STUDIO APARTMENT IN TENEMENT
Location East Village
Rent $817.89 (rent stabilized)
Square feet 192
Occupants Michael Quinn (visual merchandising manager, Armani Exchange), Kevin Burke (visual stylist and illustrator)
You’re both so tall and the bed’s so small. [Michael] Sometimes we don’t even touch. Lisa, our cat, sleeps with us, too. The bed’s collapsed like three times. It was my bed from my house in Long Island. My parents always said, “Don’t ever get rid of that bed. It was your great-aunt’s.”
Do you think she was lying there at the end, tightly holding a Bible or maybe a locket? I don’t know. At that time I wasn’t that interested in thinking about my great-aunt. The bed collapsed in high school. My father said it was because I’m abnormally large. My family’s all five-feet-something. I’m six-two. So is Kevin. When it collapses here, everyone handles it pretty well.
Did you ever consider getting a larger bed? [Kevin] Actually we talked about it for a long time. [Michael] We’ve been sleeping on it for three years. [Kevin] Our friends say, You’re both on a twin? [Michael] Like, you’re both so big. [Kevin] Our friends get queen and king just for themselves. [Michael] They’re so little. They have these giant things. One of our biggest naysayers, Lauren, came over. We were all on the bed watching Nightmare Before Christmas and we all fell asleep. She admitted under duress that it was very comfortable.
Maybe it’s a magic bed. It expands while you’re sleeping, but in waking life, it just looks small. [Michael] Like in The Nutcracker—Marie comes down and the furniture grows huge. I really only know The Hard Nut, Mark Morris, the battle between the rats and the GI Joe’s.
How did you meet? [Michael] I was working at Emporio and Kevin was hired to freelance and we were going to arrange the merchandise in the outlet in Woodbury Common. At lunch, Kevin said, Do you want to go to Kay Bee and look for Real Monsters? We have those in the bathroom here. Then a week later, Elle has a party. Kevin shows up with gold teeth. [Kevin] Those are my party teeth.
We haven’t discussed how this tiny one-room apartment is covered everywhere with hundreds of small, perfectly placed things: paper stars and roses and owls and jack-o’-lanterns and Japanese dolls with eyes that change color and skeletons with glitter eyes. Everything’s pink and red and gold, but also other colors. So joyous, like the apartment is singing. [Michael] We both love stuff, arranging things. My mom always said—Kevin’s mom said it about him, too—that I never played with toys, I just liked to set them up.
Now you have a kingdom, together. [Kevin] Look at this picture on the refrigerator. I found it years ago in Jane. It’s the outside of a tenement. I kept the picture because I really liked it. Then I met Michael six months later. His apartment was in the same building that was in the picture, of all the places in the city. [Michael] Kevin got this apartment before I met him. My mom made these baskets. She took a course on Long Island. She has my dad mix up the stains. My dad’s a high school teacher. He’s also a hunter. He has decomposing deer bodies in these vats in their yard. They’re in a lye solution to clean the bones.
Oh. That red wall behind the bed—we used to have two Keane paintings—those big-eyed kids, a boy and a girl. Last Valentine’s Day, Kevin made reservations to eat at this place called 26 Seats on Avenue B. The reservation was very late. So we both stretched out for a nap first. Lisa was infuriated by our lethargy. She started weaving in and out and went on the headboard and rubbed against the boy painting and it fell and its sharp point slammed into Kevin’s forehead. It sounded like a gun going off. Kevin started screaming, “She split my head open!” Blood was running down his face and we spent the night at St. Vincent’s. Kevin got stitches. After that, we made this pact: nothing over the bed.