True story: I share a studio apartment with a total stranger

By Emmalie Vance  | January 21, 2016 - 3:59PM

I grew up near Buffalo, in a 3,000-square-foot 1860s farmhouse with access to 450 acres of land. Needless to say, my experience sharing a NYC studio apartment for the past three months with a stranger has been an adjustment....

Wardrobe woes

Living in a studio apartment means everything is meant for one person. Living with a roommate means those tiny storage spaces, like the closet and refrigerator, must be split in half so both parties remain happy.

Our decidedly small shared closet (shown at left) is double deep, but the tenant I'm subletting from left much of his wardrobe on the back rung, so effectively three of us are sharing this closet, with my roommate and I commanding the front.

I openly admit to dominating this space: Even though I know that my wardrobe is most functional with one pair of jeans, a dress, and as many tops as there are days of the week—and when I moved here, I weeded out everything that was out of style, faded, or over-worn to ensure I occupied as little closet space as possible—the changing weather and a weekend visit from my childhood friend recently expanded my collection.

My post-shopping-spree wardrobe leaves no breathing room and my roommate’s clothes are currently squished into a tiny one-foot section of the four-foot wide space. Surprisingly, though, my roommate has been cool with it.

The question now is whether to thin out my wardrobe to make more room for hers, or wait for her to ask. I think I may wait it out…

Food fight

My cubby kitchen (pictured at left) holds only one person at a time, and it has a lot in common with a torture chamber. 

I have smashed my elbow countless times on the refrigerator door behind me, stood up into the freezer door above me, flipped the hot pan from the stove accidentally because the overhanging handle extends into the hallway, and unintentionally turned on the burner with my hip almost daily.

Although I avoid cooking much there, I have been known to whip up some Sloppy Joe’s or tacos every now and again. 

The biggest issue is counter space. I am thankful to have temporarily inherited a beautiful rolling baker’s bench from the tenant I am subletting from, so any veggies are lined up and sliced or chopped there. Everything else from cooking on the stove to assembling the plates is done in the kitchen very carefully. 

I should also mention that my dishwasher opens only 45 degrees before it bangs into the side of the stove, and our kitchen sink is actually a tiny bar sink. After a delightful night in with friends, the mass of dishes gets washed in the bathroom tub because of the lack of sink space.

It’s an adventure, to say the least.

Privacy problems

The third major issue I have had to deal with in my shared studio is privacy.

This arrangement is very similar to sharing a college dorm except for one big difference: my lofted bed. When my roommate returns late or needs to leave early, the loft design keeps the light out of my face as well as blocks much of her routine's noise (i.e. loud hairdryer and crinkly cereal bag).

When we are awake in each other’s company, my roommate and I still dress in the tiny bathroom as a form of consideration. This was an unspoken agreement that has worked out well so far.

She and I are hardly home at the same time anymore, but during the first month, she was often home to study for her RN exam. It made things a bit awkward because she would have her headphones in listening to her videos on the futon while I sat five feet away on Facebook.

Breaking the silence with chit-chat felt like a breach of her privacy in a way, so we sat awkwardly, only breaking the silence during one of her occasional snack breaks.

It's also an issue when I plan for a friend to visit. I always ask her if she is comfortable with them staying overnight or for a few days, and she usually plans to stay with a friend. I feel horrible asking her to sleep outside of her home, but she insists it’s no problem.

It just goes to show how incredibly important it is to find the perfect person. If she had been anyone else, we would’ve been at each other’s throats already.

Despite these few uncomfortable issues, I am learning to cope well in this small space, I would definitely recommend studio living—even with a roommate—in NYC. It’s certainly a one-of-a-kind experience, and makes for some interesting stories.

Emmalie Vance grew up on a hay farm in western New York. In her Farm to City series, she chronicles her real estate adventures here in the big city.


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