My Studio Costs $1,800 A Month — & Here's What It Looks Like

High rent, small spaces, and nosy neighbors are all hallmarks of a classic New York City real estate experience. But somehow, 8.5 million people make it work. We visited the home of one such New Yorker, senior sex & relationships editor Maria Del Russo, to see what her Upper East Side studio looks like.

Her studio might be tiny (Del Russo estimates that it's around 300 square feet), but with the help of her interior design savvy mom and a refusal to let things pile up, she's managed to make it completely her own. It also helps that she has a balcony.

We asked her about how she's cultivated her decorating style. Click ahead to see Maria Del Russo's adorably cute apartment, and to shop a few home buys to copy her style.

Maria Del Russo's itty-bitty apartment leaves no room for messes. In this video, Del Russo show us around her space, and shares her secrets for making her apartment party-ready. Hint: It involves the bathtub.
What's the worst place you've lived?
"I lived in a disgusting apartment my junior year of college. I went to Manhattan College up in the Bronx, and I lived in this rundown, nasty apartment. We had mice, cockroaches. It was the worst of New York City real estate, and I got it out of the way very early. At the time, I was only paying $500 a month in rent because it was a three-bedroom apartment that I was sharing with four other girls. One girl had her own bedroom, and then the remaining two bedrooms had two girls in them. So there were five of us, sharing one and a half bathrooms. It was disgusting."

Did living with four other girls ruin roommates for you?
"No, it was my last roommate. She got us evicted because she didn't pay two months of our rent. I had given her my check and I said, here, you send in the rent this month, and the checks never got to the landlord. So she got us illegally evicted, I might add — they just changed the locks on us one day.

"After that I was like, I don't want to rely on anyone else. I'll tell people that the only person I'll live with is a guy, a romantic partner. I will not live with another girl. I just know what I like, and I feel like the only person I'm willing to be flexible with is someone who I'm going to spend the rest of my life with, or someone who I love, and who gives me good sex. That's someone I'm willing to be flexible with."

And they're likely to be flexible with you.
"Exactly. And I feel like it's a situation where you are more able to communicate your needs, whereas friendships can get tricky sometimes."

Pugg Wall Clock, $12.99, available at Ikea.
What's the best place you've lived?
"This is the best place I've lived. I just celebrated my 3 year anniversary in this apartment. One day I would like to upgrade to a place with a larger kitchen and a wall to separate my bedroom. That would be kind of nice. But this was my first time living alone. I like the fact that no one else is drinking my iced coffee and if there are dishes in the sink, they're mine. I also just really love the way I designed this place. My mom and I worked on it together and I love the feel of it."

So how did you find this place?
"I found this place on Craigslist and I really lucked out. The woman who was the broker on this apartment only works with this set of buildings, and I still run into her in the hallways. So I paid a reduced broker's fee, around 7 percent, and I didn't have to have a guarantor, which was really nice. My father just had to write a letter saying, If my daughter can't pay the rent I'll work it out, but he didn't have to do a credit check or anything like that. I had to pay first month, last month, the 7 percent broker's fee, and one month security. My apartment started out at $1,750. The first year they didn't raise it at all, and they've only raised it $25 per year after that. So now I pay $1,800 a month for rent."

Do you ever awkwardly see your neighbors?
"Oh, I see them naked all the time. And they've probably seen me naked. It's just a fact of life in New York City. One of them works from home all the time and has a standing desk."

Pineapple Stripes Geometric Print Pillow, $19.79, available at Target.
What's your biggest splurge?
"My biggest splurge was my couch. The arm of my first couch collapsed because I was sitting on it — it was totally my fault. But I was not expecting to have to buy a couch, so I really had to pool my resources to get together and shop around for one. I found one at Raymour & Flanagan, which everyone always teases me about. But it was so easy. I walked in, looked at couches, and chose this one in 20 minutes. I think it's an adorable couch. I love it."

Where do you normally shop?
"So I really love vintage shops and thrift stores. I know that's a blasé answer, but the lion's share of the big pieces in my apartment are mostly thrift. They tend to hold up better, they have more character, and they're easy to fix. My mom and I are super into updating furniture. For little stuff, I'm kind of all over the place. I'll do Urban Outfitters, I'll do ABC Carpet & Home. Anthropologie, I love for their homeware — I'll get my candles and my little tchotkes from there. But I'm really not discerning. If I go into a place and I see something I like, I'll get it."

Chilson Loveseat, $839, available at Raymour & Flanigan.
What's your decorating style?
"I just pick out things I like and don't really think about if they go together. I consider myself a bit of a collector. I just collect things I think are cute, like my matchbook collection, and I really am not concerned about whether something is going to work in my apartment. I just find a way to make it work."

Any tips for shopping thrift stores?
"The number one lesson my mom has taught me about looking for thrifted furniture is that you never really want to rebuild a piece. You just want to touch it up a little bit. So when you go into a thrift store and you really like a piece, you have to know when to walk away from it — like if the wood is rotting. But sometimes, all a thrifted piece needs is a change of hardware, you know? And it looks like brand new, which I love."

Holly Golightly Turquoise Sleep Mask, $19.95, available at Etsy.
Where do you find your artwork?
"I have a ton of Refinery29 artwork on the wall because I used to the be the beauty editor at Refinery before I moved over to sex & relationships, and one of my big responsibilities was photo shoots. I'm really proud of the work I did for the beauty editorials. So I always got the photographers' permission, and I made four prints for my apartment.

"My favorite one is definitely the one in the bathroom from our body hair shoot, where two models were total badasses and they have glitter on their happy trails to represent a little happy trail on their stomachs. It's just the coolest piece in the world."

Jonathan Adler Belly Vase, $128, available at Jonathan Adler.
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