Before & After: A 630-Square-Foot NYC Rental Was Found and Furnished on a Budget During Quarantine

Before & After: A 630-Square-Foot NYC Rental Was Found and Furnished on a Budget During Quarantine

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Name: Samantha Stein and her fiancé
Location: We are in the best part of the West Village!
Size: 630 square feet
Type of Home: A small two-bedroom apartment
Years lived in: 1 year, rent stabilized

My fiancé and I are both architects working in the city. We just moved back from Italy, where we lived and worked for a few years for an architecture firm on the Mediterranean. Moving in the midst of a pandemic is no small feat and I applaud anyone else who has accomplished it!

We spent a few weeks hunting for the right place over the summer, with a lot of our priorities changed by COVID. We needed to upgrade to a bigger space (coming from a studio!) with a dedicated work-from-home area, plus have laundry in the building and a dishwasher for all those home cooked meals, and most importantly, we wanted to be in a great neighborhood that was walking distance to our office for when we could return to work. Therefore, when this place turned up on Listings Project (the amazing couple who turned it over had been in it for 13 years with two small kids!) we leapt at the chance even though it was a little higher than our target budget. Plus — it’s rent stabilized!

The building itself is incredible, with a great sense of community among the neighbors (we recently swapped baked goods with several others who were all home for small Thanksgivings). Built in 1900, it’s loaded with charm, and the courtyard to enter feels like a small oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city.

We got to see this apartment right at golden hour and that’s when we fell in love. There is a church with a garden just across the street, so no tall buildings block the amazing sunlight we get all day, and we knew we could have a dedicated dining space with a big table for puzzles and epic meals to help pass quarantine times away. I’ve also always dreamt of these classic NYC windows, and double exposure in the bedroom was such a dream.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I’m lucky to have a partner who generally agrees with my design decisions — he wanted the den to feel like a hunting/jungle/ski lodge (his words) so we ran with that! In general we like things to be clean and simple but classic, so a mix of mid-century modern with some textural elements to warm it up.

Inspiration: We took all our cues from the apartment itself. We got to spend some time in it before moving in, so we knew for example that in the main living space we would always want to be facing the huge windows and dining area for (future!) social interactions — that led us to the decision for a corner sectional, which might look a little strange in plan, but is one of our favorite parts of the apartment. We fight over who gets to sit in the corner! The hope was that one day when we can have friends over for dinner again, the bench at the dining table would serve double-duty as dining seating but also extend the social area of the living room since you can sit on it facing either way.

Favorite Element: It’s tough to choose a favorite! We’re in love with how the den color came out (“Mediterranean Teal,” by Benjamin Moore) and our custom floating desk and shelves, which were truly a labor of love. We measured about 16 times but since the building is so old we ended up needing to shave off slices for the perfect fit in-situ. The leather couch in the den was a Facebook Marketplace steal for $100 and is the comfiest piece we own!

Biggest Challenge: We were moving from a studio (and sold most our furniture) to a two-bedroom apartment in a pandemic and on a major budget, so we had lots of challenges! We were able to use Facebook Marketplace and some thrifting and sale purchases to get all of our furniture for a reasonable budget, a fun challenge.

Proudest DIY: Aside from the built-in desk and shelves in the den, we also made the custom 9’ long walnut art ledge for the living room so we could have some flexibility with our art collection. However, installing it on to 120-year-old walls was no small feat — you can’t tell from a distance but it really shows how wonky the walls are right up against the straight ledge! Also, all of the walls are plaster and lath (with some horsehair) so no studs to hang supports from — let’s just say we’re glad it’s up.

Biggest Indulgence: It wasn’t expensive thanks to a hand-me-down mattress and an Amazon platform frame, but I would say our biggest indulgence was the king-sized bed… it’s not often you see someone try to squeeze one into a Manhattan apartment, but it is actually so luxurious to come home to!!!

Another item that wasn’t too pricey but may have cost me some sleep was the Studio McGee for Target media console in the den — I set my alarm for 3 a.m. when they released the new collection and couldn’t be happier with that decision. It’s great quality for a Target piece.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? It might seem strange to have two separate seating and dining areas in such a small home, but we actually end up eating at the bistro table in the kitchen a lot, and using the dining table for working and playing games. It’s nice to be able to mix it up when your only options for where to eat have changed from anywhere in NYC to only being at home!

We put a lot of time into curating the decor accents that make it uniquely ours, from the vintage skis in the den (upstate yard sale) to the French Mount to the Moroccan pouf to my grandmother’s rug also in the den. The painting in the living room is by artist and friend Heidi McDowell — that piece has been with us in three homes and we love it!

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? We love the sectional, which we bought in three separate pieces when we found two that matched at the West Elm outlet and splurged on the third. We’ve also stepped up our soap and candle game thanks to amazing gifts from friends and now we’ll never go back from Aesop and Le Labo / Dyptique! Since we spend so much time at home now, it’s worth the splurge to have it always smelling cozy and welcoming.

Some of our favorite pieces were handed down from family, like the vintage record cabinet we use as a bar and the original Breuer Cesca chairs, which were my mom’s. It’s a good mix of vintage, new, and thrifted or sourced pieces. And, while they’re not products, we focused a lot of energy on our plant collection — we needed to have lots of life with us inside since we don’t have a private outdoors space. The 7’ rubber tree was rescued from an estate sale!

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: The raised platform bed is a workhorse — all of our winter, summer, and random clothing is stored under there in plastic drawers, plus we have all of our luggage there, too! Even though there isn’t a closet in the bedroom, we are lucky to have tons of closet space for such a small place and we keep it organized, which helps a lot. I also think it’s great to have the open shelves in the kitchen that do double duty as decor and functional storage space.

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Some good tricks we used were wrapping AC cords in electrical tape to camouflage them, hanging curtains at the right height to make the space seem even taller, lots and lots of mirrors to bounce around light, and sticking to a neutral color palette with the furnishings for the most part. We didn’t have a J-Box above where we put our dining table, so a hook and some black electrical tape to hide the cord did the trick there!



  • Den — Benjamin Moore “Mediterranean Teal”


  • Andes 3-Piece Sectional — West Elm
  • Paddle Rug — Rugs USA
  • Breuer Cesca Chairs — Vintage, inherited
  • Ceiling fixture — Peggy Guggen by France & Sons
  • Pendant fixture — Geo Pendant from Urban Outfitters
  • Bar — Vintage, inherited
  • Mara Marble Coffee Table — Article
  • Black metal console — Target
  • Round mirror — Target
  • Dining bench — Target
  • Curtains — IKEA
  • Bamboo shades — Amazon
  • Side table — Amazon


  • Couch — Vintage, Facebook Marketplace
  • Rug — Vintage, inherited
  • Sisal Rug — Overstock
  • Desk & Shelves — Custom built
  • Desk Lamp — IKEA
  • Media Console — Target



  • Headboard — Vintage, Thrifted
  • Dresser — Vintage, Facebook Marketplace
  • Platform Bed — Amazon
  • Overhead light  — West Elm
  • Curtains — IKEA
  • Mirror — Vintage, inherited

Thanks Samantha!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.