Families in small spaces: How do they do it?

BY MARTHA WILKIE | Most everyone knows a family crammed into a tiny New York City apartment. Children of different genders can share a room when they’re little, but what happens when they hit adolescence? What’s it like sharing one bathroom? In many families, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that one person may pee while another is in the shower.

In researching this article, I heard about unconventional apartment setups and more than one person said, “Oh, don’t write that, people will think we’re weird.” I’m here to tell you nothing is weird when it comes to Manhattan real estate.

Whole family shares a bedroom? Rent two apartments in the same building? Kid still sleeps with parent(s) way, way past babyhood? Teen’s bedroom carved out of closets? If it works for you, you know it’s fine. (Technically, the aforementioned closet isn’t up to code since it doesn’t have a window, so don’t tell the building inspector.)

On the Upper West Side, the Thompsons (mom, dad, new baby) have a 500-square-foot one-bedroom fifth-story walk-up. Everything is well-edited and multipurpose. For example, their dresser lives in the living room and doubles as a TV stand.

“We got rid of our very loved dining table and replaced it with a large desk unit with lots of cubbies and installed floating shelves with hanging bars for clothes,” Amanda Thompson said. “Changing table is in the living room. We had no idea baby girls could shoot pee and poop so far — we end up being human shields for our living space!”

They now eat at their coffee table, snuggly seated on the couch.

The Barton-Zagoria family of four lives in a smallish two-bedroom, one-bath near Stuyvesant Square; James, 10, and Grace, 13, share a room. The common room serves as home office, dining and living space.

“We renovated, maximized built-ins, and the dining room table is the everything table,” Jennifer Barton explained.

Daughter Grace added, “Sharing a bedroom and bath can be frustrating at times, but it’s worth it to live in the city.”

Jennifer gets up at 5 a.m. every day so she can have proper bathroom time. They’ve looked for a bigger space, but they love their home — especially their terrace with a dramatic view. “We’re happily stuck,” Jennifer said. “We’d never be able to find anything like this if we moved.”

Frances Harrison on the Upper West Side said the right kind of bed can be a boon in close quarters.

“Post-divorce, I couldn’t afford a two-bedroom in a great neighborhood,” she said. “So I compromised, so that my daughter and I could live close to her school, two glorious parks, good transportation and great grocery stores. I splurged on a good-quality Murphy bed for the living room and gave my daughter the bedroom. I suspect once she hits her teens and can commute on her own, we might be looking at two-bedroom apartments further Uptown.”

The following are three small apartments — plus one affordably priced large one — good for families.

A one-bedroom on Delancey St., with a Murphy bed in the bedroom and room for a pull-out couch in the living room is going for $450,000. But there’s a pretty low income cap. Courtesy Douglas Elliman Real Estate

On Delancey St. is a sunny and reasonably priced (for the neighborhood) one-bedroom with new appliances and exposed brick. Murphy bed in the bedroom and room for a pull-out couch in the living room. Plus low maintenance of  $301. But here’s the catch: income cap of $70,884 (for two buyers combined). $450,000. For more information, visit https://streeteasy.com/building/172-delancey-street-manhattan/3a?featured=1 .

For a little more ($500,000), you could buy a much larger, three-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Hamilton Heights. This attractive 1926 brick building is located directly across the street from Riverbank State Park and the apartment has gleaming wood floors and original moldings.

A rental duplex one-bedroom in Harlem sports original details like decorative fireplaces and a huge mantle mirror for $1,995 per month. Courtesy Bohemia Realty Group

Duplex one-bedrooms work well for families since you have an inherent separation of space. Kid(s) in the bedroom and parent(s) in a Murphy bed or pull-out couch in the living room. Here’s a stunning newly renovated rental building in Harlem with duplexes. Original details like decorative fireplaces and a huge mantle mirror are charming. No fee, too. $1,995 per month.

How’s this for a magical unicorn? A reasonably priced ($2,650 per month) rental duplex in Hell’s Kitchen with a working, wood-burning fireplace. Big caveat: Listing agent said the current tenants use the fireplace, but the building may or may not allow it in the future. Unlike many duplexes I looked at, this one has true exterior windows on both levels.

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