A Night at The City Museum

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This is apparently the week of sleepovers in public places, potentially catapulting The Natural History Museum out of first place for being the most interesting place to spend the night. Last weekend, The Mets hosted a sleepover at CitiField. This weekend, The Museum of the City of New York plays house with guests as part of an experiment dubbed “Living Large While Living Small.”

The Museum’s “Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers” exhibit showcases innovative designs to accommodate New York City’s changing landscape, “including a rising number of single people.” Within the exhibit is a 325 square foot apartment– this size is typically prohibited in most areas of the city – however, it’s being tested out live by real New Yorkers.

Earlier this week, the editors at Curbed spent time in the micro-apartment, live blogging. Tonight, Challie and her girlfriend Lina have traded their Williamsburg apartment for this one, which is  half the size. Through a series of serendipitous events, including my awesome friend Lisa who tipped me off about the experiment, the power of Twitter for connecting me to The Museum, and the fantastic professional team for being faster at responding to me than even my best friends, I spoke with Challie as she began the adventure.

The only thing that could top this conversation of living vicariously through Challie and Lina would be if I could spend the night at The Museum with my roommate!  I wonder if she would be up for it?!

Me: How did you hear about this experience and what made you want to participate?

Challie: I’m a Design Director for Resource Furniture, one of the companies intimately involved in the design of the installation. When I heard about this opportunity in the last weeks of the installation, we decided to do it.  As a couple, we thought it would be interesting to live in half the space for one night.

Me: How long have you lived together and how’s your roommate relationship?

Challie: We have lived together for a year. I’m extremely spoiled. Lina is a total neat freak. Before I think to clean the bathtub,  she has done it already.  Basically, she is the cook too. I’m the dishwasher and I buy the furniture. I’m the desinger and she does the everyday things.

Me: What are you thinking heading into this evening?

Challie: We are going to try to have as normal a night as possible. It’s an artificial experiment. The fact that the kitchen and bathroom doesn’t work – these are limitations that doesn’t allow it be to realistic. We also don’t have a trash can. I see how interested other people are in it. We hope to bring awareness to small space living and that it is possible to do so in an intelligent and luxurious way.

Me: Do you think you could ever trade down for an apartment this size?

Challie: When you are two people, it’s all about how you get your privacy. It was designed with a single person in mind. I could absolutely picture Lina and I living in an apartment this size. Everything folding into the wall, the space is gracious.  I didn’t think anything like this would be done in a real apartment setting. It’s a way of living  differently.

Me: Before living with Lina, tell me about a funny roommate experience you had in the past.

Challie: I’m thinking. Well, there is always a tipping point in every roommate relationship where one person gets a girlfriend and three people are living in a space that should be for two and things get messy.

Oh, so I remember being in Design School. I always had huge projects and I had  everything scattered in the apartment – I had glue and big boards and box cutters. I was in the middle of something big. One day I came home and my roommate had to bake four dozen cupcakes for her classroom – she was a teacher at the time. There was icing and flour and pans all over the kitchen. The stress I experienced after being awake for an entire week straight working on this project, then, coming home to find cupcake batter all over it was was one of my breaking points.

They always say don’t live with your friends. But, despite this, sometimes it’s very satisfying to do so. She really became my family in those couple of years through the hard and good times!

Me: What do you think about the state of roommate living in NYC?

Challie: To me, it is absolutely shocking that it has taken until 2013 for this to take place. There are lots of small apartments in the city and it feels like the whole market caters to the high end and luxury when there are so many single people who just can’t afford the lifestyle that is advertised everywhere. This whole other sector of the population is being forced into roommate situations when they are 30 or 40 years old and should really be living on own. I really hope this awareness pushes this building model through and it becomes a reality.

So far, according to Twitter, it looks like their night has been off to a great start. You can follow their adventures on Twitter too: 

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