Thursday, January 28, 2010

The future is now. (And now. And now. And now.)

I'm such a sci-fi nerd. One of the things I love about it is that it takes the issues of the present -- the economy, the green movement, the growing human population -- and projects them into the future, exaggerating and then examining them. A natural solution to all three of the aforementioned issues is for people to live in teeny-tiny apartments (it saves space, resources, and is cheaper), and it's something you see often in futurist sci-fi works. One of my favorite movies has a perfect example. In The Fifth Element, Korbin Dallas (Bruce Willis) lives in tiny metal box in a New York super-skyscraper in the year 2214. At first glance it seems impossible to cram a full apartment into the space, but this is the future! Everything's computerized and automated: the fridge lowers into the floor to reveal a shower stacked on top of it, the TV's built into the wall, the bed slides into a cubby (and makes itself!), and of course there are no boring ol' DOORS in the future -- there are sliding metal blast doors that slide up and down instead of outward on old-fashioned hinges.
Of course, this "urban shoebox movement" is something that's already happening in places that have limited space, but that are still very desirable to live in. New York, Tokyo, London, San Francisco -- these are all places where a studio apartment seems like a spacious mansion. CTV, via io9, reports that a new development in Vancouver will consist of "micro-lofts," with the entire apartment contained in a 270 square-foot space.
The micro-lofts feature a lot of design tricks we TAA-dwellers are already familiar with: Murphy beds, built-in shelves, galley kitchens, and flat-screen TVs. To be quite honest, I don't understand why this is getting such press. I was living in a teensy studio before it was cool! I'm just ahead of my time, I guess. Via iO9, CTV, and Core77. Fifth Element pictures copyright Sony and Gaumont.

Still rollin'

And what should appear on my Google Reader this morning? This post from Shelterrific about using masking tape as temporary wallpaper!
Shelterrific links to Jenny at Little Green Notebook's entryway transformation; Jenny was inspired by harlequin patterned wallpaper and a friend who used floral tape to recreate the look. Jenny bought Japanese masking tape from HappyTape (the Japanese are no doubt the experts at making mundane objects cute!) and got to work.
Trying this in your own home seems pretty simple. Sure, there's some geometry involved, but if you can keep your lines straight and your spacing even, you should be good -- and after all, it's just masking tape! You can always lift and reposition your stripes if they're not quite right.
Via Shelterrific, Little Green Notebook, and Happy Tape.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On a roll

To most TAA-dwellers, having a roll of fabulous wallpaper in hand seems about as realistic as having a lightsaber in hand. Well, the dream has become reality -- you can get your mitts on a roll of patterned paper, and once you're done swinging it around making saber noises, you can even put it up on your wall! Renters of small apartments face two challenges when it comes to wallpaper: most believe they can't have patterned walls in a small space, and most leases forbid putting up traditional wallpaper. But when you pair a clever renter and a clever paper manufacturer, you can get around both of these obstacles. First thing's first: yes, you can have wallpaper in a small space. But in order for it to work, you have to carefully select your paper's color and pattern, as well as where to place it.
If you're papering a larger space, I would recommend a lighter color with a more subtle pattern so that it doesn't overwhelm the room, like the "Palace White" pattern above from Urban Source, as shown on Apartment Therapy: Chicago. If it's a small wall, you can go with darker or bolder colors and busier patterns, like the Julia Rothman paper seen below in the kitchen of Ferm Living's Christiana Coop. (Ferm's another great source for papers!) The sherbert orange is such a cheerful and unexpected color, and I can't help but smile at the whimsical clouds and birds.
Check out AT: Chicago for their great article about the different pattern and color schemes you can use to achieve different effects.
Speaking of darker colors and busier patterns, Elements of Style's Erin Gates posted a kitchen nook makeover she did using this gray-and-white F. Schumacher paper, as seen above. For my taste, I would have left one of the three walls unpapered, but the subtle color scheme and the clean lines of the furniture make it work. Erin also has a few gorgeous paper suggestions in her post -- I LOVE the one with the birdcages! While wallpaper can make YOU happy, let's not forget to keep your landlord happy! Traditional wallpapering is a messy and time-consuming process, both when you're putting it up and taking it down. Most leases forbid wallpaper and other "permanent" changes to your apartment. But more and more manufacturers have heard renters' anguished cries, and created wallpapers that are a cinch to put up and take off. Sherwin Williams, Graham & Brown, and Lolliprops, Inc. all have lines of paper meant to last only as long as you want them to. Whether you're moving out or just bored of the design, you remove these papers simply by pulling them gently away from the wall, leaving little or no residue behind. (If there is residue, warm soapy water is usually all that's needed to clean it off.)
One of Sherwin-Williams' patterns
For more great temporary wallpapers, plus how-to tips and before-and-afters, check out these articles:
Shelter Home: Hmmm.... easy change? Oh Happy Day: Temporary Wallpaper Apartment Therapy: San Francisco: EasyChange Removable Wallpaper Apartment Therapy: San Francisco: Wallpaper for Renters? CasaSugar: Casa Beta - Graham & Brown Paste the Wall Wallpaper
Via Urban Source, Apartment Therapy: Chicago, Apartment Therapy: San Francisco, Ferm Living, Elements of Style, Sherwin Williams, Graham & Brown, Tempaper, and of course all those links above!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I am not a cat lady, I am a cat WOMAN.

