Wednesday, August 25, 2010

C'est trop beau!

Because I have a Frenchy-sounding name, I've had people assume that I'm French my entire life. (I'm not, but that's okay.) This may or may not be the cause of my resulting Francophilia -- I love the French language, Parisian architecture, the fashion, the FOOD, oh man, the FOOD... Sadly, the one and only trip I've had to Paris was a little National Lampoon's European Vacation in nature, and what's worse, my years of French classes are slipping away from me... Thank god for Chrome's auto-translate feature, otherwise I might not have been able to navigate this awesome French decor site, Du Côté de Chez Vous. The ladies at Desire to Inspire recently posted about the site, and I found myself lost in the pics they shared. What really won me over were the shots taken from Du Côte's "petits espaces" section. After all, when you're in an urban center as old as Paris, you're going to find ways to live in the tiniest of spaces -- but, being French, you're going to do it with style. Take a look at the pics below, check out Du Côté de Chez Vous (and Desire to Inspire, of course), then kindly please send funds for my "Parisian vacation fund." I promise to take lots of pictures and bring back croissants for everyone.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Floating Frames from Loving Living Small

Loving Living Small is another great website in the brotherhood sisterhood uh, siblinghood of small-space decor sites. Rebecca has tons of tips and inspiration to browse through, including interviews with heavy-hitters in the design world. But what I'm finding most inspirational is her own space! Rebecca recently moved to Los Angeles (she and I were like ships passing in the night -- her on her way to L.A., me on my way North), and her new place is amazing. It was a great find to begin with (check out that fireplace!), and she's worked her magic on it to take it to the next level. I really love what she's doing with her wall of "built-in" bookcases. These built-ins started their lives as IKEA BILLY cases, but Rebecca ditched the backing to open them up, then styled them with her collection of books, magazines, and other objects. What I like best is her brave decision to hang her art on it as if it were just any ol' wall. As she says, "I knew that when I moved into my place and set up my built-in units that I'd lose an entire wall. But no worries, I embraced the space by using the actual book shelves as a platform for my frames."
She continues, "I just used two small nails to hang a few frames and now have a little bit of extra dimension and a cool way to break up the lines a bit of all that shelving. Super easy and I think it looks pretty cool - makes my small space feel good." And I totally agree! The pictures are just the right size so that they don't overwhelm the bookcase or block what's behind it. They're also such a great play on depth. It's like an optical illusion: are the pictures floating mid-air, or is the bookcase recessed into the wall? Either way, it keeps your visual interest -- no small feat when next to that fireplace! Fantastic job, Rebecca. I can't wait to see more and more of your gorgeous new home! Via Loving Living Small.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Close to the Ledge

I am in love with this picture. Sometimes pics of furniture can be so sterile, but I love the sea green of the wall, the dark, rich wood, and the contrasting clean white of the "e," the laptop, and the chair. I'd be ready to move right into this room as-is, even if it meant changing my name to Emone.

The focus of the gorgeous scene is the shelf/desk on the wall. Featured by Dornob, the shelf is called the "Ledge" and is by UrbanCase. It's absolutely perfect for a small space: it takes up no room on the floor, it provides storage (there's a drawer on the left side) and a worktop (plus the secretary-like pull-out tray), and when it's all closed up its sleek lines give it a clean and uncluttered look.

The Ledge also comes in red, and can be used for other purposes, too. As you can see above, it can be used as a shelf for peripherals underneath a wall-mounted TV, or as a mini-DJ station with a cleverly stored record player. Put your booze and bar tools on the top, and you'd be ready to host a party off of your lil' Ledge.

Via Dornob.

