Brick Underground Piece: “Preparing for baby no. 2 when you live in 500 square feet (and both adults work from home)”

Bedroom_will insert curtain

I shared my preparing for baby no. 2 small-space challenges with Brick Underground. I have a few additional photographs to share of a few storage solutions we came up with.

Here is the article (see below for more pictures):

New Yorkers are no strangers to space constraints. We’re famous for making nurseries out of closets and carving up studios into two-bedroom apartments. If you have never heard of a temporary wall, you are probably not from New York or maybe you just moved here…or maybe you’re just lucky (and moneyed enough) that you’ve never had to worry about negotiating limited living space. 

I know about small spaces. I grew up in Lower Manhattan—my parents still live in the rent-controlled two-bedroom apartment I grew up in. I shared a room with my younger brother until I moved out at 19. For the past 17 years I have been living in my own rent controlled one-bedroom apartment in Battery Park City. First, I shared it with my boyfriend (now husband)…then we had daughter…and now we’re expecting a second child. Same small apartment, four times the occupants. Oh, and one more thing: My husband and I both work from home. 

My work can be done on a laptop since I am a freelance writer…but my husband is an artist and as romantic as that sounds, it also comes with printers and scanners and multiple computers and lots of oversized paper and requires plenty of storage space. We also don’t send our daughter to daycare (that would tack on an additional $2,000 per month for full-time childcare)—so here we are, all of us, all of the time (and we’re adding one more to the mix).  

Friends and relatives keep asking the same annoying questions, “Are you going to move?” “What are you going to do about space?” Even my husband asked me how we’re going to do sleep-training (a.k.a. cry-it-out) with the new baby if we are all sharing a bedroom. I try to explain to everyone that we’ll be fine. Most of these space questions come from people who either live in enormous homes (enormous by New York standards) or didn’t grow up in NYC…they had their own rooms and backyards. 

So why do it, you might ask?  First off, I love lower Manhattan and I really love our neighborhood. We are surrounded by parks and amazing schools. We are so close to everything and all of the train lines are here if we need to hit another borough or neighborhood. 

I wouldn’t be willing to move to another, less expensive NYC neighborhood, because our rent control is cheaper than any other neighborhood in the city. We’re kind of spoiled and stuck. 

My fellow native New Yorker friends totally get it because most of them grew up sharing bedrooms with multiple siblings and sometimes even parents. They used bookcases or sheets or built walls to divide the space. Real estate is so coveted in New York and if you have a rent-regulated or otherwise cheap apartment—you stay put. Plus, for a family of four living on two modest freelance incomes—upgrading to a two- or three-bedroom is completely out of our budget.

I wish we could afford a bigger place but paying upwards of $5,000 per month for only a slightly larger apartment seems crazy. I’m sure readers are rolling their eyes thinking, too bad. It is too bad. It is too bad that I can’t afford to live in an apartment big enough for my family in the city I grew up in. Don’t get me started on the price of real estate these days. This is my city! I am determined to make this work until we have enough money to invest in a bigger place or maybe we’ll throw in the towel and buy something outside the city. 

Facing the design challenge

It often feels like we’re facing an HGTV level design challenge. I try to get design inspiration from blogs like this on Design Sponge or this on Apartment Therapy but nothing seems to hit on my exact issue. When I enter “Tiny apartment for family of-four” into the search bar I see plenty of amazing small spaces creatively designed but they typically house one couple and when there are kids involved the parents both work in offices, not from home, so their space is purely for living. Or when I see one-bedrooms converted to two-bedrooms to accommodate a family of four, the occupants groan that they only have 800 or 1,200 square feet…and I want to slap them. Try 500 square feet. That’s 125 square feet each. Yikes.

So far, we have eliminated all of the dressers in our bedroom and consolidated everything into the closet (see photos of both below). We have replaced our oversized couch with a simple and less imposing sofa. Bookcases have made way for shelving that goes from the ceiling to half-way down the wall (we have a very adventurous toddler who likes to climb so we can’t put the bottom shelves in just yet). 

Next on my list is to install a room divider in the bedroom and invest in a smaller dining table. We were holding out hope that we’d one day host dinner parties and gatherings but who are we kidding? Two kids and two adults in a tiny apartment—dinner party-days are on hold until we can get a bigger space. And I’m fine with that. 

Maybe 500-square-feet sounds spacious when you think about the new 300-square-foot micro apartments in Manhattan. But we might actually have the smallest one-bed in our building when you take into account the poor design to accommodate stairwells and electrical closets. We also have strange corners that jut-out, very little closet space and a tiny galley kitchen—so it becomes a design nightmare rather than a challenge. 

