Please help me not hate my new condo
March 30, 2019 1:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm closing on a newly constructed condo in about 3 weeks, and walked through it for the first time last night. I HATE IT. Please help me to come to peace with it, suggestions welcome.

My current apartment is 725 square feet spread over 2 bedrooms. It is ridiculously open and spacious. The new condo is one bedroom, and I thought "one less bedroom! more spacious!" WRONG

It is possibly the worst use of space ever. I didn't see it from the floor plan, which is my bad. (Floor plan here.) I'm not a hoarder, and I don't need a giant goddamn closet to store stuff I never use. I need space to put furniture and entertain and, you know, actually live. The bedroom I can live with even though I have a King bed, because I only use it for sleeping. But I'm a pretty serious cook, and the living/kitchen area is SO CRAMPED.

Help I could use: pats. Suggestions on making this space work and improving it. Super easy floor plan program that will let me plan out furniture placement in advance. I am pretty challenged in that area. Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That is a lot of closet space! I wonder why they did that.
IKEA has a relatively easy design program. I use it sometimes for planning, just putting in their furniture as generics so I can see the spatial effect, not actually buying it. And I'm a designer who can use professional programs.

If I was moving in there, I'd have my long but relatively narrow dining table by the window, parallel to the window, with comfortable chairs around it, so people just hang out around the table after eating. I'd maybe put a small sofa or a bench with soft cushions against the wall opposite the kitchen, for friends to hang out in while you cook, or for you to sit and read. And I'd put a small square island approximately where they have put the dining table.
posted by mumimor at 2:18 AM on March 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm assuming there was no furniture in place when you did the walk through? I always find empty rooms look weirdly tiny, I think it will help to have furniture. The size of the furniture on the floor plan looks odd and not very helpful in the meantime.

With the closet, have they put built in shelves already? If not, or if they can be removed, I'd use it as a little nook, maybe for a small desk of for a bookcase so you can keep the living room emptier.
posted by kitten magic at 2:39 AM on March 30, 2019 [11 favorites]

Yeah, that closet looks like an awesome study.
posted by freethefeet at 2:47 AM on March 30, 2019 [17 favorites]

Yes, it's maybe not ideal--that's a generous closet and the size of the linen space also seems a bit hard to justify. Although it seems to be the ONLY clear one, except for the coat closet; I suspect you'll find more to put in there than just clothes even without converting it partially to office use, which seems like not a bad idea. The practical cleaning stuff can go in the linen, er, room.

Ultimately, though, this is going to be a question of framing. Your living room/kitchen area is ~250 sq ft, if I'm reading the floor plan correctly. Do you know how many people--not in Japan, in the U.S.--live in apartments with a total square footage of less than 500 sq ft? I'm looking at my new-ish apartment, which has roughly the same amount of space devoted to kitchen/living in a similar configuration (though end-on-end rather than side-by-side) and is smaller overall, and coming from one of said maybe-500-sq-ft apartments the kitchen seems delightfully large and the overall space perhaps not crazy generous, but certainly adequate. And I have a pretty bulky desk taking up almost an entire wall of the living room. This is so not going to kill you.

I'd put a small 2-person table in the niche-ish section of the kitchen for regular meals and a smaller island in the middle, roughly where the table is drawn now, but a bit closer to the counter. Unless you are routinely entertaining ten or more people, that will leave you with perfectly decent workspace. Or use a table like the one depicted, make it double as an island, and use that niche-ish area for a sideboard/credenza, if you're more worried about having space for china and flatware and pots/pans than about workspace.

If you think a lot of people are going to be in the living room at the same time, buy a few floor pillows or poufs or ottomans that can double as storage or footrests when not in use, or be stacked in your generous closet.

I don't know, I'm just routinely boggled by the Mefi insistence that more than 700 sq ft isn't enough for a singleton who doesn't have, like, bulky medical equipment to worry about. You're going to be fine.

(Are windowless bedrooms legal under your local building code? They aren't under NYC's. That would bug me much more.)
posted by praemunire at 3:18 AM on March 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

I would like to provide pats in form of:
Did you know that hating your new home as soon as you‘ve signed / are about to sign the deal is a known Thing?
It‘s like suddenly all the bad things you‘ve missed or minimized before jump out at you and it‘s the Worst Home In The World and you will hate every minute you will be living in it.

I think part of it‘s a destressing reaction from the apartment hunt.

Also, empty apartments always look grotesquely proportioned and wrong.