Friday, August 20, 2010

S'more grills, please

I gotta admit, I'm a little behind on my Google Reader. I have more subscriptions on there than I care to count, all of them organized into neat folders: Beauty, Crafts, Cute, Design, Food, Friends' Sites, Funny, Geeky, Hollywood, Ladyblogs, Music, News, Productivity and Organization, Fashion and Shopping, Local, TV... Unfortunately, nearly all of them are in bold, with the number of unread items in each in parentheses right next to the name. But thankfully, even though I still have many posts left unread, I have eagle-eyed readers to let me know when I'm missing something good! A few days ago, reader Kara pointed me in the direction of our adopted big sister site, Design*Sponge. (I don't know that Grace knows I've adopted her in my mind 'cause I look up to her so much, but that's okay.) Design*Sponge featured this really cool grill that I swear is a combo of the mini-grills and the flower boxes I posted earlier this summer.
You can find the Altan Grill on the site DesignDelicatessen... which, unfortunately, is in Danish. Still, the premise is pretty simple: hang the grill like you would a flower box, then fire away! I'd be careful about what kind of railing I would put this on, but I'm sure they have instructions about that kind of thing. (Anyone speak Danish and willing to take a look for us?) I was also able to glean that this retails for $83 US, so if you're a grillmaster stuck in a tiny apartment, longing for BBQ days of yore, this seems like a reasonable investment. Personally, I think anytime-you-want-'em s'mores are worth it. Via Design*Sponge and Design Delicatessen, and special thanks to Kara!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More minimalism

"A new movement toward minimalism — in which people get rid of almost all their stuff — has the potential to be green and economical. It could also be really annoying." So sayeth Anna North of And, as you may guess, I agree. Once again, minimalism is in the news -- or at least the blogosphere. It's absolutely no surprise to me. Obviously, my living in a tiny apartment has imposed a kind of minimalism on me: if I can't afford it or can't fit it, I can't have it. (Of course, that doesn't exactly cure me of "but I want it.") And my living in a tiny and therefore cheap apartment stems from my tight budget, which in part stems from a larger economic downturn that's putting the squeeze on everyone. I know that I'm not alone. There are many of us who were backed into a teeny-tiny corner, if you will; we simply cannot afford more -- in any sense of the word. So there are those of us who are making the most of our "small" situations, and then there are those who not only make the most of them, but embrace them and celebrate them. (And sometimes, annoyingly, try to tell us to do the same.) These are the people that Anna refers to, the "new locavores: people who get rid of all their stuff." People who get rid of all their stuff (or "PWGROATS" -- jeez, you couldn't get rid of a few more letters?) have more reasons for being PWGROATS than they do pieces of furniture. Some people do it to save money: Tammy Strobel, profiled in the New York Times article cited by Jezebel, has gotten her and her husband out of $30,000 worth of debt by downsizing what she already had, and by spending less through buying less. The Strobels now live in a 400 square foot apartment in Portland and get along just fine on her salary of $24,000 a year. There are also those who purport to live small in order to decrease their carbon footprints, although this motivation and its practice are subject to question: Kelly Sutton of "The Cult of Less" (who talks with BoingBoing here) "admits to burning up some carbon by shipping his possessions to buyers around the world, [but] purchasing less stuff that one must then throw away is certainly good for the environment." So you win some, you lose some.

The Strobels in their Spartan but happy home. (Photo by Leah Nash for the New York Times)
Then, of course, there are those who are PWGROATS because they're damn moochers. Chris Yurista, a DJ from Washington, DC who was interviewed by the BBC, downsized so much that he was able to give up his apartment and live out of his backpack -- on his friend's couches, that is. As Anna puts it, "More upsettingly, Chris Yurista's less-is-more approach appears to rely on other people having more — his friends have to maintain apartments so he has a place to sleep. If minimalists are truly self-sufficient, it's hard to argue with their choices, but if their ideological purity depends on others' lack thereof, it's a little suspect." Of course, no matter what the motivation for PWGROATS, the thing that really gets my groat -- I mean, goat -- are those who take their anti-stuff stance so seriously that they look down upon those who RLTSA (rather like their stuff, actually). This is the mindset that I read into a previous article I discussed here at TAA. Still, many of those in the cult of less realize that the decision to do without is theirs alone. Jezebel commenter SR-12 says it nicely: "It's one thing to encourage people to examine their habits, but what they choose to then do with that information is nobody's business but their own." She continues, "I own a lot less stuff than a lot of people, and a lot more than the people in the article. The important thing is that I pay attention to it and think about what works for me. Also I feel like nobody acknowledges that there is a middle ground between conspicuous consumption and self-imposed poverty. That middle ground is where I live." Of course, I also like Jezebel commenter dellbot's snarky advice to PWGROATS: "The way I see it, if you're going to do this, go big or go home. Get rid of everything (job included) grab a bowl and a robe and throw down Buddha style." Hah. Via Jezebel, The New York Times, BoingBoing, and the BBC. (Special shout-out to The Kissing Bandit, muah!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Problem SOLVED!

