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View Full Version : Living in a tiny NYC apartment ?



juniper
08-06-2012, 05:59 AM
Can anyone offer some insight about living in a small New York City apartment? I've seen photos etc, but now I need some info about daily stuff.

Such as: where would someone keep boxes of old photos and letters, and if she's crafty (knitting) or an artist (paints, canvases, unsold works) - where does someone in a tiny apartment store things?

Or boxes of books, or old schoolwork - the stuff other folks in houses (urban or suburban) might stash in the garage or attic.

I have a character who's just moved from NYC to the west coast suburbs, and she's amazed at the personal living space people have and how they load up their houses or biggish condos with memories and projects-to-be-done-someday. I'm imagining that she's never had a spare room, or garage - so would she just not have anything that's not used on a regular basis? No old yearbooks?

Now I'm wondering if NYC apartment dwellers are less sentimental about their childhoods - hmm, this character might be more complicated than I first thought. Maybe NYC residents are more focused on looking forward, than backward.

Any urbanites out there?

cornflake
08-06-2012, 07:34 AM
Can anyone offer some insight about living in a small New York City apartment? I've seen photos etc, but now I need some info about daily stuff.

Such as: where would someone keep boxes of old photos and letters, and if she's crafty (knitting) or an artist (paints, canvases, unsold works) - where does someone in a tiny apartment store things?

Or boxes of books, or old schoolwork - the stuff other folks in houses (urban or suburban) might stash in the garage or attic.

I have a character who's just moved from NYC to the west coast suburbs, and she's amazed at the personal living space people have and how they load up their houses or biggish condos with memories and projects-to-be-done-someday. I'm imagining that she's never had a spare room, or garage - so would she just not have anything that's not used on a regular basis? No old yearbooks?

Now I'm wondering if NYC apartment dwellers are less sentimental about their childhoods - hmm, this character might be more complicated than I first thought. Maybe NYC residents are more focused on looking forward, then backward.

Any urbanites out there?

Oh, we keep tons of crap. ;)

We just cram stuff in places, same as everyone else. I think it's like budgets; people live to their means very often, and if their means expand, so does how they live.

We also often have storage space. Lots of buildings have storage spaces in the basement for each unit and there are a gagillion Manhattan Mini Storage locations and furniture storage and etc.

Boxes of old letters or stuff? Closet? Crafty supplies? Uhm... a lot of people keep stuff in like a rubbermaid type thing under a bed or in a closet or what have you. In a coffee table storage or a basket in the living room or... I'm not sure *exactly* what you're asking I don't think.

Sunflowerrei
08-06-2012, 10:27 AM
New York City's living space varies. Manhattan is by far the most crowded, but the boroughs have a mix of apartments, condos, co-ops, and houses, attached and detached. We have spare rooms, basements, attics and garages in NYC. We don't all live on top of each other!

My family and I moved from a house to an apartment when I was in high school. Some of our excess stuff went into storage. Some of it went into my grandmother's basement. My childhood is in my closet. I have boxes and plastic bins under my bed. It's not dissimilar to how my suburban cousins keep their stuff, except they have more rooms in their houses to display their things.

cornflake
08-06-2012, 11:29 AM
Oh, forgot about the canvases thing. If someone is a serious artist who lives in the City, it's unlikely (though not impossible - some people have rooftop accesses, some people have lofts [which used to be 'artists' lofts' before it became a trendy place to live in general], etc.) to have space for that on any scale.

Hence, people often have space in a cooperative studio space in Brooklyn or some such or rent space or rent a studio itself wherever, depending on a whole lot of factors. There are lots of these types of arrangements you can find if you google, if the artist aspect is important.

benbenberi
08-06-2012, 04:53 PM
Apartment Therapy (http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/) often has articles and photo-stories about living in tiny apartments in NYC (& elsewhere too).

My friends who live in tiny NY apartments tend to have lots of boxes & bins of stuff tucked away in corners, closets, under furniture, etc. With tiny kitchens, they don't have a lot of kitchen gadgets (but they eat a lot of take-out & delivery). A lot of furniture is dual-purpose.

Some use storage spaces in their building for stuff that won't fit. One also has a rental storage unit -- I gather those are very popular for overflow stuff, grandma's furniture, etc.

juniper
08-06-2012, 08:50 PM
Thanks for the replies and the link, I'll look at that for more ideas.

How about Seinfeld tv show? Jerry's apartment? Is that a typical size/layout for a single person, who's in her 40s with average income?

I think I saw an episode about having a storage area in the basement of someone's building, a row of chain link squares locked up.

I think it must be a different mindset though - if I were to pick up and move there, I'd have to pare down my stuff significantly. Really think about what I kept, rather than just putting stuff in the shed or garage or extra rooms. No room for a lot of memory-type stuff ("That's Auntie's quilt from when she was a little girl.")

Lil
08-06-2012, 09:02 PM
The New York Times online site has a real estate section with apartment listings, many of which have floor plans. Figure out what rent your character can afford (or if she can afford to buy a coop), and take a look to see how much space she will have.

