I’m super-stoked for today’s Small Space Squad home tour, you guys. I’ve not-so-secretly obsessed over this beautifully renovated home of Sarah Jacobson, aka The Grand Apartment, for a loooong time. The thing is that I am really fascinated by her home because it was a total gut job… and all in New York City. The idea of renovating anything in such a large city gives me a bit of agita, but when you see the results… holy cow. Sarah’s home is truly gorgeous and I cannot wait to show you more of it!
Home Tour: Inside the Beautifully Renovated NYC Home of The Grand Apartment
Who: Sarah Jacobson from The Grand Apartment
Where: Lower East Side, New York City
Years spent living small: 10 years of living small in New York City (2 in my current apartment)
To start, tell me your story about how you ultimately ended up choosing a small space?
Beyond the absurdly wealthy, most New Yorkers live small! Some might say it’s part of New York City’s charm… along with the smell of hot garbage in the summer and a subway system that rarely works when you need it to. JK, I love you New York!
No, but really, every New York apartment I’ve lived in has been small. It’s par for the course here.
I moved to NYC after graduating college in 2008, and spent a year living in a tiny “3 bedroom” apartment with two friends. Our “kitchen” was a series of cabinets/stove/sink/fridge along one wall in our living room, and my bedroom only had enough room for my bed and a nightstand. After that, I moved to a slightly bigger place (which was around 900 square feet) with a single roommate (I lived there for 7 years; unheard of in New York, where people seem to move every ten seconds!).
Two-ish years ago, I bought a 700 square foot total gut job of an apartment (on Grand Street on the Lower East Side — does my handle make sense now?!) and renovated it from top to bottom. It’s a one-bedroom in a prewar building, and while it’s not huge by any means, it’s more than enough space for me and my beloved tabby cat, Penny Lane.
What is your biggest challenge in your small space?
Having guests stay over. In New York, people tend to say you’ve “made it” when you have a washer/dryer in unit (it’s our version of a garage in suburbia). But for me, I’ll know I’ve “made it” when I have a true guest room, aka, when my parents don’t have to sleep on a pull-out couch in the living room. It’s not that I can’t have overnight guests (I can and do!), but any more than two people in the space, and things start to get CROWDED. What I would give for even a teeny tiny second bedroom — somewhere other than the place I watch TV and eat dinner — for guests to stay in. Oh, and a bathroom that more than one person can fit in at once would be positively lovely.
What is your favorite part about living small?
I love that my apartment doesn’t allow for tons of stuff. I have to be thoughtful about my purchases, which results in pretty much everything in the space being something I truly love. I have exactly 3 closets (one of which is a tiny linen closet), and they need to hold everything: 4 seasons worth of clothing, suitcases, extra bedding, my vacuum, my cleaning supplies, my shoes… you get the idea. You could say that my entire life is contained within these walls, and there’s something kind of magical about that. I don’t have a storage unit with unused, off-season clothing. I don’t hoard stuff in my parents’ basement (ok, maybe one or two boxes of American Girl Dolls but COME ON!). I have only what’s in here, in my home, with me.
Also, I think smaller spaces tend to feel cozier, just by nature of them being small. I like to think I’ve achieved peak cozy in my space, and I LOVE IT.
What is your number one hack for living small?
“Sarah, you do not need that tchotchke.” And by that I mean, don’t buy all the things. Buy some things, but not ALL the things. Look for items that marry form with function and add storage wherever and whenever you can.
Do you ever feel pressure to be “minimalistic” or feel guilty about buying things you don’t “need” for your home?
Minimalism isn’t really my forte. I admire the style, and I’m all for cleanliness and organization, but I like being surrounded by the things I love. To me, every piece I own is a story. My kitchen houses a printed map of my hometown. My electrical junction box is covered by an antique mirror I got at my favorite shop. The dresser in my living room was my grandma’s. Most of the items I own are tied to memories, and I like that. The key is not to go overboard.
Re: guilt, well…see above ;)
What have you learned about yourself by living small?
That I can live with less (and spend my money on travel instead!).
Also, for me, small = alone (at least for now), and that has perhaps been the greatest lesson of all. I’ve learned that I can be my own cheerleader, my own best friend, my own vote of confidence — and when I’m not feeling like any of those things, my little home will cradle me in cozy and lift me back up.
What’s your number one storage hack?
Give me ALLLL the baskets. My linen closet is basket heaven (organized by face masks/skincare, additional toiletries, travel stuff, cleaning supplies, medications, etc.) and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Who is your biggest small space inspiration?
I’ve followed Grace Bonney of @designsponge since I moved to New York, and I’ve always loved how thoughtfully and purposefully she approaches design. Back when I was living amongst multiple roommates, she had a small, but beautiful apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Whenever she’d share photos of the space, I’d look at them and think, “maybe that’ll be someday.”
I guess someday is today.
What do your friends and family say about your choice to live small?
“Wait, it cost HOW MUCH?!” Outside of that, people love my apartment — they say it’s “bigger than it looks in photos” and oh so cozy. I’ll take it!
You can find even more Small Space Squad Home Tours here:
Photography by The Grand Apartment, used with permission.
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