|Timothy and Brian share this 400 square foot studio in the East Village–photo by Gary Moran|
Smaller spaces are the norm in New York City and it’s not uncommon for couples and roommates to share one-bedroom apartments. But what about living in a studio or a single room with another person for nearly 15 years?
For Timothy and Brian, their slice of New York heaven is a mere 400 square feet. They began living in the East Village studio they share more than 14 years ago, long before they could foresee calling the same place home in 2013. Two people residing full-time in such tight quarters may seem ludicrous to most, but it’s quite the opposite for the downtown duo. I chatted with the couple recently about their life in one room, what they’re missing, if anything, and their key to living large in a small space.
“Timothy and I are very in sync with each other, so I never feel like I need to ‘get away’ from being around him,” Brian said.
Aside from the main room, they frequently use “The West Wing,” as they call it, referring to a closet in the long hall off the studio with a desktop computer. According to Timothy, “the space is about three feet by three feet,” and it also houses his clothing. This is the spot to go for late-night TV watching (also on the computer) or when work is calling.
For television and music, both wear headphones, which create a sense of privacy even when they are together in the same space. With the exception of a few favorite TV shows they have in common, most often they go about their business separately, which Timothy says contributes to the success of their partnership.“We watch Hot in Cleveland together every weekend, he said. “We set apart an hour or so on Saturdays and then go back to whatever we were doing before.”
Though the space is compact, minimalist decor isn’t their style. The apartment is quite cozy with an array of furnishings including a double bed, sofa, credenza, five occasional chairs, one floor lamp, two table lamps (all on dimmers), three occasional tables, an oval ottoman, one chest of drawers, and a bookcase. This of course is all outside of the “West Wing,” which is their mini-office/late-night den of sorts.
|Art by Klein Reid and framed by Rooq Fine Art|
And since their home is on the top floor facing north, the bright space is the perfect backdrop for their art collection. The apartment also has the typical five feet by eight feet bathroom, the average dimensions in most New York flats, and a standard kitchen.
Over the past few years, they’ve started to cook more often, Timothy said. Recently painted blue and white after an inspiring trip to Greece, the kitchen includes a full-size refrigerator and 24-inch range, but like many New Yorkers, they utilize their oven for storage. “We do cook a lot, probably eating out three meals a week, usually on weekends,” Brian said.
|Lunch is in the works in their small East Village kitchen.|
Even if they’re content living in a single room, it’s human weakness to always want more and dream of a bigger apartment or one more room. “New Yorkers tend to be obsessive by nature and one of the things we are all obsessed with is square footage,” Brian said.
Some extra space might come in handy each December when they host their annual tree-trimming party with as many as 30 guests, which according to Timothy, fit comfortably in their studio.
That level of comfort doesn’t come without editing, however. Living in a smaller space has its advantages, like having everything at your fingertips and living simpler, but on the flip side, the editing is constant. Brian explained that the smallest purchases aren’t to be taken lightly. “Even buying a package of three t-shirts requires extra thought.”
Before life in NYC, he had plenty of places for t-shirts and any other belongings in his 1,500 square foot house in Richmond. With luxuries like central A/C, a fireplace and a dishwasher, not to mention a dining room, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a backyard and a greenhouse, running short on rooms or storage was never an issue. But regardless of amenities and square footage Brian said, “I can honestly say there is nothing I miss about that space.”
Even though they sacrifice the amount of “stuff” they can keep under their roof, — certain belongings are stored at a friend’s house in Virginia, most of that is from “another life” and they add to it as needed when their New York City nest gets a tad overloaded.
Instead of more rooms and a backyard, their East Village neighborhood brings ten community gardens within a two-block radius, a wide selection of museums and galleries, and convenient access to public transit to travel most anywhere in the city. When speaking of why they love their hood, aside from the smaller scale buildings, the cultural diversity, and the less frenetic vibe as compared to other parts of Manhattan, one of the bonuses in this area of town is the “lack of pretense” and the anything-goes attitude, Brian said, “everybody lets their freak flag fly.”
|Pay attention to details in small spaces–photo by Gary Moran|
And as for advice to someone downsizing from a house to an apartment or to a smaller space in general, Brian suggested they “pay attention to details, since those are magnified in smaller spaces.”
No matter how small or large their living quarters, compatibility may be the key to bliss for these New Yorkers in their humble East Village abode — space doesn’t seem part of the equation. For couples concerned about living in less or transitioning from a house to a small apartment, Brian advised, “The secret to successful relationships does not involve square footage.”
If you have a great New York City apartment, we’d love to feature it on TNYL. Please send an email with photos to tracysnewyorklife at gmail dot com.