12 Things Pop Culture Led Me to Believe I'd Have in My Apartment Someday

When I was a kid in the suburbs, I imagined having a grown-up apartment in the city just like the ones I saw in movies and TV shows; that’s how people really live, no? Here are a few of the (mostly unrealistic) expectations that fictional sets have given me.

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May 29, 2015
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The City Apartment Detail: A Stoop

Womanhood in the Big Apple means everything from finding love à la Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City) to hawking your old clothes like Hannah Horvath and her friends (Girls). The common denominator? The stoop, long celebrated as the unofficial front room of tiny-apartment-dwellers everywhere. These days I tend to associate them with dangerously slick patches of ice in the winter rather than romance or making money, but their association with moving up in the world, as it were, is undeniable.

The City Apartment Detail: Mismatched Kitchen Chairs

Monica Geller's New York City apartment in Friends might have had a preposterously low rent (that deceased grandmother was awfully convenient), but her furniture exhibited the most realistic sort of '90s quirky-decorating kung fu: Just pick up a bunch of chairs at a thrift store, paint 'em bright colors and call it a day. Seen against the intense violet of her walls, they make a crazy kind of sense, right?

The City Apartment Detail: Affordable Scandinavian Everything

At the other end of the '90s-decor spectrum, Ed Norton's nameless corporate Fight Club character begins his adventures in an apartment full of IKEA-esque pieces; one memorable scene even superimposed Swedish-sounding product names over his furniture. It ends rather badly for Ed, but who hasn't fantasized about bringing a particularly sexy catalog page to life in their own home? Home delivery is definitely easier than lugging quirky chairs from thrift shops back to your 6th floor walk-up.

The City Apartment Detail: A Bathtub Sofa

I loved the idea of the bathub sofa the first time I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's — what genius! — and was terribly disappointed to learn that it would be near-impossible to saw the claw-foot tub I found in my overgrown backyard in San Francisco in half. The bathtub sofa has whimsical cousins in other eras, but I think Holly Golightly did it first and best. If I ever find the contents of someone's bathroom in a yard again, I'm going to make myself some furniture. In the meantime, I'll bring books into my regular tub.

The City Apartment Detail: A Pottery Wheel

Say what you will about Candy Spelling's mansion rooms devoted to gift-wrapping: for my money, the original and greatest craft room is the pottery studio in Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze's New York City loft in Ghost. Not only does she have an amazing amount of storage for finished projects, she can cue up "Unchained Melody" and get romantic at any hour she likes without attracting complaints from strangers at one of those custom-mug-painting birthday parties. That's what I call an ideal live-work situation.

The City Apartment Detail: A Piano

Having the space for/means to afford a gigantic musical instrument is more in keeping with having spent decades in a city than with being a newcomer to it, but its significance is clear: When you manage to have the equivalent of a piano bar in your apartment (like Seattle psychiatrist Frasier Crane does), my friend, you have conquered your metropolis of choice!

The City Apartment Detail: Exposed Brick

How I Met Your Mother's Ted Mosby is an architect, so it stands to reason that his New York City apartment would feature a sexy detail like exposed brick — behind an ornate fireplace, no less. I scoured rental listings for similar features when I first moved to the city, but the only bricks I saw in my price range had been exposed...to actual fire.

The City Apartment Detail: Soaring Loft Ceilings

When Tom Hanks was a city-dwelling man-child in Big, lofts were large enough for trampolines. Zooey Deschanel's shared-four-ways Los Angeles loft in New Girl is better suited to jousting on tables, but I'm relieved to see there's still ample room in today's fictional city spaces for horseplay.

The City Apartment Detail: A Minimalist, Monochromatic Palette

Technically speaking, Jerry Seinfeld's fictional Upper West Side apartment wasn't actually colorless: His walls were light gray, his molding and cabinets were a slightly darker gray and his sofa was, er, bluish-gray. It was, however, the quintessential virtually-monochrome bachelor pad, complete with non-decor and a generic halogen lamp — the apartment version of Jerry's plain white tennis shoes.

The City Apartment Detail: A Gigantic Ottoman-Table

Many sitcom sets have featured huge ottomans that might serve as coffee tables, which is smart: We can all agree that versatility is especially important in smaller spaces. Will & Grace's Manhattan apartment deserves special recognition for a couple of reasons: First of all, they double down on the trend with two in a single room (those plenty-of-square-footage-having show-offs), and second, one appears to be wicker. Which roommate was in charge of vacuuming crumbs out of it, d'you think?

The City Apartment Detail: An Oriental Rug

Nothing says "an appreciation for old-world craftsmanship, even in this bustling metropolitan hub" quite like an ornate rug, and they turn up everywhere from early Woody Allen movies to modern sitcoms. My personal favorite is the vivid red sitting-room rug in Holmes and Watson's London apartment on the BBC's Sherlock; paired with a Le Corbusier chair, it's perfection. They can be quite pricey, but hey, we can still dream of using them to cover up whatever less-than-ideal floor situation we've got going on in our rentals (ahem, outdated parquet, ahem).

The City Apartment Detail: A Glass Table

From When Harry Met Sally's controversial wagon wheel to Patrick Bateman's sinister modern piece in American Psycho, what's a living room without a glass table? A living room in the country, that's what.

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