Design

My 175-Square-Foot NYC Apartment

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment Tour

A year and a half ago, I moved into a sunny studio apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Since it’s so small — only 175 square feet — I usually just call it my ‘room.’ It’s basically where I keep my bed and my snacks. Here’s a look around, if you’d like to see…

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment Tour

Floor mirror: IKEA. Bedding: Parachute. Wool blanket: The Citizenry. Desk: Target. Lamp: Schoolhouse Electric. Art: Julie Blackmon. Chairs: vintage from Home Union. Rug: vintage.

On starting from scratch: When I moved here from Missouri, I only had a suitcase. So, there were two options for filling the space: a) playing Tetris with small pieces of furniture or b) investing in a couple giant pieces and embracing the absurdity of it all. Because I wanted a big bed, I went with the latter. Now my apartment is 50% mattress and 50% desk. Welcome to my bedroom, office, living room, dining room and TV bunker.

On sharing personal space: My boyfriend Andrew stays for weeks at a time. We laugh that it’s the ultimate test of a relationship to go from years of long-distance dating to living together in one room. We’re 12 feet away from each other at all times, and we share a closet. Our first fight here was over whether we had enough space to get a printer! Some nights we look at each other and are like, WHAT WERE WE THINKING? But mostly it feels like an adventure — even if that means streaming my Bravo shows from an empty bathtub for alone time.

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment Tour

Desk: Target. Art: Julie Blackmon. Lamp: Schoolhouse Electric. Chair: vintage from Home Union. Rug: vintage.

On maximizing a small space: There are a few basic game-changers, like throwing open the windows for fresh air (it feels like a treehouse), choosing white sheets (they brighten the room) and adding life with houseplants (ones that can handle some neglect). To stay organized, we have to be savage and scrappy. I’ll donate anything I don’t use often enough — mostly kitchen tools and clothes. For storage, stuff goes under the bed or on a rickety closet shelf only Andrew can reach. Our suitcases store extra sheets and out-of-season clothes.

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment Tour

Chair: Home Union. Vases: West Elm, similar. Mini table: Food52. Round mirror: Wayfair. Art: Julie Blackmon.

On making the city an extension of your home: The best part of living in New York is living in New York. You walk out the door and there you are — the skyline, more dollar pizza than one could ever dream of and sometimes a jogging Ethan Hawke. It’s the best backyard ever. When the apartment feels too small to host friends, there’s an old-school karaoke bar down the street that feels like a second home. Or if I need a morning to myself, I’ll take a bagel and the Sunday paper down to the promenade overlooking the East River.

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment Tour

Art: Julie Blackmon. Bed: CB2. Bedding: Parachute. Floor lamp: Holler & Squall. Side table: found on street.

On kitchen routines: Andrew and I have been on a breakfast-for-dinner kick, which really just means we’re obsessed with egg burritos. We’ll be drifting to sleep, and Andrew will mumble, “You know what sounds good right now?” It’s always the burritos. For drinks, we’ve been making Ferraris — a mix of Campari and Fernet Branca. Announcing, “I’ll take another Ferrari,” is as crazy as it gets around here.

On family artwork: My mom, who is a photographer, lends me her artwork, which often features my younger cousins. She started her career when I was a teenager, and as I grow older, I am so grateful for the years I watched her navigate everything. Her texts while she’s working are my favorite. They’re usually along the lines of, “Call you later, just ordered 90 gallons of synthetic snow from Amazon!” (She was shooting Fake Weather.)

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment Tour

Collage art: Max Rosen. Round vase: Food52. Cream mugs: The Citizenry. Mini canisters: Schoolhouse Electric. Dish cloth: Schoolhouse Electric.

On the pleasures of renting: Whenever I move into a place, I swear certain things are going to drive me nutty. But after a week, life goes on and you forget you were supposed to hate them, and pretty soon you end up liking them because you won’t live there forever. I am already nostalgic for this 90s Polly Pocket kitchen that I’m not allowed to paint. There is about one-and-a-half feet of tile on the floor, and Andrew and I find it charming that such an effort was made for a miniature amount of space.

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment Tour

Fruit magnets: similar.

On favorite photos: When you’re 1,200 miles away from family, it helps to be reminded of everyone’s chubby cheeks. I have snapshots of my siblings scattered around and the postcard from the Missouri restaurant where Andrew and I met while working together.

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment

Art: Julie Blackmon. Bed: CB2. Bedding: Parachute. Side table: found on street. Floor lamp: Holler & Squall.

