This Cozy Upper West Side Apartment Offers Color and Community

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Name: Maria Vasquez, David Chikovani, their dog Chonka
Location: Upper West Side, New York, New York
Size: 450 square feet
Type of Home: Studio Apartment
Years Lived In: 1.5 years, renting

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This apartment was Maria Vasquez’s first place without roommates, so she knew she wanted to find the perfect spot. She had just lived in a dark Brooklyn apartment, so non-negotiables included lots of natural light and access to the outdoors. Upon seeing this apartment on StreetEasy, she knew before even visiting that it would be the one. It’s on a landmarked block on the Upper West Side, so it’s across the street from Riverside Park and only a 10-minute walk to Central Park. It has oversized windows and faces south, letting tons of light in each day.

“Once I saw the inside of the apartment, I fell in love with its character,” Maria says. “It’s in a well-maintained pre-war building with gorgeous details. The crown molding and frames around the windows sealed the deal. I also loved how even though it’s a studio, there’s still plenty of room to have a comfortable bedroom and living space. I couldn’t believe I found the perfect NYC apartment, so I took it the same hour I saw it. Now that I’ve lived here for 1.5 years, I can’t imagine living in any other neighborhood in NYC. All the neighbors are so friendly and now we have a cute group of puppy parent friends we hang out with in the park, so for the first time in the 10 years I’ve lived in NYC, I feel like I’m part of a community.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Boho meets mid-century

Inspiration: If I could live in an Anthropologie store, I would. Unfortunately, that’s not possible and it’s also super expensive. Fortunately, browsing is free and FB Marketplace is an amazing place to find second hand gems!

Favorite Element: Our favorite element of the apartment is the dark green wall with the two windows overlooking the beautiful brownstones and tree-lined street. Each window has a beautiful frame so we wanted to make each window pop like a work of art by painting the wall dark green. We bought beige curtains that fit perfectly inside the frame so they would blend into the background.

Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge for the apartment was figuring out how to make a small space feel spacious. We only had one wall to separate the bedroom and living room, so we purposefully created different “spaces” within the living room. This helps us mentally separate our dining, piano, office, and TV areas.

We mainly used paint to distinguish the different areas (pink for TV, pink and orange for piano, green for desk, green and white for dining). We also physically divided the space by using the carpet as the divider between the TV area and the piano area. Then we faced the TV and piano areas away from the dining area so when we are there we don’t see the dining area. Similarly for our desks in the living room and bedroom, we both face the wall so we can’t see any of the living space while working. Psychologically, that helps divide spaces so much! We also couldn’t forget about Chonka, so we used the inactive fireplace as her little bedroom.

Proudest DIY: Our proudest DIY is the radiator box/widow seat. We originally created the window seat for Chonka to look outside or take sun baths, but we also enjoy sitting there and reading a book. We use the seat to read books, work, people watch, and look at nature. The orange cushion and the white frame add a nice pop of color and hide the old radiator that is a bit of an eyesore.

Biggest Indulgence: Our biggest indulgence was the piano area. We had to look for the right piano that fit the space perfectly even if it meant going a little over our piano budget. So, we came across our Yamaha piano that fit flush in between the wall and the living room carpet. The piano didn’t come with the stand and chair so we had to purchase those separately. We got the custom “Live Music” neon light through Etsy. We bought the orange paint named “Colorful Leaves” just for the piano arch. It was a big investment for a small space, but it’s totally worth it! We think it adds character to the apartment, its nice to have a dedicates space to practice piano, and it’s a great conversation starter when we invite people over.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Honestly, not really. We are just purposeful when adding anything to the apartment since the space is limited. There isn’t a corner in the apartment that we don’t use every day. So, it’s customized to our day-to-day life and needs. If we don’t need it, we don’t add it.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Lighting is super important. We are not fans of original light fixtures or white/cold lighting. We love warm cozy vibes so all of our lamps have Phillips Hue light bulbs so we can adjust the brightness levels and the warmth. We also replaced the boob lamp in the middle of the apartment with a modern sputnik chandelier in the middle of the living room to add more top down light and add another design element to the room.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: First tip, don’t buy or add anything to your apartment that you don’t see yourself using often. In the past I have fallen into the trap of buying cute things just because they are cute, not because I need them and they end up taking precious storage space forever! The second tip is being open minded about storage spaces. We use the bottom of our couch and bed to store things. The couch is pretty low to the ground, but we found two boxes that fit under it for all of Chonka’s needs and some blankets. We can’t see the boxes either! We also added extra shelves in our closet since our ceiling is so high so don’t be afraid of DYI-ing storage solutions!

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Don’t be afraid of color! Painting walls is such a great way to set the mood you want in your apartment. Whether you want to have a super bright and energetic home or a relaxed and neutral toned home. When I was growing up my mom would repaint walls all the time so I grew to love painting and learned that its OK to start again. It’s more than OK, it’s so fun! If you don’t like it or you change your mind after living in it a while, just paint it back to white and start again!

Another tip is try to rarely buy full priced furniture/decor. Be patient with any online second-hand marketplaces, you will find gems!

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