Anyone who knows me knows alllll about my cats, whether they want to or not. Fancy and Bubo (short for Bubonic) are my widdle precious bebbehs and I love to give them kisses and nom their ears and hug them and squeeze them and...
Sorry, where was I? Just because you live in a small space doesn't mean you have to give up the companionship of a pet. Small animals that live in an enclosure anyway (birds, fish, hamsters) don't care how big their owner's living space is. Cats and small dogs can be perfectly happy in a small apartment. I wouldn't recommend a large dog, though, and of course a horse is right out of the question. (There goes my dream of finally getting a pony for Christmas!) Modern Cat is a great website for stylish kitty-cat decor, both functional and decorative. Here are two of my favorite items featured on their site:
These Curve Perches are great for a tiny-ass apartment. It gives kitty a place to sleep, scratch, and stare at you without giving up any floorspace, and they look pretty cool to boot.
This ModernKat litter box is such a great idea. The open-top design actually saves space; the cat jumps in from the top so you don't have to leave room for the traditional swinging side door. It also prevents litter from being kicked out of the box and onto your floor. Now, living in a small space with an animal leads to an entirely new problem: the smell. If you've only got one room, and you share that room with a litter box, there's no getting away from the smell once kitty's done his business. Once again, keeping your TAA clean is the easiest way to manage these unpleasant odors. We'll have more on "smell management" in a future post. In the meantime... LOOK HOW CUTE THESE KITTIES AAARE!
Via Modern Cat and my own millions of pictures of my cats.

My name is Gump.

Oh, Gump's. You remind me of the best city in the world (San Francisco), and the fact that I'm poor.
This red lacquer box caught my eye, and the price ($98) caused that eye to shed a tear. It's a beautiful, glossy, bold color, and can help you put all those lil' odds and ends away that seem to take over a desk. Keeping your tiny-ass apartment clean is one of the keys to making it appear more spacious, and this caddy is definitely a stylish way to do it! Perhaps instead you can take an IKEA FIRA box, give it a few coats of high-gloss paint, and create a budget version of the Gump's beauty.
I have a FIRA to store all my makeup... Yeah, I have a LOT of makeup. Via Mighty Goods, Gump's, and IKEA.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Tonight's post is gonna be a quickie -- I (probably) tore my ACL today, and I usually blog from one of my trusty Starbucks locations due to wonky internet at home, but even just sitting here with a chai latte and knee brace is making me tired.
CasaSugar has a slideshow of a teeny-tiny studio in the western Netherlands. I'm a little disappointed that most of the pictures are close-ups of the decorative tableaus the owner, Marlies, has created, so it's hard to get a real feel for the size of her place and her use of the space. But it has a really interesting mix of very, very old European decor mixed with the new (hi, IKEA!).
The Nest has a list of 10 things you can do to make a small space feel bigger. They're solid, basic ideas, but I take issue with #2 (Paint With Light Hues). Yes, light walls can increase the feeling of airiness and space, but a well-chosen accent wall painted a dark color can increase depth, says I. Via CasaSugar and The Nest.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I don't do one nightstands.

