Studio in 10-Story Building

LocationEast Village
Rent$1480 (rent stabilized)
Square feet420
OccupantsMing Lang Chen (filmmaker, sound designer), Vincent Caradelli (interior designer)

Tonight?[Vincent] We're having poached chicken with a tomato puree and basmati rice, because I love basmati rice and he does, too. [Ming] The one he does with endive is very, very good, very cheesy. [Vincent] Then we'll have a fruit salad with pear and strawberry because he doesn't eat enough fruit. He'll only eat fruit if I cut it up and make a fruit salad. [Ming] I'm lazy. [Vincent] He doesn't like to peel the fruit. He pretends he's too full.

Everything is orange in here—walls, furniture. We only get morning light. It's very depressing to have a white apartment that doesn't get a lot of light. The white looks gray.

You have an amazing sense of order. It's because we're gay. [Ming] He makes everything functional. I got the apartment over four years ago. I'm in the graduate program at NYU. Then Vincent moved in. When did you move in? [Vincent] I don't know. Time flies with Ming. I gave up my apartment in Soho.

It's like a French ghetto there. You must have felt at home, being a Parisian. No, and my landlord was a crook. Before I moved in here, it looked like a student room—piles of Village Voices. We have more room now that the two of us live here.

You put a rearview mirror on your computer so you can watch the TV behind you. Like a pilot or something. Don't you want a bigger apartment? Yes, but we're too lazy to look. We've thought about Brooklyn. We haven't been there yet. We looked around here, further east. We heard prices were dropping, but they didn't drop that much. A one-bedroom in a new, beautiful building at 8th and B was $2200.

I was looking at this great book,Tokyo: A Certain Style by Kyoichi Tsuzuki, with these photos of 100 Tokyo living spaces, all so small. You know, New Yorkers complain, but when you look at these, you get your perspective back. Interestingly, the book's a celebration of the small space; each one looks alive, animated, with piles of books, slippers, Hello Kitty dolls, lumpy comforters. One nightstand was a tricycle—totally antithetical to the image of a pristine empty room with a shoji screen and a woman kneeling with a bowl of something. It made me realize that sometimes when there is tons of room, it can feel more empty, the stuff of life is all sealed away.[Ming] Nothing moves.

Like death. Perhaps too much space can be static. Yet I still believe the one thing unbearable about living in small New York spaces is not having an outside extension—no balcony, no terrace, and in many New York neighborhoods, no park to go to. There is Central Park, but the other day, who could find a seat? [Vincent] Paris is easier. There are lots of beautiful little parks. [Ming] In Taiwan, we don't go to parks. Hardly anyone would go outside to breathe. We don't have that idea of leisure. I think for Asians, we're working 24 hours a day. That becomes very compulsive. [Vincent] I want to take him to the Botanical Gardens. Each year, we go to Fire Island. [Ming] The first year, I hated it, sitting on the sand. I said, "Why do we have to sit here and do nothing?" Now I love it. Vincent taught me how to relax. Last year, we made this big decision there to get Cleo, the cat. [Vincent] He's never had an animal. [Ming] I had a dog when I was very young, but my parents took care of it. Animals in our culture—we look at them as more of a wild thing. We don't look at them as a member in our family. Getting so close to an animal is a thing Western people do. [Vincent] Ming asked me, one day on the beach, "What would you like most?" I said, "A cat." [Ming] I was thinking of huge houses, lots of numbers in the bank account. When he said "a cat," I thought, Oh my God, that's so easy. Let's get it. I feel pretty happy that you can grant somebody their wish.

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