An Illustrator’s NYC Rental Sports Lots of Smart Small Space Storage Ideas

published May 18, 2022

An Illustrator’s NYC Rental Sports Lots of Smart Small Space Storage Ideas

published May 18, 2022
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Square feet
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Name: Gica Tam and roommate, Rice
Location: New York City, New York
Size: 760 square feet
Type of Home: Two-bedroom flex and one-bathroom apartment
Years lived in: 10 months, renting

Born in New York City, raised in the Philippines, and now back in the Big Apple, professional illustrator Gica Tam has a long history with the part of New York they currently call home: Gica’s mother lived in this same neighborhood in the 1980s and 1990s. “I grew up hearing stories of her experiences living in NYC. This neighborhood is where they met a lot of her close friends (some of them still live here), and where I eventually was born,” Gica writes. “I love this place because it feels very familiar, and in some way I feel like I’m echoing my mom’s experience of finding herself and her independence in a city oceans away from where she grew up.”

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Credit: Erin Derby

Gica shares this 760-square-foot rental apartment with a roommate, but the space doesn’t feel too cramped or cluttered despite the small size. “Our windows face east, which has a lovely view of a small park and the river. It fits two people rather comfortably and there are a lot of outdoor spaces nearby so I never feel claustrophobic,” admits Gica. “The first two months were spent decorating as I felt a little restless and excited with having a blank canvas to work with. My apartment is my small haven where I get to unwind and be creative— I love it! Over the months we’ve lived here, I’ve acquired so many plants and I love taking care of them. They remind me to take care of myself too.”

Credit: Erin Derby

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I pride myself in being a Facebook Marketplace and flea market connoisseur. I have found a ton of excellent pieces by browsing on FBMP (most of which I transported on the subway) or going to the flea markets around New York.

I don’t think I have the typical Filipino-Chinese home, but there are some influences that can be seen throughout our apartment. And there are also a lot of people’s art in my home. I love supporting my fellow artists, and it’s lovely to be surrounded by their immense creativity.

Credit: Erin Derby

Inspiration: I used to love minimalism but have found that maximalism fits more with what I love and how I do my art as well. A lot of my inspiration comes from my Southeast Asian background as well as other artists’ work.

Favorite Element: My office nook! I spend a good chunk of my day there since I work from home. I made sure that it’s one of the most comfortable spaces for me to be in. The walls hold my insect collection, old photos, and art that I’ve gotten from people I admire (most of whom are friends). And I have a very tiny reading nook within the nook, which doubles as a storage/display space.

Credit: Erin Derby

Biggest Challenge: I am staying in the flex bedroom, which is significantly smaller and doesn’t have a closet. I had to be creative in creating storage for myself considering the amount of things I have. I got a dresser and clothing rack (thank you FBMP), which holds most of my clothes and are also very lovely pieces. The dresser doubles as a stand/table that can hold a lot of things. I have three wheeled storage boxes underneath my bed that contain bedding and winter apparel. I also installed IKEA TRONES right outside my bedroom for my linens, towels and tech.

Credit: Erin Derby

Proudest DIY: Kitchen mural. I was looking online for decals that I could get for our kitchen. Most of them were either too small or too expensive — most of the time both. Instead, I purchased solid colored wallpaper, cut them into random shapes and hoped for the best. I believe having that as a base definitely informed the direction of how other stuff could live in the space. I love the shelving as well, because I have a lot of one-off cups, recipe books, and knick-knacks that I reach for when I’m in the kitchen.

Credit: Erin Derby

Second runner up would be the bathroom wallpaper. None of the walls were even heights and the towel rack was installed beforehand.

Biggest Indulgence: The Wiggly table in my room is by far my most expensive purchase. The table is so oddly shaped it surprised me how it can hold so much all at once. It acts as my less serious workspace where I journal, sketch, or have virtual coffee with friends and co-workers.

Credit: Erin Derby

The cumulative value of the art in our home is also notable. I love having other artists’ work to look at — they make me feel inspired and help me approach things with gentle eyes.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I rarely impulse buy, and so most of the things here were bought with intention. I believe key furniture pieces can be useful in showing or hiding what you want. My clothing rack holds a ton of things, but it also displays my favorite pieces and gives me easy access to them. Our breakfast nook extends into a large dining table for when we have guests over. It also has so much storage as well.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Don’t delay that DIY project, otherwise it may never come to fruition!


Credit: Erin Derby


  • Table — Flexispot
  • Chair — Amazon
  • Reading Nook — Target
  • Biscuit Pillows — Etsy
  • Wiggly Lamp — FBMP
  • Throw Blankets — Throw & Co.
  • Checkered Rug — Etsy
  • Bugs — Thrifted/FBMP/Gifts
  • Art — Various Artists/Gifts/Trades
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Breakfast table — IKEA/FBMP
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Rainbow Knives — Cuisinart
  • Plants — FBMP/Dahing Plants/Gifts
Credit: Erin Derby


  • Small Mirror — Thrifted
  • Fu Dogs — Flea Market
  • Lamp — Thrifted
  • Rattan Lamp — FBMP
  • Wiggly Table -FBMP
  • Dresser — FBMP
  • Clothing Rack — FBMP
  • Rug — Etsy
  • Plants — FBMP/Dahing Plants/Gifts

Thanks Gica!

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