When it comes to small space living, it becomes important for a neatnik such as myself to have a few simple solutions regarding clutter. Small spaces can feel overwhelmingly full much quicker than larger spaces, and neatniks can feel overwhelmed much quicker than carefree individuals. Rules such as keeping surfaces clear or walls white help tremendously in creating a peaceful sanctuary for mindful living. Whereas a regular sized home may house a grand clock over the fireplace, for example, a small space home would be better off sticking to bare walls.
As a minimalist living in a tiny home, the importance of these basic ‘rules’ becomes magnified. I am not a naturally tidy person. However, I am an introvert who does not like an excess of stimuli and who works most efficiently out of a space without distractions. Therefore, I work diligently in order to maintain the environment that lets me thrive. Which leads me to the conversation of hiding remote controls.
I am greatly averse to tech because of the endless amount of wires, routers, chargers, connections, et cetera that come with them. I like the devices themselves, if only they could be invisible and not need to be attached to something to communicate. As you can see here, I try with all my might to disguise mangy cables and the like. I mean, we don’t even have a TV because I did not want anything bulky hanging on our walls. Instead, we have a portable projector that creates a screen on our wall bigger than any TV we could buy but remains non-existent when not in use … a win-win situation for us both.
Unfortunately, a projector still requires wires to hook up to speakers and power. It also came with a remote control. This is the only remote control we own, which is already quite the statement considering the number of controls my parents have. It’s quite tiny too, but it still felt like a visual nuisance, until now.
We’ve decided to stash the remote control in a place unseen. Instead of always looking for it (sometimes it would be on the kitchen island, on the dining table, on the projector itself, on top of the speaker, etc.) and instead of always being an eyesore (because previously it belonged on the tiny side table), I am happy to say that it has a designated spot out-of-sight. With the help of two pieces of velcro that we had lying around in the garage, we decided to velcro the control underneath the side table that it’s supposed to sit on. The project was hardly a project at all. We simply cut a small piece of velcro and placed the felt-type part on the remote and the scratchy-part underneath the table.
Now our surfaces are clear of clutter, our remote control is safely stashed in it’s proper place, and peacefulness has been restored.
I know this may seem less dramatic than I make it sound, but I cannot emphasize how important small details such as these are to creating an intentionally curated home. Simple solutions in small spaces bring me such joy. I wanted to write about it as yet another example that storage solutions does not always lie in buying storage containers, as more begets more. There are equally easy solutions that can be found with a bit of resourcefulness and creativity. Most of the time, these are solutions that save you money. And of course, there is always the option of getting rid of. If you think about it, a remote control is quite unnecessary since the projector sits right behind the couch and every button you’d need is within arm’s reach. Whereas most people would think that purchasing a basket to stash the control in would be the better solution, I would argue that it goes against curation as a whole.
We’ve been mulling a question for a while, tossing it around, letting it linger on our lips. “When this is all over, what will be the first thing you’ll do?” We’ve got answers up the wazoo that show signs of who we are, and what we miss – the little things that meant more than we could even know. Happy hour cocktails and cheap pub food surrounded by a large group of friends; Gym memberships to be rid of the COVID-15 and to be a part of a community; Sand in my hair and thongs between my toes.
To the last one, I say “Cheers!”
Rather than lamenting the current situation and wallowing in self-pity, I do think that we can start to amend for the last bit of longing by bringing the outdoors in, or at least, introducing a bit of nature to our internal spaces. Houseplants can be a reprieve from the cabin fever signs and symptoms that we have all been exhibiting. They are especially useful in calming the distraught and frustrated, feelings which I’m sure have surfaced during this time of personal introspection. Additionally, they boost overall mood, purify the air of toxins, boosts creativity, and makes the indoors more aesthetically pleasing.
We are all dying to get outside. The weather is turning nicer by the day and we’ve pretty much written off Spring and moved on to summer. But despite the long list of “firsts” that our house has planned once the stay-at-home mandates lift, I have also been enjoying this time at home (truly!) and it would be a shame to rush on to to-do lists and whatever the future holds when there is so much work left to do here in the present.
Today, I go over a few houseplant care routines to help refocus the mind into the now, to facilitate a continual tending to the home, and to, well, bring the outdoors in.
Repot plants in new, healthy soil. Plants outgrow their vessels and their soil. Every year, around Spring time, we repot our plants by gently easing them out of their current vessels, removing some of the soil around the roots, and placing them in their new home. It may take a while for a plant to adjust to a new pot, so don’t be discouraged if you see a pause in growth. Over time, you will find that the soil helps to grow your plant much quicker than before.
