One freelance writer looked at her apartment from a new perspective—and discovered that the space she needed was there all along. 

Anchor your breakfast nook with a substantial piece of furniture like a bench or banquette. Keep the table and additional seating lightweight and understated.

Photo: Lisa Romerein

This article originally appeared on Real Simple

One corner of my bedroom was, for far too long, home only to a too big, too formal chair I can’t remember ever liking (at right). I treated it accordingly, always tossing on it yesterday’s jeans and tomorrow’s workout clothes.

But at the end of last year I hung a new photograph—a shot of my toddler son taken by a dear friend that makes my heart soar. He’s standing in the sand facing the ocean, a finishing wave stretching toward his feet. It’s framed in gray wood with a sea-blue matte, and for months I couldn’t shake the feeling it deserved to overlook more than an uncomfortable chair.

So, I finally kicked the chair to the curb and, knowing I needed something less imposing, impulse-bought an inexpensive mid-century modern-style chair with an off-white cushion and bentwood seat. There’s space between the back and the seat—a trick a decorator told me helps keep a small space flowing. The transformation from eyesore to inviting was immediate, and I realized the nook would make the perfect workspace.

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Then on a new mission to find a small but pretty side table, I spotted an oval-shaped one with a bronze base whose white marble top can hold a laptop and a coffee mug. It’s different enough to be interesting, yet subtle enough to not distract from the window beside it.

I regularly work from home and have always preferred my bed, legs outstretched, to sitting at a desk like a proper grown-up. But when I sat down for the first time to write, and just simply felt happy sitting there, I knew I’d made the right choice.

I had, however, been wrong that the table would fit a mug without serious spill risk. So I repainted a gray mantle-like shelf—recently discarded from my son’s room—in the same high-gloss white as the window frames and hung it within arm’s reach. It’s topped with a pretty coaster and things I truly love, including a vase from a woman I admire greatly, leather-bound journals, and a glass candelabra purchased ten years ago at a neighborhood shop.

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As I rush in the morning to make my son’s breakfast and pull myself together, the light that streams through the white window shade creates sunbeams on the table that feel like a promise I’ll soon be able to enjoy in that calm space.

And placing the chair next to the window means I finally take full advantage of a view that’s beautiful to me—Manhattan backyards, a church steeple, and a six stories-tall tree that’s goes from full and green to fire-orange leaves to snow-covered branches.

It’s become my favorite spot in the house, and I’ve been markedly more inspired and focused; creating a nice place to work made me give the work itself more respect and attention. My 3-year-old, who loved nothing more than to bound onto the bed when I was working there, even understands that sitting in the chair means business. So much so that he recently plopped himself down there and, pecking at the laptop, announced, “I just need to get a little work done.”

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The changes were so small, and took so little time and money, but have had a truly positive impact on my daily happiness. A friend touring my room for the first time said of the spot, “I love a cozy moment.” Me, too. I feel lucky it’s mine.