Friday, May 14, 2010

Wants vs. Needs, Private vs. Public

Just as we did here at TAA after seeing the capsule hotels and apartments in Asia, Erin at Unclutterer has raised the same philosophical questions about living in small spaces: how much space do we really need? How much of our "need" is actually "want?" According to her, there are a lot of things to consider. She says,
Many factors go into answering the question: “How much space do I want to be happy and safe?” Location of property, floor plan, cultural norms, rent/mortgage, amenities, storage, air quality, and aesthetics are all considerations that weigh into an individual’s want response.
Interestingly, she turns to the example of prisoners and their cells to examine how space relates to happiness (or at least, the "happiness" one can achieve in a prison, anyway). After all, amenities are stripped down to the bare essentials, and inmates spend most of their time in their allotted space. One would expect that they'd be a perfect case study as to how living space size affects its inhabitants:
Since safety and happiness are major concerns in U.S. prisons (“happiness” in the sense of keeping rioting, violence, and suicide rates at a minimum), I expected minimum square footage per inmate mandates to exist. Turns out, the federal government does not define how many square feet a prisoner is required to have for conditions to be considered something better than “cruel or unusual.” As a result, inmates are given anywhere between 35 square feet (common when two prisoners share a 70 square foot cell) to 100 square feet (quite uncommon, but more likely to be found in solitary-confinement situations where prisoners never leave their cells). And, research about the penal system shows that rates of riots, violence, and suicide don’t appear to be directly correlated to cell size (much like job satisfaction isn’t based on office size).
In the comments, a reader named Rosa aptly pointed out that inmates don't have only their cell space; they also have common areas, such as kitchens, showers, and outdoor yards. Bringing it back to the non-convict population, she notes that:
People I know who live in very small spaces actually spend most of their time elsewhere; at work, at restaurants, outdoors in rural areas, at parks. More and more I think that’s healthier – less private space and more shared space. But it depends on other people valuing the shared space as well, to keep it accessible and usable.
How much space do we need to live, to shelter us from the elements, store our food, and provide a safe place to sleep? How much space do we want for our comfort, to hold our books and our art and have a place to entertain guests? And how are these two questions affected by the availability of public spaces? If you're spending 8 hours a day at the office and 8 hours a night sleeping, and you're outside of the house in public spaces for a few more hours per day, you're really only spending a short amount of time in your private living space. Does that make smaller spaces more bearable? It also makes me wonder about the kinds of public spaces available to us and how we use them. I don't have a back yard, so I get my nature fix at my favorite Los Angeles parks. And I'm writing this right now from a Starbucks, which has become the de facto office for many a laptop carrier. Restaurants are convenient and social eating spaces. But would I be cool with a communal kitchen? If I could pay a lower rent and sell off my kitchen tools, would I be okay with a shared food prep room instead of my own private kitchen? (That'd be the end of getting bowls of cereal at midnight in my undies, that's for sure.) What about a shared bathroom? I know for many people, having to share a bathroom with just their significant other is a road too far. Still, people all over the world manage just fine with minuscule living spaces and shared amenities. And you probably did as well: you survived sharing a bedroom with your younger sister back at home, and you survived sharing a bathroom with the entire floor in the dorms, didn't you? Could you do that again? Would you? Of course, if you're sent to the slammer, you won't have much say in the matter. But let's hope it doesn't come to that... or at least that you're good at turning a toothbrush into a shiv. Via Unclutterer.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TAA, TAA, how does your garden grow?

