Monday, March 28, 2011

Sweet hidden alcoves

(Image from Potatomato)
While living in LA, whenever I had an out-of-town guest who wanted to go star watching, I'd take them to Alcove in Los Feliz. One of my two favorite restaurants in town (the other, There's No Place Like Home, was mere blocks away), Alcove had damn delicious pastries and a high likelihood of someone famous strolling by. Just offhand I can recall John Cho, Jason Bateman, Sonya Walger (during Lost's peak, too!), Yvette Nicole Brown... Sure, they're not Brad Pitt-status, but I never minded. I preferred to have the smaller thrill of seeing someone who I liked, on some of my favorite shows. Those sweet little moments while eating some sweet chocolate lava cake at Alcove with friends give me the same warm fuzzies that these alcove beds do. They're comfy, cozy, and cute -- I'd love to lounge around and drink a chai latte in them any day.

(From Chele McKee, via Desire to Inspire)
These curtained alcove beds are perfect for small apartments, especially studios. They offer privacy and a way to block out the light if your bed would normally be open to the rest of your living space. If you're not lucky enough to have a lil' nook built into the architecture of your place, you can always create one by curtaining off all sides, instead of just the one.

(From Apartment Therapy: SF)

(From Apartment Therapy: NY)

(From Apartment Therapy: SF)
The thing that separates these beds from your average curtained bed is the fact that they're more fully enclosed, as opposed to standing in the middle of a room. Typically, they have three sides closed in by a wall, with the open side covered with a curtain. All of them have a wonderful cozy-cave feeling that make them perfect for curling up with a yummy pastry and reading a book -- or watching an old episode of Lost or Community on DVD...

Friday, March 25, 2011

A crow's nest cubbyhole

Though we may be six months out from Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), I couldn't help but feel a shiver in me timbers when I saw this East Village studio on Home-Designing. The entire place is sleek and efficient, requiring almost no furniture save for a couch and a desk chair. Everything else in this 6th floor home office studio is built in, from the cabinets to the very cool crow's nest sleeping loft. (Yarrr!)
The crow's nest sits above a walk-in closet and looks out onto the living/office area below; perfect for for scanning for sea monsters or just making sure your cat isn't getting into your houseplants. Although the idea of that added storage space is incredibly appealing, Home-Design aptly says that "we’re not too sure how realistic that cubbyhole at the crown of the loft is in a NYC apartment building, [though] the rest of the space makes perfect sense." They're right -- better hope you're on the top floor or that you have very understanding upstairs neighbors.
The studio was designed by Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, and features "beautiful teak wood that houses hidden storage compartments" like the staircase drawers above. Simple and efficient, you'd have to scan the horizon for a long time before spotting another treasure like this apartment. Via Home-Designing and Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Culinary corners

In a tiny-ass apartment, every room tends to be, well, tiny. But each has their own unique challenges when they're on the small side. Kitchens are probably one of the most problematic; they require both massive amounts of storage as well as workspace. Most other rooms, you can store stuff interchangeably without it looking too weird. If you store a few out-of-season coats in your hall linen closet, your friends won't think you're losing it as much as if you were to store your blender in the cabinet under the bathroom sink. (Also, food prep stuff in the bathroom? Ew.) So, it's essential to find the space you need within the confines of the kitchen itself. And, if you're a baker like me, you still need plenty of countertop space on which to build your culinary creations. So, what can you do to maximize both? Lily Gahagan put together an "ideabook" of "17 Space-Saving Solutions for a Small Kitchen" on SF Gate, via Houzz. (Houzz is a cool scrapbooking site for interior design; I can't believe I'm only just now hearing about it!) She's got some great tips and has found even better pictures to demonstrate her points.
My favorite tip is making use of a rolling cart. Storage space underneath, workspace on the top, and the ability to move it to where you need it and out of the way again when you don't. It could also double as a bar cart in the dining/living room when you're entertaining.
Bringing things up off of your countertop and onto the walls is another storage solution that also frees up workspace. I love how this pic demonstrates a magnetic knife rack, a hanging utensil rack, plus open-air shelving, all while looking clean and user-friendly. Everything you need to put together a quick breakfast on that drool-worthy stove is at your fingertips.
Lily also mentions pot racks in her ideabook. I love them not just because of the extra storage they offer, but there's something so very Julia Child about pretty, shiny cookware hanging from an iron rack. Above is a cute and really affordable rack from Walmart. Yes, I know they're an evil empire, but I can't ignore my own tiny-ass budget...
Walmart's hipper cousin, Target, has a likewise affordable magnetic knife rack. Not only do these magnetic metal strips store your sharpies on the wall, they won't dull your blades the way traditional wooden blocks tend to. (Plus it keeps them within easy reach in case of zombie invasion. Think it's strong enough to hold a machete?)
Lily dedicates several slides to making use of corners in your kitchen. Unfortunately, a lot of these tips require some heavy-duty renovations, which I know most of us can't afford or aren't allowed to do (especially if we're renting). Still, I'm a big believer in exploiting every square inch of unused space, and putting baby in a corner -- er, putting your appliances in a corner -- is a good tip if you can pull it off.
Check out the rest of Lily's tips over at SF Gate, and check out Houzz for even more ideabooks. I know what I'm going to be doing with the rest of my afternoon... Hat tip to Megan at Stellar Four for the link!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fold Side A over Side B...

(Image via Book of Joe.)

My grandfather -- we called him Pop -- could fold up a dollar bill into a ring. It was a pretty cool trick as a kid. He'd even do it out of those rare $2 bills, which made them extra cool, and we heard stories about him making them for people he met on his international travels. Making friends and improving the perception of Americans and the strength of the dollar, all for a buck! Unfortunately, I never quite got the hang of making them. Origami did not seem to be my strong suit.

