Have a small space? Interested in simple living?

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  1. Hi Nicole!

    I found you in the March 23 article. I just wanted to say how INSPIRING it is to see a beautiful and energetic woman embracing and studying the concepts of simplicity, design for a small footprint, and urban living.

    Coming from a much larger city, I find that my life in the downtown Raleigh area is in many ways consistent with these same ideals. It is a small urban world that I can navigate on foot and get to know in great detail. I love to walk, and never get tired of wandering the downtown blocks, over to Cameron village and the county library, through the Rose Garden and over to Hillsborough and the NC State campus, the Hill library, the coffee shops, and back downtown again…always stopping along the way to admire that old brick castle at Jones and Dawson, the little churches, the Empire house, the Broughton high school tower, and other architectural gems.

    My wife and I live in a transitional neighborhood, Renaissance Park, about 2.5 miles south of downtown via Saunders, where we moved in 2009 after many years in Cary.
    This gives us a safe, peaceful home with the luxury of a small courtyard garden and access to a clubhouse and pool at a much lower cost than, say, a Quorum condo. We still own a car, which we use to visit Durham and Chapel Hill, and occasionally Wilmington and Washington DC, and to make quick 5-10 minute runs into and around downtown Raleigh.

    This website looks to be full of interesting stuff, and as soon as I finish my current read, Leonardo and the Last Supper, I plan to come back and look more closely. In the meantime, I loved the Mario Borredetti quote, and its great to know that good, thinking people like you and your friend Matt are somewhere nearby. .

    • Hi John – thanks for your kind words! I really appreciate the support. I’m curious to know where you lived prior to moving to the area. I agree, walking brings a special sense of appreciation for your city. It’s amazing how you can always see something new, even if simply with a different perspective. Best!

  2. Hi, Nicole.

    I very much enjoyed browsing your website and blog. I love a small space! I live in downtown Raleigh in a smallish brick bungalow (about1,000 square feet) with my two kids. I also run my creative business from home. It’s a challenge to keep things simple, but honestly I think I could live in less space if I got rid some more stuff. I’m constantly inspired by people who are able to pare it down to just what they love.

    I’ll follow your feed so I can keep up with all the cool urban living spaces. Great job.

    Kelly Smith
    tiny peepers, inc.

    • Hi Kelly, thanks for the note! I love when people choose to live in small spaces… but it’s all the more impressive when a family decides to do it. And it really is a decision or choice here in Raleigh. So thanks for sharing, and thanks for following!

      PS. Love your screen-printed goods!

  3. Hey Nicole!

    Just saw the video from faircompanies* and enjoyed seeing how to live well in an urban environment. I’m from FL and often we have a large concept when it comes to housing and seeing more people in my generation embracing the ideal of living with what you need because it’s functional is amazing. I hope I can find a cozy nook of my own soon enough.

    Also, Amazing concept and reintroduces exploration that’s urban but accessible as often Urban exploration has a dash of danger with trespassing on restricted areas. So often when you’re in your car, you forget to notice what you need might not be so far away.

    Wishing you both the very best!

    • Hi Edwin, thanks so much for your support, and thoughtful comment! That means a lot. Sounds like you have an urban perspective, have you lived elsewhere? My extended family lives in Tampa, so I know what you mean. I think the more we embrace urban lifestyles, the more those areas will improve. Good luck finding your little nook! Lemme know when you do 😉

  4. Hello Nicole, I currently live with my sister in order to help take care of my 86 year old father that has health problems here in California. Before I moved here from Oregon to California I lived in a small trailer on some property that a friend of mine owned and I loved it. I never really felt that I was giving up anything living in a small place, and it was real easy to take care of and didn’t cost much either. And did I say I loved it. I don’t think you have to have a lot to live a lot. Being that I was living in Oregon I spent a lot of time outside. I don’t mean I spent a lot of time outside roughing it or anything like that. I spent a lot of time just enjoying things like just relaxing or going to the many outdoor events that the city would sponsor like live music and carnivals throughout the various seasons of the year. So you don’t have to live in a large home to live life large, it is all how you look at things.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, John. I agree, in fact, you can at times “live larger” with the freedom of living a small life. Much luck in CA. Hope you can still take advantage of the urban and natural aspects of your new home. Best!

  5. I also find that “pinning jewelry” and “hanging necklaces” works in a small space and with two active indoor kitties! Here are my ideas (photos attached*). I took the intact wooden drawer from a clean “curbside” desk, added cup hooks, and used two nails to attach it to the wall (no need for more becuase it holds virtually no weight!). For other items, I pin them onto a standard cork board (cheapest one out there) that I sprayed (out in the street, no fuss no muss) with gold spray paint. Two nails also hold it to the wall.