... Mostly because I don't have room for it. Ba-dum-dum! *Cymbal crash* Sorry, sorry. But it's true -- back when I lived in my tiny-ass studio, I didn't have room for a nightstand next to the bed. I didn't think I would need one, but I quickly realized just how useful those tiny tables are. I found myself just dropping things on the floor next to my bed as I fell asleep -- not the best idea when it's your glasses, or a cup of tea. Also, you tend to step on those things as you get out of bed the next morning.
Craft linked to this project: a bedside caddy you can sew yourself, if you're skilled like that. The example at the link looks a little frumpy to be quite frank, but if you find a cool print (*cough*AmyButler*cough, cough*), you can add storage while also adding a little flair. This caddy is perfect for storing your book, your glasses, and your remote control as you nod off to another Law & Order rerun...
But what of your glass of water, or your alarm clock? Try putting them on a shelf mounted within reach of your bed. This crown molding ledge from Pottery Barn is just deep enough to hold a few items while not sticking out so far that you'll clunk your head on it when you sit up.
Now onto general bed storage. Your bed will likely be the biggest piece of furniture in your TAA, so you can reclaim a good amount of storage space from it. Bed risers are an easy way to create a cavern of underbed storage, like these from Target. Bins like these plastic DILLINGs from IKEA also make it easy to shove tons of stuff under your bed, then easily slide them in and out.
But remember, if you're gonna store all your crap under your bed, invest in a bedskirt or something to hide it all from view. No one wants to see dust bunny-covered stacks of Wallflowers CDs, trust me. Via Craft, Get Creative, Pottery Barn, Target, and IKEA.

At least I'm not wearing oversized sunglasses.

I don't particularly like Rachel Zoe. I think her "catchphrases" are forced and annoying. But when I saw that Amy Butler has a line of rugs for Chandra, available at Velocity, all I could say was...
"I die." Via Velocity and Outblush.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Call for real-life TAAs!

I'm going to be starting a new feature on this site: real-life tiny-ass apartments! We'll post pictures of your fabulous-but-small place, along with a short interview about you and your TAA. If you’d like to have your apartment featured on the site, please fill out the questionnaire below and email it to me at If you’re outside of the Los Angeles area, please include a few sample pictures. If your apartment is featured, keep in mind that more pictures may be requested. Also, please note that your contact information will be kept confidential; it is only for me to contact you, and it will not be posted on the site. 1. Name: 2. Email: 3. Phone (optional): 4. Age (optional): 5. City/State: 6. Years lived in apartment: 7. Square footage (if known): 8. Year built (if known): 9. Architect or architectural style (if known): 10. Where were you living before this? How did it affect your move into your current place? (i.e., you were living in a bigger place before and had to get rid of furniture, this is your first place and you had to start from scratch, etc.) 11. When you first moved in, what did you think would be your biggest challenge? What was your actual biggest challenge? 12. What’s your favorite part of your apartment? 13. How would you describe your personal style? 14. Where are your favorite places to shop for things for your home? 15. What are you still looking to fix or improve? 16. What limitations have you run into in decorating your place? (i.e., cannot paint or drill holes in walls, small budget, etc.) 17. What advice would you give to another TAA-dweller? 18. LOS ANGELES AREA ONLY: When would be a good time to have your apartment photographed?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Storage tips: Room dividers