Wipe the leaves of your plants. Some plant leaves take up a large amount of real estate. All the more to take in sunlight! But also, all the more to collect dust particles. Plants like Monsteras and Fiddles can accidentally collect too much dust, which will then prevent them from absorbing light. Try wiping down plant leaves regularly with a cloth towel and water. Be gentle so as not to damage tender greens. Get ready to admire your plants even more – they’ll look fairly glossy and polished!
Rotate plants a quarter turn every week. Technically, you can follow a different rotation schedule, but just try to rotate the plants every once in a while for even growth. Plants are in love with the sun and if they aren’t rotated, they can start to lean towards a single direction or grow unevenly, which doesn’t make for a pretty sight.
Prune off dead or wilted leaves. When leaves start to yellow and wilt, don’t take it as a sign of failure. Perhaps the plant is making way for new leaves to grow. I can’t recount how many times yellowing leaves have been a signal for two more to grow in its place. However, you will want to remove these leaves as they can affect the health of the rest of the plant. Don’t wait until they start to rot, as this can cause unwanted fungus or mold to start cohabiting with your favorite shrub.
Mist plants with water. Plants love a good misting. The cat, however, hates my spray bottle and runs away until it’s all over. I place water in an amber bottle which remains at hand on a shelf for random spritzes throughout the week. The leaves definitely perk up after a nice splash. I like the effect so much that sometimes, when I water my plants, I haul them into the shower to mimic a rainforest environment and drizzle the water right over them. Unfortunately, my Monsterra and Fiddle are getting way too large to move around, but I’m not complaining!
Propagate. When you’ve done all you can to care for your existing plants, the only thing left to do is … MAKE MORE PLANT BABIES! My favorite to propagate are fast growing plants like our Pothos. It’s quite easy to do. Snip off a few stems with the node still intact, and place them in a glass container filled with water (no soil). After it starts to root (about a month later), gently pot the plant, surrounding the baby roots with healthy Earth. Plus, plants make great non-material, frugal gifts and I have gifted two propagated Pothos plants in the last year!
I hope these tips have at least helped to pass another five minutes of your morning. I hope your plants have calmed you down, and you are energized by the fact that you’ve already taken care of one small aspect of your home today.
I know we are all itching to get outdoors and for quarantine to be over, but mayhap our discomfort with being at home signals an even deeper mal-alignment. I encourage you to hang in there and stop burying unrest with things to do in the future. It’s what we’ve always done … but it wasn’t working. It takes a great deal of strength and courage to sit in an uncomfortable situation but a presence of mind can really bring light to what is at the root of our malaise. Whenever you feel like moving on to “better days”, I ask that you pause and take the opportunity to dig just a little deeper.
Below are a list of my favorite indoor houseplants. I favor sturdy greens over flowery or delicate types.
I would say that the first rule to outfitting a home is knowing thyself. And when it came to finding a couch suitable for our living space, I had to know myself very well before pulling the trigger. Reason being, well, I prefer things to be aesthetic and beautiful, but I also expect them to be affordable. Not cheap, by any means, but not a grand gesture either. There were so many considerations with buying a couch including finding a sustainable option that I could live with, finding a couch that wouldn’t break the bank, finding one that elevates the space aesthetically, and lastly, finding one that would be functional enough for large gatherings in a small space.
The first couch I ever fell in love with was the iconic Cloud sectional at Restoration Hardware, but I could not find it in me to be agreeable with the price point which approached $10,000. Then, it got worse when the second couch we fell in love with was a Timothy Oulton leather sloucher that neared $14,000. Both of them exuded class and style but also reeked of a money drain.
So, I dragged my feet for years on buying a couch for our home. I alternated between bemoaning my lack of a cloud and praising our hand-me-down pleather sleeper of six years. We considered more frugal options but kept landing on the fact that they felt cheap in the material sense. Some days, I felt more at peace with my decision. Other days, I was a wreck.
One afternoon three days into our marriage, a year and a half into our first home, I came across a YouTube video of a re-upholstery of a couch. After a few astute observations, I came to the realization that a majority of couches on Instagram are nothing more than the iconic couch from Ikea named Soderhamn. World renowned as the most versatile couch, I found it had potential especially after learning that a handful of couch cover options made the couch transformable into a Restoration Hardware look-alike.
