For fun, they often headed downtown. “Because Conor has relatively little free time, it was important to be in a neighborhood where we could easily go to a bar or restaurant, or meet up with friends,” Ms. Chiabaut said.
They focused on the East Village, within walking distance of the hospitals on First Avenue. Their budget was $2,400 to $2,700, a little less than they had been paying to live separately.
Browsing on the Naked Apartments website, they found Tamisha Arrendell, of Keller Williams TriBeCa. When a colleague of hers “asked us to describe our fantasy place,” Dr. Grady said, “I thought: a swimming pool and a helipad.”
In truth, their requirements were few and their expectations low: All they really wanted was abundant light and enough room for a table. As Dr. Grady put it, “You’ve got to decide what’s essential and what you can compromise on.”
Ms. Arrendell took them to see one-bedrooms in walk-up buildings, the area’s most common housing stock.
One apartment on Second Avenue and East Third Street, for $2,575, felt like their old place, only not quite as small or as dark. To Dr. Grady, it — and everything else they saw — seemed fine, and certainly better than their old place. “I tended to see only the upside,” he said.
Ms. Chiabaut was more discriminating. “We were having radically different reactions to the apartments,” she said. To her, “all of these apartments looked the same”: pricier than the old place, but no better.
Both, however, were excited by a railroad-style one-bedroom on First Avenue that was a relatively large 600 square feet. As they climbed the stairs, they could see sunlight streaming from beneath the door. And the renovation was so recent they could smell the sawdust.
“I don’t think I’d seen a place that was so aggressively new-appearing,” Dr. Grady said.
Oddly, though, the bathroom was part of the kitchen, with two sliding doors: One hid a toilet and sink; the other, a stall shower.
“Having seen mostly upgraded versions of what I knew to be a New York apartment, this was on a different plane,” Dr. Grady said, adding that he was even “charmed by the bathroom, after a while.”
And there was room for negotiation in the $2,650 rent, Ms. Arrendell informed them. “The bathroom was strange and unconventional,” she said. “People were passing the unit up.”
The couple’s only reservation was about the complete lack of closets.
They visited one more prewar walk-up, on East 9th Street, listed at $2,325. It had two tiny bedrooms, but otherwise looked like all the rest. And there were other people at the open house who were ready to sign on.
Several days passed, and the bathroom-in-the-kitchen apartment was still available. Their choice was clear.
The couple agreed to a monthly rent of $2,600, and arrived in the late spring, after paying a broker’s fee of 15 percent of a year’s rent, or nearly $4,700.
Soon after, they learned that their new home had at least one drawback: the constant noise from trucks barreling up the street. Now they run a fan at night, to generate white noise.
Another, happier discovery was their new neighborhood’s specialty.
“The biggest curiosity has been the ice cream shops per capita,” Dr. Grady said. “We are in the East Village’s ice cream district.”
That alone “made us excited to move here, in a weird way,” Ms. Chiabaut said. “We felt we were moving into a truly different neighborhood. These stores are hyper-specialized, and they are not cheap. There’s one that sells only doughnuts stuffed with ice cream.”
Ms. Chiabaut also enjoys being near Tompkins Square Park, where she can take a break from work during the day. “There wasn’t a place like that I could walk to in our old neighborhood,” she said. “Being here has made me more productive.”
Inside the apartment, Ikea has helped with the closet situation. And the couple now has a table that seats six.
“That’s very exciting for me,” Ms. Chiabaut said. “At the end of the day, when Conor finally comes home and we have dinner, it is nice to sit at the table.”
She added: “I use that table a lot. I work on it, I have dinner with my husband — it symbolizes way too much for me.”