A NYC Couple Live and Work Together in 400 Square Feet

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Custom dining table and color-coded bookcase (Image credit: Zachary Zirlin )

Name: Meghan and Andy
Location: Astoria — Queens, New York
The basics: 6 years, rented —400 square feet

Meghan and Andy have added so many bright (in every sense of the word) small space fixes to to their cute Queens apartment it will come as no surprise that they both have design backgrounds. Cute as it is clever, their home is well organized yet totally warm.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: My wife, Meghan and I have lived in our little rental apartment in Astoria, Queens, for six years now. We see our home as a reflection of who we are, so to get to know us is to get to know our home.

To tell you a little about us, Meghan (who moved here from Michigan) and I met in college at NYU where we both studied Theatre Design — Meghan was a costume designer and I was a set designer. When we met, I was just moving to Astoria and eventually into our current apartment. A few years later, Meghan moved in with me and we set out to make our apartment feel like home. We’ve both always been incredibly excited by design and the idea of making a home that could be a reflection of our personalities, love and community. Over the years we’ve worked to make our little 400 square foot rental feel like home, bringing in lots of color, custom furniture pieces I’ve made over the years and two black cats that round out our little family. In the last two years, we’ve gotten married and started a small design studio out of our home, so every room of our apartment needs to be a space where we can feel inspired to live and work.

Our building was built in 1923, and so our pre-war, third floor walk-up apartment has lots of quirks and tons of character — something we cherish about this space. But that comes with lots of design challenges — all of which have been fun and inspiring moments for us. We live amongst a number of custom made furniture pieces mixed in with some vintage pieces from some of our favorite designers as well as some new pieces that carry a similar heirloom quality to them. We love that our apartment can feel modern at times and yet has an air of nostalgia, which makes fall and winter evenings even more cozy and special. We’re talking about those crisp fall and winter nights when you come home to the warm glow of incandescent lights, a home-cooked meal, some jazz standards on a record player and the warmth of wood and color that makes a home feel like it’s from both another time and still current, fresh and modern. And even though our home is small, we love to entertain and have friends and family come over, so we’ve made sure there is ample seating and that the furniture plan for the entire apartment feels comfortable to any guest who comes to visit.

In so far as it is a rental with all of the trappings of a rental agreement, we’ve done just about everything you can do (and that we would recommend to do) to a rental — from changing the light fixtures, to painting, hanging art, making our own window treatments, making furniture for particular locations and more. And we believe the beauty of being in this rental apartment allows our home to grow and evolve with us as everything we’ve done is able to be moved, shifted and changed at any given time. This evolution of a home has always been important to us and we believe our space reflects that as well.

The last thing I’ll say about our home is that it is a happy place. Being designers, we’re bombarded with ideas of what is “right” and “wrong” for a space. We’ve always pushed our home not adhere to a particular style, but to be a place that tells a story — our story.

What is your favorite room and why? Since our home is on the smaller side, its a bit difficult to nail down one room as a favorite. If I can say so, I see it as favorite spots for different activities and moods in the whole apartment. One of my favorite spots is in our kitchen in front of what we call “the coffee station” — for the obvious reasons of my coffee-habit, but also because its a bright, colorful spot in our home that brings us together in the mornings. Another spot would be at our custom dinner table, under a bright red Schoolhouse Electric light fixture — this is a landing spot for meals, work on the laptop and just to sit.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? It’s actually a rather practical element of our home that if we owned it, it would be my first change. Our apartment has three windows facing east (in the bedroom and the kitchen which are adjacent) and one window facing west in our living room. That means our living room can be a rather dark place throughout the day. Since we are the top apartment in the building, it has always interested me to put in a hip-ridge skylight, similar to those in old NY buildings that would not only bring light into the living room/dining space, but also be the spot where you can tell what the whether is and see the snow pile up in the winter-time.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? Oh boy. That’s a big question. The last thing we officially bought for our home was a set of four Prouvé chair replicas with painted yellow frames at the same time that we bought the red Schoolhouse Electric light fixture. But at the same time that we we’re waiting for those, I had found a set of four Danish wood stools modeled after the Aalto stools which still need to be refinished.

Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? If there was a happier more positive and colorful version of Don Draper, this apartment might be a good fit for him.

Meghan and Andy’s Words of Wisdom: It should be simple. Think about the story you want to tell about yourself and let your home tell that story. It shouldn’t be about style, taste or price – your home should be a reflection of the best of you. And if you let your home tell your story, your home will evolve and change with you, always reflecting and responding to who you are.

Thanks, Meghan and Andy !

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