In a tiny-ass apartment, your furniture often has to pull double-duty. You don't have enough room for two separate items for two different functions, so you're always out to kill two birds with one stone. Finding pieces that can do two things at once saves you space, money, and makes you look damn clever. CasaSugar has an article with ideas for storage in the bedroom. Take a look at the picture below; the headboard of the bed has drawers on the back side. Not only is this headboard-cum-dresser so big that it gives you tons of storage, but it's large enough to act as a room divider. When you're in a studio, you don't have the luxury of fancy-schmancy walls to give yourself some privacy, so you have to create "walls" in different ways. (There's a longer article about dividing up your studio coming soon to TAA!)
In the example above, the headboard/dresser is big enough to hide the bed when viewed from the other side, but it's not so big that it dominates the room. It doesn't go to the ceiling, therefore you can still get light through the whole room. Also, the white color makes it feel lighter -- if it were black it would remind me too much of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey! But take a look at the EXPEDIT bookshelf from IKEA below. Even though it's taller than the headboard/dresser, and painted black to boot, it still doesn't feel overwhelming because of the empty space in each of the shelves. When used as a room divider, you can still see through to the other side while marking off different areas of your home. If you need more privacy, you can glue fabric over one side of the shelf. A lightweight, gauzy fabric will block the view to the other side of the bookshelf, but still allow light to pass through.
I myself am the proud owner of a 5 x 5 black EXPEDIT, and at least two of my friends have it as well (one of 'em, Megan, already uses hers as a room divider in her fab-fab-fab downtown loft). It really suits the needs of people like me and my friends: tons of storage, affordable, and great looking! Via CasaSugar and IKEA.

A Doll's House that Ibsen wouldn't recognize

And I thought MY place was small! Check this out -- a modern home that's only 11 square feet! Okay, so it's not meant for humans. But when it comes to great design in small spaces, this doll's house is a fun example.
Created by Elaine Shaw of Brockley, South-East London, this modern doll's house took thousands of hours of painstaking work -- and all of it was done by hand. Elaine is looking to revive public interest in doll houses and miniatures. Her philosophy is that "Dolls houses are out of fashion because they are out of fashion... I want to bring it back into modern times and I think having modern day gadgets and appliances will make it appeal to more people." She's done an amazing job of recreating modern gadgets at a fraction of the original size. There's an eensy iMac and teeny Xbox! Elaine plans to add a few more models to this current one (named "Clearview") and sell them through her company, Miaim.
I love miniatures and had a dollhouse when I was younger. (My greatest creations? Pez for soap and white Tic Tacs for eggs.) In fact, I've been thinking about digging it up from my parents' garage and displaying it in my living room, and the "Clearview" house is really inspiring me to bring it out! I'd have to make a few changes, though, to make it more contemporary... Think IKEA makes an EXPEDIT bookcase in a five-inch version? Read more about the "Clearview" house at The Daily Mail.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When you say you live in a closet, and you really mean you live in a closet...

Even if at first glance you think you don't like how a room is put together, sometimes when you study it and pick it apart, you come away with lessons that you can still use. Apartment Therapy: Chicago is featuring an apartment in Stockholm where the living room closet has been converted into a "bedroom." The article actually calls the space a bedroom, but c'mon. It's a bed-nook or bed-alcove or bed-space or bed-what-have-you-but-not-an-actual-room. There isn't even a curtain for privacy. So, when taken in the context of the rest of the room, it really looks more like a recessed daybed or even couch. Still, the idea is solid. If your studio's main room is small, but you still have a decently-sized closet, consider removing the doors and putting your bed inside. You may lose a bit of storage, but you'll open up more floorspace. And you're probably not going to lose as much storage as you think. You'll likely still have underbed storage space, and you can install an interior shelf if one doesn't already exist. Besides, compare the footprint of a bed versus a chest of drawers - unless you've got more clothes than my good friend Elena, chances are your bed's bigger than your dresser. (Love you, Elena!) Also, note how the back wall of the nook is painted a dark chocolate brown. The dark color gives it the illusion of being farther back that it really is, creating a little more depth.
So you see? Even though I'm not a fan of the entire room as it stands, I like the idea, and that bed sure seems appealing right now. But then again, maybe it's because I really want a nap. Via Apartment Therapy: Chicago.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Storage tips: Bathroom

