Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Link dump and Flickr pool!

Whew! With Apartment Therapy putting out the alert that the Smallest, Coolest contest for 2010 is indeed on its way, I've been in full-on handywoman mode. I'm working on my place by clearing stuff out, bringing stuff in, rearranging things, trying new decor techniques... I'll be posting pics of my progress soon, but for the time being my place looks like a hurricane hit it. (If they named it, it would be Hurricane Craigslist and Cat Hair.)

And now, some links and news...

Oooh, a sneak peek at the Apartment Therapy Big Book of Small Cool Spaces! The blue under-bed kitchen in the photo is gorgeous. And I wonder if the smell of bacon cooking in the kitchen would waft up to the bed area and make you a little more eager to get up in the morning...

This one's been floating around on the Intertubes: New York's "smallest apartment." At only 14.9 feet long by 10 feet wide, this former maid's quarters in Morningside Heights only totals 175 square feet. It's owned by a thirty-something married couple (they paid $150K for it and will pay it off in the next two years) who CLEARLY don't mind a lack of personal space. They even found room for their two kitties. One of the funniest parts of the story is that they strategically stash their work clothes at dry cleaners near their offices, and jog over to pick up a new outfit every morning. And though the space is a little uninspired design-wise, the couple also says that once they pay off their mortgage they'll be able to do a little renovating, like adding a Murphy bed. (Thanks to my dear Rachel C. for the nudge on this one!)

Designer Paul Elkins has taken the concept of the tiny-ass apartment a step further, and is using it to help those in need. In response to a challenge on DesignBoom, he created a mobile shelter for the homeless; definitely an improvement on the typical shopping cart. The shelter has a sleeping area, storage, and even a tiny kitchen and bathroom. It's totally genius: the roof has a rain catcher to collect water for usage in the sink, a teeny propane stove, and a cooler is tucked away for use as a fridge. The pictures are fascinating, with all their pull-out, fold-down solutions. The shelter weighs 225 pounds when empty and seems easy enough to push around with its wheels and handlebar. Right now it's still in its proof-of-concept stage, but it'd be great to see this manufactured and used as intended.

I'd also like to announce the Tiny-Ass Apartment Flickr pool, so you can take a look at some of the homes featured on the TAA main site, as well as share your own! You can post pics of your own place, or of your favorite inspirational spaces. Just be sure to include the source of the pictures (whether they're yours or if you got them somewhere else), 'cause the pics may be used on the TAA main site!

And of course, you can also become a fan of Tiny-Ass Apartment on Facebook, and follow my semi-coherent ramblings on Twitter.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

TAH: The Little House of Toronto

Though we're mostly about apartments here at TAA (it is the second "A," after all), sometimes I come across a house so tiny it's worthy of inclusion too. The "Little House" in Toronto is aptly named -- it's only about 319 square feet. It looks like a house one of the Seven Dwarves would live in if he decided to relocate to Canada. (Any Canadian dwarf would have to be named "Really Friendly, Eh," I think.)

The Little House at 128 Day Avenue was built in 1912 by Arthur Wheeden, a contractor who built many other buildings in the area. When he noticed that the space between two houses, which was meant as a laneway, hadn't had its curb cut to allow cars through, he decided to make use of the space and build something on it. Once the house was completed, he and his wife lived in the itty-bitty home for 20 years.

Wheeden on the front porch in 1939

The house is not only small, but it's narrow. It's only a little more than 7 feet wide. If Chewbacca were to lie down in front of the house, he'd be exactly long as the house is wide. (Not only did I know that offhand, but I looked it up just to be sure and I was right. The Force is strong in me. Booyah.)

The interiors look good, too: fresh, clean, and bright. Everything in it is compact, and many pieces fold up into the wall to save space, like the kitchen table and the Murphy bed.

The entryway

The kitchen with laundry area

The bedroom with the Murphy bed folded up into the cabinet

I love how the tiny house has a green front yard with a stone path, and a cute back patio to boot. When you don't have a lot of space inside, any space that you have outside adds so much.

The backyard

Though the Little House is privately owned, it's become a bit of a tourist attraction. Check out their website at The Little House.

Via Hooked on Houses.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Livin' large in Hong Kong

I am typing this with my mouth still hanging open. I just watched a video tour of one of the smallest, most amazing apartments I have ever seen. Tiny Palace linked to this video by "The World's Greenest Homes" on Planet Green from the Discovery Channel.

Gary Chang is an architect in Hong Kong, which is easily one of the most densely-packed cities in the world. He lives in a 330 square-foot tenement apartment that once housed himself, his parents, his sisters, AND a tenant when he was younger. Now that he's got the place to himself, he's made a few changes...

