Dorm Tours

This Maximalist Embraces “Organized Chaos” in Her NYC Studio Apartment

published Sep 12, 2023
Home Type
Studio apartment (off-campus)
CUNY Hunter College
New York, New York
Square feet
Sq ft
dorm room living area with lots of string lights, neon, and pink light
Credit: Sydney Hargrove

Finding decent housing in Manhattan isn’t exactly a walk in Central Park — so when junior Sydney Hargrove found a spacious studio available to sublet through a friend of a friend, she jumped at the chance to get out of the dorms and move into her first apartment all by herself. Here’s how she used funky lights, mixed patterns, and thrifted knick-knacks to make the place her own.

All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Credit: Sydney Hargrove
Heart light at Big Lots

Sydney’s Space

What’s your space best known for? It’s definitely a place to hang out. I love to throw parties and have sleepovers. My friends know it as the party spot and I love that!

What was it like going from your school’s dorms to living alone in an apartment? Although I loved dorming (and decorating my dorm!), it did come with a lot of flaws — the prices, the communal bathrooms, the less-than-favorable package and guest situations, and more. After two years of dorming, I knew the time had come to search for some more convenient options. My mom asked around to see if anyone had an apartment that they were subletting, and a friend of hers had a friend who was. We went to see the studio and I loved its potential. It definitely took a lot of getting used to, as it was a much larger space than I’d ever had and living completely alone was scary. But after a while (and a ton of decorating), I began to absolutely love the look and feel of my new space. 

Now that you’re used to it, what’s the best part of living alone while in college? Having a space that reflects my personality that I can also share with the people I love is absolutely priceless. I love to host and absolutely adore the freedom to have as many gatherings as I want. The first one was a Galentine’s Day party with all of my friends — we made jewelry, ate cupcakes, and so much more! 

Credit: Sydney Hargrove

Sydney’s Style

Define your personal home style: I call it organized chaos! I love lots of bright colors and I am particularly obsessed with completely transforming a space from start to finish. Since most dorms and apartments (and spaces in general) tend to be blank when you first move into them, I see that as a blank canvas. There isn’t a lot in my space that matches or is coordinated, but I do sometimes like to center different areas around certain pieces of furniture or other general vibes, like my bed being a more whimsical-fairy style vibe than the rest of the apartment. I also love TV shows, movies, and pop culture, and I love putting little relics of them in my home, such as a throw blanket with pictures of Timothée Chalamet on it and a Jenna Ortega Funko Pop.

What’s your favorite element in this space? I love my bed and the hallway between the main area and the bathroom. I think I’ve done a great job at transforming those spaces.

Proudest DIY project? I printed all of my posters myself and framed them using Dollar Tree frames that I painted — so much cheaper and more efficient than getting posters framed!

Credit: Sydney Hargrove
Shower curtain at Big Lots; poster at Chelsea Market

Sydney’s Budget

In an effort to remove the stigma associated with talking about money in college, we’re asking students to share how they plan and budget for their space.

How much does your housing cost per month? $1,900

What was your biggest splurge for this space, and how much did it cost? My rug, about $200.

What was your best budget find? I got shelves for my bathroom for free on Facebook Marketplace! Also, my apartment came furnished, so all the furniture — the bed, lamps, couch, coffee table, and dressers, and more — were there when I arrived.

Credit: Sydney Hargrove
10' x 13' Solid Shag Rug, $299, at; heart bowls at T.J. Maxx

Sydney’s Advice

What was your biggest challenge in this space? I was very overwhelmed with decorating a larger space and it took a very long time to feel at home there, as it was a slower transformation. I have always lived in small spaces and I got very used to them, so a whole apartment was a bit of a struggle for me.

This was a big project for you — how did you prepare for it? I used Procreate on my iPad to draw out what I wanted my space to look like and where I wanted things to go. I found it so useful to have a reference sheet. 

How can students achieve a maximalist look on a minimal budget? Utilize thrift stores for glassware, organizers, and general decorations. You’ll save money and get super cute pieces.

What do you have to say to students who want to go all-out with their decor like you? Don’t sacrifice style for practicality! There’s so many ways to be organized and functional while still being super cute. 

Also, don’t let anyone tell you it’s too much or not enough. Make sure your space reflects you and is a cozy place that you enjoy throughout your time in college.

Credit: Sydney Hargrove

This submission’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

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Sydney Hargrove

Media Studies

Sydney is a journalism student at Hunter College in Manhattan. When she’s not writing about decor, she’s working as an on-the-scene entertainment journalist for The Knockturnal. She loves to interview talent and write about all things film, TV, and theater. In the rare moments she’s not running around somewhere, she loves hanging out in her Midtown studio that she’s constantly decorating and rearranging.

Follow Sydney
SchoolHunter College '25
MajorMedia Studies
FavesDecor, dresses, Timothée Chalamet, NYC, fairy lights, hugs
Get to know Sydney Hargrove
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