We went hiking in upstate New York and took a bunch of pictures, and we found an online company that could turn them into wallpaper and pillows," she says. Jane laughs when she explains how she got the idea for the mural. "When I was little, we used to go to a Burger King that had a forest wall, and it stuck with me," she says.

Jane and Darko disguised a row of freestanding Ikea closets with a photomural they custom ordered from gallerystreet.com. The couple chose a photograph they took while hiking near New Paltz, New York. "We sent the company an eight-by-ten-inch print," Jane says. "You give them the dimensions of your wall, and they send the mural back to you in rolls just like wallpaper." Find similar products at environmentalgraphics.com or muralsyourway.com.
The bedroom

Photograph by Boris Breuer, styling by Allison Reynolds

On the other side of the room, above the bed, there's a massive portrait of a brown bear that Jane painted on a hollow-core door. "It's like those stuffed heads people hang on the wall, but no animal had to die for this," she says. "I think it's important that there's something special to look at in every room."

The bed is made up with forest-print pillows from gallerystreet.com (using photographs taken by the couple), log pillows from Urban Outfitters, a quilt by Hable Construction, and a faux-fur blanket from Z Gallerie. The nightstands are lit by Atlas Pendants from Tango Lighting.
The bathroom

Photograph by Boris Breuer, styling by Allison Reynolds

The requirement of special objects even extends to the bathroom, where the lacy floral-and-fauna design of a white Tord Boontje curtain hangs from the shower while alluding to the bedroom's nature motif. Jane put a transparent cloth liner behind it, keeping the water in the shower but still allowing light from the window over the tub to spill into the bathroom.