An already fairly priced option, I decided that we could be more frugal (what’s more frugal than an Ikea couch?) while also being sustainable if I could find the couch for sale on Craigslist, used and unwanted. Being a fairly popular and mass-produced couch, I found that it was not difficult to do. In fact, there were three decent options close to my home. After finding a fairly new and well-taken-care-of Soderhman not more than 10 miles away, I decided to pull the trigger.
We bought a three-seater and ottoman in a color apart from ideal for $350 (originally $599) with the plans of extending the foundation into a sectional that can seat 6 people. In order to do that, we decided to buy an arm-less seat to add to one end of the sectional. We could have waited to find one on Craigslist at a bargain price but due to an eagerness which could only result from waiting for years for a viable couch option, we decided to go ahead and purchase the arm-less seat new at a local Ikea for $229. We chose the same color to match the already existing used couch so that we could live with it until we were able to remake the fabric. We removed the existing arm rest on used couch and tacked it on to the new arm-less chair that we just bought, transforming the previously 6-foot couch into 9-feet long. Below, you see the original fabric of the Ikea couch – a dark blue cotton.
Enter the re-upholstery project. As I mentioned in the introductory comments of this post, making a house a home requires a knowing about oneself. And although a DIY sort of re-upholstery project would have been the most frugal option and possibly the most sustainable option, I also knew that it was not the right one for me. Apart from possibly hacking off a finger during the renovation, I was not eager to start a feud with my husband who will likely be dragged into this project of “mine”. Plus, after watching the video on Youtube, I was enamored with the ease of having a well fitted sheet sent to my door and using zippers as an easy way for me to “reupholster” the couch. Call me spoiled, but the price was well worth the effort and time saved, both of which are arguably more valuable resources.
I went through a lot of options but landed on Bemz after noticing that they had a recycled fabric available. I spent hours perusing the available colors (and there are many!) and sent five complimentary swatches to my home. After much debate, we decided on a Silver Grey linen fabric instead, for the sole reason that it felt better to the touch. As much as I liked the idea of ordering an up-cycled fabric, I just could not negate the fact that the feel of the linen supersedes the desire to be as ethical as possible. I suppose this is what it means to be human.
Bemz also provides couch remodeling enthusiasts with alternative leg options. It has the legs 14 cm and 18 cm in height in a variety of colors and shapes. We opted for the shorter of the two which happens to be the original height of the Soderhamn because, as you can probably tell from the Cloud and the Sloucher, I prefer low-lying couches. I primarily wanted to change the silver legs to a wooden variety that made the couch look more Scandanavianly mid-century modern and less, shall I say it, cheap.
You can also choose to have a loose-fitted cover that acts as a floor-length gown for your sofa, but we opted for the traditional style with the legs exposed so that our Roomba can sweep undisturbed underneath the couch. That decision boiled down to practicality and my preference for spotless cement floors. After all this consideration, we were finally ready to order.
I waited patiently until a 20% off sale email landed in my Inbox. For those who can’t wait, first-time buyers do get a 10% off code after an email subscription. Happy to say, ordering was a breeze. It took about 2-3 weeks for the cushions to be custom-made, but once shipped, took only two days and a weekend to arrive at our front door.
When it arrived, I couldn’t wait to put them on. I begrudgingly followed my husband’s wishes to wash them before trying them on, and since they were linen, we chose to air dry them to avoid chances of shrinkage. Which meant I had to wait until the next afternoon to put on the new covers. I woke up early, scarfed down breakfast, pulled out my roommate’s steamer and lovingly worked at straightening out a majority of the wrinkles and creases. In the afternoon, we tackled our project.
Between the both of us, the project which involved a 3-seater sofa, a sectional chair, and an ottoman took 2 hours. This was after I mistakenly confused the ottoman base cover for the single chair cover and we have to disassemble the arms and back one more time to swap the two. Which proves the point that we made the right choice in not doing a DIY version of this endeavor. Surprisingly, we finished unscathed, with our relationship still intact.
The couch looks just as good as the Restoration Hardware Cloud Sofa, and feels fantastic too! You can’t even tell it’s an Ikea couch. The fabric from Bemz really dressed up its appearance but also softened up the cushions. The wooden legs really elevated the look as well. I am so glad we choose to swap those out, too.
The one gripe I have with Bemz covers, though, is the packaging it came in. All couch covers came in big plastic bags and the legs came in bubble wrap. I wish they would ship it with less plastic. Its partial saving grace was that the plastic is made of 50% recycled material and is recyclable itself. I would still have preferred paper wrap, though.
