With quarantines and shelter-in-place orders that are likely to last the next month or more, your home has suddenly never felt smaller.
If you’re living in an apartment by yourself or with roommates, the size is even more acutely apparent. Your apartment may be a small unit, like many built within the last decade. Rental listing and information site RentCafe.com reported in December 2019 that the average size of newly built apartments in 2019 was 933 square feet – a 57-square-foot decrease compared to 2010.
Many developers and apartment building owners make up for smaller living spaces with top-notch amenities, from business centers to lounges, areas to grill and even rooftop pools and gathering spaces.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, those community spaces that offset the small size of your apartment are either closed entirely or suddenly an undesirable place to hang out as you’re looking to limit physical interaction with other people. You may find yourself struggling to balance interaction with others with personal space and the necessary measures to avoid the spread of illness in a high-density building.
Here are six things small apartment dwellers can do to help them get through the coronavirus pandemic:
- Check in with your landlord.
- Avoid building amenities.
- Continue cleaning.
- Share schedules.
- Take breaks.
- Be mindful of neighbors.
Check in With Your Landlord
Now is a good time to touch base with your landlord by email, phone or text.
Especially if you’re one of the more than 6 million Americans who have been laid off due to the global pandemic, it’s important to let your landlord know you can’t pay rent, and hopefully discuss payment deferment or decreases during the period you’re unemployed.
Aside from rent concerns, communication with your landlord can help you take advantage of any assistance offered during the pandemic. Some apartment building owners are helping set up delivery services for groceries and meal delivery from local restaurants, as well as process packages from online orders.
“Instead of (tenants) having to go to local stores to buy stuff, we have it delivered in and dispersed to their apartments,” says Jeffrey Amengual, chief operating officer of DMG Investments, a New York City-based company that owns student housing, apartments and condominiums throughout the U.S.
Avoid Building Amenities
As hard as it may be to work from your studio apartment when there’s a perfectly good lounge in the building, or run outside when there’s a state-of-the-art gym on your first floor, it’s important to stay away for now. Your landlord may have officially closed all amenities anyway.
Amengual says DMG Investments has closed amenities in their properties, to both allow for a deep cleaning of all common areas and also to prevent future spread of COVID-19. While most residents are understanding, he says that a few have been vocal of their dislike of the measure.
“There are people that will feel they’re somehow smarter, stronger, better than everyone else and they won’t get the virus,” he says. “But reality will set in, and those who didn’t take proper precautions will probably be infected at a higher rate than those who do take proper precautions.”
For apartment communities that previously offered classes and gatherings that have been canceled, ask if virtual classes are a possibility.
Common is a residential company that designs and manages apartments in major cities throughout the U.S., including New York, San Francisco and Seattle. While the brand manages a variety of rental styles, many spaces include suites and co-living opportunities. With amenities closed and a no-guest policy in place to help reduce spread of the coronavirus, Common is shifting its focus. “Increased isolation through social distancing has forced us to help our members find community virtually,” Eric Rodriguez, vice president of operations at Common, wrote in an email. “Our experience team has moved their monthly event budget to be 100% virtual, and we’re providing classes through the Common app for things like yoga, cooking, and painting.”
While your landlord is hopefully focusing on keeping elevators, stairwells and lobbies clean, be diligent about deep cleaning your personal space as well. Repeatedly disinfect the items and surfaces you use most in your home, including countertops, door handles, light switches and even the toothpaste tube.
If you run low on cleaning supplies and you’re unable to find more in stores or online, check in with your landlord or neighbors. Both Common and DMG Investments are providing their tenants with cleaning supplies to help them disinfect their personal spaces. “This ensures that our residents won’t have to shop for these items should they run out in their apartments,” Rodriguez says.
Living in close quarters with roommates at any time can be tricky, so introducing stay-at-home orders can add even more stress to the mix.
Spending the bulk of your day in the common areas of your apartment will feel less confining than staying in your bedroom while you work, but be sure to let your roommate know if you’re going to make a phone call and need quiet. Similarly, give fair warning if you’re on a video conference so your roommate can move out of the background.