You have to watch the video to get the full impact. Using moveable walls and hideaway furniture, Gary's apartment has 24 different configurations. Move a wall, bam, there's the kitchen. Move it back, drop down the sofa -- there's your living room. Flip up the couch and pull down the bed -- bedroom. The guy even has a SCREENING ROOM with a HAMMOCK. It's incredible.

The apartment's footprint is small even in terms of environmental impact. He installed floor-to-ceiling windows with an amber tint to bring warm light into his place, and mirrors and shiny metal further reflect the light to brighten up the whole space. He says he almost never has to turn on the electric lights.

I hope this guy brings his small-space skills to the U.S. I'd love to live in his "transformer domestic" apartment. It's the closest I've seen to the Fifth Element apartment!

Via Tiny Palace and Planet Green by Discovery.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fireplaces: Hot like fyah

I think fireplaces are so glamorous. I can imagine sitting in front of a crackling, wood-burning fireplace with a warm throw and a good book (for the G-rated version), or with a glass of wine and John Krasinski (for the PG-13 version). Sadly, my recent experience with fireplaces has been limited to the Yule log on TV during Christmas. (I was at a New Year's party where we sat and watched it, transfixed, hoping to see where the tape's loop began. No, we weren't "inhaling any smoke," either.)

Still, I know some of you TAA dwellers out there are lucky enough to have fireplaces in your homes. Just because your place is small doesn't mean it can't rock a nice fireplace and mantel! However, not everyone uses their fireplace all the time, and some go completely unused. If you fall into the latter category, consider taking advantage of your little nook, and turn your hearth into something unique and useful.

A kitchen fireplace converted into storage (via Apartment Therapy: Chicago), and a TV pushed back into a fireplace (via Apartment Therapy: NY)...

Books stored in fireplaces -- for aesthetic purposes only. No book burnings, pls. (From CasaSugar and Elements of Style)

You know how much I love desks in closets -- now it's desks in fireplaces! (From Craftzine.)

I also like the idea of putting a wine rack in your fireplace, or creating a shrine to your shoes. You can add storage and decor, all neatly framed under the mantel. For a great gallery on decorating unused fireplaces, check out this article on Apartment Therapy.

And just because it makes me laugh:

Professor Henry Jones: Junior, I have tell you something.
Indiana Jones: Don't get sentimental now Dad, save it until we get out of here.
Professor Henry Jones: The floor's on fire... see... AND the chair.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Real-Life TAA: Dorm life with Rachel!

Even if you're one of those spoiled bastards who no longer lives in a tiny-ass apartment, I think we can all recall our first and most-tiniest living quarters: the dorm room. Ah, memories: sleeping three feet away from your roommate, waking up because your neighbor is playing Portishead's "Sour Times" loudly on repeat at 3 a.m., having to go out in the cold because of yet another fire drill, getting creeped out by the guy who lives across from the girl's bathroom insisting on leaving his door open at all times. Despite that, I actually really enjoyed dorm life. My roommate Vanessa was (and still is) awesome, and I met many other people who I know will be friends for life.

I lived in the Mary Park Hall at San Francisco State University. We were WAY better than those fools in Mary Ward. Fine, fine... there was actually no difference whatsoever.

My dorm style still makes me smile ruefully. EVERYTHING I had was blue/purple (to match my iMac), and I taped Monet posters to the wall above my bed. Vanessa's things were red, and she had Klimt prints. We were typical college freshmen. (Especially if you've seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season four, episode one: "Monet still well in the lead, but look out for team Klimt coming from behind.")

But despite whatever design "mistakes" we may have made, living in a dorm is an important step in one's life. There are the obvious, grand-scale changes: living away from home, starting college, being a kinda-grown up for the first time. On the design level, a dorm is where you first truly get to make your own decisions. You start with a blank, tiny cinderblock room and a few pieces of college-issued furniture, and that's it. The rest is up to you (and your roommate). You also learn valuable lessons when it comes to being broke as hell, not having a lot of room, and getting around Draconian rules about putting nails in the wall. (Some things never change.)

TAA reader Rachel sent in her RLTAD -- "Real-Life Tiny-Ass Dorm." She's a student at Smith college, and has spent the past four years in Chapin House, the last two of them in this particular room. At Smith, student housing is divided amongst 36 different buildings; Chapin House is home to about 70 students in its 36 singles and 17 double-occupancy rooms. Rachel has a single to herself, and as you can see it's tiny and narrow. Still, the building is in the center of campus, and her room overlooks the fields, boathouse, and botanical gardens. (It's also rumored that the house's staircase was the inspiration for the one in Gone With The Wind.) I think the "tiny and narrow" is worth it!

