Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Rick Steves Guide to Our Apartment


LOCAL CULTURE & CUSTOMS: The locals, Brandon and Stephanie, are delightful and enjoy engaging with tourists. They have even been known to feed tourists and allow them to stay at the apartment free of charge. (See WHEN TO GO)

ORIENTATION: The apartment’s vast open spaces can be daunting at first, but as English is the official apartment language, one should have no problem communicating with the natives. Unless you speak Swahili.

The apartment is located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, just off Broadway, an area of town known for being home to New York City's liberal cultural and artistic workers, in contrast to the Upper East Side, which is traditionally home to more conservative commercial and business types.

This is a shot down the apartment’s street, facing Broadway…

...and this is of the Broadway intersection itself.

The apartment is located on the top floor of a pre-war (as in World War I) building, constructed in 1891. While the apartment is technically listed as a studio, it has the distinction of being dubbed a “Studio.5,” which is to say it is a studio with an additional small space not quite accurately described as a "room."

WALKING TOURS: A favorite tour of visitors to Brandon and Stephanie’s apartment is the "Complete Walking Tour" (Estimated Time: 45 seconds).

Coming through the front door, there is a long, narrow passageway. Immediately to your right is the bathroom.

HEALTH & HYGIENE: While small, the bathroom feels like something out of a hotel with it’s tiled paneling throughout. The room gets some nice light as the high ceiling opens to a skylight.

Continuing down the hallway, the next opening on the right is the bedroom.

PLACES TO SLEEP (also see RECREATION): To call this a bedroom mocks both beds and rooms. As you can see, the apartment’s bed (Brandon and Stephanie were forced to downsize to a full-size when they moved) is in contact with three of the room’s four walls! When you drop a dresser opposite it, you quite literally have to squeeze in each night. On the upside, it has a ceiling fan and a skylight and when you live in as urban a jungle as Manhattan, hearing the rain drum on the skylight is actually something to savor.

Leaving the bedroom, you will find yourself opposite the built-in closets, which Brandon and Stephanie augment with a large Ikea wardrobe.

Finally, you open up into The Great Room. Starting from the left and working clockwise…

LOCAL BUSINESSES: The apartment’s number one business is the space industry followed closely by its burgeoning film industry. From the desk, Stephanie "talks up space," while Brandon gets relegated to the couch or the kitchen table to tackle his NYU homework.

EDUCATION: To the right of the desk is the living room and library with its three huge bookcases. The couch sits a foot or so off, allowing easy access to the books.

(When the cable installer was here last month, he looked at our wall of unpacked boxes labeled "books" and proclaimed, “You guys aren’t from New York. No New Yorker would own that many books.” It’s not that New Yorkers are dumb, mind you. They are just smart enough not to carry fifty heavy boxes of books up several floors in an elevator-less building. A lifelong New Yorker told us that if you live on the Upper West Side you live in a small apartment dominated by books, but have small closets. If you live on the Upper East Side you have closets bursting at the seams with clothes but only a handful of books. So far, so true.)

FOLIAGE & FAUNA: Note the large plant beneath the window. It is, in fact, not a real plant, but a silk plant housed within a large urn. Have you ever sat on an airplane, thumbing through the SkyMall magazine and wondering who the heck buys the stuff in there? Wonder no more. The urn is a cleverly disguised cat litter box!

WILDLIFE: Hiding amongst the fauna is Cleopatra, or "Cleo," a street urchin Brandon rescued from the back-alleys of Sicily. Do not let this picture fool you--when provoked, she can be a tiger.

In the center of the room, hiding behind the chair and between the two windows is the apartment’s only radiator. Apartments in the city, particularly in the older buildings, are heated with steam. When the radiator comes on, it rattles, hisses and belches to let you know you’re about to warm up. However, other than a pressure valve on the unit itself, there is no thermostat. You can only get as warm as the boiler in the basement allows and if it gets too hot, as it sometimes does, your only alternative is to open the windows wide to the frigid air.

ENTERTAINMENT: To the right of the radiator is the apartment's entertainment center where the natives go to relax and indulge in the wall of DVDs, CD's, XM Radio and the newly discovered and immediately beloved DVR.

PLACES TO EAT: Tourists often flock to the area of the apartment known as "the kitchen" to partake of some of finest food in New York, such as Chicken Divan and Better-Than-Sex Brownies. The kitchen is partitioned off from the rest of the Great Room with an island, giving it the feel of its own space. Note the dishwasher, actually something of an luxury here.