Overall, we saved a LOT of money. Below, I write a breakdown of our spending.
3 seat Soderhamn Sectional + Ottoman used from Craigslist – $350
Arm-less Soderhamn Section new from Ikea – $229
Bemz Covers + Legs – $668
GRAND TOTAL = $1,247.00
That is 13% the cost of a Restoration Hardware couch! More affordable couches of similar design found on websites such as Article lie in the $1900 range. Mid-range couches such as that of West Elm lie in the $2k-3k range. So yes, I am VERY very happy with the financial savings!
And the best part is that these covers are replaceable and washable, a factor unignorable by two cat parents. We have a second set in the form of the original blue grey covers from Ikea as well, for back-up. In all honesty, the OG covers grew on me and we are considering it as an alternative for the moodier winter months.
It’s wonderful that down the road, “getting a new couch” simply means “getting a new couch cover”. The flexibility that Bemz offers allows for a long-term sustainable option. They have many fabrics including velvet, cotton, and linen, all in differing colors. They have styles that cover the legs and styles that don’t. Even the leg options are versatile in shape and color. Lastly, Bemz also makes covers for other types of Ikea couches, thus increasing the range of probability. The number of combinations are endless so I have no doubt that people can find a vibe and feel that works for them.
How about you? Any couch hacks of late?
If you are interested in learning about how to reupholster a couch DIY style, check out this blogger’s advice on the matter. For more Bemz inspo, check them out here.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
Our home is a live/work loft wherein the living space above makes up less than 950 square feet, while the business below makes up 600 square feet. It is an industrious home, with vaulted ceilings, exposed air vents, and, well, cool gray cement floors. While the floors lend us something to covet during the summer months, they make it a bit harder to get out of bed during early morning routines when it’s cold. So as winter descends, it becomes easy for one to start considering rugs to cover such floors.
As usual, I am writing here to pose the idea of going without. Currently, we arerugless.
The beauty of our space lies in its flexibility, wherein one is not tied down to specific room designations. As example, our bed lies is where the next-door-neighbor’s living room resides, and we’ve placed a dining table dead center in the loft. So why place a rug, whose purpose includes separating spaces and making distinct rooms out of nothing? I had made some autumnal adaptations to our home recently, in an effort to promote gather within our limited square footage, and adding rugs would leave my intentions robbed.
Additionally, adding rugs may just complicate things. My qualm with having more things in general is the worry. When we accumulate stuff, we add to our minds an additional thing to consider. Will we spill coffees on this rug? Will the dogs we sit mistake it for a place to go? Will the cat start to tear at it with it’s claws the same way I imagine it would if it were carpet? Plus, I worry about the mess.
I find that rugs have a tendency to collect all sorts of detritus, serving as platters presenting an array of things, including, but certainly not limited to, cat hair from a cat that would enjoy such a rug, dried flour bits falling from my apron, and bread crumbs sloppily stuck on my shirt from morning’s breakfast.
It would complicate things because, currently, we run the vaccuum 3-4 times a week. We have a Roomba that actually runs on its own. The decision for such a vaccuum is plenti-fold. We like it’s sleek minimalist appearance and the ability to stash it underneath a book case, sight unseen. We also like that it is self-sufficient, and we can turn it on from our phones when we are away, or let it run on the weekends while we lounge on the couch. Our ability to live life unperturbed while still maintain clean floors is highly valued. It was a very intentional purchase, which we were too frugal to actually buy, so really, it was a house-warming gift from a pair of parents who refused to go giftless.
Having a rug amidst it’s trajectory can cause problems. The Roomba will likely get stuck, the way it does when it encounters the bathroom rug. The rug will likely get dragged around, mopping the floors. Or the Roomba and rug will devise a plan against us and team up to coagulate all sorts of dust particles into the deep crevices of the rug. Yes, I’ve been told I think too much.
So while I have been fancying a rug ever since I decided rugs were beautiful, I also have my reservations. Deep down, my desire for beauty is restrained by my knowing that less is more, my inability to stomach spending money on something so accessory, and mostly my effort to keep things at home simple.
How about you? What are some winter decors that you can do without this year?
I am thirty, and I have still yet to own a couch of my choosing. Every couch that has permeated my living space has either been already provided by previous tenants or handed down to me by someone I know. What does that say about me, exactly?
