Matt’s Just Right New York Studio

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Name: Matt Rudkin
Location: Hell’s Kitchen, New York, NY
Size: 300 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months; rented

Matt’s apartment feels cool. It’s hard to tell if it’s the soothing grey of the walls or the pile of fluffy pillows placed carefully on the bed or the sunlight streaming in through an entire wall of windows, but the feeling you get immediately upon walking in the door is one of calm and relaxation. Matt moved to this diminutive space (300 square feet!) only six months ago from an apartment three times as big, but from looking around it’s quickly apparent that he’s already a pro at small space living.

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The view from the front door. (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

That doesn’t mean it was easy, though. Matt, who loves to travel and loves to collect new pieces in all the new cities he visits, admits that he had a really hard time letting go of some things. A lot of things had to go, which means Matt now has an apartment full of things he really, really loves. He’s also found plenty of creative (and attractive!) ways to stash things throughout the apartment. The mattress pops up to reveal an underbed storage space, and felt hampers in a nook above the closet provide a spot for out-of-season items. And socks get stored in the coffee table — it’s unusual, but it works.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I’m often described as a walking contradiction; I love fabric swatches and color wheels about as much as I love Excel and financial forecasts. To that end, the apartment is a lot like me and an overall eclectic space. I think “updated traditional” is the best way to describe my style. There are modern elements in the kitchen, such as the black marble and stainless steel appliances, offset with some whimsy in pieces like the chandelier. The apartment is grounded with traditional elements, found objects, and artwork, with more contemporary touches in the glass bar cart and clean lines of the leather seating. Paramount to me, though, is that the space be welcoming – while I always want to maintain my sense of style, it is imperative that I never sacrifice comfort or function. First and foremost, I live here, and I want it to always feel like home – both to me and my guests.

Inspiration: I’m very fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world. While abroad, I gravitate toward stylish boutique hotels that are infused with local cultural elements. On every trip I take, I try to bring back something unique to the place I’m visiting, even if it’s as simple as a matchbook from a memorable bar or restaurant. If you look around the apartment, you’ll find a map of some part of the world on nearly every wall – these have honestly become my daily inspiration. It’s pretty fair to say, then, that my inspiration changes regularly, or as often as I can find airfare specials!

Favorite Element: In the apartment listing, the first thing I noticed was the wall of three soaring windows framed in crown molding. It’s amazing how many apartments in New York lack something as basic (and taken for granted) as natural light. As an added bonus, the bathroom boasts an incredible skylight with the original antique hardware. After looking at dozens of apartments with views of airshafts, I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found this place.

Biggest Challenge: The most common answer from people is that space, or lack thereof, is a challenge. My challenge is related, but with an added nuance. I have a really hard time saying no – especially when I find something I love, or even worse, when I find a good deal on something I love. I could just as easily fill 3,000 square feet as I could 300 square feet. Like so many studio dwellers, though, I’m limited by space, and I’m still learning the art of self discipline. Before I bring anything new home, I strategically plan and answer at least one of two things: where will I put it, and/or what will I get rid of to make room? It’s a battle. The struggle is real.

Prior to living here, I had almost triple the amount of space to work with, so I had to purge – a lot. That was really difficult for me, too – detaching my emotional attachment to physical things. At the time, I was skeptical about whether or not I could ever make this apartment feel like home. In the end, the purge was therapeutic, and I really do love the new space and coming home to it.

What Friends Say: Everyone seems to be pleasantly surprised with the overall transformation of the apartment. Some people had their doubts, since I went through the shock of significant downsizing and leaving a home where I invested so much time and effort. Several friends have asked for help or advice with their own spaces, which really reaffirms my confidence in my abilities. My dream is to one day open a bed and breakfast, and it means a lot to me when friends see my home and can genuinely envision that goal, too. I’m nowhere near that point in my life yet, but it’s nice to have it as an aspiration.

Biggest Embarrassment: For the most part, everything in the apartment has a place, neatly tucked away. When friends start to open up those neatly tucked corners (or drawers, or cabinets), though, I become embarrassed. You might find things like 1,200 Christmas lights or 11 seasonal duvet covers stashed within the [cleverly disguised] storage bed. The worst, though, was when I temporarily had underwear stored in a kitchen cabinet because I didn’t have room to keep a dresser. An unsuspecting friend went for a water glass, but got a lot more than that! Some may say I’m a well-organized hoarder, but I’m far too embarrassed to ever admit that on the internet. I just love finding new things, and really can’t say no sometimes! For the record, though, I’ve found a more discreet storage place – free from dishware – for all my clothing items!

