Category Archives: NOTES

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

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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 (http://www.acoustic-curtains.com). 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.
BathroomStorage
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!)
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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. 

Tips on Life and Love Blog

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Cracking my knuckles and dusting off the keyboard for some blogging… It has been a long time since I’ve posted and plenty has happened since the last one…marriage, baby (which I will get to in future posts) but I thought I’d share some fun writing I’ve done elsewhere…

I have recently been writing for Simon & Schuster’s blog: Tips on Life and Love. Mostly style and fashion posts…oh and a few beauty ones in there, too… Check them out!

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Stay tuned for more original posts.

Instagram: @julieinzanti

Weekly Shoe: The Sochi Edition (ok…a little late)

I’m kind of secretly obsessed (and I hate using that word) with clogs…and not just any clogs. Rachel Comey, No.6 and a brand recently brought to my attention by a chic (and very cool) co-worker…Bryr.

I know they’ve been around a while and you can’t throw a snowball in Williamsburg without hitting some young lady wearing a pair. BUT I likie…

I don’t actually own a pair of wood-soled clodhoppers. I’ve known a few assholes who wear clogs and they’ve kind of ruined it for me…the sound of the wood slamming the ground makes me cringe now, thanks to one devil-incarnate in particular.

BUT maybe I can pretend to be a Cobble Hill mom trotting heavy-heeled with toddler in tow to the nearest Montessori School for morning drop-off before I grab a local-fair-trade coffee and settle in to my (fill in awesome job here) workspace.

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I am especially drawn to the Bryr boot because with the laces wrapped around the ankle and the familiar shape of the boot and wood heel…it reminds me of the Olympics…of Figure skating! or ice dancing… (And yes, I did just have a fleeting and dare I say it…fond memory of the Tonya Harding broken laces debacle from the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. Poor Tonya.)

two tone phoebe

I love the two-tone Phoebe

I might splurge on a pair of Bryr boots in honor of the Sochi Olympics…although considering the Northeast winter has been slamming us like a bi-polar-vortex (hot, cold, hot, cold, cold, cold, rain, snow, ice) I might be better off with rubber waders to brave the slush rivers at every corner.

Happy Weekly Shoe week…month? (When was my last post?)

 

New Post on Tips on Life and Love!

Simon & Schuster’s Tips on Life and Love Holiday Post!

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Weekly Shoe (the injury edition)

I recently broke my pinky toe. Whatever…I’m convinced it is broken because it still hurts and I stubbed it a month ago. It’s my own fault. I’m not mindful of where I walk at home and I’m always banging into things. I’m surprised I don’t have more broken toes and chipped elbows, honestly.

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yeah…you’re welcome.

This little piggy is a problem because I can’t wear any of my favorite shoes! Sandals and slip-ons are fine but not in snowy 25-degree weather (I’ll lose my toes.) And this is killing me (emotionally) because I just had my favorite winter boots re-soled by a talented Greek God of a cobbler on Wall Street. I know that sounds funny but really, this man is a God. My tattered Frye boots look brand new…he sewed a new sole, fixed the heel, shined them up…(sure it was $80 but at least I salvaged a great pair of boots rather than tossing them for some lesser quality replacements.)

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And this little piggy is killing me (physically) because when I stuff her into my boots it only prolongs the healing process. I can justify it for maybe ONE holiday party but other than that it’s Hunter Wellingtons (even on dry days) and Minnetonka moccasins… Ugh those f-ing moccasins are a joke. I look like I’m wearing slippers everywhere. Good for toe, bad for rep. Unless I rent a mountain cabin for the winter months… I’ll be the most stylish limping lady chopping wood and drinking scotch by the fire. (Then I’ll promptly throw my footwear into the flames when the weather warms up.)

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So this weekly shoe is an ode to real comfort shoes (the hippy slippers) and a cautionary tale to all… LOOK BEFORE YOU WALK.

Tips on Life and Love: Everyone CAN Wear a Pencil Skirt

I have been lucky to work with the amazing content director Kristy Ojala on a few fun Style posts for Simon & Schuster’s blog Tips on Life and Love.

Here is a recent post on Pencil Skirts!!!

PENCIL SKIRT POST