The closest space-inspiration I have found was from the blog Stroller in the City—she has three kids, two dogs and a husband all in a one-bedroom (converted into a two-bedroom) apartment in Battery Park City. Granted, their apartment is bigger but they have managed to master the art of furniture Tetris and created a tiny kids room with a temporary wall. AND they created a generous play space that doesn’t actually diminish their living room (see Stroller in the City’s photos below)

Seeing how the Manz family can use a tiny bedroom space for three kids (see photo below) gives me hope that our little apartment will be just fine for us…at least for a while. AND since her kids really just sleep in their bedroom and spend the majority of the time in the family room or in the amazing playroom—they don’t need a million square feet!

Sure, keeping our sanity in this tiny place will require some creativity. I have to install some sort of sound barrier between the newborn and the toddler in our bedroom. For us, in lieu of a temporary wall, which I’m sure will get us evicted, I have been imagining a ceiling mounted curtain (something heavy enough to muffle sound but light enough not to feel oppressive) to divide our bedroom into two spaces. This design decision is still in the works but I am hoping to get the entire theatrical drape situation worked out before the new baby comes…in July! 

We have added shelving to the living room, a tall cabinet to the bathroom and to create the feel of a bigger bedroom we have added corner shelves all the way to the ceiling. We have also eliminated dressers with the help of the Ikea Algot closet system, a major Marie Kondo overhaul and under-bed storage for the kids clothes. This is my last month of pregnancy and I’m in the throes of nesting…which means painting, organizing, purging, and minimizing so we can all fit in this little apartment together…I hope. 

Bedroom PANO_will insert curtain
Bedroom: With dressers gone there is enough room to install a curtain and create two rooms. We ordered curtain from Quiet Curtains ( QC specializes in sound reduction curtains and room dividers–and they were super helpful and inexpensive. We also have rolling storage bins under the bed for kids clothes and blankets. I typically hate under-bed storage but we have no choice in this case–at least for now.
Living Room
Living Room: Here we purchased a very simple and small couch from West Elm (don’t get me started on WE) and created a small play area for our toddler. Also in the corner we installed shelving from floor to ceiling. We are waiting to install the lower shelves because our daughter is going through a climbing stage.
Entryway: We did our best Ikea Hack here with shoe storage solution on one side and a hook system on the other. Rather than stuff our closet space with tote bags and umbrellas we can just hang them here. Plus we don’t have a ton of surface space for bags and things–this hanging solution is out of the way and keeps things off the floor.
Bathroom: I am a little product obsessed and since the closets are reserved for baby things and linen storage I invested in a small but tall bathroom cabinet to house toilet paper, cleaning products and toiletries/beauty.skincare.
The home improvements are not complete and I am less than two weeks away from my due date. The delay is not for lack of preparing…I submitted requests to my building management for painting and fixing months ago but they are seriously dragging their feet. Dealing with a super or building management can be fraught: I don’t want to seem like a jerk but I also have a bit of a deadline.
The next week will be tough and some things might have to wait until after baby arrives–which is fine. Stay tuned for the final touches. (Or maybe we’ll just move!)

Small Space Solutions (when you both work from home and have a toddler)

I recently started reading the blog 600sqftandababy about a growing family living in a tiny apartment in Canada. They had a second child and stayed put in their tiny apartment. I stumbled upon this site because I was searching for small-space family blogs for interior design inspiration after a particularly stressful freezing day spent inside our small apartment. I was drawn to this blog because our living situation is similar. We are two adults and a two-year-old (with another babe on the way) living in a one-bedroom apartment of roughly 500-square-feet.

The couple and their two-kids-under-three live a super minimalist lifestyle, which I’m trying to implement in my home. Space is functional. I kept poring over their pictures wondering how they made it look so simple…how do they get work done? How does the apartment not look like a goddamn romper room every day? And how is everyone SLEEPING? Sleep is a huge issue in our home. We share a bedroom with our toddler and it kiiiiiinda sucks. (I feel like our whole arrangement might be screwing her up in the long run. Or maybe we are making her the most perfect, well adjusted, supported and amazing person to ever walk the earth. Of course we are.  But let’s get real. No one is getting good sleep…)

I also kept looking around our space wondering why it seemed to jammed in comparison to 600sqft… Aside from a few aesthetic changes that NEED to be made (more wall shelves, smaller dining table, new couch, curtain divider in the bedroom to create the illusion of two rooms and some downsizing) there was something else missing. AND THEN IT HIT ME… Several things hit me, actually. These two parents have thriving careers: outside of the home. And they both seem to be normal sized human beings…

