Though they lived in Liberia during the late 1970s, Sadatu Dennis’ parents decided to rent a Union Square apartment for their frequent travels to New York City. The 520-square-foot one-bedroom residence has stayed in the family ever since – for over 35 years. Back then, it was a seedy area bearing little semblance to the vibrant neighborhood it is today. When the building went co-op in the mid-’80s, Sadatu’s father decided to become a shareholder. A few years later civil war broke out in Liberia and this flat served as a temporary refuge for several family members who were forced to adapt and rebuild their lives in America. Since then, it’s mostly been rented out until Sadatu relocated here three years ago.
Sadatu works in real estate development and considers designing her home one of her favorite ways to spend spare time. A professor once told her she has, “a great design intuition” so she likes to think that trait permeates all aspects of her life. She’s not a traditional renter but she’s far from a big-budget owner, and has made some small, sensible upgrades to the apartment since her move. Most of the appliances and hardware had been untouched since the ’70s, so Sadatu updated the kitchen by adding a new light fixture, countertop, and tile flooring. She then removed the shower door and replaced some of bathroom hardware, and chose a new paint color for the accent wall in the dining area. Sadatu loves incorporating family pieces into her decor. She displays African masks gifted by her parents, as well as a framed photo of her fiancé‘s great-uncle who died in the Algerian War of Independence. She wanted to create a space that is a reflection of her personality and culture, and also one that elicits an instant sense of joy upon walking through the door. It’s the place where she wants to spend most of her time.
Though she grew up in Maryland, Sadatu still holds dear childhood memories of trips to NYC with her parents and two brothers – specifically, all of them cramming into this apartment for a weekend away. She’s grateful that it has served as a beacon of stability for loved ones and even as housing for cousins who pursued their education in the city. In just a few months Sadatu will be moving to Mexico City for her fiance’s new job, but has been honored to steward this little piece of her family’s history. —Annie