One of my favorite movie trilogies is the Back To The Future series. (Yes, I have several favorite movie trilogies. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Die Hard... And yes, I know they're all not really trilogies anymore. But I digress.) Something that Doc Brown often admonishes Marty McFly is that he's "not thinking fourth-dimensionally." Though we haven't broken through that fourth dimension of time yet, I find that I'm often guilty of not thinking three-dimensionally. When you're living in a small space, you can't forget to think UP! Here's a trick to consider for the bathroom: use a set of hanging baskets (traditionally found in the kitchen) as storage above your sink. Wouldn't this basket from Target look cute with rolled towels, bottles of toiletries, or even a box of tissues in it? And at about $13, it's not even out of MY budget!
Remember, you have to think THREE-dimensionally (and get the Delorean up to 88 miles an hour)! Via

A booklover's box in NYC

Jordan Ferney, who runs another of my favorite sites, Oh Happy Day!, posted one of the most beautiful studios I've ever seen. What started as an empty, run-down space in New York City was transformed into a clean and sophisticated home. Built-in bookcases create tons of storage, and because they go up to the ceiling, they visually increase the height of the room. I love how even though there's tons of stuff, because it's all kept in the recessed shelves, the room still feels open and uncluttered. Also, notice the lamps mounted on the bookshelf-wall. You wouldn't usually think to mount your lighting on what is thought of as "furniture", but it brings the lamps up off the floor or table top and gives you even more room. Lastly, I love the dark wood drop-leaf table against the shelves (visible in the rest of the pictures at Oh Happy Day!). Now, I'm assuming that the couch is a fold-out bed, so when you need space or need to pull out the bed, the table can be folded down and pushed against the wall. When you're entertaining, the bed can stay folded into the couch and the table can be pulled out with its leaves up. You can also see the cute, mismatched dining chairs scattered throughout the room, ready to be pulled up to the table, used as makeshift side tables, or moved to whereever they're needed. The only drawback: it's in New York, so I'm afraid to find out how much it was listed for. I think it'd make me cry.
Via Oh Happy Day!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

West Elm contest at Decor8!

I hesitated before posting this because I don't want more people to enter and ruin my chances, but then I figured no one reads this blog (yet!), so it's probably safe. Decor8, one of my favorite design blogs, has partnered with West Elm to give away five $75 gift certificates to her readers. Go to the site to read the rules, comment on the post to enter, and (maybe) win! Via Decor8.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Small kitchen, big improvements

I've been going through all my small-space-related bookmarks for articles and inspiration to share with you. Forgive me if some of these links are on the older side, but their content is still relevant and interesting! Charles & Hudson featured a kitchen remodel of an American couple living in a 450-square foot apartment Berlin. Even though the kitchen itself is only 36 square feet, the knocked-out wall opens up the space and lets in tons of light, and the streamlined modern fixtures and hardware further create the illusion of more space. Though we all can't knock down a wall when we feel like it (for renovating purposes, or if you've just had a bad day at work), if you're lucky enough to be able to, taking down dividing walls and using colors and textures to delineate different spaces can really maximize your space.
Via Charles & Hudson and Making This Home.

