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A New York Newcomer Embraces Downsizing to a Sunny Studio

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Welcome to House Calls, a new feature in which Curbed tours New Yorkers' lovely, offbeat, or otherwise awesome homes. Think your space should be featured next? Drop us a line.

[All photos by Max Touhey for Curbed.]

"I've wanted to live here for so long," says Brian Quinn, as he sits in his Norman Cherner chair, a Craigslist find from a past life in Chicago. "I've always wanted to live in the city." The biotech employee had spent the better part of 15 years in another chilly city—Boston—before making the jump to New York City in January. Initially, Quinn moved to be near his girlfriend, but they're no longer together. And his love affair with the city started long before that, obsessively reading Curbed NY for "an embarrassingly long time." That's why, as he began his apartment hunt, and eventually landed on a $2,700/month studio in the amenity-packed Williamsburg building 101 Bedford, he knew the site's storied infamous past as Hot Karl Beach. So named because plans for the building, designed by architect Karl Fischer, stalled for so long that there was a perennial pile of dirt on the Bedford Avenue parcel just south of McCarren Park before construction finally got rolling.

The massive rental building, which Quinn says is now packed with millennials and Europeans with dogs, has come a long way. What his sunny 459-square-foot studio lacks in space, it makes up for in charm. Plus, the building's rooftop, pool, and myriad amenities (which now include a recording studio) offer an escape in the event of claustrophobia.

"I bought a measuring tape when I went to sign the lease," Quinn says. "This was the only configuration that passed muster." That involves cordoning off his bed with a dresser and bookshelves arranged in an L shape.

Quinn carefully selected the mix of furniture—after all, he had the measurements of the studio, and knew he couldn't bring everything down from Boston. "The couch is a near-knockoff of a Hans Wegner design that Ikea actually released in the 60s and re-released this winter," Quinn says.

The black Wassily chair by the window is another Craigslist find.

"Ikea also did the red chairs and the table, though the latter was raw pine when I got it," Quinn says. "Afterwards I stained it with driftwood finish and sealed it with liming wax so it's all silky and putatively water-resistant."

The apartment looks north onto McCarren Park, making it "surprisingly peaceful and bucolic" for New York City. Quinn says if he sat in the kitchen chair closest to the window facing west, he could see the Empire State Building. That was, of course, before the trees grew their leaves. The funky William Vale Hotel, which is rising, has almost blocked it from view, anyway.

Moving to New York, Quinn knew he had to cut down on possessions. In Boston, he had access to a storage room, or a basement. "I never had to edit stuff," he says. "Downsizing was the greatest thing. Now I feel like I only have stuff that I only want to have, that are really mine, to plant my flag." In fact, the declutter may have gone to an extreme. "I over-pared," he jokes, so much so that of the three closets in this apartment, he only needed two for his clothes and other possessions.

So he turned the one by the window into a bar. "I love making cocktails," he says, adding that he also cooks using every available surface. "I'll gladly prepare a pork roast on top of my dresser." One of his prized possessions is on display, but discreetly: a bottle of acorn liqueur from North Korea via the DMZ gift shop. It doesn't go in the bar: "I don't want anyone to drink that by mistake."

Another thing he didn't downsize on? His books, which are meticulously sorted by type. Some of them are stored behind the couch, which has to be moved to access them.

The tin is a "a junk store find that's been a night table or side table" in his various apartments. "It's empty, thankfully. One hundred pounds of shortening would be a lot."

As for his old-school radio: "It does work." The 70-year-old piece was a gift. "I love that vintage-y look," he says.

Up on the roof, there are cabanas and seating areas of all kinds. There's also a stretch of sand—a nice homage to what was once Hot Karl Beach.

The rest of the roof is pretty nice, too, with areas for lounging, hammocks, and barbecue grills available for use.

Quinn nods at the oval chaise: "That's where I spent a good part of last Sunday afternoon."

Access to all of 101 Bedford's amenities costs $600 for the year.

Seeya soon, Hot Karl Beach 101 Bedford.

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· All 101 Bedford coverage [Curbed]
· All Hot Karl Beach coverage [Curbed]
· House Calls archive [Curbed]