In Refinery29's Sweet Digs, we take a look inside the sometimes small, sometimes spacious homes of millennial city dwellers. Today, cousins and best friends 32-year-old Alicia Martinez and 30-year-old Kendra Revell shows us around their two-bedroom apartment in Forest Hills, Queens.
Moving out from under your parents' roof is always a big step — especially when rent prices are sky rocketing (free rent is a hard thing to give up, after all). But for cousins and best friends Alicia Martinez and Kendra Revell, it was something they knew they wanted to do — and it was something they were going to do together.
"We always discussed it growing up," 32-year-old Alicia says. "It was going to be three of us: me, my other cousin, and Kendra. We talked about it since we were little girls."
The third cousin ended up moving to Utah, however, and Alicia and Kendra spent their early 20s living at home to save money to start their own businesses, while also helping to take care of their nieces and nephews. "I think we always thought that we would get married and then move out, but that didn't happen," Kendra says. But the plan was always there; Alicia wanted to move out before she turned 30. So when Alicia and Kendra both got stable jobs at a startup fashion company and saw an opportunity to get their own place, they took it. "It was very scary," Kendra says. "I remember telling my mom, I don’t know if I can do this, what if I fail?"
Luckily, Alicia was able to find a spacious 2-bedroom with a decent price in Forest Hills, Queens — a mere 20 minutes away from their families but in the heart of what they grew up calling "mini Manhattan." And their move in date? 21 days before Alicia's 30th birthday.
Watch them show off their sweet digs above, and read on below to shop their picks and hear more about their apartment story.
So you work together and live together and you're best friends. Isn't that a lot?
Alicia: "Well our personalities are very different, so Kendra is very quiet, and she goes with the flow, and I’m more aggressive, but we also respect each others' space. We have movie nights and we'll have dinner together, but since I have a boyfriend I'm not always home, or he’ll come here and the three of us will hang out. Plus, we work alternate days. She works remotely Mondays and Wednesdays, and I work remotely Tuesdays and Thursdays."
Kendra: Alicia is very brave and has a vision for everything. Even when we were looking for this apartment, I felt like she did majority of the search, whereas I just went with the flow. So we just mesh really well, ever since we were kids. The worst thing? Sometimes I think she can slow down when she's washing the dishes, because I feel like some dishes I have to re-do. But other than that she's been the easiest person to live with."
Can you talk about how you found the apartment?
Alicia: "We found it through, through a website, I think it was Hot Pads. We wanted to move within Forest Hill or Rego Park."
Kendra: "I had a friend who lived like around the corner from where we live now, and I would visit her a lot. I always wanted to be like her and live in this area, which is a really good neighbourhood."
Alicia: "We knew we wanted a separate living room, and we wanted a dining room, and we wanted a walk-in area. We wanted everything to be separate, because we grew up in houses, and I think it only took us two weeks to find an apartment, or two weekends."
What were some of the upfront costs of moving?
Alicia: "We had to pay one month's rent, give the broker on month's rent, and we had to pay security. So we had to pay it basically three month's worth of rent, around $6,000 (£4,500)."
Luckily, my whole family helped us move in and we also had a housewarming, so everything that we have aside from the TV was given to us by our family, secondhand or new. My mom bought my bed. Kendra's mom bought her bed. My mom gave us her sofa. Our uncles bought our dining room table and chairs. A lot of the kitchen stuff, like pots and blenders our family bought."
Having lived on your own for two years, what are some things you've learned?
Kendra: "I learn from Alicia a lot, like you can really save a ton of money by bulk buying. Now for everyday things like tissue paper and all that stuff, I'll go her way and bulk buy instead of just going to Target or CVS. "
Alicia: "I feel like the one thing I've learned is who I am as a person. I grew up in a very religious household, and my parents were never the type that said you couldn’t do something, living with people rubs off on you a lot. Especially when you stay until you're 30, like I did. So there was some things that I didn’t think about while I was there. So one of the major growths for me is just spiritually, being able to make my own decisions. Also, learning how to cook for myself and budgeting more, because you can't spend as much money when you have to be responsible for everything."