The horrible feeling will go away once you start furnishing and making this your home. You’ll be happy in this place. You can do this!
posted by Omnomnom at 3:49 AM on March 30, 2019 [45 favorites]

You got this! Very scary to move. Congratulations on not being a hoarder.

I use our overly large closet as my office/studio (think desk, sewing machine, printer, assorted making effluvia)

It is rad.

Are you stoked about other cool things around condo? Lower commute? Lower bills? Having equity!

New means stuff should not break for awhile - yay

Pat, Pat, Pat :)

Editing to add: I bet an island type piece on wheels might help with cooking stuff storage/counter space. Moveable for when entertaining.

No idea on apps. I usually make scale cut paper of my furniture (very rough)
posted by PistachioRoux at 4:11 AM on March 30, 2019 [12 favorites]

Congratulations on your new condo! I'm sorry your feeling a tad anxious, but that's pretty normal.

Move in and don't do a thing for a couple of weeks, no decorating etc. Breathe! Relax! Live in the space, get used to it. Then start to think about how you can make your space more comfortable.

Good luck in your new home!
posted by james33 at 5:03 AM on March 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I cried before moving into all three of my adult homes. So that part is pretty normal.

For kitchen prep, islands that also have seating (some have a folding top) can be great - something like this to go big or this to go smaller. I have a friend in a condo who uses a regular height table for a lot of baking activities. I have another one who has a couch against a kitchen island.

Since it’s yours, once you find a configuration you live and money permitting, you can get it custom built in for a really sleek experience.

Meanwhile it looks like you might be able to use some of the hall closet space for storage of cooking gear, especially if you get creative with going up a wall with hooks etc.

I’d definitely turn that closet into a den, with clothes at one end.

The only thing that gives me real pause is the bedroom with no window, but even that could be made really cosy. I think you can do this!
posted by warriorqueen at 5:34 AM on March 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

The suggestions for turning that huge closet into an office sound great and I'm actually kind of jealous that I don't have a big closet like that just to make a nook in as I have a desk in the living room now that I don't really like. As I think about it, decades ago my parents did have a house where the "computer room" was a closet (not nearly as big as the dimensions on that floorplan) off of a downstairs bedroom that was the defacto living room and it was cozy and self-contained and if the desk got to be a mess you could just close the door on it.

That kitchen/living room area is a decent open space with lots of possibilities. My old house had a living room that was basically that size and shape, though it had really awkward door placement and a big honkin fireplace in the middle. My main problem with arranging furniture was the scale of stuff, but if you haven't got like a super oversized sofa you can probably be flexible in how you arrange things. Don't be afraid to rearrange every few weeks or days until you find a configuration that pleases you. Seconding Ikea for quick-n-dirty visualization as well as SmartDraw. You could also try one of the suggestions listed here.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 5:37 AM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

That weird little area next to the bedroom? Make it your bedroom! Make it so a double bed JUST fits in there. Have someone build a little platform maybe so you can slide boxes under the bed for storage? The other side? Open shelves for you clothes, if you are neat (it wouldn't work for me since I am a slob and the messy clothes would stress me out.

Then where they have the couch in the living room put really cozy dining set up - so that it works for a secondary living spce. A loveseat/settee and a couple compy chairs and your table.

Then you have the whole bedroom for a nice living area. You can put some attractive floor to ceiling closets in there - they dont take up much room.
posted by ReluctantViking at 5:39 AM on March 30, 2019 [7 favorites]

Seconding or thirding the points that a giant closet makes a great cozy office/craft/hobby room, and that empty apartment rooms always somehow inherently look like tiny hopeless boxes of sadness. My current apartment is Huge for My Needs and when I did the walkthrough I was inexplicably convinced it somehow "used the space so poorly" that it was somehow functionally smaller than my old, more open but smaller studio. I was wrong and now that I live here I can see it's more than enough space, but empty apartments just have a vibe like nothing could ever fit in them somehow.

As someone suggested above, using a virtual room planning program can be reassuring because it shows just how much furniture will fit in the space, and it's often more than you'd think from eyeballing. For example, if kitchen space is important to you, there's no reason to have the dining table in the middle of the room like they show-- you'd only need it away from the wall if you're seating 4 guests. And if you reorient your couch to a different configuration than in the floor plan, you could potentially extend your kitchen counter space with one of those mobile storage/surface carts or similar furniture.

One thing I noticed is that if the bedroom is indeed windowless, that sounds like excellent sleeping conditions to me? You wouldn't have to take any steps at all to block out the sun/city lights, you could just have easy access to full darkness, which is great for deep sleep!