I have a confession to make. I've... killed before. And I'll kill again. I don't want to, really, I don't. I try and try not to, but I just can't help myself. I start out with the best of intentions, but sooner or later I've got another dead thing on my hands. I am... a plant serial killer. I've killed succulents, mother-in-law's tongue, peace lilies, herbs of all varieties. And in my apartment right now are an African violet and an orchid that are in their last throes. I can't be stopped. And it's products like the two below that only encourage me to do it again. These clever garden solutions for small spaces are so cute and look so easy that I'm tempted to try to grow something once again. Maybe this time it'll work... This time... Apartment Therapy: Boston recently posted about the Simple Garden by Fertile Earth, a kit that has everything you need to start a lil' garden in a cute container. The box the kit comes in is the container itself (the clear lid helps create a greenhouse environment while the seeds are germinating), and inside is soil, seeds, instructions, and a few tools.
Fertile Earth's video (which can be seen at the Apartment Therapy link) is admittedly pretty cheese-tastic -- it IS home shopping, after all -- but it's still a nice introduction to their product.
Over at Remodelista, they reviewed Woolly Pockets, which are hangable pouches (they remind me of hanging shoe organizers) that can be used to create a garden indoors or out. They're made of recycled plastic bottles, and are breathable and flexible. Lined versions are for indoor use (so that you don't get water on your walls or floor), while unlined versions are better for outdoor spaces where you can allow a little more drainage.
I love the look of the plants spilling over their pockets, creeping and climbing down the wall. I really want to turn part of my living room wall into a panel of green ivy and ferns... but perhaps I should stop myself before I kill again. Via Apartment Therapy: Boston, Fertile Earth, Remodelista, and Woolly Pockets.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Win free stuff!

One of the best parts of yammering on here at the ol' blog is getting to meet other like-minded bloggers, whether we're on the same wavelength about design, fashion, or zombie defense strategies. Shannon from Realistic Chic is one of those -- and her site tipped me off to a giveaway that CocoCozy's doing that I had to share here. CocoCozy's paired up with Jayson Home & Garden to give away not one, but two matching home accent pieces. The winner can select from a small collection of items that Coco picked out herself, including this adorable garden stool, a gorgeous side table, or an elegant milk glass lamp. The winner gets a pair of whatever item they choose!
Go to her site and enter! And remember, if you win, you get two -- one for you and one for me, right? Via Realistic Chic and CocoCozy.

Capsule Collection

How much space do you really need? No, really -- how much space does your body physically take up? How many possessions do you need to function every day? Do you really need more than that? These "capsule" living spaces -- hotels and apartments -- really challenge the idea that we need anything more than a safe place to sleep. Bathrooms are shared, kitchens are nonexistent (guess you'd better like takeout), and the rooms are mere pods the size of a twin bed. Would you be able to handle it? First up is the Capsule Inn Akikabara in Tokyo, Japan. Obviously, these lil' capsules are meant for a short stay, be it by a traveler, a businessman who's missed the last train home for the evening, or someone curious as to what it's like sleeping inside a microwave.
This hotel seems to be all about convenience. If you're just crashing for the night, do you really need anything more than a bed? I've slept in way more uncomfortable places after spending a night out -- and at only $35 a night, these capsules are about the same price as two drinks at a hip bar in L.A. anyway. Floors are segregated into mens' and womens' floors, there's free wifi, and once you're in your pod there's a TV, radio, alarm clock, and adjustable lighting all available while in a sleeping position. Actually, that last part sounds kinda rad. You can watch TV without even having to sit upright? That really speaks to the lazy in me. If you're looking for more permanent digs, there are capsule apartments like the ones Huang Rixin, a retired engineer, built in Beijing, China. A month's rent there is actually about the same price as a single night in the capsule hotel, but let's just say the apartments look a little more... spartan.
In fact, the capsule apartments are having a hard time attracting tenants. Even after the place was opened up for people to test drive the 2 square meter apartments, they've only got one tenant: a 25 year old woman who's looking to save money to help out her parents financially. That's her place on the left side of the pic above -- her "neighbor" is a reporter who moved in to get a feel for how she can live in such a tiny space. The amenities aren't great -- Zhang Qi reported that she was so cold the first night she couldn't sleep -- but she's making a go of it. She's decorating her teensy apartment, and is optimistic about her new residence. According to the article on China Hush, she feels "she can overcome if others can," and is hoping to stay in her new home until she gets married. So what say you? Think you'd last long in a capsule apartment? I tell you one thing -- if I were gonna stay in a place like that until I got married, I'd be surfing eHarmony every damn day. Via Neatorama, Capsule Hotel Akihabara, and ChinaHush.