    *I don’t find a way to attach a photo here. I will send you an e mail with pics and you can clip them in, if you choose…

  6. Love this! I am always looking for ideas about living small. I am currently living in a 850 sf apartment. This is “big” for me. I am used living in a 400-500 sf space. My husband, my daughter and I love our new place.

    • Hi Monique – thanks for checking out my blog! I love hearing about families that live in small spaces. Hope to include some posts about family homes soon 🙂 Enjoy your new place!

  7. My girl friend suggested your video in youtube; i don’t know how she found it though! I used to live in places which everything was small and by default a person is connected and integrated to the area nearby, to people who walk around; in those places one didn’t need smart phone or facebook; raleigh is so solid, although it might be populated but it is a disconnected city. In NC, chapel hill or asheville are smaller but there is a nice neighborhood in them that it is much more similar to live in the civilization. I find raleigh a solid object. I believe it is for sure the matter of living in small sizes and be connected, but there are other factors such as culture. I mean if there are people that dislike people interaction (!!!), then making them live in an interactive environment can be even problematic. Thank god I am very busy; I could not even live one minute in raleigh otherwise! There is always a positive side for everything I guess, for raleigh it is so many jokes we have created.

    • Hey, glad you found me!
      True, living small (due to necessity/density) usually means that by default a person is more connected to the area nearby. It will be interesting to see how these NC cities begin to densify as they grow. Thanks for your comments.

  8. Excellent presentation at AIA-NC last Saturday! I immediately recalled the small house I share-rented many years ago in the Mordecai Neighborhood. There was a female Tenant renting the basement half, and her super-friendly dog was determined to hook us up (didn’t happen)!

    Anyway, I wanted to remind everyone that it’s the 40th anniversary of the publication of “Small is Beautiful” by E.F. Schumacher. Nicole, . . please don’t say you have no copy of it somewhere 🙂

    Oh, almost forgot, . . you mentioned your car – I don’t own one myself, so I recently joined a CarShare here in Raleigh. It’s great. Insurance is covered, and each vehicle is equipped with a gas card! You get a generous amount of free miles/day with the hourly or daily rental. I won’t give out the six-letter company name here, but you can google “Car Share Raleigh” and find it quickly.

    • Thank you Rick! So happy you made it to the lecture. Yes, I definitely have a copy of Small Is Beautiful, thanks for sharing. I’m impressed you have made the car share program work for you, especially here in Raleigh. I haven’t seen them around much, but I’ll keep an eye out for them! Best to you.

  9. I am so excited to have found your blog! My husband, three children, and I donated nearly 75% of our belongings about 6 months ago. We then built and moved into a 700 sq ft yurt, and we are in love with the simplicity it has brought us, and in this new lifestyle of ours, it is so much easier to focus on the truly important things in life rather than worry about all the “fluff” and extra stress we added to our lives in the past. It is so encouraging to find so many others that have chosen to live smaller more simplistic lives, and I am constantly looking for ways to improve our little space and keep it organized, your blog has provided lots of that! Thanks again, and I look forward to future posts. 🙂

  10. Love your website! I grew up in a tiny space in NY city and now live in Portland OR, in a house locals consider small (our NYC friends think it’s huge! 🙂 Have you heard about the Caravan Tiny House Hotel in Portland? They are beautiful inside!

  11. Hi Nicole! I watched your video on Fair Companies YouTube channel and I fall in love with your work and thoughts and I’m glad to have found your website.
    I am also an architect in Brazil, starting a new career, and I believe in the exact same things then you. With the changes in Brazilian economics during the last decades, a lot of points of views were imported from the U.S. culture, such as” the bigger the better”, but is not a realistic and sustainable way of living, specially because we already have very large cities, with a lack of good urban planning and design [the Brazilian biggest city is one and a half NYC, but with 1/5 of its subway extension, for example]. So, ideas like yours need to be spread over different places, and different economies, since we, as a global society, can increase the size of our budgets or consume patterns, but cannot expand our planet or most of its resources.
    I moving for other city and hopefully I can share my new place with you soon.
    P.S. Just a hint: When you display the floor plans, tint the wall interiors with a black or dark gray hatch; it will improve the contrast on the the screen.

    • Hi Tadeu! Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s nice to meet a fellow architect. How interesting (and horrible) the facts about city size to public transition in Brazil vs. NYC. Nicely stated, our planet and its resources will not grow with our budgets or consumption. The small living movement reaches beyond physical size of place, and into lifestyle. That is very important.
      Please do get in touch when you make your new place home. I would love to see! Thanks for the pointers!

  12. Hello Nicole,
    I will be going to NC State this Fall for engineering, and I have been fascinated with small/sustainable living spaces throughout high school. I just wanted to say that your video by faircompanies was very inspiring to me. I know that dealing with city regulations is a big challenge, and I like your perspective on small living and how your time in Europe influenced your perspectiving on living spaces. Since I’ve grown up in the triangle, I was glad to see someone like you that is living locally to me.

