Downsizing From a Two-Bedroom to a Studio

Cooped up at home these last four months, many New Yorkers have found themselves longing for larger apartments. But Kayla Oberlin and her partner Inbar Madar, who moved from a two-bedroom in Bushwick to a studio apartment in a Williamsburg high-rise late last fall, are not among them.

“Honestly I don’t miss it,” said Ms. Oberlin, 30, of the couple’s old two-bedroom. “It was a railroad apartment and despite being relatively large, it was pretty dark.”

“We used the second bedroom as storage and office space,” she continued. “It was easy to give up that square footage for more light. This feels really big and open.”

Even after months of working — and doing pretty much everything else — from home, “we’re not suffocating,” said Ms. Madar, 28. They also share the space with their cat and dog.

Ms. Oberlin and Ms. Madar started looking for a new apartment last fall, a few months before the lease was up on their Bushwick place, where they’d been for the last few years. “It was a great space but we were living above a bar and a lot of tourists were coming constantly to the area for graffiti tours,” said Ms. Oberlin, who had previously lived in a shared apartment in the same building. “We were looking for a slower pace.”

The Williamsburg waterfront, close to a number of their favorite shops, music venues and cafes like Mogador and Reunion, seemed like an ideal spot to relocate — vibrant but not quite so raucous. One of the places they checked out was the new mixed-use tower One South First, developed by Two Trees Management Company, which opened last September at the site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery.

The couple liked a studio apartment there so much they decided to break their lease. Their landlord agreed to the early departure as long as they found new tenants, which wasn’t hard as they’d been paying $1,950 a month.

“What we really liked about the apartment was that it’s considered a studio but there is a separation between the living room-kitchen and the bedroom,” said Ms. Madar. It was also one of few units in the building that had both that studio layout and a view of the Williamsburg Bridge and East River.

And though the rent was a significant jump from their previous place — $3,900 a month — they felt comfortable with the increase because of all the building offered. Before the coronavirus shutdown, Ms. Madar reasoned, they’d be able to save money on gym membership.

They were also excited about the restaurants that were slated to open in the building’s retail spaces: Roberta’s Pizza, OddFellows Ice Cream and Other Half Brewing Company. They liked that the custom hair-care brand Prose planned to move into the building’s office leg, and that there would also be a 2,800-square-foot co-working space.

Ms. Madar, who is a brand manager and Ms. Oberlin, who is in customer relations, met while working at a skin-care company; they now work at different luxury hair-care companies. They speculated that, maybe if the right opportunity came up, one or both of them might work from their own building in the future.

They had no idea, of course, that in just a few months they’d be working from their building whether they liked it or not: Ms. Oberlin from a standing desk in the bedroom area and Ms. Madar in the living room area. (Ms. Madar has also made use of some of the shared lounges in the building.) Or that the opening of the restaurants downstairs would be delayed and the building’s gym would be closed until the government allows fitness facilities to reopen.

But they’ve found the space a pleasant place to quarantine, almost surprisingly so. They may be largely confined to two-ish rooms, but at least the view is expansive.

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