Rachel describes her style as eclectic -- she likes everything from the classic, minimalist, and clean, as well as the bohemian and maximalist. (Hey, college is where you get to experiment, right?) However, she has a lot of obstacles to get around. Smith provides the big pieces (desk, desk chair, bed, drawers, bookshelf, and dresser) which relieves some of the strain on Rachel's small budget, but having those pieces pre-selected can be creatively limiting. The configuration of her furniture is largely determined by access to outlets and phone and cable jacks, plus dorm residents aren't allowed to paint, drill, or nail anything into the walls. The institution-white walls were the worst, so Rachel picked up some blue dollar-a-yard material and tacked it up with a box of thumbtacks.

Rachel's dresser was a Craigslist find for only $15; the Mondrian-esque paint job came from the father/son duo who were selling it. She put her bookshelf on top of her Smith-issued dresser to free up space. It took me a second to even realize it wasn't all one piece! The red ottoman was her mother's from when she was in college herself, and it unfolds into a cot, thereby solving the problem of having to crash on someone's floor after a long night of partying of studying.

The cute desk hutch is an old dresser drawer that Rachel painted and papered, and I love the colorful balloon prints above. The statue and the red flower are both courtesy of Smith tradition. Ms. Venus di Milo was passed on to her by an upperclassman, and soon it'll be time for her to give it to someone else in her house. The flower was given out at the campus center to celebrate International Women's Day.

Smith traditions also account for a few of Rachel's other items. Each house on campus has a "free box" where people can drop off things they don't want so that others can claim and reuse them. Rachel also picked up a storage crate on "Mountain Day" -- one day in the fall the college president rings a bell to declare classes canceled, and everyone goes apple picking in a nearby orchard. I can't get over how idyllic that sounds. If classes were canceled at SFSU, it was because the near-constant protests on campus were getting out of hand, or maybe because people were ditching for the Folsom Street Fair.

With graduation only two months away, Rachel will have to pack up her TAD soon. I'd be pretty bummed to leave such an awesome-sounding school. Still, it'll be fun to see what she does with her future TAA!

Thanks for letting us take a look around, Rachel! Congrats on your impending graduation!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Time for a little reflection

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! Hope you're wearing green, or that you get pinched by someone cute! Maybe after a few green beers you can work up the courage to do a little pinching yourself...

I was over at my friend Liz's house for game night a few weeks ago; before we got into a game of "Mystery Express" (it's like Clue, but on a train), we went through her inspiration binder. She's redoing parts of her already gorgeous bungalow, and has torn out a binder's worth of magazine pages to work from. One idea I particularly liked was this mirrored kitchen backsplash, as seen in House Beautiful.

You should really check out the full article, because the kitchen is EENSY but still efficient and beautiful.

As we all know, putting a mirror in a small space is a common way of opening up that room. It reflects light, and tricks the eye into thinking that we're looking further back into the space or perhaps out a window. (Or if you're a parakeet, it tricks you into thinking there's another person in the room and then you attack them.)

But we don't usually think about putting in a mirror in the kitchen. I know I often look pretty crap when I'm cooking: the steam rising up from the food makes my hair go all frizzy, my makeup melts a bit... But if you can deal with that, your kitchen's style can really benefit from a little reflection. Though renters may not be able to install an actual mirrored backsplash like in these examples, you can still put up a hanging mirror -- or maybe a bunch of them!

Mirrors in the kitchen can have the drawback of needing to be cleaned a little more often, but the upside is that the cleaning is extremely easy. They can also reflect countertop clutter, so they work best if you tend to have more minimalist counters.

Overall, I think that this can be a cheap and easy way to bring a little glam into a room that's rather task-oriented. Plus, you can check for food in your teeth before heading back out after a meal...

Via Apartment Therapy, House Beautiful, Two Tall Girls, and More Than Glass.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Link dump and announcements!

Hello, TAA dwellers (and those of you who are jealous of our cozy little homes)! We have a new way for you guys to connect with each other, and tag embarrassing pictures of yourselves after a few too many on a Saturday night -- we've got a Facebook fan page now. Become a fan, share links, discuss the methods to your small-space madness, post up photos of your favorite spaces, write on the Wall -- and you don't even need chalkboard paint to do that last one.

And now, links!

Check out this small Bernal Heights house on Apartment Therapy: San Francisco. Though the place looks a little "stagey" in the pictures, their tips are solid. I particularly like the idea of "bottom up shades." I'll be looking into those for my own kitchen.

