You Don’t Have to Be a Minimalist to Share a Studio

When a couple moved into a Murray Hill studio together, it was all about figuring out where to put their stuff.

You Don’t Have to Be a Minimalist to Share a Studio

Kirsten Do and Benjamin Chen began sharing a Murray Hill studio in October. Their first challenge was figuring out how to make room for all of their belongings. The second, for Ms. Do at least, was getting used to the sleeping-loft ladder.Credit…Katherine Marks for The New York Times

You Don’t Have to Be a Minimalist to Share a Studio

Moving in together can be a challenge for even the most well-adjusted couple. And moving into a studio apartment together? Well, Kirsten Do admitted to feeling a twinge of concern hauling her stuff up the stairs to her boyfriend’s Murray Hill studio last month.

“We’ve dated for so long, but I was a little worried,” Ms. Do, 23, said. “I have a lot of stuff. I’m very sentimental about items; I tend to attach memories to things. Even though I didn’t have a purpose for something, I wanted to keep it.”

“I definitely doubted that we could fit it all in,” said her boyfriend, Benjamin Chen, 25. Stacking Ms. Do’s possessions along a wall, or shoving them into a corner, wasn’t an option: The couple love to entertain, and needed the studio to be not only functional but publicly presentable. Also, there were no boxes to stack or push aside.

To avoid hiring movers, Mr. Chen and Ms. Do, who were living five blocks apart, had made multiple trips between the two apartments with her suitcases, dumping them out and going back for more. At the end of the move, her belongings were strewn everywhere.

Fortunately, having lived with roommates — in Ms. Do’s case, bedroom-mates — the task of combining their stuff, and their lives, in one room struck them as daunting, but not impossible.

$2,700 | Murray Hill

Occupations: Ms. Do is a UX designer; Mr. Chen is a software engineer.
The ladder to the loft bed is divisive: Mr. Chen loves the space savings and can go up and down one-handed, but Ms. Do dislikes using it late at night and first thing in the morning. She has even slept on the sofa occasionally when she didn’t feel up to climbing the ladder.
Perks next door: The studio, which is a walk-up, shares an owner — and amenities — with the luxury building next door. For an extra $100 a year, the couple get access to a roof deck, bike room, gym and laundry room.
People watching from their second-floor perch: “If I don’t know what to wear in the morning, I just look out and see what other people are wearing,” Ms. Do said. “And traffic jams are always fun to watch. But sometimes we make eye contact with people, and it gets really awkward.”

The couple started dating almost four years ago, when Ms. Do, now a UX designer, was a student at Parsons School of Design; Mr. Chen, a software engineer, had just moved to New York to take his first job after college.

At the time, Ms. Do was sharing a bedroom with a friend in a Stuyvesant Town one-bedroom split three ways. The rent worked out to $1,200 a person.

“Convenience-wise it was a good option,” she said. “But they increased the rent incrementally every year, and by the time we left we were paying $300 more a month.”

Last year, looking with two friends, Ms. Do found a three-bedroom duplex in Murray Hill, close to where Mr. Chen was sharing a two-bedroom with a roommate. The broker’s fee was hefty, but Ms. Do expected to stay for a while. Her roommates were close friends, she was a quick walk from Mr. Chen’s apartment, and she had a bedroom to herself for only slightly more than she had been paying to share one in Stuy Town.

“I loved the unique layout,” Ms. Do said. “And it was my first time having my own room since the beginning of college.”

But in June, Mr. Chen moved into a large studio with a good-sized sleeping loft and kitchen. And as soon as Ms. Do saw the space, with its huge windows facing 34th Street and an abundance of natural light, she was smitten.

It was the first apartment where they could hang out without worrying about getting in a roommate’s way. “It felt like a place we could relax,” Ms. Do said. “At his previous apartment, we were mostly confined to the bedroom.”

After helping Mr. Chen decorate the apartment — visiting Ikea, finding used items on Facebook marketplace and selecting plants to sit on the windowsills — Ms. Do felt very much at home. “It felt like it was my apartment,” she said.

Soon, she realized that she was using her own place mostly as a closet, and she and Mr. Chen agreed that it made sense for her to move in and split the $2,700 a month rent. She was hesitant to leave her roommates, but another friend was eager to take her room, which eased her conscience. “I didn’t want to throw someone random in there just for my sake,” she said.

Which left only the issue of the stuff, which Ms. Do quickly set about “redistributing.” The apartment had large closets, which she organized to maximize efficiency. She bought shelves, an adjustable clothing rack and a squat bureau that fit in the loft area, which has good clearance, but a ceiling less than five feet high. They installed hooks to hang coats and other items, and miraculously — within a few weeks — Ms. Do was able to put everything away.

“Everyone is going through this Marie Kondo phase now,” Ms. Do said. “But I think the true strategy is being able to hide it.”

Apart from the storage challenges, living together has eased some of their conflicts. In previous apartments, if Ms. Do wanted to stay up late working while Mr. Chen was sleeping, the desk light would shine directly in his eyes, but now they can be together in the same space doing different things.

“If we’d started the search together, I would have preferred to live in a one-bedroom, but this has been nice,” Ms. Do said. “There are really defined areas. It almost feels like separate rooms.”

The only real battles they have had — besides some light sparring over how much to spend on pillow covers — have been with the mice that moved in shortly after Ms. Do’s arrival.

“Eight dead mice and three holes plugged later, I hope this is my first and last mouse experience,” she said. “While we freaked out at first, we certainly had a lot of fun banding together to come up with ways to catch the mice.”

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