Margaret and Brandon’s 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 14

  • size: 485 sqft
  • type:  2-bedroom apartment
  • location: East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
  • inhabitants: Margaret Mason and Brandon Dunham, and 2 fish
  • website and blog: heymargaret.com

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt Plans

Describe your place:

I love the neighborhood we live in and all the conveniences it offers. My commute into the city for work is super short and everything we need is within one block of home.

We live on the second floor of a three story walk up that was built in 1910. It’s tiny to our out-of-town visitor standards, but it works out perfectly for roommates. My roommate Brandon is a friend from NC who moved in about a year ago.

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 02

What do you love about your space?:

I love the brick fireplace (nonfunctional) and the pressed tin ceilings. Although the apt is old, it has some of the original charm.

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 04

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 03

How would you improve your space?:

More closets – isn’t this on every New Yorker’s wish list ? And it would be nice to have direct access to our roof/the backyard.

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 09

 

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 08

What do you like best about small living?:

This apartment is actually the longest place I’ve lived in since I turned 18 and moved out of my parents’ house! I guess that means I like it!

Since I live in NYC and have a pretty busy schedule, it’s really important to me to have a peaceful place to come back to. Living in a small space creates that cozy comfort I need, plus it takes no time at all to clean it.

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 12

Tips for fellow and potential small-space dwellers:

Be creative in storage, stay organized, and toss out all that useless stuff.

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 13

A note from Nicole:

Margaret is one of my best friends, going back to our freshman college dorms :). I was so happy to finally visit her little Brooklyn apartment.

What I love most about Margaret and Brandon’s place is how lively they have decorated it – quite literally if you consider all the plants. There are selective vibrant splashes of color that really activate the space, most of their decorations are functional (floating bookshelves, old trunks, colorful storage shelves), and there are fun random items that keep you exploring every corner (pictures, magnets, relics). It may be small, especially for two people, but it is loaded with awesomeness!

Margaret’s hand-painted accent wall of arrows is the coolest!:

Margaret and Brandons 485 sqft Brooklyn Apt 06

more pictures:

Intentionally Small: Urban Living in North Carolina

Hey there! Please excuse the lack of new blog posts lately. I have started taking my architecture professional exams to become a licensed architect! One test down, six to go!

New posts are in the works and coming soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen this video yet, it documents my story with small spaces – from my time living abroad and involvement with local issues, to my studio apartment and starting this blog. I hope you enjoy:

Thank you to Kirsten Dirksen of faircompanies for creating this film. Be sure to peruse Kirsten’s youtube channel for videos of the best small spaces and simple living stories.

Jenny and Farzad’s 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 14

  • size: 350 sqft
  • type:  studio apartment in a historic home
  • location: Boylan Heights, Raleigh, NC
  • inhabitants: Jenny and Farzad
  • website and blog: ferrofabric.com

Jennys Studio Apt Plans

Describe your place:

Our apartment is a microcosm of Victorian architecture nestled in a vast century-old home that has been diced up into a handful of individual units. The miniature floorplan is compensated for by tall walls and ample sunlight. A tiny “foyer” immediately opens up into a room (our multipurpose bedroom / living room / dining room / office) with big bay windows and endlessly distant ceilings. The separate bathroom and separate kitchen have the same feel – small scale, antique details, lots of windows and vertical space. It’s cozy and open at the same time. The windows overlook busy Boylan Ave., so we have a squirrel’s eye view of quirky urban events like early-morning marathons, popsicle deliveries, and themed-costume bike rides.

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 01

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 06

What do you love about your space?:

I love that different parts of this space each remind me of places that I’ve lived in or visited in the past. I had big facade windows like this in a converted 19th century factory in London; the hardwood floors are the same color as the ones in my sunny LA apartment; the clawfoot tub and other Victorian details reference San Francisco. These memories make me feel closer to the ex-flatmates, roommates, and friends living in other parts of the world that I don’t get to see very often. It’s like living inside of a diorama, small and adorned with personal significance.

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 03

How would you improve your space?:

The humidity and rain can speed up the deterioration of old places like this one. We can see signs of aging, and I worry about how long this beautiful historic home will be standing. I think it could use a new roof and other core structural restorations to prevent more water damage from seeping in.

