Name: Irmak Karayal and Spencer Ramsey
Location: East Harlem — New York, New York
Size: 550 square feet
Years Lived In: 1 year, renting
"Everyone who steps into our apartment says something along the lines of, 'This is the perfect little apartment for you guys!' We hear the words 'perfect little' all the time," says Irmak — one half of the couple that lives in this East Harlem apartment. This description couldn't be more true. While this is a "little" apartment (550 square feet), Irmak and Spencer have found a way to turn this space into a "perfect" representation of the people they love and the places they've been.
Nowhere is that more evident than on the walls of their apartment. A world map in the bedroom lets them scratch off the places they've visited as a couple, which includes a recent trip to Turkey. In their living room, there is a wall of photos of homes and license plates — "a perfect compilation of things we both brought in, as well as things we've acquired together in our relationship," says Irmak.
Family and friends heavily influence the decor in this apartment, as well, contributing pieces of furniture and providing art for the walls. Spencer's dad contributed the license plate and hanging on the bedroom wall are dream catchers that Irmak made with her grandmother. The couple even won their radio/entertainment center from Irmak's father after he lost a bet.
Furthermore, their apartment is furnished with hand-me-downs from family, which only adds to the cozy feeling within the space. To get this same cozy feeling, Irmak advises spending "more thought and energy on creating a home that makes you happy than on attaining a certain style. Especially if you're living with a friend or partner, I think it's really important to have a space that represents both of you that you can enjoy together."
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Cozy and colorful
Inspiration: We try to collect things that remind us of experiences we've enjoyed. A lot of things in our home come from things we've done, places we've been, or people we love. For example, one of our license plates, the one that says "Michael" is Spencer's dad's from years ago.
Favorite Element: We love our walls. Because our home is so small, we don't have too much space to decorate, so we really take advantage of our wall space. Each wall has something different hanging up. Our favorite wall is probably our license plate/door wall because that one is the perfect merging of our two styles. When we moved in together, we wanted to make sure we were both represented in the decor, and this wall is a perfect compilation of things we both brought in, as well as things we've acquired together in our relationship.
My newest favorite is our little tiny door front. We got it from a man in Turkey who's been selling little handmade storefronts and homes since I can remember, and I've had my eye on his work for a while. This summer, we went to Turkey together for the first time, and we got this little home front. We were trying to figure out where to put it up in our apartment, and we finally decided on this wall, and we didn't realize until we put it up and took a step back that it's actually the same exact size as our photographs of homes!
Biggest Challenge: Our living room is TINY! Our cabinets were here when we moved in, and they've been a lifesaver. I won't name any names, but one of us has a lot of shoes, and we put everything from shoes, to chairs, to extra bedding in those cabinets. That being said, they take up a ton of space! We only have room for one couch, and every time we have people over, our entire living room ends up being filled with people on the couch, on our wooden chairs, and on the floor.
What Friends Say: Everyone who steps into our apartment says something along the lines of, "This is the perfect little apartment for you guys!" We hear the words "perfect little" all the time.
Biggest Embarrassment: We're ashamed to admit it, but we're serial plant killers. We have this terrible habit of overwatering then being like, "Oooh these are way too wet," then not watering them for weeks. We've lost many little guys, but at this point, we're starting to figure out which types of plants thrive under our inconsistency. Our snake plants, for example, have gotten very tall.
Proudest DIY: I think it would be the amount of handmade items in our home. None of it is spectacular art, but we've enjoyed making all of them. We have a couple of paintings we've painted, a couple friends have painted for us, dream catchers I've made with my grandma, macrame I've made with my mom, and a small whale Spencer whittled for me.
Biggest Indulgence: We occasionally add a temporary family member to our home and foster a dog. It's been a really good experience so far, but it definitely makes our home smaller and dirtier to add a pet.
We were also lucky enough to get so many hand-me-downs and gifts when we moved in that we didn't really end up buying much. Our dresser is actually an old media console from my parent's basement, and I was very opposed to bringing it into our apartment. I wanted to get a nice, tall dresser, but Spencer and my parents convinced me to take the media console. Then, a couple of months later, for Spencer's birthday, his dad sent us a mystery package. It turned out to be a giant TV and didn't fit anywhere in our home, except for on top of our dresser aka our media console. It worked out perfectly, and though I was very against having a media console as a dresser and against having a TV in our room, we really love the set-up.
Best Advice: Our best advice would be to spend more thought and energy on creating a home that makes you happy than on attaining a certain style. Especially if you're living with a friend or partner, I think it's really important to have a space that represents both of you that you can enjoy together.
Dream Sources: I'm constantly on West Elm and looking at West Elm furniture on Craigslist. When our current furniture wears out, we're going to do some West Elm shopping, but, at the moment, we have no extra room!
Chalkboard — Amazon
Bookshelves — hand-me-down
Table — IKEA We LOVE our table. Can't advocate for it enough for small apartments. We can actually have brunch and dinner parties and invite friends. AND it has a bunch of little drawers. What more can you ask for?
Couch — IKEA Originally a hand-me-down, it was white, and I hated it. It really washed out our living room. We're also serial spillers, so it got dirty, fast. We got a new cover for it, and it was such a cheap way to feel like we got a new couch and completely change the feel of our living room.
Coffee table — Craigslist! Another small apartment win; it opens up and has storage inside!
Lamp — Target (It's the cheaper version of the West Elm lamps I love so much.)
Music Player — Crosley I won it from my dad because he lost a bet. It plays records, CDs, cassettes, radio, and has an aux. cord. We listen to a lot of old CDs and cassettes!
Bed and dresser (aka media console) — Hand-me-downs
Nightstand lamps — Target
Bedspread — Homegoods, which I might actually love more than West Elm. You never know what you'll find!
Plants — We get most of ours from Union Square market and delis.
Kilim Rugs — All from Turkey
Nightstands — IKEA I don't know what they're meant to be, but they were super cheap and add color to our room. Also great for our small apartment because they're thin, tall, and have lots of storage.