While it is quite obvious that our personal successes are not defined by an ability to own a couch, I think it is implied that a medical professional of thirty would have been able to afford one by now. But buying a couch is no easy thing. In fact, buying ANYTHING for me is never an easy thing these days. The entire process involves a hefty amount of serious pondering and a mild case of deep-skin writhing.
In this line of work, I am approached by others in general for my thoughts on stuff. In a sense, my job here is to help make a value judgement. I am presented with the following questions: Who made it? How is it made? Where is it made? What materials are used? Why is it necessary? Which option is best, in terms of sustainability both in terms of the environment, the social implications, the global effects, and least importantly, my personal repercussions. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a matcha whisk, or a set of pajamas. It’s even more pressure on large scale purchases, such as a brand new couch.
I have been in search for a sustainable couch for years. Ever since my husband (then-fiance) and I moved into our own place two months after I graduated dental school in 2016. Specifically, I have looked for a couch wherein I can trace exactly where it was made, whose hands were used to make them, and in what environmental conditions. I have yet to find one that comes close. Most furniture companies don’t even bother to tag couches as sustainable, and those that do only involve a small level of sustainability (like using reclaimed wood without any consideration for the fabrics of the upholstery) that I cannot even take them seriously.
So then I started to reach out to acquaintances about possibly fabricating a couch. Our favorite piece of furniture in our home is a 12 foot dining table hand-made by the two girls who provided our wedding furniture. We thought maybe we could do the same with the couch. I reached out to a fellow wood-worker-baker and an at-home clothing seamstress to ask about making a sustainable wood frame and sourcing end-of-the-mill fabrics. But sourcing the fabric will take lots of work researching jobbers and the wood-worker friend was busy with current projects as well as a baking schedule. It wasn’t the path to take.
So we turned to the next sustainable option, which is to buy a used and unwanted couch from Craigslist, which would prevent an additional item from entering a landfill. I know that it would put us in the same spot as before, owning a couch that’s a hand-me-down of sorts, but at least it would be a couch of our choosing. When we went to Melbourne in January, we stayed at a really nice AirBNB, and we fell in love with a mid-century modern couch in their living room.
I was surprised to find a similar couch made by West Elm selling at Craigslist for $800. The same couch is still selling at West Elm for double the price. While West Elm sells some sustainable products, couches are unfortunately not one of them. But sustainability as defined by environmental impact is achieved with this option, and the fact that it was already owned means the buying of this Craigslist couch does not have an ADDITIONAL social impact or global effect, except for the positive effect of side swiping it from the landfill. So where’s the hitch?
It all came down to sustainability as defined by my personal life. $800 is no chump change. Maybe in proportion to brand new couches (why do they cost so much?) $800 seems like a steal. Perhaps it is. But in terms of my personal financial goals, $800 is almost double what we set aside each month for travel. $800 is almost three months worth of groceries, or eight months worth of dining out. $800 is a year’s worth of cat food for Theo, and probably all the Christmas and birthday presents we want to buy. It is one-third of our portion of the mortgage, which is helping us build equity – can a couch do that? It is 12% of our monthly loan payment, which is buying us freedom. How much freedom can a couch buy you?
In the end, we chose the most sustainable couch, which is the couch we already had. It buys us freedom from the cycle of continually searching for something better. It helps build us equity by not taking way from our ability to build equity. It fuels our financial goals, without taking away from our time. In the end, it came down to the answer of not which couch is best, but which couch is good enough. That’s what sustainability is all about.
I sometimes wonder how well these superlatives, and our quest for the best of something, end up serving us. What about the possibility of replacing better or best with good enough? The reality of my own day-to-day life is that living simply and keeping a pared down collection of well-loved items often isn’t about having the best. It’s about making the best of what I already have.
Like Erin, we search for ways to make the best of what we have. It’s the ultimate way to live without forever needing to chase. In our space, we have shades where walls should be, wooden panels where doors should be, and a bed where some might put a living room. But it ISenough, and there we still sleep soundly.
‘Thrifty‘ and ‘thriving‘ are two words you don’t often see in the same sentence, let alone together, side-by-side. The first insinuates a sense of meagerness while the second boasts of abundance. Yet in terms of small space living, it is important to establish both, and when small spaces are done well, one can do so without compromise.
Small space efficiency is a an underestimated selling point for having less square footage. Benefits of small space living include more affordable housing, more efficient heating of spaces, less material consumption, less time wasted and money spent on maintenance, et cetera. In this way, small spaces can help one be thrifty.
