Our House Calls feature takes you into homes with great style, big personality, and ineffable soul. Today we look at the East Village apartment of Alexis Tirado, a writer and editor who’s lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, but struck gold with her current apartment: a rent-stabilized one bedroom just one block from the L train.
“I got really lucky,” says Tirado, who moved into the apartment on East 13th Street in 2012. And truly, the way she found the apartment is one of those apocryphal New York stories where a friend of a friend just happens to have the perfect space, which is then acquired through some combination of luck and hustle.
“There was a girl in my gym who was looking to move out of this apartment, and she was like, ‘I want to give it to someone I like.’” Even though Tirado didn’t know her very well, she threw caution to the wind and reached out. “It seemed too good to be true,” she says, remembering how colleagues at the time chided her for even thinking she might have a chance. “But I came, and it was amazing. It’s really good for one person.” She and the previous tenant clicked, and after applying for the space—and getting a good reference from her acquaintance—Tirado got the apartment.
Before this, Tirado lived even further east—on 9th Street between Avenues C and D. “This was kind of like, moving on up in the East Village,” she says of her current place. And staying in the area was important to her, not just because it’s been her home for the entire time she’s lived in New York City, but because she feels a deeper connection to the neighborhood.
“To me, the neighborhood is more than just, oh, it’s cool and artsy,” she says. Tirado is Puerto Rican, and one of her aunts lived in Alphabet City back in the 1970s, when it was a hell of a lot different than it is now. “It’s important to me to be out in the neighborhood and talk Spanish and talk to the OGs in the neighborhood,” she says. “If you live in a neighborhood, you should try to get to know the people who’ve lived there for a long time.”
Tirado’s apartment is a very “New York” kind of space: a railroad apartment with a kitchen at one end, a bedroom at the other, and living room in between. It can be difficult to make that kind of space work, but Tirado wasn’t particularly worried once she moved in. “I was just happy to have enough space where I could live by myself,” she explains.
She focused on bringing tons of color and personality into the space, particularly in the living room and bedroom. “My home decor is my personality—I bring things in if they make me happy,” she explains. “I love colorful and bright, and optimism is really important in my life, so having that energy in my decor is really important.”
That love of color and brightness is evident from the moment you step into her apartment. One wall in Tirado’s living room is covered in wallpaper from Flat Vernacular; since that particular room only has one window and doesn’t get a lot of natural light, she uses it as a way to make the room feel brighter. “For me, this is the sunlight in my apartment,” she explains. (Now, it also functions as a background for many of her Instagram photos.) “It took me a really long time to find a style I wanted,” she says, but now, she says it’s her favorite part of the apartment.
She also painted her bedroom a bright shade of Tiffany blue, and brought in more pops of color with her furniture (including an armchair from Crate & Barrel with a Missoni-esque print) and home decor (a bright orange hanging lamp provides light in the living room; a red-and-white printed rug brings color into the kitchen).
Tirado’s personality comes through in other ways, with artwork and decorative pieces that touch on some of her big loves: music, especially hip-hop; writing; and her family. She used to work at MTV, and one of her prized pieces of art is a program from the first-ever Video Music Awards, which fell on her birthday in 1984. A vintage typewriter hangs on the wall as a reminder to “get to it—write something, do some shit,” she says.
Another favorite spot in the apartment is her refrigerator, which is covered with mementos from her travels, along with vintage photos (including pictures of her with middle-school friends), and some family pictures.
Tirado’s bedroom also features an array of cheerful decorative touches, including Dusen Dusen sheets, a Pendleton bedspread, and pillows that she brought back from a trip to Mexico City. The poster above her bed—emblazoned with a Coca-Cola slogan from 1989—is from Jack Spade.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to the space: Tirado only has one bookshelf (organized by color, naturally), a development that she laments. She also says that she can’t have more than a few people over at a time without it being a struggle. And her first-floor apartment overlooks 13th Street, where she can sometimes overhear people talking (or making out) on the street—though sees that more as fodder for great stories. “I can see New York events unfolding outside my window, and I have a first row spot for it,” she says with a laugh.
But true to her optimistic nature, she thinks the apartment’s many benefits—the location, the rent, the fact that it’s the perfect size for one person—outweigh any possible negative. “I’m so lucky to live here, and so happy to live here,” she says with a smile.