Brit Living in 450 sq ft NYC Apartment Shares 'Cozy' Home Hacks

British-born freelance designer Carly Fuller, 32, has been inspiring us all on Instagram with her clever and simple home hacks to make even the coziest New York City apartments a feast for the eyes, and they are practical too.

She lives in the 450-square-foot apartment in the Hell's Kitchen district with her fiancé Martin Brady, a 33-year-old property investor, after moving to the city to work as a babysitter for her cousin's children over 10 years ago.

As she explains on her Instagram stories highlights, "My mother is from upstate NY. SO her whole side of the family is in the US. (My Dad is English, she met him there, fell in love and moved to England. It's THE cutest story)."

Speaking to Newsweek, Carly explains that she embarked on her micro interior design project after her roommate moved out and her boyfriend at the time moved in.

"I went from living at home in England to living with family or roommates in a shared space so I never had the opportunity to decorate an entire apartment the way I wanted. I went absolutely nuts! It was probably the most excited I've ever been because I had obviously thought about what I would do if the apartment was all mine! Luckily, Martin, who is now my fiancé, doesn't care at all what I do!! I followed so many home décor accounts on my personal Instagram page and I really wanted to share what I was doing too, especially the rental décor tips."

Despite no history of interior design in family, Carly has loved being creative for as long as she can remember. "I remember re-arranging my bedroom in the middle of the night when I was a young teenager because I couldn't sleep thinking about the new layout I was envisioning.

"I always had ideas for my bedroom since it was the only room I could really work with. I would ask my Dad to build me things like wood shelves with a scalloped edge and a cut-out heart in the middle. I was very into 'shabby chic' haha! I glued on pieces of broken mirror on the front. I kept any little material because I thought I'd be able to make something out of it. I painted floral murals on my wall and my cousin's, then her cousin paid me to do it to her daughter's. When I moved to NYC from England, I started working in bars/restaurants because it was great money but it was never my passion, I didn't enjoy going to work every day. Then I started working for a home staging company about 4 years ago and I've never been happier."

Carly found her 450-square-foot apartment on Craigslist ("Does anyone even use Craigslist these days?!") and has lived there for eight years in total, and Martin has been there for six.

Carly rents her apartment and it's no wonder why as nearly half of New Yorkers do the same. In 2021, 44.9% of households in New York rented their homes, with 23.6% of rent-paying households paying $2,000 or more per month in rent, according to iProperty Management. A salary of $106,797.9 is required to buy an average priced home in the city.

So, whether you're a home owner looking for some quick, inexpensive and easy inspiration to reinvent your interiors to Instagram-worthy rooms, or you're a renter in need of easy and removable ways of overriding your landlord's questionable taste, here are some of Carly's best tips.

$2.99 Window Pane Trick

"This is my favorite hack!" says Carly, "It instantly added so much character for less than the price of a latte!" In a reel posted to her Instagram account, she shares one of her easiest but most effective tricks; black electrical tape on the windows to create a latticed effect resembling panes, which really gives more character to her rooms. She says in the post, "It took a whole roll to do 3 windows the size in my reel. Remember it stretches so you can get more out of it."

Vinyl Stickers Instead of Tiles

With a bathroom that has black tiles on the walls and floor, Carly came up with the clever solution to break up such a large area of dark block color, creating a chic black-and-white floor tile effect using vinyl stickers bought on Amazon. Carly said of the technique, "I had to re-do a couple and they came off no problem. These technically aren't floor tile stickers though. They're just regular white vinyl I got off Amazon. After a few months, I can see some corners coming up so I wouldn't recommend using a sticker product that wasn't meant for the floor!"

Switch out the Cabinet Hardware

This may seem like an overly simple hack but as Carly shows us in her small but perfectly put together kitchen, it really can make all the difference.

"Switching out cabinet hardware is the easiest rental friendly hack you can do to upgrade your kitchen, you can spend as much or as little as you like on the hardware since there are so many options out there," she says, "Once you move out, just pop the original ones back on, no damage done. This can also be done to door knobs, sink faucets, light fixtures, light switch covers, and more. Etsy or eBay is a great resource for vintage cabinet pulls like I have. Otherwise check out your local hardware shops or even shops like Anthropologie have decorative hardware."

DIY Art

One of the coolest features of Carly's New York apartment is a piece of DIY art made with her fair hands. "It was made out of left over Amazon boxes!", explains Carly, "Textured art has been on trend for a while and there's a well known trick (not sure who made it up) that if you mix baking soda with paint, it creates a thick texture, so I decided to cut up my Amazon boxes, paint over each square with the paint mix and make artwork out of it. Cost me next to nothing!"

Peel and Stick Contact Paper

Although Carly is lucky that her landlord is happy for her to do just about anything in her rented apartment (why wouldn't they be!?), a lot of her solutions can be reversed and removed, and she is constantly finding ways to reinvent each room. "I often see peel and stick countertop paper and faux tile stickers in Home Depot when I'm shopping for work and I thought I should give it a try. I've always had great experience with peel and stick products. I've bought my peel and stick products from Etsy, Wayfair and Home Depot."

Any Exclusive Tips?

"Not sure if it's a tip but I just saw someone on Instagram use linen flat sheets hung using curtain clips as a cheaper alternative to linen drapes. You'd never know the difference!"

Do You Have any Future Plans for the Apartment?

"Always!! I always have ideas I want to do and I'm always wanting to change things. I'm very grateful for furniture marketplaces so I can sell and use that money towards buying something new. People spend their money differently, whether it be on themselves or their clothes, or gadgets, I spend my money on my home and travelling!"

Will You Move One Day?

"And yes, we always plan to move because we've totally outgrown it. We might be the youngest in our building actually. But the reality of moving is hard and expensive. Since we are so comfortable here and it's been home to us for so long, our next apartment needs to tick so many boxes for it to feel worth moving for. And once you find an apartment that ticks all these boxes, the price of rent is insane! So here we still are!"

New York Brownstone Aparments
Two bicycles in front of a brownstone building in the New York neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights are shown in this stock image. In 2021, 44.9% of households in New York rented their homes. Getty Images