Small spaces also pave way for intimate relationships. Cozy is a term I like to use. Think winter cabins and snow storms with your closest college friends. This closeness can elicit a sense of connectedness with the inhabitants, and their guests … especially when the openness in a home makes every room visible regardless of where you stand. This ‘forcing’ of community is an example of how small spaces can help you thrive.
Not only are we small space dwellers, but I am also a fan of ‘less is more’. Influenced by Japanese culture (in terms of decluttering and caring for items – see Marie Kondo) and an admirer of Scandinavian design, I find that the ability to thriftily thrive lies in the way we give purpose to our small spaces. There are many ways in which a person can thrive, but our environments play a large role in that act. For me, having bare white walls supports a creative head space. For our family, an open floor plan facilitates intermingling. For visitors, having one large dining table in the center of the home gives us a reason to look each other in the eyes as we sit down and share a meal.
Below, I will detail a few aspects of our home that make it extremely functional for us, yet that require less than what is expected. I will also explain how these aspects help to make our lives more maximilist, although others would consider it minimal.
Open Floor Plans
Occupation of modest space calls for an open floor plan. The addition of walls can make a space feel smaller, and could be considered stifling, at best. Fluidity in movement, light, and air is helped by an excess of open space. In our home, the open space give Mike and I a sense of connectedness. I could be sitting on the bed, reading a book with the cat, and look across the way to see Mikey in the living room fiddling with his guitar strings. Likewise, I could be sitting on the couch surfing the web on my laptop, and peer above the screen to see Mikey playing video games in the bedroom. When people are over, guests are within eyesight of each other at all times, since the kitchen opens to the dining area which faces the living room. I have yet to hear a guest ask me where someone is.
In our home, the use of screens encourages engagement between moving parts, while granting privacy when space is needed. When Mike and I are alone, we usually have conversations that travel from the bed to the couch. When guests are over, the screens are usually pulled, to give a sense of privacy to those sleeping on the pull-out couch. The same goes for rooms as intimate as the bathroom. We have a wooden panel that slides to reveal a laundry tucked away into a corner of the home. It also functions as the door to our bathroom. Unless someone is using the loo or shower, the panel is usually covering the laundry machines, thus leaving the bathroom open to the rest of the home.
Natural lighting is the one criteria that I have for my homes. Give me the smallest cranny, but please don’t take away my sunshine. My mood is greatly influenced by sunlight, which also means that my ability to create is hindered by low levels of light. In our home, we have floor to ceiling lighting on both sides of the house. We have sheer pull down screens to sift the light, which we occasionally pull down in the evenings to limit the glow from street lamps coming into our home. But the minute I wake up, I pull the screens up to allow as much sunlight as possible. I throw the windows open, in hopes to invite more air in, as if the house was gasping for breath. And since the opposing walls of the home are covered in windows, it allows for a steady breeze to flow straight across – in one side and out the other. Both ample light and ventilation enhance the perception of space, so it is very important for small dwellings to have both.
Because I err towards having less, I am a big advocate of making the most out of what we have, rooms included. Just as I tend to avoid items that are not used on a daily basis, I think the same way of rooms. When people’s homes have too much space, nooks and crannies tend to go untended. Useless, unwanted. What’s the purpose? To sit and look pretty?! No thank you.
We should consider how spaces can be used for multiple functions. Our living room acts as our theatre room, our relaxation area, our music room, and occasionally, our guest bedroom. The couch folds down into a double sized bed, the coffee table has drawers to store a guest’s belongings. As aforementioned, our screen acts as a divider to give guests privacy. In the “dining room” three steps away, our 12 foot table serves as a means to throw dinner parties, to hold baked goods on a busy baking day, and at times, as my desk for blog work. In the kitchen only a mere hand’s reach, we have an island that we use as a breakfast table, a meal prep area, and a baker’s bench for shaping tens of loaves.
Quality Over Quantity
I wrote, once, about how our happiness does not lie in double vanity sinks. Maybe I’m alone in thinking that one bathroom suffices for all our toilet needs. But it is true. I only need one couch, and dare I say it, one living room (even if it lacks in formality). I don’t need a breakfast table and a more formal dining table. I don’t need a guest bedroom for ghosts to collect in. I mean, we have one closet for goodness sake! But it’s large enough to stash everything we own, and is that not enough?