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 05

What do you like best about small living?:

It’s fun – it’s like living in a tent. Didn’t we all dream about that as kids? Small living also suits grown-up needs – it’s simple, easy, very very cheap, and prevents junk piles.

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 08

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 07

Tips for fellow and potential small-space dwellers:

I think other small-space dwellers probably do this intuitively, but it’s really important to scale down proportionately. Keep some walls empty and shelves unused, just as you would in a larger apartment. To me, this is the key to making a small apartment feel big and open. Rather than cramming all of your stuff in, get rid of most of it and just hang onto the most meaningful pieces. A bonus effect of this process is that it’s a bit like distilling – what remains will be the objects with the strongest personal significance.

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 11

A note from Nicole:

Jenny’s apartment was like a secret tree house in the oaks  of a familiar neighborhood corner. It’s across the street from Boylan Bridge Brewpub, a local spot with the best view of downtown Raleigh. I could tell Jenny was an experienced small-space dweller as soon as I walked into her tiny apartment, it somehow felt both cozy and spacious. This space intrinsically has the two most important elements that make a small-space wonderful: tall ceilings and large windows. Then the rest is Jenny’s doing. The smart layout of her curated collection of furniture, pushed to the perimeter of the main living space, kept it feeling open and and comfortable. I loved the personal touches – her daybed, colorful floor pillows, and art adorning the walls. She speaks so poetically about making a place home, no matter how temporary the living situation. Thanks to Jenny and Farzad for welcoming me into your home, and thanks to Farzad for introducing me to Sekanjabin – a delicious ancient Persian cucumber drink - that I recommend to all!

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 12

Jenny and Farzads 350 sqft Historic Boylan Studio Apt 13

more pictures:

Stacey and Ben’s 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 14

Stacey and Ben Plans

Describe your place:

Our location is incredibly convenient. We love being within walking distance of most everything we really need. Our proximity to the downtown center allows us to spend less time in the car, which is always a plus. Our home is part of a community. We live in close proximity to others and share both a courtyard space full of beautiful, mature trees and lots of wildlife as well and secondary space for grilling and growing a garden.

With sun exposure on three sides, our interior space receives an impressive amount of daylight. With a little less than 1,000 square feet, we are strategic with our purchases and reduce clutter as much as possible. Because every inch counts, our place is filled with things that are truly our style.

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 01

What do you love about your space?:

The quality of daylight that channels through our windows, its proximity to coffee shops and the park, and that it’s sincerely us. We are cultivating a life here.

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 04

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 03

How would you improve your space?:

I would reduce clutter even more! While we have some amazing built-ins from previous dwellers, storage is always at a premium. Decorating has been a process. We are still rearranging and adding to our walls, in particular.

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 06

What do you like best about small living?:

We like spending time together so we really love our cozy dwelling. Small living inspires us to spend our free time outside and really living rather than spending it in the confines of our home.

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 07

Tips for fellow and potential small-space dwellers:

Be strategic with storage and organizing your possessions. Invest in items that you love; after all, there is less space to fill. Tidy up each day. Reduce clutter as much as possible. If possible, choose a dwelling with access to a greenspace and within walking distance to your favorite spots.

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 09

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 10

Anything else you would like to share?:

We make it work no matter the challenge. Our best stories involve building furniture in our living room or on the picnic table outside with extension cords galore. Small living encourages us to reduce our possessions and instead spend our days creating experiences.

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 13

More about us:

Stacey: Day job – a designer working at Citrix. After hours – my favorite times are spent exploring the triangle, tasting confections at my favorite chocolatier (Escazu), practicing photography and delving more into the world of graphic design.

Ben: Day job – Product Manager. After hours – until recently he spent his after hours in graduate school, now he has rekindled his affection for running and spends his days cooking with fresh herbs from our urban garden, and partaking in local daily adventures.

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 12

A note from Nicole:

Stacey and Ben’s place has such a pleasant atmosphere. It is filled with daylight from three sides making the original wood floors glow. Functionally speaking, the layout makes for generously open living spaces, while providing ample storage (including a murphy bed!).

What I admire most is their long-term commitment in making this their home. This townhome is a comfortable size right now for a couple, and it will be able to accommodate a growing family in their future – a truly sustainable model. They have taken their time selecting furniture and decorations that are beautiful, meaningful, and fit their home perfectly. Everything is in its right place!