At long last! The largest, most pressing problem for we TAA-dwellers has been solved! No, not the crumbling economy! Not the war, our waning faith in the government, our national security fears! Not even the melting ice caps, BP-caused environmental disasters, or our rising energy costs! What can I do if I can't have a nightstand? That's right, our long national nightmare over nightstands is over. The Container Store has solved it; bless them. As you may recall, we've discussed what options you have when you simply don't have room for a nightstand in your tiny-ass apartment, or what to do if you have a loft bed. Though I stand by our previous solutions, this one is by far the simplest and cheapest.
It's called the Bunk Bed Shelf and was "designed by two college students who identified a need." I'll say! I'd like to buy those guys (or gals) a drink -- and they'd definitely have someplace to put it! The shelf can fit on just about any bedpost, and costs only $9.99. Well done, problem solvers! (You're not Tracy Morgan and Jenna Maroney, are you?) Via Outblush.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Single sleepers

Sleeper sofas can be great pieces of furniture. Unfortunately, they also tend to be great, big pieces of furniture. When I was living in San Francisco with my then-boyfriend, we had a sleeper sofa that took him, my father, and my brother to get up one flight of stairs. When it came time to move out, I thought about trying to move it with us, but knew it was impossible. Turns out that even getting it back downstairs was impossible! We had to take a hammer, scissors, and screwdriver to it to literally tear it to pieces so that we could dump it out by the curb bit by bit.

My apartment back then was certainly tiny, but we were able to fit that behemoth sofa in there somehow. Yet now that I know that sleeper chairs exist, I don't think I'll ever put myself through that kind of struggle again.

Just as Erin at Unclutterer posted this awesome entry about sleeper chairs, I got a comment on a previous entry asking about them. yeyejoijoi said that they were "looking for a small, comfortable, makes-into-a-bed-but-not-a-futon alternative. Then it would be multipurpose and the guilt would be relieved. Right?" Right!

My suggestion to yeyejoijoi was this piece from JC Penny's home furnishings; I'd actually been considering it myself.

These babies are on sale right now; some models have been marked down to $499 from their original price of $1,399. (Yeah -- big difference!)

IKEA also has a few offerings for smaller-than-sofa sleepers. Their HAGALUND is a loveseat sleeper that has storage space under the seat, and the PS LÖVÅS is super-affordable with a base price of $209. They also have cute slipcovers to change up the look and make it seem a little less like a sleeper.

Over at Unclutterer, Erin covers many more cute and non-gigantic options. My favorite is the Vincent twin sleeper from CB2. It's a bit more costly, but looks sleek and modern.

Check out the Unclutterer entry for more single sleepers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When you date a guy, you date his apartment too.

Ah, the perils of dating when you (or your sweetheart) live in a tiny-ass apartment.
Anna of Shmitten Kitten fame has a hilarious rant about trying to use her date's minuscule bathroom.
I have no idea how a grown human can use this teensy weensy bathroom. Everything in here is tiny. The sink is the size of a child's shoe and the mirror over the sink is the size of a Pop-Tart. If we were in the roaring '20s, fun-loving collegiates would see how many people they could squish in here for fun. Clark Kent would use this bathroom to change into Superman.
Check out the rest at Shmitten Kitten, and be sure to catch the other "funny-'cause-it's-true" "Things In His House That Make Me Sad" entries, which chronicle the... interesting choices guys tend to make in their bachelor pads. Oh, gurl. Been there, seen that.