Instead of giving me a couch that’s only for formal gatherings, give me one that I can fall asleep on and drool. Instead of having dinnerware saved for special occasions, give me a set of reliable and unfussy china that won’t break with daily use. Instead of different decor for the changing of seasons, give me bare walls, you feel me? The quality of our lives is not measured by how must stuff we have.
Maximalizing Small Spaces
I maximalize our space in multiple ways. Other than having ample lighting and blank slate walls, our home meticulously selects for items of similar materials. The floor is one single concrete slab that runs through every room (even the bathroom and bedroom). It is a light gray color, and lighter colors make spaces seem bigger than. A unifying floor also is better at maximalizing than having different floorings between each room.
Likewise, smaller spaces benefit from a unifying color palate. The materials we choose usually flux between dark wood, brown leathers, silver and chrome industrial metals, and straw and paper baskets and things. Our color schemes reflect natural color states, and only small pops of vibrancy (in the form of greenery and fresh fruit from the market) permeate the home. We try to balance the warmth from our wooden coffee table with the coolness of our exposed ventilation system. We juxtapose the softness in our linen sheets with the hardness of the iron side tables nearby. Despite having an Industrial vibe mixed with an organic collection of goods, the flow from one room to another flourishes with the help of a continuous color scheme.
In terms of items, I am very selective with what’s visible to the naked eye. I consolidate all of our belongings into closets, organize them behind kitchen cabinets, corral them into bathroom drawers. If I could, I would also tuck away the fridge behind pantry doors, and the microwave into its own cabinet. We do have open shelving but when it comes to items sitting on that shelf, I have one basic rule: Only the most beloved possessions get that privilege.
A Sense of Community
We use our humble abode as a vessel to create a community. We gather people who would otherwise be far away from each other due to our urban lifestyle. Our home is especially good at making people feel close-knit. Mostly, because there’s nowhere else to go! When people visit, there are really only so many seating areas. We have to mingle like we used to. No one can surf their social feeds unobserved. This isn’t the place for that. Likewise, on a daily basis, our roommate preps dinners and lunches in the same kitchen. We watch movies together, or play boardgames after dinner. Even Mike and I are forced to resolve whatever arguments we have within minutes, because hiding away to the bedroom does not mean you steal away from eyesight. In this way, our home has brought us closer to each other.
As much as I love our haven, our small space also promotes a relationship with our surroundings. Our home is for slow living, but when the bread has been baked, the meals have been prepped, the guitars have been strummed, and the eyes have gone crossed from all the reading, there isn’t really much else to do. That promotes slow living in the sense that we do a lot of observing, imagining, pondering, and sitting. But it also promotes a life lived outside.
We live in the heart of downtown. Our bedroom window overlooks Yost Theatre, and we can feel the bass thumping from the bar down the street at half past midnight. We get ding dong ditchers at 2am. At first, I hated it. But now, it is growing on me. Couple our location with living in a tiny home and what do we get? A husband and wife who will find joy in stepping outdoors. We walk to the market to buy groceries. We accompany people who want to dine out across the street. We walk to our favorite coffee shops and support local brewers. Monthly art walks draw us out after eating dinner at home. When the dogs I’m sitting feel a bit restless, out we go in search of grass. I am finding that as much of a sanctuary we make our home to be, it is equally important in being the place from which we go forth.
If you walk into our home, you’ll notice a certain spaciousness. Part of that spaciousness is helped by the lack of things, sure. Some may think the answer also lies in a vaulted ceiling, and yes, the array of bright California daylight streaming through the windows gives the home a bit more freshness that you can breathe in. But this isn’t what causes that feeling of space, for I’ve been in plenty a home with vaulted ceilings and bright windows, without feeling the peace. The subtlety that our home is plentiful in but which one may not recognize as serving a function, is the bareness of our plain, white walls.
I love plain, white walls. I love how fresh they feel, how they emit a sense of newness and emptiness, like blank slates full of possibility. When you move into a new home, the walls are white, to allow you to dream of what could be, rather than what is. I like to keep that door to creativity open, to live in a place where anything can happen.
I like the way that you can easily detect a smudge, and just as easily cover it with some fresh paint, without worrying so much about the layers blending in with each other, or achieving the perfect shade. White on white is simple, but painting gray on existing gray makes darker gray, and that’s too complicated. It’s emancipating how easily you could fix the problem. A can of paint is equivalent to the white out pen of adulthood, a magic eraser per say.