Now take us… My husband, Joe, is an artist/illustrator…he works from home. This is partly by choice because of convenience but also–studio space in NYC is outrageously expensive. To afford a studio he’d have to go way out to East New York or something. I also work from home (I am a freelance writer and I care for our toddler, Emilia). So there you have it: TWO adults and a toddler in 500-squre-feet for roughly 24-hours a day. Save for a few trips to the park, developmental classes and visits to grandma and papa’s (a few blocks away) we’re home a LOT. Like…in each other’s space and up each others butts most of the time. Even when my husband is on a super stressful project with a tight deadline (which is basically every project) he still has to deal with the family circus going on around him. No escape.

Another huge difference is that my husband is roughly six-foot-nine-inches tall. That seems amazing, and it is. But that also means his big clothes and shoes take up a lot of space in our small closet and bigger furniture is required (two major space-saving categories). He will kill me for sharing this but I have to consider everything. The 600sqft couple have a murphy bed. My husband would break that thing off the wall in five minutes!

One major obstacle is the shape of our apartment. The measurements, the construction, weird corners jutting out everywhere…it was NOT designed well. Whoever built our apartment building didn’t imagine that anyone would want to hang things from the walls. There is nary a stud to be found! So my brilliant idea of wall-mounting the TV would be a death trap. The wall shelves are hopefully safe with twenty anchors (Let’s just pray the upstairs neighbors don’t have another flood or the drywall will turn to putty and the screws will just slide out).

Small spaces are always a challenge–financially and visually. Finding easy and aesthetically pleasing items at Ikea or Home Depot is a nightmare. When I see gorgeous small spaces on Design Sponge (like this one or this one, which features 600sqftandababy) or Apartment Therapy (particularly this one) I laugh. Sure you can make a small space look great with a big budget. But if money were no object, we’d have a bigger f-ing apartment, wouldn’t we? Then our small space problems would be solved.

So here goes…

Bedroom: Eliminate two dressers, create a room divider, overhaul the walk-in closet (it is really a step-in and turn). This sounds impossible but with a little imagination and a dozen trips to Ikea and the hardware store I think we can do it.

Living Room: Everything must go. ok not “go” but change. Shelves, new couch, new table (and dining chairs because each one has a 80% risk of exploding beneath my husband every time he sits down).

Storage throughout: I am trying to avoid the urge to turn my apartment into something that resembles a workshop but we need shelves and storage solutions so I’m not tripping over toys and books and shoes.

My first challenge is the bedroom and closet. Stay tuned for posts on our progress.

Stroller in the City Celebrates Winter with PO.P!


Stroller in the City recently hosted another fabulous event…this time at Polarn O. Pyret in Tribeca to celebrate their new cold-weather collection. I try my best to make it to each and every SITC event because I know they’re going to be amazing.


PO.P (Polarn O. Pyret), for anyone who has been living under a rock, is a Swedish brand with top quality winter essentials for babies, kids, and even adults. They also have the softest most delicious basics for kids that I’ve ever seen. The fabrics are buttery soft and the prints are super cute. (They also sell online.)

The PO.P shop opened in Tribeca right around the same time I had my daughter and I quickly became obsessed with their stuff. My mother and I hit the sidewalk sale every year and stock up on all sorts of basics for the kids. It doesn’t help my wallet that I walk past the store almost every day. But I have to say, the quality is unparalleled.

I have become a lazy launderer since becoming a mom—I often forget to pull pieces from the dryer before the cycle ends and sometimes hot dried clothes sit in a big blue Ikea bag for a few days before I can get around to folding and filing everything. The PO.P clothes always come out perfect… I absolutely love the brands. OK enough of my housekeeper failings…and back to the main event


SITC brought together a bunch of other amazing kids brands for this event, too. Slope Ropes is a harness system to use while skiing. I was never a big winter sports person but I did ski occasionally as a kid… I might have to hit the slopes soon so I can take Emilia out when she is big enough. Boogie Wipes is another great product that is perfect for the upcoming sneezing runny-nose season. Tickle Water is a sparkling kids water with great natural flavors for kids to try.


Pressed by KIND is the newest snack bar I plan on keeping on hand for Emilia. I have been a KIND bar addict since pregnancy but I don’t share them with my daughter because I avoid feeding her sugars and especially chocolate. Presses by KIND has no added sugar and two full servings of fruit. Bitsy’s Brain Food snacks are another go to for the stroller or travel bag. Bitsy’s philosophy is simple: Healthy bodies equals healthy minds…learning to eat smart should be fun so that our children develop healthy habits. So Cozy is another great product that I will definitely start using once Emilia’s hair is long enough to tangle. Creative Kidstuff was there, too. Every toy purchase helps children in need around the world.