On weekend rituals: As much as I love the city, my paradise is actually puttering around my apartment to music, podcasts and TV. Sometimes all three at once, before I realize I’m not paying attention to anything. I’ve had Rostam’s new album on repeat for months. It’s stunning and so much fun. (My favorite songs are Wood and Rudy.) For podcasts, Still Processing, Reply All and Lovett or Leave It are always great. And I’ve been loving the current season of High Maintenance.

A 175-Square-Foot NYC Studio Apartment

On ¯\_(ツ)_/¯: Like most things, this apartment is a work in progress. The bathroom towel rack crashes off the wall every other day, my winter boots are stored in a cabinet above my oven and my hardwood floors sound like a piano. But you know that scene in It’s a Wonderful Life when George is so happy to be back at his house and to see the broken knob on the staircase? Those are the things that make a place feel like home. I love this life, and I’m lucky to be here.

Thanks so much, Stella!

P.S. Life with a mini fridge, and 14 more tips for living in a small space (with a baby!).

(Photos by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Emily says...

    Would love to see a tour of your tiny closet! I also live in Brooklyn but with roommates and space for…probably more than I need. Looking to get my own space in the next year or so and would love to see how you manage your storage!

  2. isavoyage says...

    Haaa, i’ve finally nailed it Stella : you remind me of French actress/film director Agnes Jaoui! She’s famous here in France (not sure her fame has ever crossed the ocean as she acts mostly in very French movies).

  3. Bambino’s in Springfield?!? Soooo delicious. I think my husband lived near the one by campus when he was in college.

  4. Vanessa says...

    So excited to see this! I am downsizing into a 250sqft apartment with a Polly-pocket sized kitchen of its own in a few months and am thrilled and relieved to see how others manage to make it work! And your tiny fridge post definitely put my mind at ease!

  5. This is a beautiful space — it seems bright and airy and bigger than it really is (I think the clean lines and white bedding really helps with that). I’m envisioning moving into a small space myself when I return to the Bay Area after traveling for a year. This gives me hope :)

  6. Edward says...

    Hi! Getting ready to move into a tiny studio in DC. Stella, did you find a space for a printer and, if so, where does it live? Also your Wi-Fi router?

  7. Erin says...

    Hi Stella – I was wondering on how you found this apartment? I adore it will be looking for something similar for myself within a year or so. Any information would be great.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Erin! I found this spot through weeks of refreshing StreetEasy and Naked Apartments, haha. I narrowed my options down by selecting my ideal neighborhoods and my maximum price. Lexi told me to negotiate EVERYTHING when I was looking (monthly rent, broker’s fee, etc), and it worked, especially because I was looking during slow renting months — anytime besides the summer is great. I negotiated places that were slightly above my price range to expand my options. The landlords/brokers I did this to acted very annoyed at first, but most ended up coming around :) Just make sure — when you’re asking them to go — you have all of your paperwork, etc. ready as leverage.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Katie H. says...

    Beautiful space, Stella! I love tiny living. And I must know, what type of plant is that by your bed?

  9. Bethany says...

    I am SO inspired by this!! (And can relate to apartment living, we have the same problem with our towel rack, ha!) Please do a post on how to cook with a teeny tiny oven, we might move to an older home and the oven is really giving me reservations! Please put my mind at ease!

  10. shopgirl says...

    uff, it looks a bit too much like a hotel room for me, but I like the style.
    Is that a closet door or a bathroom? Where do you eat? And store things, shoes, clothes, underwear…?
    I would certainly put some narrow barrier, wall or a high shelf between the front door and the bed …
    Each has its own taste in living of course ;-)

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      hi! the closet is next to the kitchen, and the bathroom is next to the closet. :) I eat at my desk, and store everything in my closet or under my bed. Since I came here with so little, I’m been investing in furniture, home accessories as I go! Even with Andrew, our wardrobes are under 25 pieces. Hope this helps :) xo

    • Lidia says...

      I completely disagree, she managed to make the tiniest space look open, airy and light! I’m so impressed with her impeccable taste and her ability to make it work with such small square footage and without a large budget. I think putting a barrier up would take away from the space. and I don’t get hotel room vibes at all, but like you said, we all have different tastes!

  11. Anastasia says...

    2 months after we married, my 6’4″ husband and I spent 6 months living in a 14 square meter room in Tokyo, sharing a twin bed! We had months of terrible sleep and bickered over all kinds of ridiculous things, but we lived to tell the tale! Now we laugh about it. Good luck!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Anastasia, amazing! Bravo for making it work!

  12. Allison says...

    Oh my goodness, I know I’m several days late to the party but I am continually reminded that no one on this planet is cuter than Stella Blackmon. “Side table: found on street.” You are my hero.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      oh my goodness, allison! this is definitely undeserved, but thank you!!!! made my day. xoxoxo

  13. Liz V. says...

    Oh my gosh, random things you find on Facebook because you are obsessed with NYC. I knew in a second you were from my hometown!!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      hahaha, amazing, liz!

