Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Perspective: Small Apartment Insecurity & Entertaining

This photo ("borrowed" from NYT.com) of NY Times food writer Mark Bittman in his home kitchen made my day. As one of countless Manhattanites who suffer from what I like to call "small apartment insecurity," I thought here's one of us! And he's not ashamed to show the world he's got a small one...kitchen, that is.

I particular loved the discussion that this photo generated on the NYT site. Some were surprised that such a venerable food expert would be cooking in such a small, low on frills kitchen, but other astute commenters reasoned that the people with lavish kitchens are the very ones who order in all the time.

City Guy and I hardly ever entertain in our 555 square feet (68 of that a nice-sized kitchen) studio apartment and we never have overnight guests. That's more space than a lot of people in NYC have (and we have lovely high ceilings!), and it's all we need for the two of us. When I moved in with City Guy a year and a half ago, I thought we'd end up killing each other living in a studio, but now I think when we get around to buying our 1 or 2 bedroom condo, I'm going to miss the intimacy of always being in the same room as my husband. It's also easy to keep neat and clean, and we like that manageability.

That said, when it comes to having people over, "When we move..." is my mantra. When we move, I'll have dinner parties. When we move, my mother-in-law can visit. When we move, my friends will drop in at all hours.

Maybe Manhattan's thriving food culture is fed by legions of people just like us, who'd rather meet up with friends at a restaurant than invite people over to their little apartments?

The NY Times also had another great article about how couples are choosing to raise their kids in smaller apartments, just so they can stay in Manhattan. I completely relate to this love of Manhattan. The lure of more square footage is strong, to be sure, but I can also see making do in Manhattan at least until our kids (just theoretical at this point) reach an age when they need their privacy. It's an interesting dilemma, one that my friends in California just can't relate to--i.e., we live in an apartment the size of most of their guest houses.

The truth is I love that in NYC people do with smaller and less. In the "green" revolution, the rest of the world should be taking a cue from us. We use less electricity, take up less space, have a smaller impact on the environment.

So why such shame? Because more square footage and designer furniture signals money and status? Because in the rest of the country, living in 555 square feet seems down right third-world. Sure, but shouldn't I trust my friends to like me for me, not the size of my apartment?

Which is why I took a big step on Monday. I invited Funny Dude (I've known for almost ten years now, he's been to our place before, and he lives in a small apartment himself --figured he'd be most forgiving) over and cooked dinner for him. I cook for City Guy almost every night, but somehow cooking for someone else really made me nervous. I planned the meal in advance, shopped for ingredients and stressed about the preparation. The food didn't turn out as tasty as I had hoped, and it was an hour late getting to the table, but it was nice to have someone over, and I hope he'll forgive me for being such a disastrous hostess. It was my first time. No shame in that, right?

The upshot is it felt good. It's a small step on my road to recovery, and I hope I'm brave enough to keep do it again.

P.S. If you are suffering from "small apartment insecurity," the entries in Apartment Therapy's annual Small Cool Apartment Contest will inspire you. All entries are under 850 square feet.

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