WHEN TO GO: For all of Brandon and Stephanie's friends reading this, consider this a standing invitation to visit. The couch is a pull-out bed and they'd love to host your visit to New York City.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It reminds me of the line from The Firm where Cruise and Triplethorn are walking through their huge new place and talking about the happest times they had together being in their studio apt.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...


Is there room for a buddy, a wife, and two kiddos? The littlest one could bunk with Cleo.

Thanks for sharing, guys.


9:33 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Sure--you can do a family bed for husband, wife and eldest child and, as you said, the newest addition to the family can sleep in the cat bed right in front of the radiator there. Perfect! Problem solved!

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Eric D. said...

But the apartments in SEX AND THE CITY were HUGE! You mean those girls were lying about EVERY THING? Tell me it aint so! Damn them. I'll just have to crash with Mr. Big when I come visit.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Steph said...

Oh my gosh, I will never complain about how little room we have in our bedroom. Wow. I don't know about you but I feel like not having much room really makes you continually evaluate what you really need and what is really important to you.

Thanks for sharing those pics, you guys are so cool.....Living it up in New York City!!!!!!!

So next thing you should review is a bunch of great street vendor style eats in the city...that would be so great with pics and your personal faves....just an idea...

11:31 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Not a bad idea. Some of the best food in the city comes out of those little metal street carts!

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Grama said...

You really know how to pack it in beautifully! Not an inch goes to waste, that's for sure. Total utilization--way to go. Surely reminds me of our days in a studio, but I agree with the responder who said you discover how much you can live without.

Would you believe I actually look FORWARD to the day I can move into tight quarters and do the same thing you've done, paring down all the superfluous attachments and concentrating on basics!

Love you!


3:13 PM  
Anonymous nate said...

Ha! That's fantastic. I observe what I think is a stamp collection, you nerd you, and the two harry potter books that I just happen to own, the only game you need - Taboo, that NG with Saturn, along with lots of Star Trek DVD's (identifiable by long stretches of consistent color on the shelves). I enjoy observing things closely.
Those wall to wall shelves are lovely. As is the outside of the building. You guys eat my kind of cereal. What is the text above your bed?

7:36 PM  
Anonymous nate said...

What kind of resolution does your camera have?

7:42 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

You're right on all counts, except for the stamp collection. No such thing. What exactly is it that made you think that direction?

The texts above the bed are: the lyrics to "It is Well with My Soul," Jung's quote, "Bidden or not bidden, God is present," and a prayer from the Anglican Common Book of Prayer.

As for the other question, my wife, who is currently in Florida awaiting the Space Shuttle Discovery's night launch tomorrow, has the camera, so I am not sure of all the technicalities. I know is at least 5 megapixels and with a gig card, we always leave it on superfine exposure and large, poster size.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous nate said...

"superfine exposure" ??

Where the bloody hell is that button on my camera?

Not a stamp collection? In the picture of your bathroom. On the wall by the door, upper right. It's a frame filled with tiny pictures, too tiny to be photos. I figured they were stamps. Not having a stamp collection does not make you less of a nerd, just so you know.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Ah that--they are indeed tiny photos. It was a Christmas gift to Stephanie while she was living in Germany--hundreds of tiny pictures of she and I in a collage, centered around a Shakespearian sonnet.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Daria said...

Delightfully presented, Brandon. = ) You two have made your apartment a very attractive abode. I'm happy for you--and I'm a bit jealous of your very nice bookshelves (mine are in various states of disrepair). ; )

You should hear Anita's stories of life in Queens sometime--very funny and fascinating.


12:33 AM  
Blogger Reacher said...

You know what would be really cool, if you could fit it in there? A Great Organ.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Reacher, you are such a dork. Besides, we have a great organ. It generally spends most of it's time in the bedroom. (See: RECREATION)

3:06 PM  
Anonymous deon said...

Looking at the photos makes youre apartment seem huge, you have have done an excellent job of making it all yours. I love the way you two made use of all the minimal space that you have, and yes it does make you wonder just how much stuff do you really need in your home. It is a beauitful area both inside and outside of the building. Hope to be able to visit you guys one day soon. Take care and God Bless your new home.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey buddy,

Glad you are doing well in life and I wish you both the continued best. The apartment is great a little cozy even. I hope to get up to see you before my transfer back to sea duty. Never been to the big apple. Keep in touch, Gilly, Amity and Miles

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

I really enjoyed your tour of the apartment. It is very cozy and portrays the two you perfectly.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Patricia said...


One of the most enjoyable pieces of writing I have read this month...fabulous job on format, description, humor, photography, and optimism. Makes me want to come back for another visit, maybe for some
chicken divan or to view the desk in person :)

Happy endings to your semester, 25% completed!

love, patricia

2:02 PM  

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