Also, having the kitchen feed directly into the living area means that you can easily interact with guests while prepping food or drinks, and likewise you can hang out in your "living room" and still hear your oven preheating beep, which is something I didn't realize I'd miss when I upgraded to a more complicated floor plan.
posted by space snail at 5:40 AM on March 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Have you considered keeping most of your clothes, especially hanging garments, in the laundry room? It's huge and wastes a lot of space. That space becomes even more useful if you replace the conventional door with a barn door. Now your dedicated office/craft space will be much more intentional as a single purpose space. Guests will never know since there's another coat closet.
posted by carmicha at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2019 [11 favorites]

Change is hard! And brand-new living spaces take some time to become imbued with personality. I love the idea of a clean slate, and I hope you can find the joy in having a place that's all ready for you to make it home. Pat pat pat pat pat.

As a kid, I used to design my dream house floor plan for fun. As an adult, on the weekends, I used to look at a section in the newspaper that critiqued condo floor plans, and think about how I'd change them myself.

One thing I am looking at is how people will move through your space, and I can see that your hallway might seem like a bit of a tunnel, and the act of greeting your guests and getting them to the entertaining space might be awkward.

First - can you take the doors off the closet to the left, install some pot/tape/sconce lighting, some stylish wallpaper, and put in a bench and coat hooks for your guests's things? Shoes (if you're a shoes-off place for guests) can go under the bench, and you can keep a small bin of house slippers there. That should stop the weird intersection of door swings and give you a place to step back while they get themselves settled. I'm not in love with some of these examples, but the idea is to open that narrow passageway up a bit.

If the laundry room can have a pocket or sliding door, that might be better too. You can use the wall that aligns with your bathtub for your coat and daily stuff. Where the door swings now is where your laundry bins can live. Weird door swing intersections can make a place feel more cramped.

I'm not sure what the plain white rectangle is across from the bathroom, but that could be a table with storage underneath that has your "landing strip" for papers and such. A great piece of significant art above it, and again, good lighting, will open that up.

You don't have a lot of storage in your kitchen for pantry items - the blank wall across from where the table is now could have a pantry with some good-looking storage (think along the lines of this Billy Bookcase Pantry) - and lights inside the top of that will also make it lighter and brighter.

The island ideas offered above are great - you don't have a lot of counter prep space, and besides, it's no fun to cook facing a wall. Get an island big enough to seat people on comfortable stools, and maybe it should have storage for pots or dishes/glasses underneath. Make it significant and beautiful and the focal point of the whole place, have it run lengthwise.
Then maybe a smaller condo sofa and ottoman with tray instead of coffee table? Do you have a great big mirror to put on that wall that might bounce more light around?

Last idea would be that if you really don't need the closet, and don't watch TV or game with your guests at all, take down the wall between the entryway closet and the walk-in, close the door between bedroom and closet, and there you have a small den for TV and condo-size sofa, and your living area is all about a big table with sofa seating (look on Pinterest) or and some great chairs.

Last thought? A dining table that folds down and goes behind the sofa agains the wall, and then you can have a smaller island for day-to-day, and store extra chairs in your awesome closet, or folding chairs that can hang on your laundry room wall?

There's a lot of potential, and a lot of fun things to think about. I am sending you a virtual plant to welcome you to your new space.
posted by peagood at 5:50 AM on March 30, 2019 [9 favorites]

This is a perfect excuse to indulge in reading a bunch of tiny home blogs and books. They are all targeted to homes smaller than yours but will have a ton of clever, fun ideas for utilizing space creatively, like furniture that turns into other furniture as needed.

Your new place is bigger than most NYC spaces. A lot of design blogs are written by New Yorkers so the default stance is "how to deal with a small kitchen." Apartment Therapy has a series on it.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:06 AM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm torn between "storage allows you to keep the rest of the living space way more open, and once you own you start to accrete more stuff" and "are you still in escrow? If you hate it don't buy it."
posted by mzurer at 7:13 AM on March 30, 2019 [11 favorites]

Many years ago, my roommate and I moved from a two-bedroom apartment to another one in the same complex that was bigger. But it really did use space differently, and the new apartment never worked as well for us as the old one did. If, after reading people's suggestions on how to make your condo space work, and considering the possibility that you have pre-purchase anxiety as other people have, if you remain convinced this condo will not work for you, it may well be better to bail out now and lose whatever you'll lose by doing that, than to close, move in, and be committed to owning it. That is totally a thing you can decide to do.
posted by Orlop at 7:23 AM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, how much would you lose by bailing (or, if you’re in a crazy market like I’m in, moving in with the intent to flip it quickly, or keeping it as an investment condo and rent it out while you wait a bit to get a new place for you to live in, borrowing against the equity of the investment)?