    By the way, I’ve seen “Walk Your City” signs all over North Hills (I work as a teller at a bank across the street), and I was excited to learn that your boyfriend is responsible for them!

    Andrew N.

    • Hi Andrew!
      Thanks so much for reaching out.
      Congrats on starting at NCSU this fall! Much luck with everything! You will know small living very well after sharing a dorm with a roommate. Maybe you’ll have the chance to study abroad, too. That was perhaps the most influential experience in my life – seeing how other people live, learning about a new culture and language, and nonstop exploring. That’s why we try to bring that way of living into our local life here in Raleigh.
      Maybe Matt and I will see you around town!

  13. Nicole,
    We have friends who’ve been living in an 800 sq ft home they built in Pittsboro for over thirty years. We’ve laughed together about how little most of the small housing people seem to do at home–how would they manage if their business wasn’t a laptop? My friends have run a book-binding business and a small truck farm out of their house. I hate to leave their contact info in a public place. If you’re interested, get back to me outside the blog.

  14. Nicole,
    So excited to find your blog! We are going from 6,500 sq feet to 700 sq feet. We are so excited and interested on seeing how others are doing it.

  15. Hi Nicole!

    So, it’s a small world, and technology is wild! Let me explain..

    I was riding my bike through Boylan Heights today, and saw the Wander Box in a parking lot. I had never seen it before, and looked it up. Very, very cool – I’m bummed I missed it! (First sidenote: I went to undergrad NCSU Design School for LAR 2006-2011) When I looked it up I was not surprised to see that familiar face (LAR) and busy city-activist Matt was involved! Anyways, I found Wander Box on Insta, clicked on Matt, (Second sidenote: talking with D. Maki at Kirby Derby 2014, and telling him where I live, he exclaimed ‘I think Nicole Alvarez used to live there!’ I saw you and Matt at the event, but didn’t get the chance to say hello – apologies!). Anyways, so I clicked on your insta-picture, saw the weblink, and now I’m here!

    Which finally brings this story full circle! I found the video you collaborated on regarding small apartments, and I’ll be damned if I’m not typing this from a table in Unit #4 above the dentist office at this very moment! And I LOVE it. It’s absolutely perfect. As you said, it makes my time at home more of a lifestyle, and less of a chore. Such a great location, just enough space, extra storage – I don’t need to tell you, though! I feel fortunate to have somehow snagged this incredible space. It was very cool to watch the video and compare how we have utilized the space – it’s nearly identical! I spent a month designing the space, taking measurements, and thinking critically about what it means to really ‘live’. I purged 80% of my possessions (friends thought I was nuts for going head-over heels for 300 sq ft, I made it my goal to prove them wrong) – with the result being the cleanest, best functioning, most rewarding space I’ve ever lived!

    Anyways, thought I’d chime in that your old apartment is being expertly taken care of, no worries!


    Terry Welles
    (Insta: Twellesnc)

    Oh, and the windowsill is perfect for plants! I have the whole window lined with different varieties of fern, succulent, vine, etc..

    • Hi Terry! Reading your comment brought a big smile to my face. Very small world (or Raleigh), and I’m soooo thrilled to hear that you are loving your very small apartment 🙂 It is a special place. So exciting to see our many random connections yet somehow we haven’t met. I’d love to see what you’ve done with it! I’ll be in touch!!

  16. Hello Nicole!

    My name is Marcus Ross. I just recently watched your documentary on YouTube about your small living space, and how you enjoy… well, small living, and also wanted to checkout your website! I have always been fascinated in small living since high school and have been researching small living.tiny homes ever since I started living in my studio apartment. It is fascinating seeing the way people live and how they love living in those small places! I have even been looking at pinterest for ideas and pictures of small living spaces and I just love them! I’ve always wanted to post my own pictures and article about my studio apartment on a website to share!

    I live in a 370 square foot studio apartment in the suburbs of Johnson County, Kansas, south of Kansas City, and I absolutely love it. Living in suburbia you would think finding a studio apartment would be almost impossible but I got lucky and found this one. Where I live everything is all spread out and usually have to drive to my destinations, but that’s the price I have to pay for living in a American suburb. I am surrounded by large houses, large high schools, large amounts of land for development, large everything here. There’s also large amounts of wealth that goes around where I live so a lot of people here do in fact live the “American Dream” with their large houses, manicured lawns, large cars, everything you would expect in the suburbs.

    I am currently a college student and I work part time so I am never really home in the afternoons so living in a 370sqft studio is perfect for me. The irony about my life is that I clean newly constructed homes around the suburbs of Johnson County. These homes average between 3000-7000 square feet and here I am living in a 370 square feet studio apartment. I absolutely love my studio which I have named the CozyCave, simply because I think small spaces are cozy and warm and my studio meets that criteria. Living in a studio is very convenient, everything is in one place. I never have to walk far to go to the bathroom or kitchen and this space has everything I need and also want which is perfect!

