Making It Work: How Paul and Simon Share (and Boldly Decorate) a Small NYC Rental

published Apr 11, 2017
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(Image credit: William Strawser)

“The space is very much about us as a couple. Pulling our home together is something we share and continue to share with each other, as well as our friends and families,” writes Paul Giordano.

Paul and Simon’s small just-over-600 square foot apartment in Hell’s Kitchen is a colorful, eclectic and daringly designed space that’s also a testament to working together. It’s beautiful to look at and functions for both of them. As Simon adds, “It’s a sanctuary in the city. We can get home and shut the world out. It feels comfortable and beautiful at the same time and it’s a space we can enjoy being in together.”

Here’s their advice on how to successfully share and design a small space.

“Paul hates paperwork and administration, I hate cleaning the bathroom. So, I do the paperwork and he scrubs the tub.”

(Image credit: William Strawser)

The secret to harmoniously sharing a small space with someone:

Paul: I think consideration and planning. For example, if I want to stay up late and watch TV and Simon wants to go to bed, I will wear the TV head phones (which sit on my grandmother’s 1930s plant stand) this eliminates the sound of the TV and draw the curtains on French doors, which separate the living room and bedroom. Simon can then have quiet and dim light in order to sleep.

Simon: Keeping your own stuff tidy and put away, and not being hard on the other person if they leave things out occasionally. If you both do that then things never get too bad.

Be honest about chores you don’t mind/enjoy doing and the ones you really hate, that way you can work out a fair division of labor. Paul hates paperwork and administration, I hate cleaning the bathroom. So, I do the paperwork and he scrubs the tub.

“If you don’t want to make a home they want to live in, then why are you trying to live together?”

(Image credit: William Strawser)

The secret to harmoniously designing a small space with someone:

Paul: Given the space is limited, I think the process of editing which items each of you will bring into the new space, sell or place in storage from your previous residence, is something you need to do together as a couple. For us, the editing process was three-fold. First, would the item physically fit into the space (we gave away my previous sofa because it was simply too large).

Second, would the piece work aesthetically and practically for the style and look we were going for (for us this necessitated reupholstering some furniture). Finally, did we both agree we could live with a particular item. In a small one bedroom, you cannot throw a chair you dislike into an infrequently used guest room out of site. A leopard print rug which was in the dressing area of my previous place, Simon really didn’t like it, so it went into storage.

Simon: Let the other person talk out their idea fully without interrupting them, listen to them, then sit with their idea and try imagining what it will look like. Try and think about ideas and items that your partner will like, then you will come up with ideas that you both like. If you don’t want to make a home they want to live in, then why are you trying to live together?

(Image credit: William Strawser)

What’s the one thing of your partner’s you wish you could get rid of?

Paul: Nothing really, since we already went through the editing process before we moved into our place.

Simon: There is nothing I want to get rid of but I would like a little more room and closet space but that’s the downside of a small space.

Paul: Simon suffers from the downside of marrying a fashion industry guy…you will never get most of the closet space, no matter how big or small the place is!!

(Image credit: William Strawser)

What’s the biggest design disagreement you’ve had? How did you solve it?

Paul: Paint color. I tend to like darker, high-gloss walls. We compromised. If I had my way the entire bedroom and hallway would have been painted Benjamin Moore’s Tucson Teal in either semi or high-gloss. I had something similar in my old apartment and really liked it against a light cream headboard and window treatments. Simon felt it was too dark, so we just painted the headboard wall the darker color in the bedroom. However, Simon was game to paint the ceilings in the hallway, living room and bathroom Benjamin Moore’s Barely Teal, when I suggested it would create a sense of “infinity” like looking up at a blue sky!

Simon: Agreed, Paul wanted to go for much darker colors in the kitchen and hallway and use more of the Tucson Teal in the bedroom but I felt that would have made me feel claustrophobic. He wanted some spaces to “disappear” more but I found that idea difficult in a small space but we made other compromises along the way to balance the lighter color choices. Originally, we only painted the ceiling in the living room “Barely Teal” and the walls were cream, however, after living with it for a few weeks Paul felt it was too bland and wanted to add the “Barely Teal” to the walls too. I agreed and he repainted while I was away and it brought the whole room together.

“It comes back to treating the other person with respect and wanting to make a home together.”

(Image credit: William Strawser)

How do you say “I hate this” without hurting their feelings?

Paul: I usually fall back on “will it work in the context of the space” because I like many things, but sometimes they would just look out of place. For example, Simon has a blue Scottish wool throw that we both like, but is just the wrong shade of blue for our color scheme. This summer we will bring it out to Fire Island. There it will work with the yellows and grays in the summer house!

Simon: I think it is okay to say you hate something but you need to be able to explain why and also to respectfully listen to why they like it. Sometimes it is about compromising on its use or position or finding something that works for both of you. It comes back to treating the other person with respect and wanting to make a home together.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

What’s the worst thing about sharing a small space with someone else?

Paul: No matter how well you lay out a small space, when two or more people are sharing it, there is always a lack of privacy. I work from home sometimes and Simon is in an office all day. Therefore, I do get some “alone time” in the apartment when he is at work. We are the type of people who both like some personal time to regroup and recharge. To give Simon his share, I will grab a coffee with friends after the gym on the weekends, we catch up and at the same time this gives him some time to himself in the apartment.

Simon: Both needing to use the bathroom at the same time, a lack of closet space and sometimes not having anywhere to be alone.