  14. It’s darlin, you could fit in a small sofa.I also see another way to set it up. Push bed near window near fireplace, see like a nook. I have seen same size then hang a curtain to separate the bed area. It is adorable clean and cozy looking as is.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      love this idea!!! thanks, debra!

  15. Beverly Williams says...

    Love your space. It would work for me. Unfortunately, I’m married to a pack rat so I’ll never have a space as lovely as yours. PS I’ve used white sheets and comforter for years. My walls are white too so my art pieces pop with color.

    • Nicole Brant says...

      I’m married to a pack rat, too. The struggle is real! :/

    • Gitty Einhorn says...

      Same here! Arghh

  16. Kate says...

    THE ART!!! I’m dying. I need it in my life! Next Cup of Jo give-a-way??? (I wish!!!)

  17. Alexandra Wee says...

    love your writing, Stella! always so fresh and sweet to read. i’m swooning over your little abode. xx also, love the caption reading: “table: found on the street” — we found our kitchen island on the street just outside of tom’s diner! (I’m in prospect heights :))

  18. Sharon Scimone says...

    Why on earth does anyone with a small room not invest in a murphy bed.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      haha, I’m usually only home at night, so it doesn’t bother me :)

  19. Rebecca says...

    Stella – love your apartment but I’d also like to advocate for you to get a promotion and pay raise! :)

  20. Why do I love this so much! As a New Yorker from The Bronx, I know about small places, but this is tiny! I love this so very much. I do want to live in a smaller pace. Now here in DC your house is my bedroom. Sometimes a lot of room inst what it cracks up to be.

  21. your apartment is SO cute! I remember my boyfriend and I taking a look at an apartment of a similar size in Brooklyn as well and we were like hell no! and it’s cute to see how you just make it work. Love it!

  22. robiah says...

    I loved reading your article…
    Let’s me know it can be fun living in a small rental..I learn a lot about living a minimalist life.
    Love from Malaysia.

    • Nicole Brant says...

      I know it’s “landlord white” but I’m all about the white walls. It would drive me nuts they inexplicably didn’t paint the cabinets white, too. Haha!
      You’ve done a lovely job with your adorable nook! You’re terrific :-)

  23. Lisa Defibaugh says...

    love it

  24. Kristi says...

    Love your apartment, and LOVE your mom’s work! Always enjoy your writing here, thank you for the peek into your life!

  25. Such an amazing and pleasant small apartment. It’s a sacrifice (to me) to live in a small space but like she said, the best part of living in NY is living in NY!

  26. Siobhan says...

    I love that the apartment is minimal and sleek with beautiful framed art and black accents. Then there’s the wonderful doorway framing a kitchen that seems to be from someplace else…another time and/or place. Makes the kitchen look like another piece of art – a mini movie set framed by a proscenium arch.

  27. Anna MG says...

    Gorgeous apartment room, and oh man I love your mom’s photographs! I never made the Blackmon connection, how amazing to be surrounded by her wonderful prints! x

  28. ASHLEY KAMARA says...

    I love how you have photos printed and hung of your mothers. I think that is the sweetest thing.

  29. Stella, you are so funny and so real and so charming. There’s my acrostic poem about you (that lol doesn’t actually work with the letters of your name).

  30. Annalise says...

    I love Stella’s black dress! Where’s it from?

  31. Love the clean bright color scheme… but dying to know… What size is your bed?

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi, Mary! It’s a queen :)

  32. Sylvia Sichel says...

    I love the apartment, but those photographs have me obsessed and inspired. That fake snow picture is amazing. <3

  33. Kim says...

    This is so similar to my studio apartment in London (high ceilings, huge windows, the layout, etc.), where I’ve lived with my husband for the past year and a half – the main difference that we haven’t invested in our own furniture yet. Most apartments come furnished in London – with very, very cheap furniture (making Ikea-quality and design seem luxurious). We’re always considering moving to a 1 bedroom, so haven’t taken the plunge with buying anything for this small space. But based on the photos of your place – I think it would make a big difference in my happiness staying here longer and saving $$$ in the process. I totally agree on the city as an extension of your home – we live in the heart of an amazing neighborhood and that makes it all worth it! The biggest downside is the challenge in hosting overnight guests :-/

  34. Wow! My apartment is larger a little bit but it’s a mess :) Your “room” is so neat and beautiful

  35. Ming says...

    Is there a bathroom?? I am hoping it’s the door by the tiny kitchen.. but I’m now so curious!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      The door next to my kitchen is the closet, and then next to the “mantle” area, is the bathroom! Thanks, Ming!