Monday, May 10, 2010

This link dump's got a case of the Mondays

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? Did you call your mother? And if you're a mother yourself, did your kids treat you right? If not, just remember the quote from Bill Cosby: "I brought you into this world. I can take you out, and make another one that looks just like you." Onto the links!
Shelterpop interviewed interior designer Natalie Umbert, looking for ways to debunk long-held design myths about small spaces. Natalie offers her take on using large pieces in small spaces, the use of color to divide a room, creating a bed headboard that takes up zero room, and more. I agree with all of her tips, so check out the article!
Science fiction site io9 linked to this article on Dornob, which features homes created out of shipping containers. io9 took the position that these shelters would be great in in case of zombie apocalypse (which, if you know me, is a major concern of mine). But more realistically, shipping container dwellings, though usually small, can be inexpensive and DIY-able, while still looking totally rad.
And speaking of rad, DIY, recycled tiny homes, ReadyMade shows how Michael Janzen creates 100-square foot homes out of shipping pallets, including detailed instructions on how to build your own. Janzen's own site,, provides more details on how to build the pallet house, as well as how to use other scavenged materials to make it even more efficient and comfy.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tales of shopping and the most effective jingle ever

Complete the jingle: Do you love it? I love it! I got it at... (This should be easy for anyone who watched TV throughout the 1990s [although perhaps a little easier for us Left Coasters]...) ... Ross! That commercial jingle was once the bane of my existence. You see, I have a family member who works for Ross, which lead to a little hypersensitivity about it when I was younger. I actually begged them to contact someone about changing the song. At the time I was resentful that all the family shopping was done at Ross: Dress For Less. I longed to go to Old Navy like the cool kids, and "Do you love it?" just reminded me that my family shopped at Not-Old Navy. Oh, how things have changed.
Now that I'm on a tiny-ass budget myself, I can see the beauty of Ross and its kin: Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom's Rack. Stuff there is cheap, but it you can still find amazing things. I am damn picky, but put me in a Ross and after a little digging I'll still come out with at least an armful of goodies. And since I had so much "training" growing up, I can tell you nearly every Ross location in the state of California, and give you a review on which ones you should check out.
When it comes to home goods, these days I'm feeling the Ross located at Hollywood Blvd. and Western Ave. here in Los Angeles. (Except for the lines there. Holy crap, I've never seen the line shorter than 25 people, I am not joking.) I like the Rosses (is that the correct pluralization?) that have the mini-furniture section. Ottomans, end tables, wine racks, Parson chairs, patio tables... Sure, you could go to IKEA for small pieces like this, but why? IKEA is where you go for large staples you couldn't otherwise afford, like a bookcase (what up, EXPEDIT?). But accent pieces need to provide a little flair, and you don't want them to be bland and immediately identifiable. Ross sources its wares from other stores all over, so you get a wider variety of looks that are harder to peg. There's really no difference between a cocktail table from Ross and one from Macy's. Except the price, obvs.
More Rosses have home sections with smaller items, like pillows or candles. I like the Ross across from the Grove on Third St. for stuff like this. (Unfortunately, the Ross in Glendale doesn't even HAVE a home section, can you believe it?) Just take a look at this wall o' pillows here. If there's an earthquake, I know which department I want to be standing in. Cushy! Shopping at Ross is a lot like flea market or thrift store shopping in that you have to a) know what you want, b) hunt a little bit, and c) be confident in your taste levels. You've gotta get past the tacky Hummel-wannabe figurines in order to get to the good stuff. But in addition to the possibility of finding great decor, Ross is a good source for high-quality necessities. Le Creuset in the kitchen section? Yes, please!
My last Ross expedition yielded this tissue box cover. Lookit how cute! I am so in love with blue-and-white (and Apartment Therapy agrees with me), and I love this chrysanthemum pattern. And, of course, the best part -- it was six bucks. Do you love it? I love it! I got it at Ross!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tables, Saws, and Tablesaws

