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.


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:

Our 379 sqft Studio in Venice

  • size: 379 sqft
  • type: studio apartment
  • location: Venice, Italy
  • apartment rental website: Venise je t’aime

I just returned from an amazing trip to Venice with my boyfriend Matt of CityFabric. We were representing WalkRaleigh in the US Pavilion’s exhibit Spontaneous Interventions at the Venice Biennale. We stayed longer to explore, of course!

We found the perfect Venetian home away from home. The studio apartment was at the top floor of a four story building just minutes from San Marco Piazza. Its open floor plan, vaulted ceiling, exposed wood structure, and many operable windows made the space feel rather large for only 379 sqft.

I loved the layout of the kitchen – defined yet open to the entire space. Everything was justified to one wall. The windows, wide entry, and pass-through expanded the space to the inside and the exterior. The pass-through also added function providing an extra work/display surface and storage in the cabinet below, accessible from both sides of the wall. Another nice feature was the freezer/fridge disguised as millwork.

One of my favorite views out was actually from the bathroom. It showcased the rich layers of the city. We had a clear view of the Campanile de San Marco and our neighboring church San Zulian. The unison of bells at every hour was delightful. The bathroom may have been small, but they still made room for a bidet.

By far, the best part of our place was the wrap-around balcony and terrace. A third of the total square footage was exterior space! The two kitchen windows opened right onto the terrace, perfect for passing food out to our preferred dining spot. It was also fun to watch and hear people get lost in the alleys below…

A common question for small-space dwellers is: “Can you entertain people?” – We sure did! A lack of cellphones and wifi led us to create a few signs leading our fellow American exhibitors from the nearby square to our apartment for a “spontaneous evening.”

Ciao Venice!