Jordan’s 420 sqft Grosvenor Studio Apt

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Jordans 420 sqft Grosvenor Studio

Describe your place:

Grosvenor Gardens is on Hillsborough St. roughly halfway between downtown Raleigh and NC State’s campus, so it was perfect for school and is still very convenient now that I’ve graduated. The apartment complex was built in the 30′s and encloses a courtyard/garden space on 3 sides.

Jordans 420 sqft Grosvenor Studio Apt 02

What do you love about your space?:

I love the old feel of the building; from the hardwood floors to the old panes of glass in the windows, it’s comforting to think about living in something that’s been standing since my grandparents were children. It’s also pretty awesome that the largest windows in my apartment are north-facing, bringing in tons of natural light but very little solar heat.

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Jordans 420 sqft Grosvenor Studio Apt 06

How would you improve your space?:

I wish I had a bigger sink. I know it seems strange but there are so many times I have to clear the sink to wash one large item, like my wok. Other than that, of course I wish I had a washer/dryer and a dishwasher, but those are luxuries I’m totally okay with not having if it means I get to stay in this apartment!

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Jordans 420 sqft Grosvenor Studio Apt 09

What do you like best about small living?:

The best part of small living is the intimacy. In such a small apartment, you really appreciate the closeness of everything in it. It makes having company a real blast too!

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Tips for fellow and potential small-space dwellers:

The only advice I have is this: keep your apartment clean and organized. In my experience, if you allow things to pile up anywhere in such a small space, cleaning it can be a real pain. And if there’s anything I’ve learned, cleanliness is next to happiness.

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A note from Nicole:

I’ve always admired the Grosvenor Gardens Apartments – its painted white brick, glass-block and metal windows, and perfectly pruned courtyard. There’s always a waitlist to live there because it’s one of the only apartment buildings of its kind in Raleigh – all units are either 1-bedroom or studio apartments – so people snatch them up fast.

Jordan’s apartment was very comfortable and real. The main space is his living/sleeping/office/music space, which has windows at both ends bringing in plenty of good-quality daylight. I absolutely loved the bathroom layout. It has a foyer-like dressing area with closet and a window, and then light can reach back into the tub through a subdividing glass block wall. The original windows and hardwood floors brought the perfect amount of texture to the apartment, almost acting as its own decoration. Plus, the view out the window was beautiful!

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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:

A Year Without Buying Clothes

Clothes are a big part of our lives, and can be a big part of our budgets. In an attempt to simplify your life and save money long-term, could you commit to only “shopping your closet” for a year?

Marie is my most fashion-savvy friend. She’s never been afraid to spend big bucks on a fabulous wardrobe must-have. So when she told me she was not going to buy clothes for the year of 2012, I was a bit skeptical. Now, a year later, I can vouch that she did it! Well, mostly.

Simple Living - A Year Without Buying Clothes - Marie Fornaro

Why did you decide to go a year without buying clothes?

There were several reasons, but I primarily wanted to save money. I read about the idea in Real Simple magazine; a couple listed a year-long moratorium on clothes shopping as the best money-saving decision they had made. I added up the amount of money I had spent the previous year on clothes, and it was over $2,000! At that point, I was determined to make a change, and use that money for something more fun than hanging another sweater in my closet.

I had also recently moved to a very small town in the mountains (see her small home) without a mall or boutique in sight, so temptation to shop was at an all-time low.

What were the rules?

The rules were simple: don’t buy any clothes, either new or used, for one calendar year. I started on January 1, 2012. I did make an exception for costumes. Halloween is very important to me!

How did you fare on your challenge? Did you keep your word?

I did pretty well, but I wasn’t perfect. I made it all the way until August, when I purchased an outfit (see below) to wear to Penland School of Craft‘s annual benefit auction- a soiree so fabulous I felt it warranted the purchase of a new dress and shoes. And, I effectively ended my challenge on December 30, 2012, with a modest shopping spree. I know, I know, I was weak and couldn’t wait two more days!

Simple Living - A Year Without Buying Clothes - Revolver Boutique 01

What was the first thing you bought after the completion of the challenge?

I bought some great pieces from Revolver Consignment Boutique in Raleigh- my all-time favorite store. Two sweaters and a silk blouse.

How has this year of not purchasing new clothes changed your habits/lifestyle? What did you learn?

This year taught me that not buying clothes is a lot easier than I ever imagined. When you make the choice to “shop your closet” instead, you’ll be amazed at what you find in there! Also, after making the conscious decision not to shop for clothes, I began to make similar decisions with respect to other stuff, too. For instance, I stopped buying home goods, jewelry, and gift items as well. When I walked into a store, I thought: “Look at all this stuff I don’t need,” rather than “Look at all this stuff I want!” It has been incredibly liberating, and I hope I can stick with this new outlook as I settle back into life in the Big City of Raleigh, NC.

