A Compact, Narrow NYC Apartment Feels Much Larger Than 650 Square Feet

A Compact, Narrow NYC Apartment Feels Much Larger Than 650 Square Feet

Erin Derby

Photographer

Originally from California, but turned New Yorker since 2000, I’ve been shooting my entire life and am still inspired and excited about it. Lately I have been putting my energies into my Fine Art, which can be seen on my website and on Saatchi Art. Being infatuated with interior design doesn’t hurt either, which mixes well with my love of photographing interiors.

Follow Erin
This Small Michigan Rental Is Filled With DIYs and Decked Out for Pride

This Small Michigan Rental Is Filled With DIYs and Decked Out for Pride

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Name: Daniel Parkington, husband Geof Parkington, pet Stella
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Size: 670 square feet
Type of Home: Mid-rise apartment building
Years lived in: 7 years, renting

Daniel and his husband Geof love their rental apartment… they actually got married here! “We kept it a total secret and invited our friends over for what they thought was just a cocktail party,” Daniel admits. “We host a lot of parties and it really is the perfect space for it.” In fact, despite only being 670 square feet, Daniel and Geof squeeze a lot out of their home. Beyond being the perfect party place, it also stylishly stores a lot: 40 sets of new and vintage glassware for Daniel and 434 Lego sets, 790 mini figures, and over 900 action figures for Geof.

The couple has done an incredible job of maximizing not only the inside of their home, but their outside, too: Their balcony is a stylish extension of their living space. It’s also one of the spots that gets decorated for the holidays, which Daniel says he does year round. Right now, it’s decked out for Pride!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I think discreet quirky or subtly maximalist describes it best. I love kitsch but I try to keep it restrained. A big part of my style is my husband’s massive Lego and toy collection. I like working it in while still having it read that childless adults live here. It started with the “Star Wars” table. He wanted to store the TIE fighter and I thought it was pointless to have something that big taking up our limited space. I gave my dad the dimensions and he made us this amazing table that love. It really became a focal point and vibe setter for the rest of the apartment.

Inspiration: This is not pandering, Apartment Therapy was so formative to me when I got my first apartment. I have been a fan for so long, like, dating back to 2009. I love looking at the home tours, and still do. I also take a lot of my interior decorating ideas from fashion. I have always loved Raf Simons and I think his home in Antwerp is absolutely perfect. Also, Jenna Lyons calling leopard a neutral always stuck with me and I will never say no to leopard.

Favorite Element: Hands-down the best part of our apartment is the balcony. I decorate it for every holiday so it’s become a bit of a landmark in our area.

In the warmer months we basically live out there. It’s coffee in the morning and martinis in… any time after noon. I get to feel like Ina Garten clipping my own parsley and basil while “my” Geoffry is away at work. A balcony is also so great for small dogs; reusable dog grass is amazing. Don’t clean them with bleach though; I feel like it just breaks down the plastic and makes them smell worse. I just clean ours in the shower with soap and water. Stella has a little Bluetooth doorbell that she uses and abuses to go out on the balcony. Most of the time she just rings it to go lay out in the sun.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Our coffee table. I worked at a Solstice Sunglass Boutique about 12 years ago and they let us take some fixtures when they closed our location. It was originally counter height and I had the legs cut down to make it a coffee table. I love it; I switch out the display all the time and I use the drawer that was originally for sunglass cases to hold my scrap sewing fabric. It is just as heavy as it looks though; I still dread moving it.

Biggest Challenge: Storage. We both love collecting things that take up a lot of space. I have about 40 sets of new and vintage glassware. Geof collects action figures and Legos. Currently he has 434 Lego sets, 790 mini figures, and over 900 action figures. We limit our storage to apartment only though; if we ever got a storage unit things might get out of control. I stacked a cube storage unit on a dresser in our bedroom that mainly holds all of Geof’s collection.

Proudest DIY: I will DIY until the day I die. It’s the best way to vibe on a budget. I have so many that I don’t think I can land on one. Almost everything we own is something that I got on sale and gave a makeover in our color palette. I just think everything looks better after I add some houndstooth contact paper and a copper accent. I make all of Stella’s toys, too. They’re always all over the place; I like them to match the apartment.

