west elm daniel kanter interview

Daniel Kanter is an interior designer, master of resourceful small space styling, and the blogger behind the fantastic Manhattan Nest.

But Daniel doesn’t actually live in Manhattan anymore. He lives just a few minutes from west elm HQ in beautiful Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, where he once planned to stay until forcibly removed. But to make matters much more complex, Daniel just bought a house in upstate New York with his husband-to-be.

So Manhattan Nest’s nom de blog is in sore need of an update, but we love it nevertheless. Read our interview with Daniel for his tips on design, flea market finds, NYC neighborhood picks, and more!

vintage desk restoration

fiddle leaf fig tree brooklyn apartment

What do you think your space says about you?

I live in a 600 square foot one-bedroom in a big 1890 apartment building in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. The building has been altered very little over the years, which is exactly what I was looking for when apartment-hunting.

I think my home reflects my anal-retentiveness, honestly. Most people just don’t put the type of work and time into a rental apartment—I mean, I’ve even removed and restored original windows! Style-wise, our place is sort of a mix of mid-century pieces, contemporary ones, and a few antiques. I don’t have the discipline to be rigid in one style or anything—I just like what I like, and I want my home to be filled with things that I find beautiful, functional, and un-fussy.

bedroom art manhattan nest

What are some ways that you keep your apartment feeling fresh?

I do like moving around my furniture, but unfortunately it’s almost impossible to do in our apartment! Old buildings tend to have very little built-in storage, along with weird-sized rooms filled with lots of doors, windows, and radiators. Consequently, both of the main rooms in our apartment really only have one viable furniture layout. Instead, I try to get my ya-ya’s out by futzing with other things. I have a constantly rotating collection of art, ceramics, candlesticks, and other small objects that totally change the feel of a room when set up in new arrangements.

vintage ceramics colleciton

I also love to change the textiles—we have two different rugs for the living room that we alternate depending on the season, throw pillowcases stashed away, and far too many blankets lying around that we swap out on the sofa and chair. I also love that our sofa is a tailored slipcover—it looks upholstered, but we can always change it and feel like we have a brand new couch!

daniel kanter west elm interview

new york city apartment dog

What’s your favorite thing in the apartment right now?

My dogs! Beyond that it’s a three-way tie between my Fiddle Leaf Fig tree, my dresser, and my String Light from Patrick Townsend. The dresser was a $150 Craigslist find that I spent hours restoring, and the original rosewood veneer and brass pulls turned out more stunning than I could have imagined

how to vintage dresser renovation

It’s really getting tough to find good deals in NYC flea markets these days! Any advice?

I’m always in awe of people who actually get bargains at NYC flea markets—the problem is that the vendors all have a strong aesthetic, nice pieces, and a much higher overhead for selling in New York. I like to wade through garbage and find that one amazing thing, so I always turn back to good old thrift stores and junk shops, or flea markets outside of the city. A day-trip upstate or into Pennsylvania in a Zipcar is a great option for New Yorkers looking to score, or setting aside time when traveling to explore local thrifts and fleas. I’ve found some of my very favorite things in dumpy little thrift stores in other parts of the world, and I love seeing a culture through the lens of what they give away or sell secondhand, whether that’s in West Virginia or Sweden.

vintage swedish camera

If you’re trying to snag deals at flea markets in New York, my biggest pieces of advice are to go late and be willing to walk away. Decide on a price you’re willing to pay, offer lower, and if you can’t meet in the middle with the vender, politely walk away. Remember that there’s always more stuff to be found, and that the vender isn’t being a jerk when he won’t sell you that Eames chair for $4.

before after drawers restoration

What are the neighborhood places that you find yourself returning to again and again?

We have some really great shops around us — Dry Goods on Atlantic Avenue is so adorable and beautifully curated. Bright Lyons is where I go to drool over the most amazing collection of mid-century furniture for sale in the city. Of course, then there’s Greenhouse on the same block, which has really beautiful housewares—ceramics and textiles, mostly. My favorite neighborhood bar is the Brooklyn Inn, which just underwent a really nice restoration that allows the original charm to really show through. I’m also mildly obsessed with our neighborhood ramen joint, Ganso. The restaurant design is such a treat, and the food is phenomenal. The owner, Harris, is also a great guy.

removable wallpaper apartment

What is your personal motto?

Live Fast and Die Young.

Just kidding! I don’t have one.

subway tile kitchen backsplash

You can follow Daniel’s new adventures in home renovation on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and of course on the Manhattan Nest blog!

Images: Daniel Kanter

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July 16, 2013

Great interview! Daniel is pretty amazing.

Ricki Kanter

July 16, 2013

Love his design work. Love his writing style even more. Worst MOTTO EVER!!! Must think of a better one.


July 16, 2013

Daniel Kanter is so ridiculously talented. Can’t wait to see how he transforms his house


July 16, 2013

thinking ManNests for updated blog (or not)

MJ @ One-Parade.com

July 19, 2013

Love Daniel! He’s got amazing talent for seeing potential in the bleakest spaces. Plus, he’s hilarious.


July 19, 2013

Since I discovered Manhattan-Nest this year, Daniel has become one of my personal heroes. He’s distinctive to me from other design bloggers because of his ability to transform a sad space, cheaply into an amazing abode while respecting its heritage at the same time. (I love Max, Mekko and Linus too!)

Stephen @ Feeding My Folks

July 19, 2013

He’s such a talented guy! Great attitude. Each blog post is interesting to read.


August 13, 2013

this dud has got me combing craigslist for mid century modern pieces at 3AM…. i love this guys! this new home is everything i cant wait! i WILL tour it before I DIE

» modern house plants

September 5, 2013

[…] credits: one / two / three / four / […]


September 16, 2013

Spent my Sunday reading through his blog and his friend at door sixteen. Living in the south now, missing the city and love reading about my old haunts. Cannot believe the transformation happening in Newburgh. Just love love their talent!!


October 18, 2013

I love Manhattan Nest!! The most inspirational DIY site out there.

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