I am definitely a warm-weather fan…I get annoyed just thinking about gloom, grey skies and frigid temperatures but seeing all the cozy winter essentials and imagining Emilia playing in the snow this year is getting me excited for winter. OK maybe just one snowstorm. The great thing about living in Battery Park City during a snowstorm is that we have an army of folks working for the Battery Park Conservancy who shovel, salt and clean up so we can just play and enjoy! Wearing our stunning PO.P winter essentials, of course!

Thanks to SITC for inviting us to this amazing event!! We are definitely doing all of our winter shopping at PO.P!

Sunday in Yardley, PA

Sometimes escaping NYC means a trip through Penn Station and a 90-minute NJ Transit ride to a lazy Sunday brunch at a lovely Friend’s drool-worthy home in quaint Yardley, PA. The whole day was perfection. The food. The weather. The conpany. I loved every minute. I kinda want to move to Yardley. 

When you have a few hours –10 minutes even–away from your kids it feels so indulgent. You can focus entirely on the person you’re speaking with, rather than give them half your attention or excuse yourself every three minutes to course correct your toddler. When you’re child-free you even start to enjoy activites and tasks you once loathed. 

As a parent, my time is so rarely my own that I fully appreciate a few minutes to myself whenever I can get it. Doctor’s waiting room…Ikea returns department…being on hold (especially if the hold music is Cisco call manager default). 

My most recent activity (a ride on NJ Transit Northeast Corridor from NY Penn to Trenton) would have normally felt like one step up from a deathmarch but instead it was 180 minutes of bliss . I shut off my brain, except for the brief period that I had to figure out the NJT app to activate my ticket (super convenient, btw) oh and the twenty minutes I read NY Times political news before swiping it off in frustration (Donald Trump makes me sick), and watched the landscape change. 

I missed my sweet babe and my husband for a few hours but mama needs some alone time…even if it is on a commuter train surrounded by strangers and even stranger smells. 

6 Backpacks I’d Wear (and I hate backpacks)

Everlane Mini Backpack

Everlane Mini Backpack

I’ve always had a strange relationship with backpacks. I think I hate them. Maybe because I had to wear a backpack to school and I never really liked school, which in retrospect is completely ridiculous. I wish I could hop in a time machine and have a few words with high school freshman Julie to straighten her out. I totally phoned it in and only half absorbed what my teachers were telling me.
Biology was so interesting and fun—why was I more concerned with sneaking out to get a latte from Paradise Coffee on 8th Avenue and smoke Marlboro Lights with my friend Ulysses? English was my favorite subject (despite the major a-hole teacher) but I left every assignment to the day before deadline and handed them all in littered with errors and run-on sentences. Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States” was our US History textbook but I barely skimmed a few chapters and turned in every assignment late. My teacher claimed to be a former student of Zinn’s. (That same teacher ended up carrying on torrid affairs with students that ultimately cost him his job and probably his life. He died of a heart attack at 60. His 19-year-old girlfriend spoke at his memorial to a crowd of cringing mourners. It was odd.) But anyway, the motley crew of teachers should have been enough to pique my interest in school. Nope.

Luckily, I figured it all out in time to put myself through college and become a responsible adult. But I have to say—I did and do often wrestle with some of those bad habits. It takes plenty of foot dragging and hours of waiting around for me to finally get my own work done. Of course, I blame lazy parenting during my formative years for this. But let’s move on.


Now that I have a daughter, who I plan on tiger-mothering, I recognize and appreciate the usefulness of a backpack. I am still using the Baggu canvas duck bag, which can be worn cross-body so it frees up my hands but I end up doing the full one-arm scoop and search when I need something. It would be nice to have everything organized in…a…backpack. AAAHHH!

I have rounded up 6 backpacks that I would wear today and that don’t remind me of my black North Face from high school (although I should dig that one up—it is vintage at this point). Most of them have zippers or snaps because who has time to futz around with a complicated clasp situation when you have a toddler? Seriously.

1. Herschel Supply Co. Little America Nylon Brindle $170 (these straps have magnetic closure, no need to buckle, whew!)
2. Herschel Supply Co. Mammoth Ripstop $100
3. Fjällräven Totepack $100 (This is my FAVORITE because I love a tote)
4. Baggu Leather Backpack $280
5. Poketo Voyager $158
6. Everlane Zip Backpack $58