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for their kind words about my apartment in the last post! Your compliments have lifted my spirits, and your suggestions have given me a lot of good ideas to think over. To hell with the Smallest, Coolest contest! I've got you guys, and it's sooo much better. Now, have you ever seen an idea so simple, so obvious that at first you slap your forehead in surprise, then get mad that YOU didn't think of it first? Behold the aTable:
It's so simple: a table with hollow legs that are meant for you to run your cords and wires through them to the worktop. The aTable was designed by Beatus Kopp, a graduate of the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design. Total genius. Now, though the table saves visual space by hiding away all that cord-clutter, the actual product is a lil' on the big side for a TAA. And with its simplicity, it makes you think that perhaps you could turn this into a DIY project... ... And you can, in the World's Smallest Woodworking Shop! Ta-daa! Instructables user Steliart lives in an apartment in Cyprus and has limited space for his passion: woodworking. So, he turned the 5' by 5' storage space near his parking spot into a workshop!
Most of his specs are a little over my head, but if you're into This Old House and its ilk, you'll appreciate how he took such a small space and fit a myriad of tools into it. Hm. I wonder if it's possible to build a whole house out of that tiny workshop in Steliart's tiny-ass apartment... Both links via Unclutterer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Real-Life Tiny-Ass Apartment: Mi casa!

