An Evolving (and Artistic) East Village Home

An Evolving (and Artistic) East Village Home

Name: Michelle, Howard & Rosa
Location: East Village — Manhattan, New York
Size: 650 Square Feet
Years lived in: 12 years — own

Three years ago, when Michelle moved into this one bedroom apartment in Manhattan's East Village, Howard had already been living there for nine years. To make room, adjustments had to be made. As an artist and and an architect, she had both the eye and the know how to help transition the space into a comfortable home for two (and now three).

The creative couple (Howard is an engineer and a musician) worked together to make changes to their home. Adding a cabinet system in the living room, opening up the previously walled off kitchen area, and creating a desk solution that made room for two (with built-in storage) were all changes that took place to accomodate the needs of a couple sharing a space previously occupied by one. Clever additions like a custom table top fitted atop a potted plant base (created by Michelle), a cup holder built into the wall next to a lounger where there is no space for a coffee table, and a peg board wall in the hallway all add to the effectiveness of the space and add charm as well.

Now that baby Rosa has arrived, changes are again afoot in the apartment. When space is limited, finding a place for all the accoutrements that a baby requires can be a challenge. To create a changing area, the couple adjusted the closet at the end of the hall to meet Rosa's needs. To make room for all the baby things, Michelle and Howard raised their bed to generate additional storage space.

The apartment has already evolved twice to meet the changing needs of those who live there, and now that a growing child has been added to the mix, the evolution of the space is sure to continue.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: We are packrats that hate clutter.

Inspiration: An English wartime book of cartoons called "How to Live in a Flat" illustrated by W. Heath Robinson. It's filled with brilliant yet ridiculous solutions for how to live in small spaces.

Favorite Element: Our entry area. It's a tiny green room lined with wooden shaker hooks and a bench for our shoes and boots. It's a place to quickly shed all our outdoor things in order to enter the home unburdened. It feels like a walk-through closet or an extruded threshold. Many things we use are seasonal, and it's nice to have a place inside that reflects the seasonal changes outside.

Biggest Challenge: Figuring out how to re-organize the house to make room for baby Rosa. We don't know what her spatial needs are just yet. Most of the changes we have made were based on guesses before she was born (diaper changing area, bed relocation). Luckily, they have worked out so far, but the future is still unclear.

What Friends Say: People often comment on our view. We look out onto a historic cemetery and the view is bright and green. In the summer we can barely see the street behind us. It's unusual in Manhattan to have a green view, unless you are luck enough to live next to a park.

Biggest Embarrassment: All my mistakes on the built-ins and furniture, like using mismatching cheap plywood from Home Depot for the bedroom closet and making jagged cuts on the cabinet door pulls.

Proudest DIY: The ficus tree side table. While rearranging the house to make room for the baby, we started looking for a side table to replace the coffee table while simultaneously discussing where to put the tree. Then one day…

Biggest Indulgence: Our Italian stainless steel stove. When reading reviews about it on the internet, we encountered a glowing review written by a friend. We took this as a sign that we should buy it, and it hasn't disappointed us.

Best Advice: Watch out for white! We chose white tile and grout for our kitchen and bathroom walls and found out very quickly that it reveals the slightest amount of grime. Maybe it's a good idea to know exactly how dirty these areas are, but unfortunately it causes us anxiety. White grout can also discolor and be difficult to clean. Be warned!

Resources of Note:


    • Light fixture: Artemide
    • Bench: DIY
    • Shaker Pegs: Woodworks Ltd.
    • Rug: Green Depot, Manhattan
    • Chinese Scrolls: Souvenir from China


    • Cabinets: IKEA
    • Stove: Elba
    • Refrigerator: LG
    • Faucet: Hans Grohe


    • Table and Chairs: IKEA
    • Pendant Lamp: Existing mystery fixture
    • Rug: Persian Rug from Michelle's Grandfather
    • Shelving: IKEA
    • Grey Filing Cabinet: Found on Street in Brooklyn


    • Floor Lamps: DIY Stacked Chair Leg Lamp and Dentist Lamp Found in a Dumpster in Queens
    • Side Table: Ficus Tree Plus DIY Table Top
    • Sofa: Modernica Case Study Daybed
    • Lounge Chair and Ottoman: Classic Herman Miller Eames Chair - a gift from a friend
    • Art: Michelle's Box Prints and Gifts from Friends
    • Desks: IKEA and DIY Shelving Unit
    • Desk Chairs: Humanscale Freedom Task Chair
    • Rug: Souvenir from Turkey
    • Ceiling Fan: Dayton 48" Ceiling Fan from Grainger
    • Chinese Scroll: Souvenir from China
    • Mural on Back Wall: Photo Mounted on Foam Core, Found on Broadway in Manhattan


    • Closet Doors: DIY - made with peg board
    • Mirror with Wood Frame: Housing Works
    • Diaper Changing Station: DIY with Plastic Drawers from Muji


    • Bed and Headboard: DIY
    • Plywood Closet: DIY
    • Dresser: Made by Emmanuel Delalain of Atelier Delalain in Brooklyn
    • Green Rug: Gabbe from ABC Carpet and Home, Bronx Warehouse
    • Red Rug: Persian Rug from Michelle's Grandfather
    • Co-Sleeper: Arm's Reach
    • Mosquito Trap: Stinger
    • Bench (former coffee table): Recycled from Dotcom-Era Company
    • African Baskets: eBay


    • Bathtub: Kohler from Build-It-Green NYC
    • Showerhead & Bathtub fixtures: Hans Grohe
    • Bidet Toilet Seat: Brondell Swash
    • Towel Bars: Kohler Stillness
    • Mahogany Cabinet: DIY
    • Sink: Ikea

Thanks Michelle, Howard & Rosa!

(Images: Liana Walker)

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