Carly Fuller knows how to make close quarters feel like home. The England native-turned-New York City resident has been living in her 450-square-foot apartment—which she shares with her partner—for over eight years. In that time, she has transformed the one-bedroom unit into a calming, welcoming haven in the big city all while sticking to a budget and getting creative with DIY projects.
We’ve previously featured glimpses of Carly’s apartment on the site—just take a look at the dazzling photos below and you’ll see why—and are eager to share the full home tour of her Hell’s Kitchen abode below. Read on for all the details of this chic and sophisticated NYC apartment.
Carly Fuller’s Chic City Apartment Tour
Name: Carly Fuller
Location: Hell’s Kitchen, New York City
Square Footage: 450
You’ve lived in NYC for over a decade but are originally from the United Kingdom. What brought you to the city?
A decade! Wow, that sounds so long! I came to the city because my cousin was begging me to babysit her children. Her nanny was leaving and she couldn’t afford the standard nanny salary. At first, I said, “No way!”—she had four kids under five. Then, after a few months, I thought, “Why not?” I’d be living in the middle of Manhattan! As much as I missed everyone at home, I loved NYC so much. I ended up working in a bar for extra money and made friends, and then that was it—I never went back to England.
You have truly made your apartment a home and have renewed your lease many times. Apartment hunting can be so difficult in Manhattan! How did you land on your unit and choose your neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen?
I found this apartment on Craigslist, though I’m not sure anyone still uses that as a resource anymore. It’s technically a two-bedroom, and I moved in with a roommate who was living here already. My room was what is now the living room. I didn’t know much about Hell’s Kitchen, but I loved how busy it was, and eight years later, I still do! My roommate ended up moving out a couple of years later and my boyfriend moved in.
Given that you share your apartment with your partner, can you share some tips on merging design styles with a significant other and dividing up storage space within a small unit?
I’m really lucky that my partner doesn’t have a design preference, so I was basically able to do whatever I wanted. Storage is an issue for sure, but we live quite minimally. I don’t have many beauty products in the bathroom, and we don’t own that many clothes! That’s probably not what everyone wants to hear, but maybe this will inspire someone to go through what they really need/wear/use and do a big clearout!
What are some of your favorite purchases in your apartment that are ideal for other small space dwellers? Tell us about some of your multipurpose pieces, too, like the dresser you use for storage in the living room!
I love my vintage dresser in the living room. It holds all of the bed linens and laptops/chargers in the top drawer. Dressers and benches under the TV aren’t your traditional living room furniture, but when it comes to small homes, anything works. The shoe cabinet in our kitchen is actually a buffet table that I got secondhand and sanded down on my roof. We needed something by the front door for our shoes, and we don’t have an entryway, and since it’s in the kitchen, I didn’t want it to look like a shoe cabinet!
You do a great job of decorating with neutrals yet still making your space feel welcoming and full of life. Can you describe your aesthetic and why you’re drawn to the tones and textures you’ve selected for your apartment?
Thank you! I think using a lot of textures and natural materials makes it feel comforting. And greenery helps add some life to a room. I think I could be drawn to neutrals because I live in such a busy, fast-paced city, so it’s nice to walk into a home that’s soothing and serene.
Your style has changed a lot over time. How did you transition from glam with lots of black accents to a lighter, more classic aesthetic? Can you reflect on your past design choices and share how your style has changed over the years?
I think I was so beyond excited about having a full apartment to decorate how I wanted that I went crazy and copied three different Pinterest images for the three rooms (LOL). One room was bold stripes and eclectic (crazy!!!), one was farmhouse boho, and the other was girly glam. I then tried to make each of the three rooms more cohesive and went slightly modern with black accent walls. Then I was over that and painted all three rooms in different off-whites. Over time, I think my apartment aesthetic grew up with me. Not that I’m calling myself sophisticated and mature, but that’s how I want my apartment to look.
You’re always taking on new DIYs! Where do you draw your inspiration for these projects? What have been your favorite makeovers thus far?
My inspiration is the fact that I’m always on a budget, and if I think I can make something for cheaper, then I’ll try! I think adding the built-in shelving in the kitchen, which is our little bar area, is my favorite thing I’ve done. But the nightstands, the bedroom pendants, or the art above the living room dresser are all close seconds!
Speaking of DIYs, tell us about all of the amazing projects you’ve taken on in your kitchen to make the space appear brand-new. Rental kitchens may seem limiting to some, but you’ve gotten so creative with your hacks, and we’d love to learn more.
In the kitchen, I applied peel-and-stick marble paper on the countertops and covered the black backsplash with beadboard wallpaper. That last project didn’t really go that well, and the wallpaper fell into the tiles’ grooves and you can clearly see. However, I still prefer it over the black tile! I also replaced the hardware with some pretty vintage ones from Etsy. But best of all, I convinced my landlord to pay for a new faucet and sink because the one I had was terrible! We have a good relationship and he knows how much I love design, so he let me pick whatever I wanted as long as it was within his budget.
We love how you turned a cute marble bistro table into a vanity area. Where did you source this piece and is this how you originally intended to use it?
The marble bistro is from World Market and a vanity table is exactly what I bought it for, but it’s sometimes fun to bring into the kitchen corner and use for a dining moment.
You have found some wonderful secondhand pieces for your home, too. Where are some of your favorite spots to source vintage items?
I love the Chelsea Flea and a shop called Vintage Thrift for little treasures, lamps, and artwork. For bigger furniture pieces, I think Facebook Marketplace is amazing, as well as other secondhand websites like AptDeco.
Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced in decorating and living with a small space, as well as any tricks or solutions you’ve used to make it work?
I think storage was the main problem. I made sure to buy a bed and sofa/futon with height so I could utilize the space underneath. I also made sure our nightstands have storage rather than using a regular end table. Basically, every piece of furniture was bought with storage in mind. With the kitchen, I had enough room to add an island, which provided dining seating and more kitchen storage, too.
By day, you work as a home stylist—can you tell us about how you embarked on this career path and what a typical day in the life looks like for you? What do you enjoy most about your role?
Design is my true passion. I searched for home staging jobs online and applied to a few. I was lucky enough to be given the chance with no NYC home staging background, which they all seem to require! I now work for a couple of home stagers and one designer, so my week is always different. I’m all over the city in a different neighborhood every day, from a penthouse on the top floor of a skyrise to a little studio in Tudor City. It’s so fun!
What has been your favorite part of sharing your apartment and projects online? How did you get started with your Instagram account?
I started a whole other Instagram for my apartment so I could share it with people who were interested. I didn’t go on it that much, and I still use it quite casually. Probably connecting with people has been the best part. It’s so lovely seeing others try a DIY I did or buy something I recommended and just inspiring anyone in general to make the most of whatever space they call home.