In case you're unfamiliar with it, let me introduce to you a favorite term of mine: "butthurt." Butthurt is when your feelings are hurt, especially when you feel disappointed by or taken advantage of by someone you knew, liked, or trusted. It's like when you expect a warm hug from a friend and instead get the "Deliverance" treatment. My friends, I am butthurt. It's Apartment Therapy's fault. Maybe it's not their fault. Maybe it's my fault. Maybe it's no one's fault. But my apartment wasn't even selected for voting for their Smallest Coolest contest this year and I AM BUTTHURT! I love Apartment Therapy so much, I love their contest so much, and I worked so hard and my friends and family worked so hard to help me, and I didn't even make the first round. I'm sad and disappointed, and I feel that I let the people who help me down. I feel like I let you, my readers, down. But Apartment Therapy doesn't offer explanations why a certain entry makes it and another doesn't, so there's no use in obsessing over it. Time to just get over it -- and at least now I can share my place with you here on TAA! After my mom and I finished the fabric wall in my living room and a few other finishing touches, my good friends Reed and Liz Fish came over to photograph my place. Liz is an amazing photographer, and I was psyched to have a pro come and shoot my home. I felt so special! And the pictures, well -- I'll let these beauties speak for themselves. Liz and Reed -- thank you guys again SO MUCH!
Let's begin the tour of my Real-Life Tiny-Ass Apartment in the living room, shall we? First up is the omnipresent IKEA EXPEDIT bookcase. What can I say? Some pieces are so useful, good-looking, and affordable that they're everywhere you look for a reason. The top row of shelves is reserved for photos and mementos, with all books, DVDs, and magazines below. Up top is a collection of branches and skeleton keys, hung both on the branches and inside glass dome displays. The vintage suitcase came from when I worked on the Universal Studios lot -- a film had just wrapped, so they took all their props to the parking lot and just gave them away! *Le sigh* It was one of the best days of my life.
This is my rock-out corner. I love me some Nine Inch Nails (obviously). I have two lithographs, one from the first NIN show I went to (not pictured) and one from the last one I attended -- also ostensibly one of the last shows NIN will ever play. (We'll see about that, Trent.) My mom, who continues to be awesome, framed my posters with my tickets and wristbands for the shows. I stole the large logo poster right off the side of a building in San Francisco. I learned to play the bass in college, and even though I haven't had the time lately, I can't bear the thought of parting with my sweet blood-red bass guitar and amp. Gotta keep my rock n' roll fantasies alive.
My dining table is a drop-leaf library table that was made by my great-grandfather on my mother's side. It's got great ball-and-claw feet and a hidden drawer that's totally badass. I have four mismatched dining chairs scattered around my house; since I'm not having four-person dinners every night, two remain by the table and the other two are off serving other purposes. I thought it would be cool to have them intentionally mismatched, and that way I could indulge my loves of different styles. The chair on the left is a Danish design in rosewood with a black leather seat that I got on Craigslist; the one on the right is a Thonet-inspired bentwood that I got at the Pasadena City College flea market. That's also where I snagged my two brass candlesticks.
This lil' vignette sits atop the foyer mirror-cum-bar that was given to me by my uncle when he retired and moved to his place in Palm Springs. It's a full-length mirror with wooden frame that has coat hooks on the side, a single drawer, and a small shelf at the bottom.
Another angle on my living room, this time with the TV/sofa area. The artwork on my "gallery wall" is all from my mother (with the exception of the piece in the light wooden frame, which was done by a friend of my mother's). The coffee table and sofa table set once belonged to my parents, and the blue chair belonged to my grandmother. The red pashmina is oh-so-casually draped over the side to hide where the kitties like to sharpen their claws. Bad kitties!
Being a wannabe writer with a thing for the vintage and antique, I'd wanted a typewriter for a long time. My mom's friend was cleaning out her storage unit one Christmas, and my mom snagged this Underwood for me. The thing is heavy as hell, and I love it! I use it to display a few loose photographs: one I took of the Golden Gate Bridge, one my brother took of our dog, Buster, and one I bought at a flea market here in LA. The flea market at Fairfax High School has tables of old photographs for sale. I feel weird pawing through other people's memories, but I couldn't bear the thought of them being destroyed. If I like the images, I buy them and pretend they're pictures of my family, so that they have a home again.
The rug was an eBay find; I call it my Space Invaders rug because the pattern in the center looks like those little aliens descending from the top of the screen, ready to attack. The couch is IKEA with a Bemz slipcover that I won in a contest.
My cloffice! Even though it's teeny-tiny (I can't open the file cabinet drawers all the way -- the desk gets in the way!), I really like having all of my work stuff out of my bedroom. I used to have a huge desk and mismatched filing cabinet taking up a whole corner of my bedroom. It made the space feel cramped, and I hated having a workspace in a room that supposed to be a relax-space. I sold them on Craigslist and used the funds to get the new file cabinet, chair, and console table that acts as my desk. I still use the cloffice as a closet too. I put up curtains to hide the shelves full of linens at the back. Aside from putting the fabric up on the wall, running electricity into the closet was the most difficult part. But with a long extension cord and a lot of cable tacks, I was able to bring in enough for my computer, peripherals, and light. Now my only challenge is to get used to the fabric softener smell!
I am sitting in my bed at this very moment, as I type this. I love hanging out in my bedroom; I've made an effort to keep it comfy and relaxed. No computer desk, no TV. Just lots of blues and wood tones and my "Keep Calm" poster. I know that a lot of people think the "Keep Calms" are played out now, and maybe they are, but I love mine. I bought it when I was going through a rough patch, and it served as a pretty reminder to just keep moving forward.
I'm trying to go for a Moroccan theme in my bathroom. It's not easy to achieve a full look when you're a renter and can't swap out the fixtures, but I'm doin' what I can. The wooden wall cabinet is from Target; the lantern is from Cost Plus.
Finally, we reach Cupcake Headquarters! I love baking; my specialties are my lemon cupcakes, my lemon bars, my chocolate chip cookies, and my snickerdoodles. My kitchen is always a mess because of it, so if you use your imagination and fill the sink with dirty dishes you'll get a more accurate idea of what my kitchen looks like on a day-to-day basis!
I looove my Kitchen-Aid. Love love love. Looooove. My parents got it for me for my birthday last year, and it makes baking so much easier I can hardly imagine going back to a handheld mixer. I named my Kitchen-Aid Bela, after Bela Lugosi. I was unpacking it while listening to my iPod, and Bauhaus's "Bela Lugosi's Dead" came on. I pulled out the packing slip from the box just as the opening lyrics were sung ("White on white / translucent black capes / back on the rack"), and how did the slip describe my Kitchen-Aid's model? White-on-white. Thanks, Peter Murphy!
A little tea-themed vignette on the top of my fridge. Let's have a moment of silence for the poor plant in the picture; I managed to kill it just two days ago. No, I don't know what I did. I have a black thumb, I tell ya! Even though my place didn't make it into the Apartment Therapy Smallest, Coolest contest, I'm not going to let that throw any doubt onto what I've done with my home. Everything I have speaks to a part of who I am. My home -- like anyone else's -- is constantly growing and changing, just as I am. So while there may never be a "finished version" of my place, I'm still really happy to have these pictures to capture this moment in time. Thanks again to my mom, my friend Vanessa, Liz and Reed Fish, and all my friends who've helped me make my tiny-ass apartment my home!
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