Hey winos! Looks like those years of buying in bulk will pay off for you. House And Fig has a cute DIY about making a wine-box shelf. It looks cool (and it's got that repurposing thing going for it), it's cheap, and it provides storage. (I'd want to build one out of boxes from Caduceus Cellars - especially if I could get the owner and proprietor to help me. Rowr. BTW, check out the documentary Blood Into Wine, about Tool/A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan's journey into starting his own vineyard in northern Arizona. Very interesting, plus a few laughs and really good music.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Repurposing" fail.

I love it when the Internets read my mind-grapes. After my post on repurposing large objects into coffee tables, including an industrial cable spool, CasaSugar found this side table from Ballard Designs.

According to Ballard's description, the side table is "inspired by actual spools used by French rope makers to display and sell their natural fiber manila rope." It also has storage; lift the top and you can place things inside.

Even though I like the idea of repurposed furniture, I can't say I like this piece. First of all, it's not an actual spool. It's "inspired by" a spool. They made it on purpose, from scratch, to look like a spool, even though it never ever functioned AS one. It's a wannabe spool. That kind of thing reeks of pretention to me -- someone's going to spend almost $200 on a side table that attempts to give the air of the industrial and the working class. It's disingenuous.

Also, it's kinda ugly.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Real-Life TAA: Anna's modern SF loft

I'm excited to bring you another Real-Life TAA from one of our readers, Anna. I'm extra excited because a) she's hailing from San Francisco, b) she shares her TAA with an adorable kitty, and c) her place is a testament to minimalism and having a good eye!

Anna's apartment is definitely a TAA. It's only 9 feet wide by 28 feet long, totaling about 250 square feet. (I don't math too good, so I'm going with those numbers.) She recently moved to San Francisco from Portland. When she first got to the city (tangent: San Francisco can only be called "The City," "San Francisco," or maybe "SF." NO "San Fran" and DEFINITELY NO "Frisco!"), Anna found a furnished sublet for the first six months, prompting her to get rid of what little furniture she'd been hanging onto. When the time came to move into her own place, she had the luxury of starting from scratch. And yes, I do consider that a luxury. When you move into a new place, you run the risk of holding onto old pieces out of sentiment, even if they don't work in your new home. As Anna says, "I was able to get things that worked in my new space, rather than trying to trying to make it work with old stuff that wasn't right for this space."

Check out the San Francisco and Portland Ork posters on the wall

Of course, the major disadvantage to starting with an empty apartment is that you've got to invest a lot of time and money into making it livable. Even if you're buying the cheapest of furniture, buying all the pieces you need in one go really adds up. This often means buying one piece at a time and very slowly putting your home together. Anna's lived in her current place for about 8 months, and she's found some treasures in that time. The credenza, which works as both a dresser for her clothes as well as a TV stand, was a Craigslist find, as is her desk. The mirror and shoe cabinet were found in her building's basement, abandoned by some former owner.

Anna considered painting her new place, but her landlord's kind of a stickler about painting (I feel ya there). But the white walls were also a refreshing change from having previous places with bold colors, and act as a kind of refuge from the sensory overload of downtown San Francisco. Though she's not sure what material the floors are made of, she suspects that they're a kind of plywood. It's definitely an interesting texture. And of course, I'm a sucker for exposed brick, and love the whole look of the far wall with the window. The support beam in the middle of the room looks like it'd be a little inconvenient, but the beams crisscrossing the ceiling look pretty industrial-cool.

Anna's bed is a built in loft (oh, how we love those lofts!) that sits above her kitchen. It looks pretty cozy, and I think that her kitty, Sugar, agrees. Her nightstand/mini-bookcase was another basement find.

The kitchen is one of the smallest I've seen. There's no stove or oven, so she uses a toaster oven and countertop burner. The kitchen also houses some of her bathroom things in a nook she carved out using hooks and a repurposed wine rack; she shares a bathroom that's down the hall from her apartment.

She's also quite handy, that Anna. The piece above is an old window with a floral gift wrap across it, and she also put in these steps so that Sugar could get up into the loft for cuddles. The piece above her couch is another window filled with Christmas lights!

Clearly I'm homesick for SF. This pic made me get teary.

Gorgeous mason jars as tealight holders

Anna's advice to other TAA-dwellers is to get rid of all your extra crap, and in a place such an uncluttered, minimalist cool, we can see that she practices what she preaches. Even though there's no built-in storage, she's managed to hide away all those lil' odds n' ends that seem to take over a small space. The effect is modern and clean, and her place looks great!

Thanks, Anna, for letting us take a look around!

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