Our ongoing series Apartment Living 101 is aimed at helping New Yorkers navigate the challenges of creating a happy home in the big city. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, this week 6sqft asked 10 couples for tips on how to cohabit peacefully together.
Living with anyone takes a lot of work—days are more often than not highlighted with squabbles over the toilet seat being left up than googly eyes over too many flowers and chocolates. Now throw in the fact that you’re probably squeezing into a tiny studio or a one-bedroom (if you’re lucky!), and one would think what you’ve really got is a one-way ticket to singledom. But creating a peaceful and stress-free home is possible by just implementing a few changes and making a few compromises.
While love may be anything but one-size-fits-all, these 10 New York City couples are sharing their tips on how they created a balanced home full of joy.
Interior image via Apartment Lifestyle
Who are you? Jaka, a photographer + Kate, an artist (Kate’s new book “How We End,” a collection of short stories on intimacy and heartbreak, is also being released on Valentine’s Day)
What neighborhood do you live in? Bushwick
Kate: Use room dividers. We live in a small, one-room apartment, so it’s good to break the space up and make it feel like there are “rooms.” Part of our studio is our “office.” We have a “living room,” “dining room,” etc., even though they’re all the same space. It’s good to designate specific areas for specific functions. Another rule, which we’re both bad at following: don’t use the kitchen table for storage—for obvious reasons. We also always make the bed since it’s visible from every part of the apartment it makes a big difference to the feel of the space. If the bed is a mess the whole apartment feels like a mess. Also, going to sleep at the same time, which we’d say is cute but also pretty necessary in a studio apartment!
Jaka: As far as I’m concerned, living in a studio apartment is great, as it’s never weird if you cook naked or walk around the apartment. One can argue you are still in the bedroom 🙂
Interior image via iDesignArch
Nick & Adam: Our number one design tip is accidental in nature—we have no doors in our apartment. The only two doors we have are the bathroom door and the front door. By making all spaces and rooms fair game, it has created an honest environment where we can’t run away from any problems that may arise. We always have to make it work, and never go to bed angry.
Interior image via Sobify
Who are you? Rose, a higher education administrator + Alan, a developer engineer and farmer
What neighborhood do you live in? We were living in Boerum Hill, but we’ve moved to Edgewater, NJ for more space
Rose & Alan: It’s all about creating a space that reflects both your personalities, so make sure you and your partner have a process in place that will help the both of you find a happy medium.
For example, Alan grew up on a dairy farm and he appreciates any elements of nature in the home; whereas for me [Rose], I love a modern sleek look with interesting artwork and vibrant colors. To marry the two visions, we both were equally involved in selecting furniture that reflected our individual taste—I was in charge of selecting the furniture style, while Alan took lead on selecting the furniture color, which consisted of earthy color tones and vibrant paintings of tractors, cows, and beautiful landscapes.
Also, make sure to identify a few things you both enjoy and incorporate them into your living space. We both love our quiet reading time so we created a little library nook with all of our favorite reads and, thanks to Alan’s techie skills, a tricked out state of the art audio system that plays all of our favorite tunes on voice command. And no home is a happy home without a bar cabinet—it’s stocked with all of our favorite wine and beer selections, and we both contribute to it on a regular basis 🙂
Whitney: When I got our apartment I was thinking about us moving in together but we weren’t quite there yet. It walked the line between an apartment that I would be happy to call home and a space that I knew would work for the both of us. Juan didn’t see it until moving day, but the joke is that he never left. I think we’ve taken the same approach to picking the larger design pieces—compromising while making selections that will work for us both. I love the color of our new couch; he wasn’t so sure “we’re white couch people.” He’s crazy about our new coffee table, but I’m hoping it doesn’t send us over the edge with mid-century period pieces. If I could just get him to remember that his towel hook is the one by the shower, I’d be over the moon. But in all seriousness, I’m happy that we wake up in the same place every day and that he helps me be more patient about everything coming together.
Juan: It will be hard to keep the new white couch and glass coffee table clean with the all the entertaining and cooking we do. My grandmother’s plastic couch cover won’t work here! As for the apartment, it has floor-to-ceiling windows and a bathroom bigger than most NYC apartments—I wasn’t going anywhere! 😉 It’s funny how she always knows what I want, before I do. I do sometimes have to tell her to slow down and just wait for the big pieces to arrive before she buys a new rug or piece of artwork or side table.
Interior image via Elja Home
Amanda: Creating a blended design style. Having graduated from architecture school together, we knew it would be a challenge, but we tried our best to compromise. We decided on an efficient furniture layout together and then filled the apartment with some inherited pieces and picked out the remaining furniture we needed together (Ikea, naturally). Knowing that we both had a hand in placing and picking what was in the apartment makes it feel like our own. We also share our one bedroom apartment with our two cats that seem to be happy with how things were before they moved in.
Tom: Making sure everything has a place. Once you are living in small quarters with twice the amount of stuff, clutter can be suffocating. When closet space is scarce, creating storage that doubles as display for CDs, photos, books and trinkets showcases your favorite things while giving them a home. Also, leaving doors open creates a flow through the apartment from room to room and makes it feel larger.
Yuka & Shin: Separate closets are a must, even if one person has to use the front entrance wardrobe as their own (which is what I [Yuka] do since we only have one other closet). It’s the best way to eliminate squabbles caused by one person trying to unwedge a pair of their pants out from between the other’s polo shirts. If you have separate closets and still can’t find your clothes, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
Image via Sndimg
Ben & Dara: Playing to your strengths; recognizing what each person’s individual strengths are. There are things Dara is fantastic at like organizing cabinet space for example, which I [Ben] have absolutely zero desire to do, but then I’m always on top of keeping the bathroom tidy so in our day to day we are able to strike a good balance between our respective domestic skill sets.
Who are you? Rich, an IT consultant + Jenn, a director of recruitment
What neighborhood do you live in? Harlem
Rich & Jenn:
1. Agree upon chores upfront—like who will clean the bathroom, wash the dishes, vacuum/sweep the floors. It will save you from future fights over the small things.
2. Give yourselves some “me time.” Living with your significant other is great, but don’t neglect your other relationships with family and friends.
3. Set aside days to do errands, similar to #1. Organization can be your best friend!
4. Pick out furniture and decorations together and remember that it’s “OUR place” now.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you’re coming home from a bad day, let your significant other know up front.
Who are you? Katherine, I work in sales + Stephen, I work in fixed income sales
What neighborhood do you live in? Yorkville
Katherine & Stephen: We have such small closets and little space in our dressers that installing Elfa shelving from the Container Store and clearly labeling bins for our things has made the clutter aspect of a studio apartment much more bearable. We have two couches, two TVs, and a “fake door” so if we do want to be apart, we can and don’t feel as on top of each other. Also $50 for a cleaning lady to come once a month has created fewer fights and a much cleaner, more livable space, as has investing in a storage unit in our basement to store seasonal items.
Beccy & Matt: We keep the peace by alternating our roles in the kitchen. We love to cook together, but because our kitchen is small—and probably because we also have our own particular ways of doing things—we take turns to be the head chef and the sous chef. For example: both of us cook our own version of spaghetti Bolognese. We use our own recipe, buy the particular ingredients we want, and then when it comes to making it, the head chef calls the shots as to what needs to get done. And then we alternate the next time we make the same recipe. Not everyone can be the boss all the time—and two bosses just clash! This little strategy makes working in a team, and a small space, much easier.
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