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Name: Sarah Jackson, Gregory Jackson, and Rex
Location: Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, NY
Size: 650 square feet
Type of Home: Studio Apartment
Years lived in: 1 year, renting
My partner Greg and I have moved five times together since we met in 2016. When we move from Miami, Florida to New York City for Greg’s career opportunity in January 2021, it was quite the culture (and weather) shift. We were placed in corporate housing our first 10 months here and were eager to find our own home. When the time came to begin looking, we knew two things: We wanted to stay in Manhattan, and we knew our budget.
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We both remembered visiting Roosevelt Island the previous summer to attend their annual viewing of the Macy’s Fireworks display and had fallen in love, so logically it’s the first place we looked. We walked into our current home within the first day of touring buildings and signed the lease that afternoon. It has been our home since, with no plans to leave. After six years, we finally feel like this apartment is home and has given us the stability we have craved for so long.
Living in NYC is already a unique experience on its own, but being resident on an island with a population of 14,000 really elevates that to another level. Roosevelt Island is most known for the tram that connects us to the Upper East Side and runs parallel to the Queensboro Bridge, as well as our yearly cherry blossom blooms. But to us, the island is a community.
Some of the unique features in our apartment that sealed the deal for us include an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, an in-unit washer/dryer (which is a big deal in NYC), a galley kitchen, and a gas stove. We love every aspect about this home, and often discuss how we wouldn’t change a thing. Although it has been a shift, going from a traditional one-bedroom apartment to our alcove studio space, it has allowed me to think through the space with more intention.
This is the smallest apartment we have lived in to date, but it is by far our favorite, and although some people lovingly refer to NYC apartments as “shoeboxes,” as long as it has this view, in this city, surrounded by these people , I will gladly take our shoebox any day.
I am currently a PhD candidate studying Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Florida International University. I actually started developing a love for interior design and home projects during my graduate program as a way to ignite my more creative side, whereas my work as a researcher can sometimes be restricting in that area. Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, I worked well and have been projects most of remote my academic work and research from home, which allowed me to really reevaluate my space and the emotions and mood I wanted it to evoke. Because I am in the apartment for the most part of my days, I really wanted to be sure to create a space that I felt comfortable in and set for success.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Transitional mixed with eclectic. I love the combination of a more traditional style mixed with more modern, bold, eye-catching pieces, color schemes, and textures that really ignite the space. I think it can be tricky sometimes to find that perfect blend of it all, but I think I was able to strike that balance by intentionally creating visual interest throughout the space in many different forms, whether it be a giant brass quaalude pill (yes, you read that right), a Kit Cat clock, exotic plants, and so on.
Inspiration: Nature and bringing the outdoors in. It’s funny because neither my partner or I really identify as “outdoorsy” or “granola” (as the kids say), but we have discovered that having those earth tones throughout the space is such a great way to make it feel full of life during the harsh NYC winters. Outside of vitamin D supplements, I think a home full of plants is one of the best ways to combat the seasonal gloom.
Favorite Element: My bookcase is, by far, my favorite element in the space. It was actually an IKEA hack that I DIY-ed after a few months of intense searching for a bookcase that not only perfectly fit the space, but was also the color I wanted. Because of its massive size in comparison to other pieces, getting the correct color to ground my color scheme in the apartment was critical, so I use the bookcase as a sort of “anchor color” for the space.
So, when you can’t buy it, you build it. Simply put, it’s constructed with five of the classic Billy bookcases, with custom doors, hardware, and trim to give it a more refined, elevated look. The bookcase serves as not only much need functional storage in an NYC apartment, but also a great way to display little artifacts from our life story and marriage. It represents a celebration of us and our journey as a couple, ranging with sentimental objects from our engagement in Cuba, elopement in Vegas, European travels together, and more, all within an earth-toned color scheme.
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge in this apartment has been taking an open space and defining it clearly. Our apartment is called a “studio alcove” which, by NYC standards, means that it is basically a one bedroom without the fourth wall, in order to create a more open space. Without clearly defined spaces though, it can seem to be an overwhelming task of how to make the defined spaces and naturally flow into one another.
One of the solutions I used to combat this problem was my squared-off rug lines. The implicit lines that rugs can create on the floor are a great way to define where an area ends and another begins. It is only luck, though, that checked rugs are trending right now and are able to add that extra bit of softness to what otherwise could be a hard line.
Proudest DIY: Although I adore my bookcase, I think my proudest DIY would be my fringed, brass floor lamp. The lamp was one of the first things we bought for the apartment, strictly because we needed a light source before our furniture got delivered and we could properly plan out the space. In fact, I intended to get a new one once I really nailed down the apartment’s aesthetic, but I loved the shade of brass this lamp base had so I thought of ways that I could make it work for the space.
I decided my main issue was the lamp’s shade and how I could make it have more visual interest that its current plain, stark white appearance. I decided to use this as an opportunity to add another texture to the corner where it resides. I found a custom fringe seller on Etsy and purchased six feet of 12-inch long fringe in a warmer, ivory color. I hot glued the fringe around the inside, top rim of the lamp shade, which resulted in a custom lamp shade that could not only belong in a 70s lounge, but also pass as Cousin It’s cousin.
Budget: The apartment resides on Roosevelt Island, a hidden gem within the NYC neighborhood map, and is relatively a steal. Our current rent is approximately $2,900 per month, although it will be increasing to $3,000 per month this upcoming October.
The budget for this project was $30,000 which is steep for a space this small, but only because we started with a blank canvas. When we moved from our larger apartment in Miami, most of our current furniture was too large and bulky to use in our new space. I am a huge supporter of furniture sustainability, so we used a company called Kaiyo to sell our old furniture pieces that wouldn’t work, that way they were not wasted and were able to find new life in other homes, while also helping fund our new pieces — a true win, win.
An object I absolutely splurged on is our custom Conde Nast print of the October 11, 2022 cover of The New Yorker. The print costs approximately $500, including framing, but the price was not even a factor when you realize the sentimental value. Living in NYC has been an aspiration of mine since I was a little girl with big city dreams. Picture Reese Witherspoon in “Sweet Home Alabama.” So, this print is the issue released the week our first Manhattan lease started, it represents a dream realized and a fresh start in a new city and oddly enough depicts differing aspects of what makes NYC, NYC. It’s just really lucky that it happens to be such a perfect fit for the space.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Our apartment is unique, from a NYC perspective, as it actually has not one, not two, but three different closets. One of these closets is meant to be a linen closet, but instead we use it as a functional dresser of sorts. We do keep lines there, sure — on one shelf. But the rest of the closet is used to store items like socks, undies, accessories, really anything that you would usually find in a dresser in someone’s room. There was really just no logical space for a dresser to make sense in the main living area, so using closet solutions from The Container Store really made all the difference to convert that closet’s function.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I have two pieces of advice that I would give to anyone looking to maximize their small space.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? I think the best decorating advice I could give to anyone, and would love to give to my past self, is to slow down. Our society values a quickness in all aspects of our lives, but when it comes to furnishing and decorating your home you should be intentional and take the time to find pieces that not only mean something to your, but also work for your lifestyle. Your home is a space that you should invest in, not just monetarily, but also emotionally. Let the aesthetic find you, not the other way around. I promise you, the more time you invest in a slow decoration process, including finding pieces that bring you joy, work for your lifestyle, and hold value in your heart, the happier and more whole you will feel with the space when its completed. Embrace the progress as it comes and let the YOU shine through your space.