my first nyc apartment
it has been an incredible experience living here in nyc so far. from the moment i graduated high school i knew i was going to end up in the greatest city in the world (okay biased but still). my search for an apartment began immediately when i accepted an offer from bloomingdale's to be a part of their executive program during my senior year of college three years ago. thankfully i was familiar with the new york real estate market simply due to the two internships i had in the city prior to graduation. but this time around, i was footing the bill. and the tip too.
deciding on the neighborhood
with my first job out of college being located on 59th street and lexington avenue, i wanted to confine my search to the upper east side neighborhood. now i know this may come as a shock, but the upper east side (many times condensed "the ues") is actually one of the most reasonably priced neighborhoods on the island of manhattan...unless you're super close to the park gossip girl style. while there are even some better deals to be found further north of where i decided on, the longer commute and "not so safe feeling" deterred me from looking at anything above 96th street.
as much as i would have loved to live in a chic and trendy neighborhood like chelsea or the west village, the price tag i would have been paying for the same size apartment would have been nearly double.
deciding on the apartment
when i first started my search (with my main source being streeteasy), i was looking at both studio and one bedroom apartments under $2000/month. and while i may have entertained some one bedroom options in the beginning, those that were in my price range were tiny, choppy, and i would have preferred there to be no wall at all. so i narrowed down my search to be exclusively studios from then on!
although it would have been nice, i didn't want to spend a ton of money on an apartment that had excessive amenities that i was never going to use and wanted to save my money on that front. at the end of the day, i really had very few things on my must-have list: hardwood floors, a white kitchen with a microwave, and a decent amount of storage space for all of my crap. whenever i walked into an apartment, i knew within 3 seconds whether or not i liked it. so the moment i walked into this 300 sq/ft apartment with hardwood floors, ample storage, and a white kitchen with a microwave, i knew it was the one! and because real estate moves so quickly here in nyc, i put in the application for the apartment that afternoon.
not only did my apartment meet all of my requirements but it had a fireplace, exposed brick, a live-in superintendent, laundry in the building, 11-foot ceilings and it was roughly $200/month under budget!! my savings account was pretty happy about that last part not gonna lie. the apartment may have been on the 5th floor of a walkup and had no central air (pretty standard though in old nyc buildings), the ceiling height and insane amount of storage space more than made up for the trek up the 32,402 stairs i had to climb every day even during those dreadful hot summer months.
and for those who want to know, this was the exact listing for my apartment on streeteasy back in 2015 where i paid $1750/month (even though it was listed at $1795). a bargain for nyc standards while living without roommates.
but of course as we know (especially if you have followed all of the chaos on my instagram stories), the charm wore off at about the 2 year and 9 month mark. when many of my packages started to go "missing" (*cough* stolen *cough*), i knew it was time to move on to a more grown-up apartment and really use that money i had saved previously. but with all of that being said, i loved this apartment. truly! if the building had had a doorman or even just an elevator, i probably would have stayed there for another three years.
deciding on the design
when i signed the lease for this apartment, i hadn't quite graduated college yet. this meant that i had to design and decorate remotely from dc. not necessarily the easiest thing i've ever done especially because all of my furniture from my spacious one-bedroom dc apartment would not have fit in the tiny nyc studio. so my apartment was a hot mess at first...to put it gently. i had a harsh looking black and white striped rug, a grey couch i never sat in, and a clothing rack dividing my room making me feel claustrophobic. i decided i needed a redesign after about a year and a half of living there and called upon a service called homepolish: essentially designing made easy! but unfortunately that experience turned out to be a complete nightmare and i ended up doing the whole design myself while also paying a "designer." i was not happy to say the least and i'm sure the customer service woman who read my angry email felt the same way.
but alas the design had to go on! as i mentioned, i had a couch that i never sat in so i literally just got rid of it to put a closet system in its place. part of my stress about my initial design of my studio apartment was that although there was ample storage for a normal person's clothing, i had a few more pieces than a normal person. so i called in reinforcements of an ikea pax system and put all of my dresses (and folded up my rolling rack underneath my bed) and most of my shoes in that system. this freed up so much space that it was an instant improvement! the other most drastic change that i made was switching out my harsh-looking black and white stripe rug and replacing it with a lighter and brighter one. already my apartment looked infinitely better! i added some decorative shelves and pieces throughout and mounted my tv to be above the fireplace (also freeing up space on my dresser where it was placed initially) for the finishing touches.
and now we move onto the good stuff: how my apartment looked when it was all done and finished and decorated...you know, like 2 weeks before i moved haha.
the bed area
my apartment only had enough room for a full sized bed and thankfully that was the size mattress i had in dc so i didn't have to buy a new one. for my bed, i really didn't need anything fancy. i just wanted something that didn't take away from the rest of the room and decided on this bed in black (and i had it for all three years living in that apartment). having this nightstand not only was one of my favorite pieces from the redesign but it holds a lot of storage! i mostly keep my extra coffee table books inside in case i ever want to switch the ones around in my apartment. i always want my bed to be clean and simple so really everything around it is fairly calming. as a fun fact, i do not have any real flowers in my apartment! so even these flowers on my nightstand were fake...with fake water of course! i just didn't (and still don't) have time to buy flowers, cut them, put them in a vase, and then wait three days for them to die and then wash the vase and then do it all over again. i just like the look of flowers but don't want any of the responsibility. and of course the finishing touch in this area (and technically the whole apartment) was the blackout curtains. i loved how much natural light my apartment got but not at 7am. once these curtains were shut, i felt like i could sleep for days!