I like the way light reflects off of them, and how they can make a room feel brighter somehow, bigger almost. Living in a tiny home, that’s kind of what we need. I like how they accentuate the furniture, rather than hide them in their shadow. It’s almost as if it draws attention to the actual things that fill the home, rather than have the things hide the home itself. I like how they reflect the warmth of wood, and the coolness of metal. Dark walls wouldn’t do the same.
I like them better when they’re bare. Have you noticed how picture frames suck you in, open shelving collects clutter, and anything else at eye-level distracts your attention? Have you noticed how rooms feel smaller when the walls are covered with hanging treasures … ever felt claustrophobic, or suffocated? I like that people walk in here, and open up just by being in the white wall’s presence. I like that they don’t stop mid-conversation to comment on a painting, or a picture frame. While it may be nice to walk into a home and comment on the childhood photographs of the inhabitants of said home, perhaps, as a means to start a conversation or reminisce, I also think it detracts from an ability to speak to each other of things far less superficial. I am not saying this isn’t the way to decorate, for that’s a personal choice, but I am saying that when I stare out into space and regress into the inner workings of my own mind (as I oft do), it helps to achieve clarity when looking upon a blank space.How often do we get to converse, undeterred these days? How often do we get to think, without other inputs? It’s a gift, these minimalist walls.
Likewise, when I walk into a home teeming with things, I immediately feel a difference in my ability to breathe. Never you mind whether said things are stuffed safely in a closet, or organized neatly into stacks on a shelf, but it’s almost as if I can smell the mustiness (things DO have a smell). In smaller living quarters, the quality of air more poignantly matters, and I like breathing in the emptiness. The walls bleed a sense of calm that I cannot explain but can within my bones feel.
So if you ask me about small space living and a means to make them feel less small, start with these havens of white. My mantra of ‘do nothing’ stands. Allow for these sacred walls to elicit more by having less: more meaningful conversations, more in-depth thinking, more breathing room, more living space, more freedom, more possibility.
Does any one else feel the same?
For those wondering, our walls are painted this Sherman Williams shade of egret white.
There’s one thing that comes with Mr. Debtist’s love for techy things that I absolutely have difficulty embracing. Cables. A motley crew of them, tangled, multi-colored, snaky things making their way into our rental properties, and now, into our home. I remember the first day I stepped into the boys’ house back when we were all in undergrad, young and carefree. You could say that their cables were of the same nature, a mangled mess, running from the downstairs to the upstairs and in between bedrooms. Even after grad school, their first house that they shared together as working men involved a number of wires and Wi-Fi receptors thrown onto the walls and ceilings, framing doorways, finding their way into boyish loves: computers, TVs, consoles, etc. Complain as I might, there is just no separating my darling husband from his love for video games and reddit, just like there is no separating me from my books. He deals with my books, so I will have to deal with his cables.
Off course, dealing with the cables can insinuate a whole slew of solutions. The most aesthetic also being the most expensive. Ideally, we would wire the cables within the walls, so that they can snake around, unseen to guests and residents alike. Unfortunately, that would require a permanent solution to the living room, which I am not ready to commit to. We are still living with the hand-me-down couch from my college roommate, a couch that has been in my life for five years. It isn’t perfect, but we are all about making do for now, while we tackle the student debt. But you know how it is. Without the perfect couch, I won’t know the orientation of the room, which means I won’t know which wall the projector will face, which means we don’t know where the speakers will go, et cetera. So the more permanent and ideal solution will have to wait.
I have also considered buying some of those cable covers. The boxy kind that houses pesky wires and run along baseboards, better disguised. We actually had such a thing at our rental, which wasn’t so bad. However, I did not want to buy any more said cable housing knowing the solution is temporary and that it would require creating more plastic waste, not to mention spending.
So along the lines of our daily mantra, “make do with what you’ve got”, I grabbed a stapler and left-over paint from the can sitting in the closet underneath the stairs. I took the wires and stapled them in horizontal tracks along the baseboards, trying to make their way as neatly as possible from the audio box to the projector. I then painted over them in white, LA apartment style. I took a step back, and admired my work.
It’s been about two weeks since I’ve done this project. To be frank, I have forgotten about the wires. It isn’t so much that they’re disguised completely. They’re only slightly less horrid than before. But there are more important things than worrying about how wiring looks against your baseboards. No one has commented on them, which means no one is really looking at them. Or if they are looking, maybe they approve of the city-style chic my painting over them has tried to mimic. Maybe it feels a bit more New York, emitting the older loft-like vibes of a more mature taste. We look on the bright side of things around here, always.