What’s your next challenge?

This year, I’m challenging myself to add something to my life instead of eliminating. I’d like to spend the year nurturing relationships with the people who are dear to me. Removing excess from my life a little bit at a time, starting with bad shopping habits, has cast a sharp light on what is most important.

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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!

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Lighting a Small Space

Lighting can make all the difference in how a space makes you feel. The Danes know this well. Difficult to translate directly into English, the Danish word “hyggelig” embodies a feeling and atmosphere in a space – coziness, warmth, low lights, candles, delight, in good company.

Rather than defaulting to overhead lights at night, I turn on a few lights depending on what I am doing, from preparing dinner to reading in bed. This is how I have lit my studio apartment:

Lighting a Small Space - Year Round White Christmas Lights

Year Round Christmas Lights: This long string of white Christmas lights is enough to light my entire studio apartment at night, stretching from the kitchen to my bed. It’s my favorite way of lighting a space. I especially love that in England they call these Fairy Lights when it’s not Christmas time.

Lighting a Small Space - Kitchen Task Lighting and Paper Lantern Pendant

Kitchen Task Lighting and Paper Lantern Pendant: The most useful lighting I have is a simple string of Christmas/garden lights in the kitchen that provides under-cabinet lighting. I hung a paper lantern above my dining table for the main source of light in the kitchen. Functional decoration!

Lighting a Small Space - Candles

Candles: You can never have enough, and you can always find some on sale! I love working on my blog and sipping a warm cup of tea alongside flickering candles.

Lighting a Small Space - Accent Lamps

Accent Lamps: A lamp is an obvious way to decorate and light your space. It took me a while before I found the perfect lamp for this corner.

Lighting a Small Space - Accent Lamps for Reading

Accent Lamps for Reading: I directed a bright yellow IKEA desk lamp to the back wall at my bed to provide an ambient light for reading. It also dramatically lights a special work of art made by my boyfriend.

One trip to IKEA provided for most of my special lights. They have a great selection of affordable lights that look great and are energy efficient. I use CFL or LED lights whenever possible, keeping my electricity bill low.

When lighting your small space, strive for a hyggelig atmosphere!

Espresso Cups: a storage and display solution for easy access

I love espresso, or as my Cuban family calls it, cafecito. I thank Abuela for showing me the ways of this social ritual!

When I added an espresso set to my collection of dishes, I had to find a way to store it in my small kitchen. The espresso cups weren’t as stackable as their saucer counterparts. Cabinet space was limited, and counter space was practically nonexistent. So I took the next obvious option… I hung them.

Small Space Solutions - Espresso Cup Storage and Display 01

The cups hang from individual hooks along the underside of my cabinets. Now they are easily accessible when I get that espresso urge, and it adds a nice texture to the kitchen – “functional decorating.”

Small Space Solutions - Espresso Cup Storage and Display 02

I used 3M Command cord organizers as hooks. They are cheap, and found in stores like Walmart, Target, or any office supply store. The adhesive is forgiving and easy to remove, a great temporary solution for a rental apartment. Also, since these hooks latch closed, they hold the espresso cups safely in place if I accidentally bump into them while washing dishes.

Small Space Solutions - Espresso Cup Storage and Display 03

So if you have an espresso set and need to reclaim some counter or cabinet storage in a small space, or just want to try some functional decorating, you should give this a try!

Small Space Solutions - Espresso Cup Storage and Display 04

Cork Accessory Organizer

In addition to studying small spaces near and far, I am taking on a variety of projects here in my own studio apartment to help organize, decorate, and better live in a small space. Consider my studio a testing ground.

First assignment: organize my necklaces! They were always in a tangled mess, so on my way to work in the morning, I’d have to forfeit a fight of pulling one from the bunch. The solution: a cork strip where I could hang each necklace separately.

It works great! Not only are my necklaces kept free of tangles, but now I can easily see all my options and make a proper selection. I had more than I remembered, so it also became an editing project, setting some aside to give away.

It gets even better. I wasn’t expecting to be able to organize all my accessories: necklaces, bracelets, watches, earrings (hanging and studs), and rings! Hanging the earrings was my favorite – studs were like pushpins and hanging earrings hover over the surface.

This was a fun project that really made a difference! All you need is 1/4″ cork glued to a backing (I used chipboard), and a bunch of little wire nails. You can get creative with where you install the cork organizer. I fit mine between the trim of my closet and bathroom doors – perfectly next to my clothes and mirror for easy decision-making. Another great thing about this project is you won’t have to patch a bunch of holes in your wall – #rentalapartment!

If you make your own, please share pictures and enjoy!