A Flower Box to Fit Your Balcony AND Budget

Oh, how I love shopping blogs. Outblush, Uncrate, Mighty Goods -- all the internet equivalent of Lucky magazine, just showing me the pretty, pretty stuff that's for sale. I don't need long editorials (I'm verbose enough on my own, thankyouverymuch), just show me a picture and tell me where I can buy it. Of course, most of the time I don't buy it. Being a little strapped these days, I often bookmark it/tear the page out, tell myself I'll buy it someday, and then inevitably forget about it. It's the new virtual window shopping, and in this economy I'm sure most of you can relate. However, Mighty Goods came up with a good one from our old pal IKEA. They featured this OSTLIG hanging flowerbox that even I could afford at $15!
We've covered balconies and other outdoor spaces here before, but I know that those of us lucky enough to have balconies big enough to hold a barbecue or a table with chairs are few and far between. More likely, if you have any kind of balcony at all, it's too small to even hold a potted plant. Yet with these cute and easy-to-install flower boxes, that's not a problem. As long as you've got a railing, you're in the flower-growing business. (Well, maybe not me. We've already established that I've got a black thumb.) So thanks, Mighty Goods, for showin' us the pretty and tellin' us where to buy it, and thanks, IKEA, for pricing it so that we CAN buy it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Real-Life Tiny-Ass Apartment: Breeze's Winning Combo

You know something in L.A. that I randomly miss? Chinatown Express. It may have been a crappy fast-food chain, but it was five minutes from my house, and I had a go-to order combination. (Chow mein, broccoli beef, and sweet and sour chicken.) But I'll find a new place and a new combination soon, I'm sure. I mean, I think I can manage to find a good Chinese place in San Francisco without too much difficulty! But the subject of today's Real-Life Tiny-Ass Apartment is a combination that's harder to replicate. Breeze Giannasio is that rare combination of smart, funny, kind, naturally talented, and a student of some of the finest institutions in the world. She's "real life," and she's a pro.
I met Breeze through a mutual friend at a Christmas party a few years ago. I thought she was awesome right off the bat, but when she told me about her love of interior design, I knew she was awesome. Originally from Hawaii, Breeze has spent time all over the world, with notable stops at Harvard Law, Copenhagen and Helinski to study interior architecture, and the masters program for interior design at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C. Today's post is about one such stop in New York, where she helped her sister turn a tiny Brooklyn studio into a bright and sophisticated home. Jovanna's 34th floor apartment (yikes!) in Fort Greene comes in at a teensy 500 square feet, and Breeze only had a budget of $5,000 to work with -- for the entire apartment. We're talking kitchen renos, furniture, everything. "It's amazing what you can do with clean finishes and an editing eye at IKEA," she says, and I agree!

Breeze set out to use a "neutral high contrast palette with pops of color," and subsequently realized she used Swedish colors. IKEA: taking over your home, and now your subconscious.

There are "equine chic" (Jovanna's term) touches all over the apartment, like these Apaloosa photographs. As a girl who preferred Breyer horses to Barbies myself, I really dig it.

The combination of a natural jute rug (which Breeze testifies is really soft) with a modern tulip table and ghost chairs is unexpected, but keeps things interesting.

Though the shape and shine of the tiles in the kitchen is also modern, the ocean colors (inspired by the ladies' Hawaiian home) work to bring a nature-inspired serenity to the space. (And I love the eye chart on the wall!)

That's one slick-looking fridge, and you know I love the "Keep Calm." The bright red of the print almost belies its message, especially when in such mellow surroundings.

More horsies! Apparently, Jovanna insisted that Breeze emphasize the one with the horse licking his lips. (Photography by Tim Flach.)