Stacey and Ben's 920 sqft Raleigh Townhome 11

more pictures:

830 sqft Cabin in the Woods

830 sqft Cabin in the Woods 01

Cabin in the Woods

For Memorial Day weekend and my 27th birthday, Matt and I wanted to simply relax and enjoy each other’s company. We browsed through AirBNB for a small cabin in the North Carolina mountains, and found the perfect place for the most memorable weekend.

830 sqft Cabin in the Woods 04

This 830 sqft A-frame cabin is located near Asheville in an “intentional community” of artists and professors. Inspired by a trip to Scandinavia, the family of four designed and built this exposed wood cabin as their peaceful retreat. The kitchen, dining, and living spaces blend into one, double-height space with a high vaulted ceiling. A spacious sleeping loft above the bedroom and bathroom look down onto the light-filled living space. The large deck extends the main space to the outdoors where we gazed at the star-filled sky or listened to the continuous buzz of bees.

830 sqft Cabin in the Woods 07830 sqft Cabin in the Woods 03

I was fascinated by the space. The simple material palette let the space speak for itself. It didn’t need decorations or paint, it was intrinsically beautiful. The furniture that was there was functional – providing storage (like the antique hutch in the kitchen) or accommodating extra guests (sleeping up to 7 people). I especially loved observing how the cabin was constructed. I could easily read the structural logic of the exposed beams and columns.

830 sqft Cabin in the Woods 09

830 sqft Cabin in the Woods 10

The nights were chilly, so we made great use of the wood stove. It had such a presence in the cabin, with the contrastingly dark chimney stretching the full height of the space. Since we loved being in the main space so much, we actually slept on the futon. So we really only inhabited about 375 sqft of the cabin.

We had such a lovely stay. The weather, the cabin, the hiking, the food, the relaxing – it was absolutely perfect. Perhaps my favorite birthday yet…

830 sqft Cabin in the Woods 13

830 sqft Cabin in the Woods 14

PS. The best part about our trip…

Nicole Alvarez and Matt Tomasulo are engaged

See more pictures of the cabin:

Katherine and Brent’s 960 sqft Accessory Apartment

Katherine and Brents 960 sqft Accessory Apartment 02

  • size: 960 sqft
  • type: 2-bedroom accessory apartment
  • location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • inhabitants: Katherine and Brent Nobles
  • my info: @kgnobles

Katherine Nobles Plans

Describe your place:

My husband and I live in an apartment beneath a larger home in Chapel Hill, NC. The apartment has a private entrance and patio. The house is on a hill; so one side of our apartment has large windows facing the beautiful backyard. We’re secluded in a quiet neighborhood, yet we’re just over a mile from downtown and the campus of UNC Chapel Hill.

Photo by Brent Nobles

Photo by Brent Nobles

What do you love about your space?:

I love the window in the living room and the view it provides of the backyard. It’s fun to watch the wildlife. So far we’ve seen an owl, hawk, and lots of deer, right from our living room!

I also love the cabinet storage in the kitchen. The large island provides plenty of space for kitchen gadgets, platters, and pots and pans.

Katherine and Brents 960 sqft Accessory Apartment 01

How would you improve your space?:

It’d be great to have a small dining room. Our gate-leg table folds up nicely as a sofa table when we’re not eating, but the lack of a true dining space makes it hard to have friends over for dinner.

Katherine and Brents 960 sqft Accessory Apartment 03

What do you like best about small living?:

I value the efficiency that comes with small living, as no space is wasted or excessive. I also enjoy the simplicity it brings us in our everyday lives. I spend less money and energy on decorating and cleaning. I don’t spend time looking for things or fighting with clutter because everything has a place. I don’t spend money on items I don’t really need simply for the sake of filling space.

Katherine and Brents 960 sqft Accessory Apartment 05

Tips for fellow and potential small-space dwellers:

Edit! Really think about what you need and what you love. We moved here from a 1450 townhouse, so we sold and donated a lot of furniture, clothes, accessories, etc. And we don’t miss it! We’ve learned to live without things we thought were necessities like a printer and a microwave. Now the things around us are those that are meaningful and/or purposeful, and that feels good.

Use space-saving storage items. When we moved in, we purchased a lot of “under the bed” and “over the door” organizers, for things like shoes, coats, towels, pantry supplies. In a space with limited storage, we had to think about other ways to stow the items that we just couldn’t part with.