Personal style

Obviously, since the name of this blog is "Tiny-Ass Apartment," you know that the main focus here is small-space living. But aside from that, what's the kind of style I want to have in my small space? I'm a bit of a contradiction. My clothing and personal style is very 40s-early 60s, as evidenced by my two fashion icons, the fabulous Dita Von Teese and Joan Holloway of AMC's Mad Men (as portrayed by the equally fabulous Christina Hendricks). They're put-together, elegant, and feminine. The clothing of that time really works for the curvier lady, and since I'm never going to be the type to pull off hipster-esque skinny jeans, it works for me and I'm sticking to it.
Images from Getty and AMC.
However, when it comes to my home, I am not a fan of the Mid-Century Modern look one might expect. In fact, you're going to have to set your time machine even further back -- and actually, H.G. Wells is not a bad reference... Britain around the Victorian Era/Industrial Revolution through the 1920s is my main influence. It's the dark woods, rich textiles, traditional silhouettes, and ornate detail (does anyone else melt over crown moulding or nailhead trim?) punctuated by instruments of science, curiosities of nature, and treasures from far-off places like India that make me swoon. (Maybe I should get a fainting couch like Betty Draper?) I'm a science-fiction nerd, and I'd want to have a study that would make H.G. Wells or Jules Verne feel right at home. Thankfully, the emergence of steampunk is helping to revive this style, as is the latest cinematic incarnation of Sherlock Holmes.
Image from Warner Brothers.
Image from
The decor in the Edison bar in downtown Los Angeles (above) is delectable -- as are their drinks! Right now I'm in the midst of a budget crunch (as I'm sure many of you are!), so I can't get my apartment just so quite yet. Here are a few items I've got my eye on for when I've got the coin...
Image from
Who wouldn't want to curl up in a rich leather club chair with a book in hand a cat in your lap? This chair from Target is on the more affordable side, and Thomasville also makes gorgeous line.
Image from NY Mag.
I love the look of Persian rugs piled on top of each other in that eccentric, slightly-dotty old man look. And I love love love that Maximilian Sinsteden, the resident/designer of the dorm room pictured above lives in, well, a dorm. A college boy and a kindred spirit. Hopefully you'll be able to keep my personal style bias in mind when reading this site, and forgive me if I forget to cover other looks from other eras. But just know that if it's something that fits (if you'll pardon the pun) in a small space, it fits in here at TAA!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A periodic table...

This picture frame/table is a great one-two combo. Ivy Design's picture table is mounted on the wall as a picture frame, and folds down into a table. It's perfect for adding a little decor to your wall, giving you an eating or work surface when you need it, and reducing clutter -- after all, you can't let your mail pile up on your kitchen table when it's a portrait half the time. I can see a few drawbacks to this Murphy-Bed-of-the-table-world, though: it looks like it requires a serious mount, which could be problematic for us renters, and you also lose the artwork when you're using the table! Perhaps you could hang a second picture behind the table/frame? From Lifehacker and Make. Ivydesign

Me and My Tiny-Ass Apartment

About two years ago, I had to make the lemons/lemonade conversion. I was starting over in many aspects of my life, and one of them was finding a new place to live. I decided I wasn't going to resign myself to living in a crappy apartment with an annoying (and potentially psychotic) roommate dredged up from Craigslist. I was going to live BY MYSELF in a FABULOUS apartment, goddammit. And I did. The problem was, living by myself meant paying all of the rent by myself, which limited my options. Most one-bedrooms in Los Angeles were out of my price range, so I went studio hunting. It could be discouraging -- $1100 for a place so small the main room could only fit a twin bed, a fridge, and a stove?  Not being comfortable sleeping with my head next to an oven, I took a pass.  I mean, I like breakfast in bed, but I don't want to make breakfast while in bed! Finally, I found a studio in Hollywood (technically the Hollywood Hills, thankyouverymuch) that was a decent size and price, and settled in. I stayed for a year and a half before upgrading to a one-bedroom within the same building. I had come to love my tiny-ass studio, but I missed entertaining large groups of friends, and I hated parking on the street -- and the new place came with its own parking spot. But even though I now live in a moderately-sized place, I learned a few tricks to make living in a small space efficient and comfortable. Hopefully I can pass that along, while keeping mind that if you're living in a small space, you're probably on a small budget. (I still am!) And, since we small-space denizens are more likely to be renters, I'm paying special attention to tips and fixes that won't make you lose your security deposit. So here's to living in a tiny-ass but still fabulous apartment, goddammit!

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