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…
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
(Photos by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo.)