Biggest Indulgence: I don’t know if it’s really an indulgence, I just feel like we’ve spent a small fortune on lighting. Smart bulbs and specialty lighting really adds up. We don’t have any overhead lighting so I mounted puck lights under most of our side tables. It lights the space really well and isn’t harsh. I also lit up our balcony like a Christmas tree. Color-changing flood lights, string lights, fairy lights. Basically every kind of light out there. I think lighting can really make or break a party, so it’s totally worth it.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Get an air purifier! It makes such a difference. We have big windows and when the sun is shining in it magnifies every piece of dust. It would always look like a snow globe with the dust floating around. We’ve tried a few and really love our Bissell Air220.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Beverage dispensers aren’t just for parties, we keep one out all the time. It’s a great reminder to stay hydrated and doesn’t waste cabinet space if you keep it out. Same with our grab-and-go snacks. I put them out in apothecary jars on the counter. I also love decorating for every holiday. I make sure to mix-and-match my decorations though. Rainbow Pride also works for St. Patrick’s Day, add some spiders to Easter eggs for Halloween — you just have to get creative.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Fresh flowers don’t have to be an expensive treat! I always have some on our island and in the bathroom. Just pick flowers that last a long time, and filler is your friend! Ruscus is an evergreen that keeps for months. I like using that so you can get away with buying smaller flower bundles. Or even just one or two large blooms. I usually go with Alstroemeria or carnations; I know they’re considered lowbrow in the flower world. I don’t care, they last forever and look great. I can usually keep a bunch looking good for two weeks.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

Adrienne Breaux

House Tour Editor

Adrienne loves architecture, design, cats, science fiction and watching Star Trek. In the past 10 years she’s called home: a van, a former downtown store in small town Texas and a studio apartment rumored to have once been owned by Willie Nelson.

Follow Adrienne
The Reason LGBTQ+ Buyers Are Still Facing Discrimination in the Housing Market

The Reason LGBTQ+ Buyers Are Still Facing Discrimination in the Housing Market

When Abbie Wise and Steph Alexander bought their first home in Tukwila, Washington, in September 2021, they didn’t know what to expect. From the outside, the process seemed opaque and tedious; luckily, they worked with a real estate agent who was also a friend and ex-co-worker, and one whose agency just so happened to specialize in helping first-time home buyers navigate the market. 

“He is a friend, but he’s also a gay man and bought a house with his partner,” Wise says. “So I felt really comfortable asking him any questions, or saying anything, and part of that was because we were old co-workers but part of that was definitely because he was also gay.”

That trifecta — co-worker, friend, fellow queer person — meant that for Wise and Alexander, the homebuying process was totally free of discrimination. But not all prospective homebuyers have the same experience. According to an annual report by the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, “significant discrimination remains,” and only 25.9 percent of respondents believe that discrimination against LGBTQ+ homebuyers has actually decreased. 

“Discrimination” can mean anything from the unconscious bias of a real estate agent to a seller blatantly refusing to sell their home because of the prospective buyer’s LGBTQ+ identity. In other words, as in many other industries, prejudice runs the gamut — even when it is against the law (it’s been officially illegal since a Supreme Court ruling and subsequent Executive Order in 2020 and 2021, respectively). Real estate coach Dr. Lee Davenport, who specializes in diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, says that though fair housing legislation is helpful, agents must do more.

“Fair housing still requires a concerted, collective effort despite being in our legal lexicon,” Davenport says. “Despite how often we hear the phrase, the actual application of ‘fair housing’ is not yet so part of our culture that it is intuitive — it is not like breathing. In order to work toward a more equitable experience for all, we real estate pros have to be willing to proactively confront unfair housing.”

Apart from getting educated about federal, state, and local anti-discrimination legislation, real estate agents must also check their own conscious and unconscious biases; according to the report, 20.7 percent of those surveyed “identified ​​real estate agents as the leading culprit in how housing discrimination occurs against the LGBTQ+ real estate home buyer.” Often, it’s simply a case of asking questions sans judgment, says Juan Luis Sanchez, who is president of Bear Facts Realty in Denver, Colorado.

“Any agent should get to know their client and find out what their needs are, but I think sometimes agents who haven’t worked with the community are embarrassed to ask certain questions, so they just make assumptions instead,” he says. “And I think it’s the same way for the community. They might be proud and stuff, but they still are nervous about telling Realtors who aren’t part of the community that, you know, they’re LGBTQ, because they are still afraid that they’ll be pigeonholed.” 

Sanchez is gay, Hispanic, and Native American, and started Bear Facts Realty in 2020 to cater to the needs of clients who were being underserved by traditional real estate companies. His office is one where (almost) anything goes — green hair; head-to-toe tattoos; couples looking for a closet fit for a drag queen or a home near the leather community. “I think that’s what has led to our success, is that people can come into our office and feel comfortable being whoever they are. They know that there’s no judgment.”

The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance report comes at a time when an historic number of anti-LGBTQ bills are being signed into law across the country. And though 72 percent of respondents do feel that their local industry has placed an increased emphasis on DEI in the last three years, it’s clear that there’s more work to be done. 