Check out current real estate listings in the Toronto area tyo see how agents have staged condos with similarly crappy layouts. I’m sure they’d put an island with bar stools where the dining table is (that would add to your cooking surfaces obviously).

The space next to the bedroom is weird, it’s enormous for a closet. I wonder if it was left with the suggestion that it could be used as a second bedroom without saying as much (because I guess it would need a window, legally)... or I mean do you have a storage locker? If not, maybe that’s why it’s there. Yeah it could definitely be a den/study/workspace. (With lots of halogen lighting.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:12 AM on March 30, 2019

I'd swing the sofa and coffee table around so it faces the window to take advantage of the view and avoid the distraction of the kitchen. Put a narrow console or drop leaf table table behind it as a separator from the kitchen. Move the tv on a smaller stand to sit kitty-corner in the unoccupied corner. Replace dining table with an island designed to sit two. I guess it depends on how often you entertain. Sitting on cushions around a coffee table is fine by me but I'm a barbarian.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

There are way too many doors in there. I love the idea of using the closet for your bed and the laundry for you clothes. I would actually remove the bedroom door and use that as a living area, the linen door and use that as a display and bookcase area, and if the laundry is usually neat and tidy, remove that door as well. Way too many doors makes it all seem so closed off.
posted by MountainDaisy at 9:44 AM on March 30, 2019

Also, change the sliding door to a paper screen or something that lets light through.
posted by MountainDaisy at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2019

Yeah, I should've said last night, despite this new place (a) being bigger (b) having an actual kitchen rather than the literally sub-50-sq-ft-including-the-cabinets niche I had before (c) having in-unit w/d and d/w, unlike the last place (d) having a shower that reliably provides hot water, unlike the last place, (e) being ~20 mins closer to work, and (f) having a freaking view all the way to the ESB and the Chrysler, I felt depressed and uncertain when I first moved in. I'm warming up to it now. I put in a lot of Command hooks. Actually playing with the space is heartening.
posted by praemunire at 10:16 AM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

So the kitchen is problematic, not enough cupboards and bench space. Looks like you need to look at how to use the extra space to that end?

A couple of suggestions would be to get a small buffet to store plates, flatware, whatnot which you could pop near the table maybe beside the TV. If you’re really into cooking then I would look at giving over space in the laundry to a pantry for dried and canned goods. You could also store those less frequently used appliances. Might free up more of the kitchen storage space for things used frequently.

The bench space is a real problem all of it is in the corner which is annoying. (I’d put my kettle/toaster/Kenwood there since it’s an awkward space) Leaves only very small space by the sink. Can you use the table to work at somehow to maximise bench space?
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 11:05 AM on March 30, 2019

Closet to office space ideas
posted by Elsie at 11:55 AM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

On the inspiration side: Mark Bittman is a pretty serious cook too, and his kitchen is (or at least was when he was writing his award winning NYT column) about 3/4 the size of yours.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:50 PM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm more concerned that the floorplan seems to show no windows at all in the bedroom. Is this correct?
posted by arha at 12:43 AM on March 31, 2019

You could have the framing of the giant bedroom closet and the hallway closet torn out before you move in. That would give you a 15 x 10 bedroom, part of which could be used as a study. Coats could be hung in the laundry room.
posted by monotreme at 10:19 AM on March 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've used Floorplanner before to try to plan out rooms and I liked it pretty well. I think the tool is free, or at least there's a free version or trial. I haven't used it in awhile, but I remember really liking it! It was very helpful to be able to figure out furniture placement for rooms, and the 3D view made me feel like I was playing The Sims ca. 1999.

So many pats. I can see how this would be very disappointing. There's a lot of really great advice here, and I agree with the idea of moving everything that isn't directly supporting the goal of entertaining or cooking out of the kitchen/living area and back into one of the improbably huge storage nooks. I might even take it a step further and maybe carve out some space in your massive utility closet for storing some of your bulky, seldom used kitchen gadgets. This would help streamline the kitchen space a little without requiring that you get rid of your specialty gadgets.

I also really love the idea of taking off some of the doors to open the space up! If you still want a proper door in some of the rooms while keeping the option of keeping them open without blocking a path, I really like those gloriously twee sliding barn door options, when used sparingly.
posted by helloimjennsco at 11:04 AM on April 1, 2019

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