Guest Blog: Small Space Living (or, how to live in a 650 sq. ft. with a growing family)
When I was pregnant with my first (now 9 year old) son, my husband and I were living in the West Village. We had a lovely 650 square foot one bedroom apartment in a great building, in the most perfect neighborhood. It seemed cozy at the time, and we figured we would stay maybe 2 more years and then seek out a bigger space for a growing family.
Six years and two more babies later, there we were… in the very same apartment.
Our love for our neighborhood and building, combined with the rising (and rising, and rising) prices on larger apartments kept us firmly rooted! In order to make it work without totally losing our minds, I had to get very creative.
I became obsessed with seeking out the best baby gear and solutions for small space living. What works best for city parents is not always the best for everyone else. We need foldable, flexible, and multi purpose!
As many city parents already know, there are many companies that can ‘create’ a room in your apartment with a tension wall that is leased and removed when you move out. This option, of course, depends upon the rules and regulations of your particular building. That being said, I’ve also seen many a walk-in closet/nursery hybrid as well as the alcove/nursery combo. Just be flexible and there is a solution somewhere.
So, with a baby on the way, we carved a tiny 5’ x 7’ room out of our bedroom by going the tension wall route. It was actually quite lovely, and included a ventilation fan that also served as a white noise machine (dual purpose!), and a french door for light.
I spent time shopping with a purpose – looking for the smallest, most multi-functional baby products available. I found a foldable infant tub that was stored on the closet floor until bath time, and in lieu of the behemoth high chairs used by my friends living in houses, we fed our kids in their bouncy seats. When they were big enough, we moved them to the beloved clip on counter seat, which we removed and threw into a bag when traveling! I was gifted an exersaucer at my baby shower that was (thankfully) capable of quickly collapsing to nothing so we could shove it under the couch and out of the way.
As my son grew older, the toy trains threatened to take over. So, I bought a toy chest at Gothic Cabinet Craft, and threw some pillows on top to disguise as seating when we had company. We also requested that the grandparents not buy anything for the boys that would not fit into it! And finally, when my second son came along, I was faced with putting two children into that tiny room. With the help of a portable crib and a toddler bed for my older son, both boys fit, albeit a bit cozily, into that 5’ x 7’ “room”.
However, the most extreme manifestation of my small space obsession is my invention, the StrollAway. After my building manager told me that it was illegal to keep strollers in hallways and common spaces (fire hazard that also seems to annoy neighbors!), I did what I had always done — hit the stores to find a solution.
But, my search was fruitless. After a couple of holes drilled through the closet door and some other storage attempts gone wrong, I called an industrial designer to see if it would be possible to sketch out what I had in mind. I needed an extremely strong, over the door, adjustable hanger so I could hang my stroller on the inside of our closet door. Many design iterations and a few years later, the StrollAway came to market.
I’ve often said that city families have access to the very best of everything, except space. But when you have New York right outside your front door, your life takes place beyond the walls of the apartment. My advice to other city dwellers with young families: be ruthless with clutter, look for gear that fits your particular home and lifestyle, and relish in all that is right in front of you.
We have since left our beloved apartment and neighborhood, but I treasure the memories of our life in that little apartment.
Mary Ann Malone is mom to 3 boys – Billy, Luke, and Teddy (BLT!) — and an expert in small space living. She’s a former record company exec, turned inventor and entrepreneur. While living in the West Village, Mary Ann quickly realized the need for compact living products with children in apartments. The quest to better use of the family space led to the invention of the StrollAway over the door stroller hanger. Since having children, Mary Ann runs her company, MetroTOTS, which manufactures the StrollAway, while also running a household and managing three rambunctious boys!