Close Living: Two College Friends, One Bedroom

Close Living: Two College Friends, One Bedroom


“No, me neither,” Ms. Mulhall said. “That’s how my whole family is: all up in each other’s faces all the time. No one knocks.”

Last June, they rented a one-bedroom on East 85th Street for $2,450 a month, putting their cavalier attitude toward personal space to the test. Ms. Mulhall took the bedroom — which has two good-sized closets and overhead storage — and Mr. Robison has a loft bed in the living room. Underneath it, he keeps his clothes on a garment rack and in a large wicker trunk he found on the street.

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Ms. Mulhall sleeps in the bedroom, which has two closets and overhead storage.

Credit
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

“People will just throw stuff out at the end of the month — their couches, their beds,” Mr. Robison said. “It’s entertaining just to see all the random stuff.”

They split the rent, with Ms. Mulhall shouldering the utilities, which run about $150 a month.

“We must have seen at least 80 apartments,” she said. Their broker, Kim Bloomfield, of Citi Habitats, convinced them to look on the East Side for more space and a shorter commute. At the time, Ms. Mulhall was doing package design in White Plains, N.Y.

“We’d walk into a place, and Kim would look at my face and be like, ‘No, never mind,’” Ms. Mulhall said. “Or we’d go in and be like, ‘Where would the bed fit in the living room?’ And she’d be like, ‘A bed doesn’t fit in here. Let’s go.’”

By the time Mr. Robison saw their current place, they had already lost out on several places they loved. He immediately called Ms. Mulhall to tell her that it was the ideal layout: The living room and bedroom were on opposite ends of the apartment, with the kitchen and bathroom in between, so neither one getting up in the middle of the night would disturb the other.

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The kitchen has a pretty blue-and-white tile backsplash.

Credit
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

“If we wait,” he warned, “it will be gone.”

There was only one major drawback: a mini fridge rather than a full-size one (though, oddly enough, there is a full-size dishwasher).

But while they’re a very short walk from many major train lines, Ms. Mulhall still wishes they had found something on the Upper West Side. “I feel like it’s sunnier over there,” she said ruefully. “The buildings are shorter.”

“But you could not fit this couch into most places we saw,” said Mr. Robison, perching on the arm of the big red sofa they bought for $65 on Craigslist.

“And it doesn’t feel crammed — it feels open,” he said of the apartment, which is cheery and spacious, with large, storybook-like casement windows, high ceilings and a kitchen with a pretty blue-and-white tile backsplash.

Names: Caitlin Mulhall and Matthew Robison

Ages: 22 and 23 Occupations: Ms. Mulhall, who studied advertising and graphic design in school, is currently freelancing. Mr. Robison works as a server at Ocean Prime, a restaurant on 52nd Street, and does real estate staging with Anne Kenney Associates. Rent: $2,450, split evenly. Ms. Mulhall, who has the bedroom, pays the $150 or so a month in utilities.No co-signers or guarantors: The landlord agreed to accept an extra month’s rent up front in lieu of a guarantor, since neither had immediate family in the tri-state area. Biggest issue with sharing a one-bedroom: The storage — the apartment lacks a living room or hall closet. “We have definitely tried to buy more storage,” Ms. Mulhall said, pointing out the ottoman and coat rack/entrance bench. How to live with a mini-fridge: “You have to grocery-shop every day. And the freezer is this big,” Ms. Mulhall said, holding her hands a tiny distance apart. “We can’t get ice cream; you have to eat the whole thing in a sitting.” What they share: Food, cooking duties, overhead storage in the bedroom and a hamper that hangs on the back of the bathroom door.

“Not even when we have other people over,” Ms. Mulhall agreed, pointing out that they often invite friends — and even her mother — to stay over on the sofa.

It was her mother’s stories about working in New York in her 20s that made Ms. Mulhall want to move to New York. But the first job she got out of school — both she and Mr. Robinson attended the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio — was in the Bay Area, designing packaging for E. & J. Gallo Winery. Mr. Robison had also gone west and was doing set design in Los Angeles. During one late-night phone call, Ms. Mulhall told Mr. Robison that she wanted to move east and that he had to come with her.

“I didn’t know anyone in L.A.,” Mr. Robison said. “All my family is from Ohio and Pennsylvania.”

“I love it,” Ms. Mulhall said of New York. “This is where I’m supposed to be. There’s so much to do here: Carl Schurz Park, Central Park, tempting shopping on 86th.”

Mr. Robinson added: “Once this summer, we went to Coney Island and it only took us 45 minutes on the Q. And you can order food in the middle of the night.”

And as for sharing a one-bedroom?

“Sometimes I feel like I’m intruding on his space, because I’m always out here,” Ms. Mulhall said. “And then I’ll go in my room and he’ll be like, ‘Why are you in here?’”

The only awkward thing about their living situation, they agreed, is the neighbor whose kitchen is directly opposite Ms. Mulhall’s bedroom.

“I see this guy all the time,” she lamented. “One time I was bending over and we made eye contact under the drapes.”



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