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  • Kelli

Shoebox Apartment Living in NYC

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

How I live THRIVE in 60 sq. ft. (plus one closet and one storage bin)!

New York City is stereotyped for being astronomically expensive in every single way across the board – a small coffee is $5, a box of cereal is $8, and who could forget paying over $120/month for a transportation system that is unpredictable and unreliable (yes that’s right, even though I’m still a brand new New Yorker, that much I have figured out)!?  Though each swipe of the credit card is accompanied with an eyeroll and a scoff, there is one expense that is absolutely devastating and leaves most New Yorkers in a tizzy haze no matter how consistently we have to give it up…the RENT.

It’s no mystery that we make sacrifices in order to be in the city.  We pay too much for too little, and give up non-necessities (or honestly, sometimes very-much-so-necessities) to get by.  If you are either already here or have dreams of coming here, you likely already know all of this, so rather than harping on the changing times and the circumstances we willingly threw ourselves into, let’s focus on the fun aspects of living in a small space!

Outside Shot

My Space

To truly understand my circumstances, let’s go over the layout of my perfect little shoebox room.  I live in a converted one-bedroom apartment which means that temporary walls were put up in the living room to create a tiny “room inside a room.”  Due to fire codes, the walls can’t go all the way up to the ceiling.  This took a while to get use to, but luckily I have an awesome roommate who is super respectful and courteous, which makes all the difference.

Bird's Eye

Form vs. Function

When putting my room together, I knew that there would need to be a good balance of form and function.  I wanted the space to be sleek, clean, and easy to look at, but I also wanted to be able to take full advantage of any storage opportunities.  To me, this ended up being three major pieces of furniture and a bunch of wall accents (shelving, photos, artwork).  I also knew that I could use a storage bin for any storage that I didn’t want in the room itself; things I would usually put under the bed.  Under this bed is actually another mattress, which I can wiggle out a bit and have space for someone (small) to sleep on!  I’ve yet to try this, but will let you know how it goes…


Making Use of Door Space

This set of hooks on the back of the door is perfect for flat bags.  I also use the lesser used totes for storage.  For example, the Bandstand tote currently holds a smaller bag that has all of my nail polish in it and the Dear Evan Hansen one has a pair of house slippers that live in it.

The hook next to the door is where I put my keys and the bracelets I wear every day so I don’t forget them.  I’m a big fan of Command hooks!


Using Storage As Art

I chose to put this mirror at a horizontal angle facing the window in an effort to bounce the light around the room.  The shelves and set of hooks, both of which I got from Amazon act as the perfect displays for both everyday items and little trinkets collected over the years.

The picture on the top shelf is actually a small white cardboard box that I printed and pasted a photo on the lid of.  I use this to house all of my earrings.  Art and functionality…win win!  This space is perfect for those final touch-ups before leaving the house, which is exactly what I use it for (notice the lipstick on the top shelf).


The next component of the room (and my personal favorite and where I spend the large majority of my time) is the desk area.  My fancy shmancy “home office” if you will.


Creating a Tiny Work Space

This desk from Ikea was a total lifesaver, and fits perfectly in the space between the end of the bed and the wall.  Since the cords plug into the outlet on the left side of the desk, I use the cord hole to hold my lint roller, since I use it daily.  It fits perfectly and is very innovative, no?

The desk is another beautiful balance of form and function, featuring pictures, achievements, and other knickknacks on the shelves above.


Fun game: How many Broadway quotes can you spot in my room decor?


The single drawer of my desk houses, you guessed it, desk stuff.  This adorable pink storage ottoman from Wayfair is another favorite.  Not only is it super comfy, the perfect size, and aligns perfectly with the color palate of the room, but look at all that room for storage!  Inside I usually keep a big, fluffy blanket, some emergency hair ties, my makeup bag, and a small desktop mirror.


The bed, bedding, pillows, and rug were all here when I arrived, so unfortunately I don’t know where they are from!  That Bright Star pillow is from RedBubble!  The artwork on the wall is from Target and is very important to me.  After I made the decision to move to NYC back in February, my dear friend told me that I may start to feel doubt about a decision so large, so if I ever saw or experienced anything that reaffirmed my choice, I should take a picture of it, buy it, listen to it, etc.  The very next day while roaming the aisles at Target, I stumbled upon this and it struck me, so I bought it and every day I wake up and it’s the first thing I see.

The best thing about this bed is that the knob at the foot of the bed is the perfect place to throw my giant bag that I use every day, making the items inside easily accessible if I’m sitting at my desk or in bed!



This nightstand provides such flexible storage and I absolutely love it!  Drawers are great for concealing things, but shelves and surfaces are great for storing pretty things like books!  On the top of the nightstand, I have a tiny lamp, my crazy loud alarm clock, a candle, and some cute and colorful decor.

This stack of books right below are all the books I’ve prioritized reading.  At the current rate I’m going, this should only take about ten years or so (yeah, I’m not proud of it either).

The black box under the nightstand is where I keep my Playbills for this season, and on top of it is a small scale.

The random, empty space to the left of the nightstand is sort of my miscellaneous pile.  The black file box holds important documents and info, and the small grey storage container on top of it holds random cords, extra command hooks (I told you I loved them), and other junk that I feel like I’ll need at some point.


I made those NYC letters from supplies I got at Hobby Lobby, and that book was given to me by my elementary school music teacher last summer during my internship, and has remained my favorite ever since.  I kissed that picture of my boyfriend one random New Years Eve when he was out of the country.  Fun facts!


I’ve always been a massive fan of bulletin boards/white boards, and here I have the best of both worlds with this!  The third shelf in that set came in perfectly as a holder for the dry-erase board accessories.


I bought this Happy Hour banner ages ago at Target in the dollar section for a party.  The party came and went, and I completely forgot about it, but I found it right before I moved and decided to take it with me to NYC.  I think it’s absolutely adorable and perfectly ties the room together!


I made these faux succulents one afternoon using supplies found at Michael’s!  They sit on my window right behind my bed.

Where’s Everything Else?

You’re probably wondering where I keep everything else.  My clothing, my shoes, random storage stuff (etc).  I’m going to (very briefly) take you through where the rest of my stuff lives throughout our apartment.



My bathroom stuff is housed in our medicine cabinet.  Originally I had two super small shelves to use, but none of my products could stand up straight, and when laid on their sides, they took up a ton of room.  To solve this, I simply removed one of the glass shelves and placed it on top of the other.  This medicine cabinet organizer from Amazon also makes everything look neat and tidy.

Whole Room

And there you have it!  That’s how I have managed to live tiny in NYC!  I’m not only super proud of turning this blank canvas into something cozy and comfortable, but I also adore my space and actually find myself WANTING to hang out in my little shoebox.  I hope you found this tour helpful, and that you’re able to see how little space we really need in order to live comfortably.  It’s all about creativity, perspective, and innovation!


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