Katherine and Brents 960 sqft Accessory Apartment 11

More about us:

I work as a career counselor, but have always had an interest in design. I studied interior design for a year in college and worked as a graphic designer for a couple of years after completing my degree in communication.

My husband, Brent, and I moved to Chapel Hill just over a year ago. We were seeking a change – a simpler life in a small town that offered good food, music, art, and outdoor activities. We’re happy that we’ve found it here.

Photo by Brent Nobles

Photo by Brent Nobles

A note from Nicole:

I had a lovely time visiting the Nobles residence. This apartment epitomizes what is so great about accessory apartments – they provide alternative housing types for renters in great locations, help the owner with some additional income, and create flexibility in the life cycle of the house and its inhabitants. This is not your ordinary basement apartment – the spaces are flooded with light from large windows. The plan is surprisingly efficient, including 2 bedrooms, 1 full bath, and 1 half bath, and it even includes a private outdoor living space. The Nobles did a fine job selecting functional furniture to fit their space while making it cozy. I loved the fluffy sectional couch that defines the living room, and the nifty collapsable dining table for two. I hope Raleigh will one day reintroduce accessory apartments into its code!

Photo by Brent Nobles

Photo by Brent Nobles

more pictures:

Joel and Jessica’s 265 sqft Studio in Paris

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

Describe your place:

Our apartment is in a very central location in Paris. It is a newer building (1968) surrounded by lovely older ones (1468). It was renovated just before we moved and maximizes the limited available space but also maintains a sense of style. It has the VERY rare distinction of containing a washer/dryer, dishwasher, and fridge w/freezer.

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

What do you love about your space?:

We love the balcony. The place is small but when you’re on the balcony it’s as big as the city itself. The hardwood floors are terrific. The kitchen is disproportionately large with lots of storage and counter space – great for keeping it cheap eating in. Perhaps our most beloved feature of all, though, is the low profile but highly effective AC unit. Honestly, between the appliances, balcony, and location, it is practically one-of-a-kind in Paris.

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

How would you improve your space?:

We’ve milked the cabinets, closets, and IKEA storage containers for all they’re worth but there’s no getting around the fact that it would be nice to have a little more room for hanging clothes. Also, with a place this small it looks like a flood has recently receded the way we have to hang our air-dry clothes after washing. Some hang-dry solution would be nice.

We can’t complain about having a washer/dryer and a dishwasher but, due to the plumbing, we aren’t able to run them simultaneously. You’d be surprised how often that comes up.

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

What do you like best about small living?:

We love how we are forced to live the way we really want to live: simply and without clutter or accumulation. We end up spending more time and money on experiences than belongings. Plus we can clean the whole place top to bottom in an hour.

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

Tips for fellow and potential small-space dwellers:

Take stock of everything you own and make three “piles:” essential daily/weekly items (shoes, toothbrush, computer, dishware); need to keeps (second suit, yearbooks, china, art); discardable. Put the first category in a few suitcases/boxes to bring with you; put the second category in cheap, long-term storage; sell the rest on craigslist and trash what doesn’t sell.

It’s like dancing. Over-communicate with your fellow inhabitant about expectations for cleanliness and schedule. There’s no autonomy in small spaces because every move requires the cooperation of the other. “I’ll do yoga while you’re in the shower” or “You take the dogs out while I cook dinner” or “Can you scoot over so I can get by” are typical exchanges.

Keep fresh flowers.

Plan on small-batch grocery shopping – bringing home a package of Costco paper towels would require moving furniture around.

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

A note from Nicole:

Jessica and Joel have the most amazing warehouse loft in downtown Durham, NC. In July 2012 they departed on a journey to live in France for a year. I must say, I’m quite impressed that they (along with their two pups) have been able to down-size from 2,100 sqft to less than 300 sqft.

Their studio apartment feels expansive and provides for plenty of storage – two things you wouldn’t expect from a place so small. The bathroom, entry, and closet are compact, leaving the rest of the apartment completely open. Perhaps the only definition of space is marked by the couch between the living and sleeping areas, making a private corner for the nifty twin-bed storage unit. A few unique features caught my eye: the built-in dish drying rack, the long low mirror as a backsplash to the desk, and the bold dash of color anchoring the end of the space and framing a playful painting. The main element that makes this space so wonderful is the balcony and large glass doors/window. Expanding a tiny space to the exterior makes all the difference…and being in the middle of Paris is an added bonus!