Yep, 34 floors up is pretty damn high, and you can really tell through these floor-to-ceiling windows. And apparently the windows can open! Eeep! *Backs away slowly.*

Jovanna and her boyfriend Dylan are a lucky couple: an amazing designer sister, a gorgeous brand-new pad, and they're pretty dang cute themselves. These days, Breeze is working on a bid to turn the 100,000 square foot abandoned streetcar station underneath Dupont Circle into a community-based art and design center. Not exactly a tiny-ass space, but Breeze has shown she's more than capable of handling the small. Check out the project's website here. And for more information on Breeze herself, check out her website at With projects like the Dupont Circle center and this studio, Breeze clearly knows her way around spaces great and small -- definitely a winning combination.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Maximalist minimalism

Hello again, my fellow TAA-dwellers. (TAADs?) The weather here in the Bay Area may be causing "the coldest summer in 40 years," but I am loving it! I miss my L.A. friends, I miss my kitty-cats (who're being watched by their auntie until I get settled in), and I do kinda miss my old TAA. But! Onward and upward! Even though I haven't been blogging much, there are still a lot of great articles on small space living that I've been obsessively reading, bookmarking, and mulling over. One such article is from a site dedicated to minimalism, about 100 common items that the author chooses not to own. The post has since disappeared, and I won't link to the main site because let's just say I disagree with a lot of what the author had to say. I expected an article about clearing out clutter and unnecessary objects in one's home, which obviously would be of interest to me and TAA. And in fact, some items on the list were reasonable; if you don't drink coffee you can do without a coffeemaker, if you use your gym membership you don't need to own freeweights and a treadmill, and if you're not a cheese enthusiast like myself you don't need to own a fondue set. But the majority of the list were things I couldn't quite wrap my head around. The author does not own a couch, a bed, a nightstand, an end table, a desk, a dining table, a TV, a DVD player, a clock! And from what I gather (though I may be mistaken), she is actively choosing not to own these things, though she could afford them and find room for them for the most part. She has a futon mattress on her floor, she uses her coffee table for eating and working on her laptop, and her printer sits on top of the box it came in. She declares that she has no art, no window treatments, no rugs, stating that she likes "bare walls/windows/floors!" When she mentions not having something like an end table, she says she "doesn't see the need for one." And that's one of the things that bothered me about her list: her tone. I got a distinct feeling that the author was very pleased with herself for living without the unnecessary junk the rest of us consumerist whores have sold out for. (But that's my reading of it; she did not say anything like that.) Her self-congratulatory tone really rankled me. The image that popped to my mind was that of a reverse-hoarder: instead of compulsively saving every item they can, the author appears to compulsively get rid of every item she can. Now, I understand the limitations one can have when owning things: maybe you can't afford an end table. An end table is pretty low on the list of priorities when you'd prefer your money to go toward rent and groceries. And I understand the limits of available space, as you well know. Maybe your apartment is so tiny that any additional piece of furniture would make things so crowded that your place turns into a fire hazard! And I also understand not wanting your possessions to start owning you -- "you are not your khaki pants," as they say, or in this case "you are not your couch." All of this, I understand. But your possessions can also bring you comfort and pleasure, and I think most of us strive to find a balance where our things bring happiness into our lives, but they're not the only things that do. I choose to own a couch because it gives me a comfortable place to sit and read, or watch TV, or have a conversation with a friend. I have an end table so I can put a lamp on it to provide reading light while sitting on said couch, and a surface where I can put my drink without worrying about knocking it over. I have art on the walls because it makes my eyes happy to look at, and because the works made by my mother remind me of her. These possessions make my life more comfortable and happy. And after I read the "100 Things" article, my knee-jerk reaction was, "This woman and her apartment sound so boring." From my perspective, her lifestyle is one of masochistic deprivation. Of course, I don't know her. She seems quite content with her lack of 100 things, and if that works for her, great. But her lifestyle is extreme, and I think many of us would be unhappy if we tried to emulate her. I'm happy with my stuff, and you should be too. And let's open this up for a little discussion, too. What are some items you've happily gone without? What are some things you need to live? What are some things you need to be happy? Here's an example to get you started: even though it takes up precious countertop space, I love my Kitchen-Aid to pieces. Sure, I could make do with a hand mixer, or I could give up baking altogether, but that would make me very unhappy. So my baby Bela (I named the Kitchen-Aid after Bela Lugosi -- long story) can take up all the space it wants; I'm never letting it go!
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