And yes, you get very selective about what you will keep when you live in a small apartment. Young people are apt to leave a lot of stuff with their parents.

calieber
08-06-2012, 10:06 PM
7 years after moving out of the studio I still haven't retrieved all the stuff from my parents' house.

Actually, my girlfriend and I have an ongoing, ah, discussion about household maintenance. She grew up in small apartments, I grew up in a big house, so I never got into the habit of being ruthless about throwing things out, or of getting rid of things that don't inherently need to go but take up a lot of space relative to utility.

amschilling
08-06-2012, 10:42 PM
How about Seinfeld tv show? Jerry's apartment? Is that a typical size/layout for a single person, who's in her 40s with average income?




Ahhhhahahahahah. Never, ever think an apartment in NYC as shown on TV is going to be remotely appropriate to the character's income (unless we're talking the uber-rich). It never is. And doormen and elevators cost a lot more, so bear that in mind: adding either of those will tack on hundreds to the rent. Could a woman in her 40's afford it, making "average" money? Yes, if it wasn't on the upper west side in a really nice, doorman controlled, elevator building like his was. Or if it was rent controlled (see below on that). It really depends on what "average" is as far as income, and how much she likes to eat. :D

To put size vs. price in perspective, I lived in a cheaper Manhattan neighborhood than Seinfeld and paid $1800 a month for a 200 sq. foot studio apartment. Ten years ago. But...it also had a doorman and elevator. I had friends with studios about the size of mine that paid less, with the tradeoff that they walked up 5 flights of stairs every day. When I was looking at one bedrooms in the same neighborhood, w/ doorman and elevator, w/ smaller kitchens than his and the buildings not as nice, they ran closer to $2500 a month.

Now, if an apartment is rent controlled all bets are off on size and location. Rent controlled basically means it costs next to nothing (there are reasons for these places, but it's pretty convoluted why the city does it). But getting one of those without having a family member own it and die is like surviving Hunger Games. You better have a lot of cash to slip to the realtor if you want rent control. BUT--in a rent control scenario, in his neighborhood and at that size, you could be talking something ridiculous like $300 a month.

cornflake
08-07-2012, 12:19 AM
Cosign the above.

However, in a general sense - in terms of tv shows representing NYC - I'd say Seinfeld's apartment was definitely one of the more realistic ones. Sortof strange/big kitchen, as the layout isn't exactly typical (though it is certainly possible), but sizewise, a medium one bedroom with a moderate living room like he had wasn't over the top.

As above, anything is possible given rent control/stabilization, family things, etc., but in general, Monica's apartment was ridiculous. Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser's Mad About You apartment would have been INSANELY expensive, well beyond their theoretical means in the area they placed it, with a doorman, etc.

This is also a thing, btw. You can pay $2000 for 200 sq. ft in one place and a mile away get twice the space for the same money. It's not "bad" neighbourhoods, either, it's just more desirable based on proximity mostly. Like Inwood is nice and has cheap apts but it's a hike on the train. In Gramercy (both these neighbourhoods are in Manhattan), one apartment a block from the park can cost a million less than the exact same one if the other has a park key (there's a small private park that only people living in border buildings have access too; it's hugely desirable), or rent for insanely more, etc.

blackrose602
08-07-2012, 01:47 AM
She grew up in small apartments, I grew up in a big house, so I never got into the habit of being ruthless about throwing things out, or of getting rid of things that don't inherently need to go but take up a lot of space relative to utility.

This. I grew up in a big house, moved to a 450 sf apartment in New Orleans' French Quarter, then into a 170 sf RV. We just bought a new 250 sf RV, and it feels like a mansion.

We've dealt with it by renting storage spaces. Hurricane Katrina got the 10x20 in New Orleans that held stuff from the house. Then we rented a 5x10x10 high in Florida and moved half the stuff from the first RV into it. Now that we have a little more space, we've moved a few things back in. I'm most thrilled that we have a built-in entertainment center (previously we could only manage a 19" flat screen on the wall, now it's a 32") and a usable island kitchen. Nice to have room to actually cook, and store some kitchen gadgets.

Like others have said, you get really creative at dual-use furniture (most of my clothes live in a huge drawer under the sofa, for example), and you learn how little you really need. Most of what's in storage now is stuff with sentimental or financial value (heirloom china, yearbooks, my now-deceased mom's music boxes). My once-enormous library has been pared down to less than a dozen actual books plus a Kindle Fire. Digital music is my best friend. So's the DVR. We have space for about 50 DVDs, beyond that, we record movies when they come on DirecTV. My clothes are rotated by season--we spend at least a few weeks in FL every winter, so I drop off my summer clothes at storage and pick up the winter wear, then reverse. We buy groceries every few days.

You make room for what's truly important. I'm a full-time travel writer, so I have drawers dedicated to press kits and contracts, and I made room for a huge printer/copier/scanner. If your character's crafty, she'll make room for supplies. Big canvases, she'll probably have to rent space. But anything she *can* fit, she will, even at the expense of something else.