How One Family of Three Does It All in 675 Square Feet

How One Family of Three Does It All in 675 Square Feet

By Arlene Hirst / Photos by Matthew Williams
A growing family in Brooklyn downsizes their living space while expanding their collective quality of life.

Finding an almost affordable apartment in New York can be harder than uncovering the proverbial needle in a haystack. While the hunt has never been easy, the past few years have been almost impossible, with sky-high prices, pent-up demand, and a scarcity of available inventory. That was the market that David Friedlander and Jacqueline Schmidt faced when they found they were soon to be parents. Their 500-square-foot rental in Brooklyn’s Park Slope just wasn’t big enough for three. After a frustrating, unrewarding search, they decided to move upstate to Beacon, where they envisioned a bucolic country life. Instead they felt isolated, needing a car just to go grocery shopping or see a movie. They missed the city, its easy access to friends, food, and entertainment, and the joy of just walking around. They started hunting in the city again and finally found something suitable and made a bid, which was accepted. But they hesitated, because a high price tag for a 700-square-foot apartment was a real stretch that meant they wouldn’t be able to afford any kind of renovation. At the 11th hour, searching on Trulia, the residential real estate site, they discovered a small two-bedroom apartment, a fourth-floor walkup in Brooklyn’s Windsor Terrace neighborhood. It was in terrible shape, but its significantly lower price tag—around 40 percent less—meant they would be able to rehaul it completely. "This place was a dump," declares Schmidt, explaining that the floors were warped, there were three layers of Sheetrock on the walls, and the ceilings were dropped. But she saw the bones and knew what they could do with the space. The unit had other advantages: It faced Prospect Park—a glorious green expanse—it had storage in the basement and stroller parking, and it was in a very good school district.

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