    After watching your documentary about small living, it has inspired me more about living in a small space and made me appreciate my studio apartment! So thank you! I would also love to keep in touch with you and share pictures of my studio apartment in the suburbs with you and even your website! Thank you!

    • Hi Lana! Thanks for your encouragement – I need and want to get back into my blog! Many life changes (new job, getting married, etc) have slowed down the blog, but I have all intent to refocus again very soon! Check back soon 🙂

  17. Hello Nicole. I just watched a youtube documentary on your ‘living small’. How wonderfully refreshing. On a random evening 3 years ago I stumbled upon an article about minimalism. It struck a chord in my soul and has lead me and my family on such a wonderful journey of truly analyzing how we live and interact with all that surrounds us. We have gone from a 3000 sq ft house to one about 1000 sq ft and I love it. This may not seem small until I mention that my husband and I have 3 young children – 8, 6 and 4 that we also homeschool in this small home. Intentional living is a wonderfully refreshing way to live and see everyday things around you in a new light. Resting and being truly grateful for all we’ve been blessed with – more than we need, instead of always wanting ‘more’ makes each day brighter. Keep doing what your’re doing. You are inspiring many!

    • Thanks for you kind words, Ashlynn. Bravo on downsizing with a family of 5! I hope to get more families on my blog soon. You are the real inspiration 😉 Much luck with your continued practice of intention and minimalism.

  18. Great website! Love the character you give to each story! My family of six lives in a 200 sq ft renovated camper trailer. We’ve been living off-grid here for almost 4 years! Planning on building an almost 800 sq ft off grid house with cash. We have a book on amazon you can find called A Year In a Camper which is all about our first year here. Anyway, nice to meet you!

  19. Enjoyed your video & your story as a young couple. We are at a different stage – embarking on retirement & thinking of downsizing from our beloved 1200 sq. ft. home in Ridgewood area. Would like to find a space with about 600-800 square ft. with enclosed green space outside the door to let our 2 small dogs out. A condo or townhouse would be OK, but walkability & more central location are key. Any suggestions on whether we should just start checking real estate listings or??

    • Hi Diana, yea definitely keep an eye in real estate websites. I can recommend a couple realtors in the downtown area if you’d like. Much luck with your downsizing adventure!

  20. Kirstin,
    Thank you so much for your comments! This means a lot to me. I grew up in a similar environment, but once you’ve had a taste of the liberating and invigorating urban environment at people (vs car) scale, it’s impossible to go back. There’s definitely lots of new energy in Raleigh and the Triangle. Perhaps we’ll see you back here soon!
    All my best,

  21. Hi Nicole, I am over in Australia where BIG is BEAUTIFUL still so just getting to grips with what small space living could be like! We are testing it sort of via necessity with our kids in 50sqm – see very new blog – and my husband is also a building designer / almost an architect, so lots of common ground in quality of life, sustainability, relationships … of course it goes on… keen to connect and share our experience…. Cheers, Trish (Brisbane)

    • Hi Trish! Thanks for reaching out. Yes, lots in common! I loved peeking into your small living life through your blog. 50 sqm (538 sqft) for a family of 5 – impressive! Looking forward to following your blog and seeing more pictures of your home. Cheers!

  22. Hi Nicole,

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog and watching the youtube tours of your previous apartments. My husband and I and our two year old will be welcoming a baby brother into our 570sqft, one bedroom townhome rental in Fremont, CA. We are located right between San Francisco and Silicon Valley which makes prices sky high but living intentionally small has allowed me to not work since becoming pregnant with our daughter almost three years ago, and I do not plan to go back to work for another two years at least. My husband was also able to take a full 6-week unpaid paternity leave with our daughter and will be able to do the same with our son. This is something most families with even a 1,000sqft home cannot afford to do in our area. I also love your husband’s (congratulations!) dedication to creating a walking culture in your area. We have one car and walk and bike (now with a trailer behind for the kids) as much as we can. Thank you for all of your posts. They have been a breath of fresh air, reminding me that small can be pretty spectacular. Congratulations on your marriage, new home, and good luck with your exams! Let us know if you’re ever in the San Francisco Bay Area!


    • Thanks for sharing Sarah! I love that you think holistically about living intentionally small and what that means for work and family life. It’s hard to quantify time, but once it’s a factor it becomes the most important. Congrats on your growing family, and thank you for the kind words. 🙂

  23. Hi Nicole,

    I just came across your blog and wanted to ask for advice on where to find minimalists/minimal apartments or condos in Raleigh, NC. My boyfriend and I are going to be looking for an apartment next month and ideally would like something that is intentionally small.
    Would appreciate any information that you can give me! 🙂

    Thank you,


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