Proudest DIY: When I moved into the apartment, every wall was a creamy beige color, so I think it has come a long way in a short period of time. In fact, every single surface, from the baseboards to the ceiling, has been repainted. The bathroom, though, is by far my proudest DIY. For about $250, I replaced the hardware, as well as the medicine cabinet and light fixture. After hours of standing on a ladder and scrubbing away years of dirt and dust, the skylight was restored to its full glory, and I’m amazed at the light it lets in now. The formerly oak veneer vanity got a makeover with a coat of Benjamin Moore and new knobs. It just goes to show you that some paint and inexpensive upgrades can make a world of difference – especially if you are in a rental.

Biggest Indulgence: Hands down, my bed. The things of most value to me, monetarily and otherwise, are all there. A good night’s rest has always been important to me, and that started with my mother’s insistence when we were young that we always keep a well-made bed. The scale of the bedding may be a bit disproportionate to the rest of the space; no single person needs 9 bed pillows, and it adds a significant amount of time to my morning routine, but it’s worth it every time I crawl in at night. I sleep snugly between a cloud of down feathers, all neatly wrapped in layers of lush silk, linen, and cotton. To call the bedding nook decadent would be an understatement, but that’s exactly why I love it so much.

Best Advice: Take your time, and keep an open mind. My favorite pieces in the apartment took years to collect, and in many cases, stumble upon or find by mistake. Turning any space into a home is a constant journey. There’s no need to have everything all at once – the hunt can be one of the most rewarding and exciting parts of the process.

Don’t be afraid of being unconventional, either. I’ve learned to repurpose items, from the pocket doors hanging above the sofa, to the French dentist office sign above the front door that I found in a pile of garbage on a Parisian sidewalk. It’s important to me that the pieces have a story or some sort of personal significance, and that doesn’t happen overnight. My own space is still evolving, and that keeps things interesting.

Dream Sources: I could get lost circling Olde Good Things in Manhattan for hours. Oh, if only the pieces there could talk! I love their architecturally-inspired style, usually reminiscent of historic European churches. I admire Williams-Sonoma, Inc. as a company, and I’m often found carrying a Pottery Barn or Williams-Sonoma Home catalog. I have a whole list of cities and countries I’ve yet to visit, too, so I can only imagine the things I’ll source there!

(Image credit: Matt)


(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


• Metropolitan, Benjamin Moore • Whitestone, Benjamin Moore • Whale Grey, Benjamin Moore • Decorators’ White, Benjamin Moore
(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


• Addin Leather Sofa and Armchair: Pottery Barn • Henley Rug: Pottery Barn • Rhys Coffee Table: Pottery Barn • Throw Pillows: ABC Carpet & Home, Pottery Barn • Oversized Dominoes: One Kings Lane • Pocket Glass/Wood Doors: Resalvaged from the New York Public Library • Framed World Maps: Domus

• Atlas of New York City, 1909 Maps: Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


• Pivot Upholstered Bedframe and Nailhead Headbord: West Elm • Chambers Heritage Sheeting: Williams-Sonoma Home • Italian Hotel Satin Stitch Duvet Cover: Restoration Hardware • Wooden Wall Carvings: Olde Good Things • Emery Linen Roman Shades: Pottery Barn • Stacking Carved Wood Boxes, Olde Good Things

• Leather Tufted Cube: Nadeau
• Felt Hampers, Black and Grey (above closet): West Elm

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


• Belmont Kitchen Island, Crate and Barrel • Breville Toaster and Convection Oven: Williams-Sonoma • Nespresso Machine: Williams-Sonoma

• KitchenAid Artisan Mixer: Williams-Sonoma

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


• Hayden Sconce: Pottery Barn • Classic Medicine Cabinet: Pottery Barn • Meringue Shower Curtain: Anthropologie

• Framed Sentiment Cards: Kat Lenhart

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


• Brooke Bar Cart, Pottery Barn • Porthole Mirror, Blanche and Mimi • Western Railway Framed Prints: Williams-Sonoma Home

• Hallway Secretary, Craigslist

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Thanks, Matthew!