Gen Z’s increased willingness to identify as LGBTQ+ (20.8 percent compared to 7.1 percent of adults nationwide), coupled with a rise in LGBTQ+ homeownership since the pass of marriage equality in 2015, means that the number of queer people navigating the real estate market — whether renting or buying — is only going to increase. If agents hope to serve this growing cohort of clients well, says Sanchez, it’s up to them to meet them where they’re at — however they identify.

Here’s How I Express Queer Joy in My Home

Here’s How I Express Queer Joy in My Home

The funny thing about coming out at the beginning of a pandemic is that you and everyone you love are in quarantine. When I came out as bisexual, it was April 2020, and by June that year, Pride month wasn’t exactly a time for celebration. Despite the lack of hugs or pats on the back, I was missing more than physical affection and affirmation for my new identity. I wanted to invite people into my life, specifically into my home. 

After almost 25 years of staying confined within gender roles and heteronormative expectations, I looked for COVID-safe ways to explore myself on the internet. Around this time, everyone and their mother were starting hobbies or sourdough starters. The home improvement industry experienced a boom of interest from people who thought it was the perfect time to paint their bedroom a new color or tackle that DIY kitchen renovation

I reached an epiphany as I scrolled on social media: Quarantine could allow me to face my queerness and apartment like a blank canvas. Without external expectations, I could shape my home to represent an honest version of myself. Looking around my studio — about the shape and size of a freight shipping container — it felt like I could only move up from here. So I did. 

Taking advantage of the drop in rental prices in New York City, my partner and I started a lease on a larger space down the street from the studio. The night before we moved in, I stayed up late to paint the living room wall Backdrop’s Surf Camp, a dark blue with green undertones. This color felt liberating. I didn’t feel pressured to stick to a brighter, traditionally labeled as “feminine” color. 

That paint’s now the foundation of a gallery wall of collected art that hints at my interests and personality: an anonymous oil painting of two nude women laying on a rug together, a vinyl of Patti Smith’s album “Horses” (who is queer in spirit, if not in sexual orientation), and the colorful prints of JP Brammer, one of my favorite queer artists.

Of course, the pièce de résistance (shown just above) is not on the gallery wall but hung solo between the two windows that face the street: a large (22-inch by 28-inch), limited edition print of a sapphic embrace by Girl Knew York. The cherry red frame emphasizes the leaves sketched around the couple, creating an illusion of flames licking at bare skin within the piece. When you walk into our home, it’s hard not to make direct eye contact with the woman staring protectively over her lover’s shoulder. The piece is unmistakably queer. While it isn’t the first piece of art that depicts nude women lounging with each other, this print hangs center stage in a space that I share with a cishet man.

My relationships will always be queer because I am queer, but the reality is my partner is a straight cishet man. Instead of relegating this art to a corner though, he has always expressed his love for my queerness. To have a representation of something you found shameful your whole life — and for someone to look directly at it and consider it art — is an experience I wish I could share with my younger self.

Our shared bedroom is where I do most of my writing. Above my desk, I’ve framed a quote by Lidia Yuknavitch on the omnipresence of sexuality. On the opposite wall is a mounted bookcase filled with textbooks on gay history, essays that tackle queerness, and sapphic love poems (a reminder that I share an identity with many). Behind the shelves is a removable mural from Minted called “Dawnlight” by artist Lise Gulassa. While the original design is abstract, the colorful lines intersect on my wall like a rainbow. 

After I got vaccinated, my eagerness to invite people into my home only grew. Ideas of a housewarming party filled my head, making it tempting to fall back into old habits — to design my space for other people. In our old place, I’d push the furniture around to create a layout perfect for socializing, even if it didn’t work for our day-to-day lifestyle. Perhaps this is why it took so long for me to come out: I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable, even if it sacrificed my own comfort. 

Looking at my home, with all of its knickknacks, holistically, I find comfort in the fact that they exist in plain sight. They have become my treasures, and I feel treasured. It’s almost enough to feel — and please, forgive me for this cliché — proud. 

We recently renewed our lease, and while I still love the stark contrast of the dark blue with the warm tan of our couch, I recognize that I didn’t need to run so far in the opposite direction of my femininity to embrace my bisexuality. I think the fear of being outed as a child had transformed into a fear of not being “queer enough.” Now, I don’t feel like I need to overcompensate by selecting colors based on their gendered hidden meanings. (Though I will admit to buying a watercolor painting of fishes because it gave off just the right amount of “Dad Energy.”) 

I’m not a minimalist, and as long as I don’t have neutral tones or beige walls in my home, I know I’m staying true to myself. My queerness is loud and colorful and takes up space. It’s also warm and inviting. I’ve always deserved a home that is a true reflection of myself, and now I have one.