Imagine this: you come across a picture-perfect, budget-friendly apartment with herringbone floors and a faux fireplace to boot. The only issue? It’s up five flights of stairs and the bathroom couldn’t be tinier. Or, maybe you’ve managed to locate a unit with a bedroom that can fit a king mattress—but on the other hand, the kitchen can only hold a mini fridge.
Let’s face it: despite the fact that magazines and TV shows always seem to feature Pinterest-worthy apartments with zero stylistic or layout flaws, most renters have to make at least some compromises prior to moving into a new space.
We spoke with designers and creatives to find out what they were willing to live with in order to secure an aesthetically pleasing unit— and you may be surprised what their responses were.
A So-So Kitchen and Bathroom
“There’s always a sacrifice to be made when looking for an apartment—especially in NYC. When we found our current apartment, I walked in and almost immediately knew I wanted it. Solely because there was a large foyer, which is a real gem in the city, but also, it had two archways, which add so much charm. The bedrooms were large, unlike our last apartment, and the living and dining room were also. It helped us overlook a less-than-stellar but large kitchen and the fact that there was just one bathroom—and not a cute one at that. I knew I could work with both of them and make it our dream apartment.” —Nicole Blackmon, product stylist and Instagrammer @sweet_domicile
A Lack of Appliances
“Finding my first dream apartment meant that I had to make a few sacrifices in some areas. For instance, my apartment had all the character that comes with a 1920s Spanish-style building, which is what I fell in love with, but it lacked all the modern day conveniences—there was no dishwasher, no air conditioning, and no garbage disposal.” —Brady Tolbert, creative director at Bobby Berk
“I personally sacrifice having in-unit laundry to have a dishwasher, which is 100 percent a necessity for me personally. I also sacrifice space to live in my preferred neighborhood. I know I could get more for my money in other neighborhoods of Brooklyn, but my neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights is worth sacrificing the space for. The waterfront and Brooklyn Bridge Park have become an extension of my home.” —Meghan Donovan, founder of Wit & Whimsy
“When apartment hunting, finding a large den with natural light to use as our office was our biggest goal. Too often, dens are tucked by the front door in a dark and undesirable nook. We found our dream work-from-home setup with a den big enough for both of us, but it meant saying yes to a dated kitchen with orangey wood doors and an old glass backsplash, as well as a small bedroom that can only hold a queen bed and two nightstands. Since we spend the majority of the weekdays in our office, this tradeoff made total sense to us. We increased functionality in our bedroom by using small dressers as nightstands, and we made some minor cosmetic updates in the kitchen to offset the things we can’t change.” —Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski, founder of Tiffany Leigh Design Inc.
“When we moved to NYC, we gave the high-rise life a shot. After a year on the 41st floor, we realized we wanted a cozier space with a bit more character. We gave up the sweeping views for our dream apartment on the Upper East Side. Sure, window units may be our saving grace come summertime—hello, no air conditioning. And yes, the floors creak like the building is over 100 years old (because it is), and amenities are, well, non-existent, but the charm, space, and neighborhood outweigh it all. We wouldn’t have it any other way.” —Anna Page, founder of The Page Edit
Minimal Closet Space
“When I moved across the country from suburban South Florida to metro Los Angeles, I dreamed of a 1920s or ‘30s apartment with original detailing like archways, plaster walls, and wood floors with just enough creak in them to be charming. What I didn’t take into account about 100-year-old homes was the downright laughable amount of storage.
In my previous apartment in Florida, I had a walk-in closet that could likely fit a queen-sized blow up mattress, another very large closet in the guest bedroom, plenty of storage in the laundry area, storage under the stairs, and a deep linen closet. When my husband and I walked into what would become our first home in Los Angeles, we immediately knew it was the one. The deeper we got into the unit, the more evident it became that the sprawling closet situation we were used to would become a thing of the past. I rationalized it away, saying we could get rid of stuff we didn’t need, get a standing wardrobe for our bedroom, reconfigure our furniture to make sure we had room to stash things. While I don't regret our decision to pick this apartment, I do curse my tiny closet on a nearly daily basis. Such is life.” —Arlyn Hernandez, Director of Brand Marketing & Content at Apt2B
An Unconventional Layout
“We just found our dream apartment: two floors within a historic brownstone. The only problem is the kitchen is upstairs and in the smallest room. That means having to climb the stairs every time we need something from the kitchen. Still, it's worth it to get the architectural details we've always wanted.” —Mallory Fletchall, content creator at Reserve Home
A Tiny Bathroom Sink
“In my last apartment, we were immediately sold on the view. The space has to have good bones, of course, but I know that I can add my own touch to make the space feel designed and personal. But the view, and the natural light—these are things you cannot rent or purchase. However, sometimes those come at a cost. In our case, this apartment with the amazing view also had a tiny stainless steel sink that was approximately the size of a very small dinner plate in its only bathroom. We affectionately called it our ‘airplane sink’ until we were able to renovate it completely a few years later. If you think that that's not so bad, I would agree—it was truly a small price to pay for a great view. But, I’d also like to share that toothpaste and stainless steel do not make a good match.” —Shannon Claire Smith, principal and owner of Shannon Claire Interiors