After a hard night on her feet as the manager of a busy downtown restaurant, Bari Musacchio heads to her NoLIta studio apartment, hangs up her coat, takes off her shoes — and puts them in her refrigerator.
“I have one closet, and things were overflowing, so I started putting shoes in the fridge,” says the fashionable 26-year-old, whose wardrobe is heavy on the black and consists mostly of skinny jeans and blazers.
“And then I moved on to my cabinets, where I now store my seasonal clothes — sweaters in the summer, T-shirts in the winter.”
Musacchio is not alone. Once a New York urban legend — like crocodiles in the sewers or the rent-controlled apartment with a view — people who store sweaters in their ovens do actually exist.
In a town where square footage is at a premium, closet space is coveted.
Takeout culture has made cooking at home practically obsolete for some people, which means that more New Yorkers are discovering that their kitchens are teeming with underused nooks and crannies — namely refrigerators, ovens and cabinets — ideal for storing their cashmere sweaters and knee-high boots.
“Oh my gosh, who doesn’t use their kitchen as a closet in New York?” quips design writer Jen Salgado, 37, who used to store vintage leather handbags and canvas totes in her fridge (yup, it was plugged in) prior to renting her “country home” — a 4-by-4-by-4-foot space in Manhattan Mini Storage down the street from her 300-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in the West Village.
Mike Nouveau, 26, a downtown deejay with a shoe fetish, never eats at home.
“My kitchen is really just a wall of my 225-square-foot apartment,” he says. So he unplugged his refrigerator and in went his shoes. “I have three rows of shoes in there, and they fit perfectly.”
Zandile Blay, a 27-year-old fashion writer, decided to get rid of her refrigerator entirely.
“I replaced it with a huge full-length mirror and got a small beverage cooler for my wine and Coronas,” she says.
She did, however, keep her oven, where she stores her jeans and high-heel shoes.
“I called up my super and asked him to turn the gas off,” she says, “so I wouldn’t accidentally burn my clothes. And after asking me twice in Spanish, then once in broken English if I was sure, he went ahead and agreed to my request.”
Blay contends that because ovens stay cool and dry, they’re “almost the ideal environment for keeping clothes. I just pop open the oven and my clothes are as fresh as can be.”
One day, Jim Caruso, a 52 year-old singer and Broadway producer, was bemoaning his lack of storage space when, he recalls, “It hit me like a ton of bricks — my oven! All that wasted space!”
So Caruso, who claims that the only things he cooks are “ice and popcorn,” turned his oven into a sweater closet.
“You know those trays that go in and out? You pull the tray out, take out your sweater and put the tray back in. It’s great. The oven is made for clothing — except it’s not!”
Musacchio also thinks there’s something fun, and even a little bit glamorous, about her refrigerator/closet. “You open up the fridge, you see all your shoes laid out in this display case,” she says.
“It’s sort of like going shopping every day.”
But a girl has to eat, right? “Well, I work in the restaurant industry, so I eat every meal out,” says Musacchio.
“My kitchen is so small, it just doesn’t make sense for me to cook in it.”
Blay, who uses her kitchen cabinets to store accessories, shoes and look books, says that the only kitchen-specific items she keeps in her apartment are four wineglasses.
“It was between food and my clothing, and clothing won,” Blay says. She says she has “an active dating life — so you know, there’s a dinner every night.”
Then, of course, there are the strange reactions from friends. “I don’t think it’s weird,” says Musacchio. “But one time a friend stopped by and asked if she could have a glass of water. She opened up the refrigerator, and was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ ”
Nouveau says that people open up his refrigerator and start laughing. “They think it’s really funny.”
Caruso just hopes for no surprise parties. “I pray nobody does me a favor and bakes me a surprise cake. I don’t need to know what broiled cashmere smells like.”
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