Emily Horner, an apparel designer in Chicago, lives with her boyfriend and two other roommates in a three-bedroom apartment operated by Common. In a statement provided to U.S. News by Common, Horner explained that the workday typically involves all roommates out in the common areas together.
“It can be tricky to respect each other’s space and need for quiet,” Horner says. “Communication is a huge part of our daily process so we can plan accordingly if one of us have an important meeting or will be on a video call.”
While spending time together out in the living room or kitchen is important, so is getting a bit of time to yourself. “At the end of a long day, working and living alongside my roommates, I often feel the need to spend some time alone, in my room,” Horner says.
Be sure to take breaks to be by yourself each day, and encourage your roommates to do so as well.
[Read: Home Office Setup Ideas]
Be Mindful of Neighbors
Isolation can make you stir crazy and throw off your regular sleep schedule, but as a resident of an apartment building it’s important to be mindful of the neighbors who live on your floor, as well as those who live above and below you.
Keep the volume relatively low for movies, TV and music, especially if you’re doing any of these activities during peak work hours or in the middle of the night. Slippers and socks can help reduce the sound of your footsteps for downstairs neighbors, and if you are going to argue with your roommate, make sure the windows are closed.
If you’re not exhibiting any symptoms of illness and you know of residents in your building who may need help picking up necessary items, you can volunteer by letting your landlord know or simply posting a note in the hallway. When handling items for anyone, particularly those who may be at higher risk of complications if they contract COVID-19, be sure to wear a mask and gloves for your safety and theirs.
Finding hygge in your home
The Danish term hygge doesn’t directly translate to a word in English, but it’s a popular concept throughout Scandinavian Europe. Often described as a cozy feeling that brings to mind comfort and finding joy in a moment, hygge can be a thing you do, a description of an event or an interior design style. “It’s kind of a system of contentment, from how you organize to how you see the world,” says Stephanie Pedersen, author of “American Cozy: Hygge-Inspired Ways to Create Comfort and Happiness.”Beyond a trend
Beyond a trend
Hygge has been on the radar of many Americans since 2016. While it might feel like a sensation that will quickly fade with other design trends, hygge evangelists disagree. After all, we’re always striving for comfort in our homes, and hygge is the feeling we hope to find when enjoying the company of our closest friends and family. Alexandra Gove, owner of Hygge Life, a blog and online store as well as a shop and cafe in Avon, Colorado, explains that hygge is something you seek to cultivate throughout your day, week and year, rather than something you can accomplish by purchasing a few items. “It’s not something cheap or commercial,” she says. There are classic elements of hygge that can help you get there, however. Read on for decor ideas to help you create hygge in your home.Lighting
The right lighting is key to setting the mood for hygge and inspiring a cozy feeling. You don’t want harsh overhead lighting, but you do want enough light that you can enjoy a book or play a board game with friends in the living room. In “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living,” author Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, recommends lamps that produce a warm glow, creating “caves of light” throughout the home. While warm lighting is typically associated with older incandescent light bulbs, LED bulbs with a lower measurement on the Kelvin scale can achieve a similar look – 2700 K to 3500 K offers a warmer lighting option compared to daylight.Candles
Candles are considered key to creating hygge moments. While scented candles are popular in the U.S., consider unscented candles as well so you can light more at once without creating an overwhelming blend of smells. Once you’ve bought the candles, make sure to use them. “We hear from a lot of our customers that they have these cabinets full of candles, but they never light them, which is very contradictory to hygge,” Gove says. Candles don’t give off much heat, but their flames remind you of warmth, and they add to the overall atmosphere of calm and comfort in a room.Fireplace
If you’re looking to achieve hygge at home, don't neglect the fireplace if you have one. Wood-burning fireplaces help create an atmosphere with the natural smell of burning wood, but the warmth and atmospheric lighting of a gas-burning or electric fireplace can also do the job. Wiking notes that many Danes consider hygge the main reason to have a fireplace. While fireplaces in the U.S. are most often seen in older homes built when a fire helped heat the house, as much as 46% of new single-family houses sold in 2017 had at least one fireplace, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.Rugs
