City life with little ones really isn’t for everyone. It is often cramped, always expensive and for most people it involves a whole load of compromises to make it work. To be totally honest, there are moments that I doubt it being for us, usually as I am pushing our weekly food shop home, piled up on the pram whilst carrying a fussy one-year-old in the rain… but it really is… for now anyway.
We were in London for three years before moving here, and so we have discovered a thing or two about making small living-spaces work for our family. J works in NYC and we live just across the Hudson near Hoboken. Whilst rent is a little cheaper than Manhattan, it still means small space city apartment living.
We have been totally blessed with a beautiful one bedroom apartment on the waterfront with the most amazing views of the city and we LOVE it here. J’s commute is actually 20 minutes shorter than it would have been in Manhattan and we have really fallen for the Hoboken/Jersey City area.
However, our place is a one bedroom apartment which means that we had to get a little creative as to how to make the space work for us with a toddler.
So, we decided to give Belle the bedroom and then make the rest of the apartment into an open plan living area/studio flat. Yes, it seems a little crazy at first giving the one-year-old the big (and only) bedroom, however it really does work. It means that when she has a nap or goes to bed we can shut the door and get on with life in the rest of the apartment. We can cook, watch movies and even have friends over for dinner and it doesn’t affect Belle’s night (most of the time!).
We have one golden rule: all of the baby stuff goes back in her room at the end of the day. No excuses. On a good day that means cleaning up and putting everything away neatly but most of the time it is more about throwing everything into her room five minutes before bedtime and shutting the door so that we can’t see it. For us, having that ‘toy free’ adult living space in the evenings makes a huge difference and means that we can really enjoy the space that we have when she has gone to bed without feeling like we sleep in the playroom!
Our Living Space
Giving Belle the bedroom left us with one long room that had to work as a bedroom, living area and dining area. We wanted some sort of separation from the bedroom area, but we also didn’t want to lose too much light and so this IKEA bookshelf was perfect for the job. It is not the prettiest thing and we both didn’t want to buy it but it was the neatest and cheapest way of diving the room up. My original idea was to block out the bottom half of the shelving so that you couldn’t see the bed when you first walk into the apartment, but I quickly realised that the bottom shelves had to be off limits whilst we have little people around because B kept pulling everything off which was super annoying.
However, now I really don’t mind them being so open. It feels much more light and free-flowing. I do have to remember that we have made the room a studio apartment and so our bed is part of the space. Plus, it is great way of forcing you to get that bed made each day!
There is no room for bedside tables or fancy dressers, but thankfully we are both pretty minimal when if comes to ‘stuff’. All of our clothes fit into a chest of drawers at the end of the bed and one wardrobe in the entrance way and then that is it. I use the back of a set of books in the shelf as a bedside table and Jono uses the window ledge. It forces you to be pretty tidy but it works. I have even stuck a little hook on the back of the shelf to hang necklaces (the two that I own!) to save space.
Here is my little pregnancy makeshift ‘bedside table’ situation. Tums, sleep spray and lip balm. What more does a prego Mama need?!
We use this old iMac for watching Netflix or YouTube in bed and charge our phones inside one of the drawers for minimal clutter. One of those chests of drawers is mostly empty and ready for all of the new baby’s stuff. The new baby will eventually move into Belle’s room and share with her. But that won’t be for a while, so in the meantime we will be keeping their things in our room so that we don’t have to disturb B when she is sleeping.
Some dear friends of ours are in the process of packing up their NYC city life and taking a six month roadtrip with their three kids across America to their new home on the West coast. In the process of downsizing to their RV they gave us this globe to re-home which is so funny because we have been looking for one just like this for ages and they had no idea. There is something mesmerising about looking at a globe and discovering new places each time. I think so anyway.
The only exception to the ‘no baby things in our living space’ rule is the nappy changing stuff. We have always just changed B on a mat on the floor but as this pregnancy progresses I am finding getting down to change her harder and harder. So these days I keep her changing basket hidden behind the curtain and I change her on the bed. Maybe when we are changing two lots of nappies we will invest in a changing station but I am just not ready to give up that precious floor space just yet!
I LOVE this sofa. The colour, the legs and the style. Plus for a pretty sofa, it is super comfortable. I wish we were cool enough to have found it at some quirky second-hand place but we didn’t, it is again… IKEA.
Although, that wool throw is pretty special. J’s Grandpa bought it for him when J was a teenager. He thought that it was a strange present at the time but it has become one of our favourite possessions. We enjoyed endless summer picnics on it when we were dating, it was even there when we got engaged and it has been in every home since. I LOVE it.
We liked this table because it is so simple and the end extends out so that you can easily seat 10. We bought the matching bench too which is really great when we have lots of people for dinner. Even in this space we have managed to have eight for a meal and it was just fine.
I sometimes catch myself looking at the bench up against the table and imagining all of our children in the future sitting eating their dinner. Ahhhh!
These chairs and table are on our DIY to-do list.When in doubt in IKEA we like to opt for the plain solid pine options so that we can do something fun with it, maybe add some colour or stain the wood and make it a bit more interesting but we haven’t been able to agree on a plan yet. Any ideas welcome.. watch this space!
Ditching our highchair and switching to one of these Ingenuity high chairs is one of the best space saving moves that we made. It works so well. We get to claim back that floor space and Belle is now sitting at the table with us, not at the side in a high chair. They are so easy to move around and clean. I am a huge fan! I think that Bumbo do a similar thing too if anyone is interested.
And yes. We have far too many of these fake plants in our place but when you have limited natural light, an investigative toddler and a Mama with hay-fever they really are the only way to get some green in the place.
For us right now the benefits of this city life far outweigh the cons. I am sure that a life with a garage, a car and enough bedrooms for us all would be easier, but we are nowhere near ready to trade in this city life just yet. We will carry on trying to be minimal with our stuff and creative with the space that we have and wait and see what happens next.
I have also written a post on Belle’s bedroom specifically if you are interested. I hope that this little apartment tour is helpful to any couples or families living in small apartments making it work.
I will keep you posted as to how we adapt the space to make room for the new baby and how we are planning to make that work.
Any small living-space families out there? Please do let me know what you have learned along the way especially as kids get older.