The way Mrs. Wilson behaves upon exiting the cab at the apartment she shares with Tom is completely at odds with the way the apartment appears to Nick. To Mrs. Wilson, the apartment and the neighborhood in which it is located make her feel "regal," but this indicates only that her upbringing has not prepared her to expect much from her living accommodations. To her, the apartment seems finer than it is.
To Nick, the apartment, which is on the top floor of one a series of apartment houses in 158th Street, primarily appears to him as "small." The living room is small, as is the dining room, the bedroom, and the bathroom. The living room has been "crowded" with furniture, all of which is too big for the room. This also lends credence to the idea that Mrs. Wilson thinks of the apartment as being grander than it is. There is only one picture in the room and various old copies of magazines are on the coffee table, including some "scandal magazines."
Despite the dull surroundings, Mrs. Wilson changes her dress in the afternoon as if she were a fine lady dressing for dinner, and the people from the flat below are invited to join Tom, Nick, and Mrs. Wilson for whiskey and conversation. To Mrs. Wilson, this crowded flat is evidently something of which she is proud.
Tom and Myrtle's apartment, from the outside, is described as "one slice in a long white cake of apartment houses." This simile suggests at once an apartment which is ordinary and common, and also, because of the cake comparison, perhaps frivolous and temporary. This simile thus presents the apartment as a perfect setting for Tom and Myrtle's extramarital affair. Their affair, like the apartment, is ordinary, common, frivolous, and temporary.
Inside, the apartment is repeatedly described as "small." It has a "small living room, a small dining room, a small bedroom." The emphasis on the smallness of the apartment seems to undermine Myrtle's haughty pretensions. Myrtle imagines that her relationship with Tom, albeit illicit, elevates her to the high social standing that she so craves. Indeed, when she approaches the apartment she casts "a regal homecoming glance around the neighborhood." In reality however, as emphasized by the small size of the apartment, this belief of Myrtle's is a delusion. The small size of the apartment emphasizes that she will never belong to the social elite, and it also emphasizes Tom's relative indifference to her. If he liked her more, he would surely have bought her a bigger, more spacious apartment.
Despite the small size of the apartment, Myrtle fills it with oversized furniture. She fills the living room, for example, with "a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it." This alludes to Myrtle's aforementioned delusion. The grand furniture she chooses for the apartment reflects the grandness of her delusion and her desperation to be a member of the upper classes. The fact that the furniture does not comfortably fit into the apartment evokes a somewhat comic image which renders Myrtle's delusion either pathetic, tragic, or somewhere in between.
For a description of Tom and Myrtle's apartment, take a look at chapter two. According to Nick, the apartment is situated on the top floor of a block and consists of only four rooms: a small living room, a small dining room, a small bedroom, and a bath.
In terms of its decor, the apartment is filled with "tapestried" furniture that is really too large for the apartment. Notice the use of the word "tapestried," implying opulence and luxury.
In the living room, there is only one picture, a picture of a hen sitting on a rock. There are, however, lots of magazines strewn around. Notice how they are all focused on gossip and "tattle." There is also a book, Simon Called Peter.
What is really striking about the apartment is that it does not have a homely feeling about it. It is purely for show, a place where Myrtle can feel like a part of the New York set, a part of Tom Buchanan's world. As such, the apartment reflects the sense of fashion, luxury, and materialism that Myrtle is so desperate to attain and, more importantly, to showcase to others.
In Chapter III of The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), we are introduced to the "love nest" of Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson. And a nest it is, being a very small apartment overcrowded with large furniture that is ill-suited for the space. The apartment consists of a living room, dining room, bedroom, and bathroom, all small. The furniture is upholstered in a tapestried material, with a print of "ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles" (33). A photo on the wall that appears from afar to be a hen sitting on a rock turns out to be a photo of an old woman in a bonnet. Some magazines are on the table, scandal rags and a book called Simon Called Peter, which was a bestseller in the twenties, a kind of commentary on Myrtle's reading level and tastes. The apartment is at 158th Street, on the top floor of an elevator building, an area which seems to be on the verge of gentrification today, but which did not exactly qualify as prime New York real estate at that time. (For a photograph of this and other New York locations in the novel, see the link below.) Tom Buchanan is a very wealthy man, but he is not exactly going overboard for his mistress. This careful description of the apartment shows us the great divide in class. Myrtle's decoration of her apartment is tacky and tasteless, and Nick's astute eye catches every nuance of poor Myrtle's attempt to imitate the wealthy.