If you’re looking to make your home feel warm and cozy, it’s important to start from the ground up. Cover hard floors with rugs to encourage guests to take off their shoes, sit on the floor and relax. Pedersen stresses that it's not necessarily about finding the perfect area rug to tie a room’s color scheme together, but creating a more welcoming space. “Rugs read cozy – even the ugly ones,” she says. Layering rugs throughout your home is an excellent way to make it feel warmer as well. To help guests feel cozy and even more at home, Gove recommends placing a basket of slippers by the door.Throw blankets
We all love curling up on the sofa under a blanket, and that’s a kind of hygge you should try to achieve. Keep soft throw blankets throughout the house to make them easy to grab. Gove recommends keeping baskets of blankets near spots where people like to cuddle up to help guests to feel at home. Soft materials aren’t just for the couch, though. Promote a similar feeling around the dinner table when you’re serving a meal to friends and family. Gove says to put “sheepskins on your dining chairs to make things more comfortable for a long dinner.”Just a couple throw pillows
Just a couple throw pillows
Throw pillows are often a given when it comes to decorating rooms in the U.S., but Pedersen says they’re not quite so plentiful in Europe. Especially if you find your pillows are taking up half the space on your couch, it’s far more comfortable to do away with the unnecessary cushions. “When you get rid of the throw pillows, or at least some of them, you make room for people on the sofa,” Pedersen says. After all, the focus of hygge is about achieving comfort with friends and family.Items with a story
Items with a story
You’re less likely to get a true hygge feeling at home if you rush out and buy all the softest items in one shopping spree. Gove stresses that it’s not about matching a hygge design style you see in a magazine, but finding soft materials you like, picking colors that make you feel good and decorating with flea market finds that have a fun story to go along with them. In “The Little Book of Hygge,” Wiking recommends waiting to buy big-ticket items, like chairs, until you’ve accomplished something, like getting a promotion and a raise. You may have the money saved already, but if you tie your purchase to a good experience, you'll remember that accomplishment whenever you sit in that chair.Your good dishes
Your good dishes
Instead of serving snacks or dinner on paper plates when you have people over, use your fine china and nice cocktail glasses. A casual gathering can still be a special event, after all. “We fully encourage that people use their nice things. You’re risking things breaking, yes, but you’re creating a special atmosphere with your family and friends,” Gove says. Rather than collecting dust, your nice dishes carry the memories of a fun evening that you’ll have in mind when you use them again.Music
Plenty of people like putting on music at home to help set a mood, but for hygge, Pedersen stresses that you want calming music. “Mozart is going to have a different effect on you than electronic music,” Pedersen says. Even if you prefer other genres, classical is a good choice for background music that's not intrusive. That way, the music won't distract from the conversation. It can simply help set the mood, along with warm lighting, candles and blankets.The right smells
The right smells
You’ve got soft textures, pools of light throughout the room and music playing in the background. Next, stimulate your sense of smell by bringing in familiar scents. A wood-burning fireplace can do the trick, as well as a favorite scented candle or an evergreen tree around the holidays. An excellent way to achieve hygge with a personal touch is to cook comfort food, perhaps from a recipe that’s been passed down in your family, such as the tomato soup your grandmother used to make. This will give your guests something to taste as well as smell, Gove says. “Those are the things that create that perfect hygge feeling,” she says.Close family and friends
Close family and friends
A key aspect of hygge is to surround yourself with loved ones. Many hygge moments are best achieved when those loved ones are utilizing the blankets and slippers you’ve provided, eating food you’ve made and cozying up by the fire in the living room or playing a board game. Wiking recommends gathering a small group of people, maybe three or four total, for the best hygge moments to get that comfortable, casual feeling with those you feel closest to.Hygge decor ideas for your home include:
Hygge decor ideas for your home include:
- Throw blankets.
- Just a couple throw pillows.
- Items with a story.
- Your good dishes.
- The right smells.
- Close family and friends.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.
May 11, 2020
U.S. News analyzed the 150 most populous metro areas to rank places to live by category.