Rental Rookie

Rental Rookie: Where to stash your friends in a railroad apartment

By Michelle Castillo  | November 17, 2010 - 6:57AM

Living in the Big City automatically means your friends from out of town are going to come and visit. But with apartment sizes here smaller than the average place it can be hard to have extra people crashing for a couple days.

My railroad-style apartment made having people stay over an advanced juggling act. My bedroom was big enough to fit a full sized bed, so my super close friends could share a bed with me for a couple days. But I had writing deadlines that kept me up late at night and I felt bad about having the lights on while someone else was sleeping.

Having an air-filled mattress on hand with an electronic pump was my usual solution in Los Angeles, but we didn’t have enough space for another full-sized bed unless we put it in the kitchen. There are single air mattresses you could buy that would fit better in a small space. We didn’t get one in New York, but it was a solution I’ve used before. It may be harder to find, but it’s easier to navigate around than a full sized balloon. I also brought a sleeping bag, which doubled up as somewhere to sleep with a blanket on cold nights. Also, since sleeping bags are so small, they virtually fit anywhere.

Another option is to buy a futon and use it as a couch/pull out bed. This is a great space saver technique. My suggestion is to by the futon cover because it gets dirty so easily. (FYI the typical Ikea futon is white -- a magnet for dirt.) We put a large blanket over ours that could double up as a cover when someone was sleeping. But because we could barely pull out the futon to its full size, we only did that if we had more than one guest. Otherwise, our solo guests slept lengthwise across the futon.

As for the extra luggage, we tended to keep them in my room because there was more space there. Luckily, I bought a bed that was high enough off the ground to store stuff underneath it. I made even more space, enough to store large luggage, by buying bed raisers, a trick I learned from college.

We gave our guests an extra set of keys so we didn’t have to coordinate who had to be home to let them in. I also kept a stack of the free subway and bus maps from the MTA to give to friends and I told them about events websites like The Village Voice and Time Out New York. When I had something to do like work or school—or needed some quiet time to do work at home--this gave them something to do at night that was relatively inexpensive, so they could vary up their Broadway and museum experience, if I couldn’t go out with them.

Sharing the bathroom with more guests could also get tricky, so I found it better alert them as to when my roommate and I had to get ready for work before it became a problem. Just mentioning that we had to get out early in the morning – and tended to go to bed earlier - helped a lot.

FYI, you don’t want to start a fight with your roommate just because you’ve got a noisy guest, especially when he’s being nice enough to share his small space with you. I always told my roommate in advance and told him to let me know if it ever got noisy, which was especially important since we lived in a railroad apartment and the noise traveled. Nipping all the problems in the bud, even if it was for a short period of time, aided with harmonious living all year round.

Next: What to do when getting groceries means traveling several subway stops away.


Michelle Castillo moved to Manhattan last fall to attend Columbia University's Journalism School. She has covered arts and entertainment for The Los Angeles Times,, Hollywood Reporter, and, and she currently writes about geek culture for's TechlandRental Rookie is a twice-monthly column chronicling her first year as a renter in NYC.

See all Rental Rookie columns here. 

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