Life Stories USA

What my $1200 tiny Manhattan studio apartment looks like

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Up until last week, I have lived survived for two and a half years in a 250 square foot studio apartment. With a roommate.

To be honest, my studio may even be smaller than 250 square feet; I’m only gauging it off of the 300 square foot mock-up apartment in IKEA Brooklyn. Maybe you live in New York City, in which case, you totally understand the struggle of living in these exaggerated micro-apartments, but if you’re not from a cosmopolitan city, you’re in for a real treat here.

See, when you move to New York City, you know you’re moving for New York City, not for how much bang for your buck you can get when it comes to the size of your apartment. But we all want to save money, and thus, there are two ways to do so while living in New York: get rid of all your crap and downsize or suck it up and get a roommate. I did both, because I knew in my budget (or lack thereof) we were going to have to get creative.

Ask any New Yorker and you’ll find out a $1200 studio in Manhattan (well, Harlem) is hard to come by. Yes, I said, “a studio.” You can find $600 rooms in Brooklyn and Queens, and maybe even Manhattan, but my roommate and I had our own reasons for going in on a studio space together. For $1200 per month, or $600 each, we got everything on our list:

  • Harlem/Manhattan
  • Running distance to Central Park
  • By the 4/5 and the 2/3 express trains off of 125th Street
  • Brownstone
  • Stoop

and then a few things on our super bougie list:

  • High ceilings
  • Hardwood floors
  • Lots of light

Welcome to my $1200 tiny Manhattan studio apartment!

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K that’s all!

Because the size of our studio apartment would accurately fit a toddler, we had to get creative with the space (and I use that term lightly). After a trip to Brooklyn’s IKEA (Take the Free Water Taxi, by the way), we decided to invest in lofted beds…which were actually the cheapest option anyway. We opted out of the Installation service for an extra cost of $149 (#brokebetch), and miraculously, both of our beds are still standing two and half years later. Go us.

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Depending on the furniture arrangement, the only way up to my bed is to jump on the couch and climb your ass up.

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Over the years, I tried making our tiny apartment as cozy as possible, by finding used furniture online. OK, also because it was the cheapest way to furnish an empty apartment. I did manage to find my big red couch off eBay, which happened to be just a few blocks away. Coincidence? I think not. I would even go so far as to say that it is the most comfy couch I have ever sat and slept on. That’s right; I said it, and I’m a hardcore couch sleeper! Why do you think I like CouchSurfing so much? As for my clothing dresser, I found that guy in the Free category on Craigslist, which happened to be just a M60 bus ride away. Even my microwave I got from a guy off Craigslist who lived one block away. This is what happens when you squeeze so many people into Manhattan.

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I like to blame my terrible cooking skills on the fact that my kitchen is literally the size of most people’s closets. As you see, you have counter space for one very special appliance and the rest have to be put in the cupboards. Put one dish in the sink, and the sink is already full, which is both great because you always do the dishes after you’re done cooking, and crappy because you always have to do the dishes after you’re done cooking. Oh, and how could I forget, because the apartment is so small, any time we cook with the oven, our apartment steams up. I mean who needs a heater, when you have a stove?

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Our humble bathroom.

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Living the beautiful brownstone life. Trust me, it looks like this nice only about three months of the year.

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I’m in love with the green door, mainly because Monica Geller’s apartment had a green door in her apartment too.

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If there’s one thing, one thing, our apartment does right (I know it’s hard to believe), it’s the high ceilings. Thank God for those babies. I mean, it only took us two years to realize that our nice white walls were not being used to their full potential and that we could add pops of color by putting up some travel posters from Posman Books in Chelsea Market (3 NYC Bookstores That Aren’t Barnes & Noble).

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When we were first thinking of moving in, our landlords hesitated accepting us because we were “so young” and they weren’t sure if we’d have enough money to pay rent, but then they lightened up and even gave us “a discount” – lowering our rent to $1100 a month.

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But it’s now been two and a half years – our lease expires in six months – and if you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you know that I have left New York, and have to tell you, while I don’t exactly miss my $1200 tiny Manhattan studio apartment, there are a few things I think of occasionally that really made my Harlem experience worthwhile: my next-door-neighbor I always passed while walking up my stoop, the group of Harlem guys down the block who called me Bieber every time I walked by, the cashiers at my favorite smoothie place off of 125th who always gave me a discount, the deli guy who even after two and a half years still acts like he doesn’t know me, the front desk of my gym who always seemed to have that New York attitude, but who still said “have a good day” to everyone.

Living in New York City is not a piece of cake, and if by “if you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere” they meant inhabiting such small living quarters, then I’m confident I’ll be pretty much set in my next few apartments wherever I do end up.

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  • Shay

    Your apartment looks very nice, it may be small but you added your own personal touch to it and made it home 😀

  • Andreina

    well, I’ve been living in a 9 m2 studio in Paris for 2 years and half now, I’ve got used to extra tiny and not buying too much junk. The price of living alone in a big city!

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  • emme

    I love this. I love y’all. Tbh y’all are amazing people, and when reading this it made me smile Idk why lol . I hope one day I can have a experience as you and your friend.

  • Loca Leyla

    Extremely creative. I love the set up.

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