Sharing a Studio During Covid Wasn’t Ideal. Which Upgrade Did They Choose?


When Meg Luther moved to New York six years ago, she rented in Midtown Manhattan, then moved to Brooklyn, eager for a quieter and more residential neighborhood.

Her little studio in a new rental building in Fort Greene, near Downtown Brooklyn, had its own terrace and washer-dryer.

“It was perfect for a pre-Covid world, when you were never at home,” said Ms. Luther, who is from Chicago and works in merchandising for a clothing retailer. A year and a half ago, she met James Orme-Dawson, a native of Bristol, England, who had been transferred to New York — he works on the business side of tech — and was living in a small one-bedroom in a West Village walk-up.

After the pandemic closed down the city, Mr. Orme-Dawson moved into Ms. Luther’s studio, which was smaller but sunnier than his place, while they looked for a new apartment to rent together. “Brooklyn didn’t feel like it cleared out the way Manhattan did,” Ms. Luther said.

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Working remotely, the couple, both 30, had to coordinate their calls, with one going out on the terrace or into the bathroom.

They were hoping to find a sunny one-bedroom with space for two desks. She wanted separate closets. He wanted a Nest thermostat, which they knew was easy to install in most newer buildings. “I am kind of into all my gadgets,” he said.

An in-unit washer and dryer was key. Ms. Luther had laundry facilities in her studio, but Mr. Orme-Dawson couldn’t believe how many New York apartments didn’t. He had been sending his laundry out to the cleaners on the ground floor of his West Village building, and “if you dropped it off on Friday night you wouldn’t be able to get it until Monday morning,” he said. “I think it’s crazy that there are places with no washer-dryer.”

Their budget was in the low $4,000s. Condominium units, they found, were often bigger than those in rental buildings, with one-bedrooms typically 700 to 800 square feet. They also had nicer finishes, and the buildings usually had amenities, like gyms, along with extra fees.

Downtown Brooklyn, filled with modern high-rises, felt sterile to them. The couple considered Dumbo, but they were concerned about the bridge noise, the tourist vibe and the lack of trains to Manhattan. So they focused on Williamsburg, which they knew was a lively neighborhood.

Among their options:

Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:

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