the desk area
being a photographer, i sit at my desk at home quite a bit, so i needed to make sure it was as fun of a work space as it could be without seeming too cluttered. my white parsons desk was the perfect base for the area but i needed to add the filing cabinet underneath for those extra important files. of course i'm obsessed with my bow lamp and even got the matching table that you will see a little later. for the artwork i kept it simple and symmetrical. i'm always so envious of the people who can whip together these incredible gallery walls but i'm just not one of them. for above my desk, i opted for these stunning sketches from katie rodgers of paper fashion framed in brass west elm frames.
the living area
as i mentioned earlier, i used to have a couch but ended up selling it because i literally never sat in it! but seriously i probably sat in it twice...max for the year and a half that i had it. so with my current layout, i don't really have much of a "living" area as much as i had an accent chair to accompany my rug. as little seating as i had, it worked out well for me. very seldom did i have people over (mostly because my friends didn't want to hike up my stairs either haha) so only having one chair, was never really an issue. but my rug was really the centerpiece for my apartment! it tied all of the spaces together perfectly and i'm so happy i went with it. off to the side i did have an ottoman just in case but it was the mirror that was the eye candy behind it. pro tip: if you lean the mirror to the wall it becomes a skinny mirror! for my mantle, again, i kept the surface very simple and just had this jewelry box. in there i kept the remotes for the tv and apple tv! sneaky right? but my living area was just enough and really didn't need anything else! even though that chair was covered with laundry 90% of the time...oops!
the dresser area
thankfully when i was looking and signing for the apartment, i took measurements of every nook in this place and knew i wanted the dresser to go in between the fireplace and the closet. so i measured how much space i had between the two (with the closet door open) and it was the perfect fit for the dresser that i had my eye on! and i didn't have an inch to spare. when i first moved in, i was just using the standard knobs that came with the dresser but knew those just wouldn't do with the redecoration. so i opted for much cutter options to enhance the look of the room. once i moved my tv to be above my fireplace, i was able to put these marble shelves above for displaying some of my things. when they arrived i was so excited but once the handyman was over and started to install them, one of the shelves was cracked in half upon unboxing and neither of them came with the brackets...so that was fun. but all was well once everything was installed and had so much fun styling the shelves! it was also a fun way to display one of my favorite (and oldest) pair of shoes that i never really wear anymore because they are too small. and thankfully i purchased this glass display box because now i can see all of my sunglasses! before their location in the glass box, they were all in their cases shoved in my cleaning closet. needless to say this was a much better setup.
dresser | bow knobs | crystal knobs | sunglass case (similar here) | fragrance tray (similar here) | tiffany box (similar here) | silver owl (similar here) | shelves (3' and brackets not included) | brackets | sputnik | camera bag (similar here) | dior bag | books left to right (paris vs. new york, new york: through a fashion eye, living with pattern, paris by laduree, it by alexa chung, the fashionable cocktail, capture your style) | shoes (similar here) | earring holder | faux display books (similar here and here) | circle picture frame | "a" decorative initial | bowl (antique) | chanel bag | vase (old from west elm)
the closet and closet system
when i initially saw the apartment, there seemed like there was a million places to store things. and while there may have actually been, once i started putting my things away, it filled up fast! thankfully the apartment had a ton of above-head storage so things like seasonal items and suitcases weren't an issue but it was the clothing space where i needed help. i mentioned i had a rolling rack that was originally the divider between the living and sleeping areas (when i had a couch and all that jazz) but once the couch was no longer in the picture i could spread out more and wouldn't feel as claustrophobic. the pax system came to the rescue and was placed where my couch used to be. i had a double door closet for all of my dresses with a glass drawer for my scarves and then a single panel with 9 customizable shelves. thankfully the space in the system was deep so i could place one shoe behind the other to really maximize the inside. more delicate and bulky bags were stored above the system as well as some of the designer boxes just for added fluff. when it came to the real closet, i ended up only being able to store my coats, jackets, and blazers in there...you know...where most people keep their entire wardrobes. the reason i show you my closets open is because things were really crammed in there and i had to be strategic in terms of where everything was placed. aka it wasn't always pretty! while the inside of my closet may not have been the prettiest, the étagère next to it certainly was! there i displayed all of my favorite bags that i either used all of the time or just loved to look at. i even had enough space to display all of my bangles on the cutest bangle holders from kate spade. the story about those bangle holders is actually a long one so i'm going to try to make it short. when i worked at kate spade in college, i helped open a few stores in the dc area as they were just starting to expand but my home base was the georgetown store. they announced that they were going to be moving the store to a larger space and that many of the fixtures in the old store were going to be raffled off to employees to make room for fresh and new ones, so you better believe i was in attendance! but while most people wanted the couch or the dining table or the stools, i had one, well two, things on my mind: those bracelet holders. and i couldn't have been happier walking out with the perfect way to store my plethora of bangles!
now i joke and say "the entryway" because i really didn't have one. this was just the little area between the pax closet system and my coat closet (that i actually used for my blouses and skirts because my coats couldn't fit in there). here i kept some of my statement necklaces, vintage and favorite pieces of jewelry and my keys of course. so i guess that last part qualifies it as an entryway table haha!
well if you made it this far, congratulations! you finished! haha sorry this was such a lengthy post but i'm so happy i could finally share all of this information with you! please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! while i did love my first apartment, i am so excited to be in my new place. i will be sure to show you guys all of the details of it as soon as it's done in a few months (instead of waiting until i move again) but be sure to follow along on my instasotries as i am constantly giving updates there!