When Alina Fassakhova, her husband Artem, and their cat Usha, made the move from Moscow to NYC, it wasn’t a tough decision when they were shown this apartment rental. This beautifully preserved prewar space on the Upper West Side of Manhattan has unobstructed views of Central Park and the Hudson River, with a curved terrace balcony, sky-high ceilings, and original woodwork. They had struck NYC real estate gold. The only drawbacks were its minuscule size (only 400 square feet) and a lack of sunlight in the winter, but the couple has managed to cleverly maximize the space with the use of mirrors, colors, and artwork, to make it feel airy, bright, and larger than it really is.
After a stint working in the finance industry along with Artem, Alina switched careers 3 years ago to become a full-time artist and uses this small 1-bedroom apartment as her functioning studio during the day. Her indoor jungle of plants gives her the refreshing, calming atmosphere she needs after a long day painting and allows it to feel both like a home and a work studio at the same time. To fit in with her vibrant, colorful art and items from world travels, she wanted the apartment to have more neutral in furnishings, opting for earth tones and easy-going textures. The end result: a lofty creative space that fits their needs perfectly. Tour this full space below!
“My husband and I are originally from Moscow and we moved to New York City last year for work. Artem works in finance and I am a full time artist, but I worked in finance as well before I decided to pursue my passion and made a career switch 3 years ago.
“Usha is our 6 y.o. cat, we found her on the streets when she was a kitten. We rescued her and she moved to NYC with us. She seems to love her new home filled with plants.”
Alina, like most creative types, has an itch for continually re-arranging and re-decorating her space. She describes her apartment as a constant work in progress.
“I rearrange furniture, plants and paintings every two months, approximately. And truth be told I repainted the walls 3 times in a single year! The first day we moved in, I painted the entire apartment dark gray and, after several months, painted one wall dusty pink and just recently repainted one large wall back to white. Walls are like a large canvas for me—I love to change things around.” On picking wall colors, she says she’s “convinced that dark wall paint works better than white for a small space. By absorbing the light, grey walls are less clearly marked and can give an illusion of a deep and spacious room.”
“Travels are the main source of inspiration for me and my husband. We travel a lot (Africa, Papua New Guinea) and usually bring home something special, whether it’s a unique tribal mask or a hand-dyed ikat. With these personal touches, the apartment feels like home.”
As a full-time artist, it was crucial for Alina that this space felt inspiring and relaxing at the same time, a space where she felt comfortable working, as well as relaxing at the end of the day.
Another important thing for Alina when considering her space was her paintings and how they could be incorporated with her design aesthetic. “I didn’t want to overcrowd a small space with colors, so I went for mostly neutral (even transparent) furniture, natural fiber rugs, and white marble. All those neutral details together with grey walls make a nice background for my paintings.”
“Plants also play an essential role in the overall design. Certain parts of the apartment look like a small jungle and it was made on purpose. Plants clean the air from paint fumes and help my eyes rest after hours and hours of painting.”
The apartment is a rental, so they couldn’t change everything. Alina explains, “all windows, doors, floors, and trims are made from wood and covered with a varnish that makes them look bright orange. As it’s a rental apartment we couldn’t sand-down or repaint them, but orange color strikes the eye much less on a grey wall background. So the first thing we did when moved in was repaint the walls dark grey.”
“Also, our windows face northwest, which means bright sunlight only in the afternoon during Summer and no direct sunlight in Winter at all. Luckily, some properly placed mirrors can help to reflect a generous portion of light and illuminate the room.”
“When we were looking for an apartment, we were sold on the location, the beautiful balcony overlooking the park, and the high ceilings. The 11-foot ceilings make the space feel larger than it really is and allow us to hang my vertical paintings on the walls without overcrowding them. Having a balcony is rare enough for the city, but a balcony with unobstructed views over the park and the Hudson is a true gem! We enjoy it to the fullest and spend a lot of time outside during summer months.”