Thanks to Jessica and Joel for sharing your space! Since I didn’t have the opportunity to visit, I really could not have posted without your help. It was so fun comparing similarly sized studio apartments – in Paris and in Raleigh. Read/see more of their Parisian studio in Jessica’s blog post.

Photo by Joel Sadler

Photo by Joel Sadler

more pictures:

“Tiny but terrific”

The News & Observer "Tiny but terrific" with Nicole Alvarez 1

Over a month ago I got an email from Stacy, a reporter for our regional newspaper The News & Observer, asking if we could chat about small spaces and my blog. I’m always excited to talk about small spaces, so we met that very weekend. Fast forward to this Saturday’s front cover of the Home & Garden section, and there I was! A huge picture of me in my new apartment filled up most of the space above the fold, with the article continuing onto a second page. There was even a headline on the newspaper’s cover directing to the article!

The News & Observer "Tiny but terrific" with Nicole Alvarez 2

The community support has been overwhelming! People reached out from all parts of my life, from my parents’ church friends, to my middle and high school teachers, to my grandmother. It meant so much to me. Thank you!

A special thanks to Stacy for doing such a lovely job writing the article. You can read the full article here:

The News & Observer "Tiny but terrific" with Nicole Alvarez 3

Shannon’s 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft

Shannons 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft 01

  • size: 770 sqft
  • type: 1-bedroom apartment
  • location: Chelsea, NYC
  • inhabitants: Shannon Curran, her husband, and two cats

Shannon Curran Plans

Shannons 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft 03

Describe your place:

I had the pleasure of meeting “Aunt Shannon” in December while visiting her niece, my good friend Elizabeth. I had heard about this loft many times… including rumors of a previous resident, Cindi Lauper. As I toured the first Manhattan apartment I had ever visited, I was bursting with excitement. The most clever use of small space comes out of necessity and intent. This petite, 3-story apartment, is amazing!

Shannons 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft 06

What do you love about your space?:

“The fireplace, roof garden, 1/2 moon window in the dining room, and all the textures.”

Her fireplace is a work of art in itself, with detailed brickwork stretching the full height of the double story living space. Two levels of spiral stairs lead to a private rooftop terrace overlooking Chelsea. The warm wood floors, walls, and planters, contrast against the urban surroundings. One of the planters on the terrace disguises three low windows that cleverly bring light into the bedroom below. It was the rooftop that sold her on the apartment, back when the neighborhood wasn’t as sought after as today. In the dining room, the large 1/2 moon window tilts open so she can tend to her planter, while a long low window below is the perfect place for her cats to perch.

Shannons 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft 05

How would you improve your space?:

“I would widen the circular staircase and cover the wood panelling in the living room.”

Shannon has been working on the apartment gradually, having recently renovated the kitchen. She carved space out from under the spiral stair to create a pantry and provide for extra storage. Custom cabinets fill the excess space in the refrigerator nook. She was most excited about the glass tile brightening the space, and the smooth concrete counter with a deep backsplash as a ledge to keep her counters clear. She’s working on renovating the bathrooms next.

Shannons 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft 08

What do you like best about small living?:

“Less to do!”

Shannons 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft 10

Tips for fellow and potential small-space dwellers:

“When renovating, steal ideas from yachting magazines. Great creative ideas can be drawn from their designs.”

Shannons 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft 12

Shannons 770 sqft Chelsea Rooftop Loft 13

more pictures:

Window Frame Display

Here’s a super simple way to clear your desk, create a display space, and decorate!

Window Frame Display 01

This window frame is from the local flea market. It was in great shape, so I didn’t have to refinish it at all. I leaned it up against the wall, like a headboard for my desk, to add some interest to an otherwise blank wall. As a renter, I try to minimize the number of holes I add to the walls.

Window Frame Display 02

The window frame makes a great display board. This window has two horizontal panes of glass, making a perfect ledge for double-stacking postcards, cards, and family pictures. The collection can get cluttered, but will always appear organized since it’s captured behind the framed glass. I also add fun sticky notes to remind me of my long-term tasks.

Window Frame Display 03 Window Frame Display 04

I would love to see pictures if you try it at your place!

Window Frame Display 05