Tiny Manhattan: Who says bigger is better?
It’s no secret that I love New York, and like most others, I’ve made my own personal sacrifices to live here. But do I love this city enough to live in a closet? I am not referring to my current apartment, which by New York standards is large at 825 square feet. I am talking about the extreme and absurd, and walking outside to change my mind. How priceless is space in Manhattan?
My gauge for judgment was always based on a sofa. If I can’t get a sofa in the room, I can’t live there. Two sofas comfortably fit in my current apartment, which is one of the features that sealed the deal.
During the search, we started with a wish list like all other home-buyers. Of course we wanted a real two bedroom with two baths if at all possible. This would enable us to host the occasional guest couple or family member from out of town, and also give us another closet or two to house our ever-expanding shoe collection.
This wish list diminished quickly. I realized a true two bedroom in an elevator building in Manhattan was nothing more than a pipe dream. Unless I had a million dollars, or was willing to sell a kidney, a one-bedroom apartment was looking better and better.
So, I did what every other New Yorker does who cannot afford a more space—built a wall and made one. The little room is quaint, cozy, and large enough for a single bed, one guest and a small piece of luggage. But when two or more guests come into town, a bargain-priced hotel is in order.
A few months ago, my family visited for a couple of days. Rather than book the usual tourist hotel in congested and maddening Times Square, they opted for the Belnord at 87th and Broadway instead. The rate was excellent, and the building charming enough, despite the small rooms. Besides, who stays in their hotel room when visiting Manhattan?
I warned my relatives ahead of time. I said it would be tiny. Since they had never stayed in a boutique hotel before, they were shocked. Apparently, a person could sit on the toilet and shower at the same time—an ideal example of efficient space planning, and a timesaving design. The closet consisted of an 18” wide bar in front of the bed at waist level, and fit approximately four garments. It was installed underneath the 19” wall-mounted, flat-screen TV. Technically, there was a television in the closet.
Shortly after check-in, they left to explore the city, but eventually, they returned to the itty-bitty room, with the ittier-bittier closet and the shoilet.
I checked out the 8X8 space myself, and it was far too compact for two adults, or everyday living for one. But for the business traveler or single person who spends little time inside, the Belnord is a clean alternative in a convenient, yet quiet location.
As a city slicker, I’ve adapted to less. Adjusting to life in 2.5 rooms was easier than expected; now I actually prefer my little abode to the 2,800 square foot sprawl I owned in Atlanta. But when it comes to real estate, how small is too small?
On West 70th Street, there’s a tiny brownstone apartment where a single woman lived for years. In less than 100 square feet including the bathroom, Felice Cohen managed to stay organized and live comfortably in a space not much bigger than the average bathroom. She didn’t seem to mind that her knees hit the toilet, or that she couldn’t sit up in bed, or cook a meal.
For a professional organizer who travels, 90 square feet may be more than enough for a pad in the Big Apple.
When I imagine myself in the same situation—that of the single girl who wants to live simply, loves to travel, and has the most exciting city outside her door, I ask the question, “Could I live in a closet?”
Without a doubt, I love New York. If it came down to living in less than 100 square feet or not living in Manhattan at all, there is only one solution. I probably didn’t need that sofa anyway.
Bigger isn’t always better. In Manhattan, some gems are too tiny to notice, yet too fantastic to miss. Certain spots maximize the little amount of real estate they have. Think they’re undersized? Think again. If you can stand the squeeze, these smaller than usual treasures are worth trying.
746 Ninth Avenue between 50th & 51st Streets, Hell’s Kitchen
Tiny 20-seat café with somewhat limited menu, but fresh, delicious food & BYOB (yes that’s bring your own booze) with no corkage fee. The unisex bathroom is in the kitchen. All quirks aside, it’s one of my favorite, intimate New York dining experiences.
83 1/8 West 10th Street, Village
Artisan jewelry boutique sells pieces inspired by everyday objects including champagne rings, guitar picks, pull-tabs and more. Teenie canine companion Xiao greets customers as they enter the creatively decorated eighth of a store.
301 East 91st Street, Yorkville
An authentic Irish pub off Second Avenue with a small bar, about six tables, and a dartboard, Biddy’s attracts a no-nonsense crowd. Bartenders are always friendly, and patrons are usually local. With no room for a kitchen, order delivery from any of the surrounding restaurants in the hood. Biddy won’t mind.
Westsider Rare & Used Books
2246 Broadway between 80th & 81st Streets, Upper West Side
Specializing in fiction, literature, art, architecture, children’s books and more, Westsider buys, sells and trades. An Uptown fixture, they stay open late most every night.
Viand Coffee Shop
673 Madison Avenue @ 61st Street, Upper East Side
This old New York haunt with terrific diner food, slightly abrupt service, and loads of character in the middle of hoity toity Madison Avenue never disappoints.
86 East 7th Street, East Village
Quaint cafe located in the hip East Village serving coffees, homemade plates, and pastries beyond the expected for a neighborhood joint.