Still, I'm impressed with those who can pull off all those intricate folds. The same is true with small space-friendly folding furniture, like the work of Christy Oates.

Christy is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Furniture Design at San Diego State University, and she cites origami as one of her inspirations. It's evident in her work; what appear to be flat wooden wall hangings fold out into functional pieces of furniture. It's amazing how these three-dimensional pieces pop right out of the flat wooden surface, and with such ease! After watching the video below, I'm confident I can fold the furniture correctly -- that's more than I can say about a paper crane...

Christy uses eco-friendly materials to create her pieces. The thing I like about them most is that, when folded flat, her work stands on its own as artwork. There's a lot of folding furniture out there, but few that take into consideration their aesthetic appeal when in their folded state. The peacock pattern above calls to mind traditional printed origami paper, and the New York skyline cut into the wood of another piece, seen in the video below, is gorgeous.

And though this isn't necessarily small-space relevant, I had to share her film reel wine rack. As a film major and lovah of fine wines, I just have to have one of these in my place!

Via Furnitude and Christy Oates Design. Hat tip to Twitter follower @Em_Bot for the heads up!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The hostess with the leastest (space, that is)

One of the biggest drawbacks of having a tiny-ass apartment is trying to entertain at home. Unless your friends are Lilliputians, things are going to get tight. But if your friends are cool with sharing their personal space with others, and if you put them in a good mood with the right food and booze, it can be done! I had a few Lost viewing parties in my old studio, and a gingerbread house decorating party in my one-bedroom in LA (which you can see above), and even though we all had to squeeze around each other, it was a ton of fun.

At least my place wasn't this small...
 (Photos by Simone Turkington)

Erin Feher, Associate Editor of California Home+Design, and Danny Montoya definitely know how to entertain in style, as they demonstrated in a recent Apartment Therapy House Tour. Their home, near San Francisco's Civic Center, is only 500 square feet, but Erin says that they're entertained up to 20 people before. I can believe it -- but what I can't believe is that they were able to get them to leave afterward! Erin and Danny's apartment is so cute I'd have tried to move in with them.

Erin credits their entertaining capabilities to their apartment's open floor plan and easily rearrangeable furniture. Plus, what they don't spend on stuff to fill a larger space can go toward fancy kitchen equipment. "What we don’t spend at pricey furniture stores we blow at Rainbow Grocery, the farmers market, and the cookware section of Bloomingdales. I never deny myself pine nuts," Erin says.

Most of their furniture comes from places like Craigslist or the Salvation Army. Other pieces, like their loft bed or rehabbed storage lockers, they made or restored themselves.

Entertaining in a small space doesn't have to be stressful. A careful assessment of the kind of gathering you're trying to have and some preparation can help you keep your sanity. Abby Stone and Laure Joliet at Apartment Therapy: Los Angeles have a few tips:

What type of party is it? A dinner party may only mean rounding up a few chairs from other rooms or extending a table while charades requires figuring out some place that will represent the stage. Move the furniture around: a dining room table can be pushed up against a wall; couches can be pulled away from the coffee table; dining chairs can couple up with small tables to create a space for conversation. You may find, when the party's over, that you've discovered a new furniture arrangement for your home.

Alternative Seating like stools, poufs and pillows on the floor will open up space for people. You can also just make them stand!

Party Proof The House. Especially in a small space where people will be bumping into furniture, etc. move the breakables, or at least anchor them with some earthquake putty.

A Place for Coats and Bags. My living room is so small that if two people came in with coats and bags, then I would have to turn people away, I'd be full. So without a coat closet, that means it all goes on the bed. This frees up tons of space and means I can invite more people!

Read even more great tips from Laure here.

With all that in mind, your next small-space soirée should be easy. Just don't forget to invite me -- I'm a really good guest; I always bring a bottle of wine. And sometimes, I even bring a bottle to share, too!

Via Apartment Therapy: San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On the road again...

I'm iffy on the idea of road trips sometimes. Most of my long driving journeys are between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, on that long, flat, boring stretch of highway known as the 5. (The 5 is also the place where I've gotten the only two speeding tickets in my life, so perhaps I'm a little bitter.) And long periods of time trapped in a car with another person can tear a friendship asunder. Does anyone remember when Oprah and Gayle drove cross-country? Oprah and Gayle started to hate each other a few days in. Oprah and Gayle.

But with spring right around the corner, hitting the open road starts to sound fun and romantic -- especially after looking at pictures of this amazing Airstream trailer.

Living in an Airstream trailer is the ultimate experiment in small-space living. Not only do you have limited space, but everything must be road friendly. You can't have a lot of clutter -- or you can, but you certainly won't have it anymore after a sharp curve in the road sends it flying out a window.

Architect Matthew Hoffman renovated this 158-square foot trailer, and lives in it with his girlfriend in sunny Santa Barbara. The interior of the trailer is as streamlined as the shiny metal exterior, and manages to be luxurious and practical at the same time. I'd love to flop into that bed after a day of driving to the Grand Canyon!

Matthew points out that living in such a small space has its advantages. He shared a few points with Small House Style:

Quicker to clean — Got a call that the girlfriend’s parents want to stop by? No worries. Even if it is a disaster area, the place can be buffed out in 30 minutes — tops.

Improved relationships — Say what? That’s right, studies show that couples who live in a small space have healthier relationships. “My girlfriend and I don’t hide in our caves when something comes up,” [he] says.

LMIAs (Less missing in action) — One phrase you may never hear again is: “Honey, where’s my _____________?” Because stuff simply has fewer places to hide.

In addition to some small-space-living philosophies, Matthew had a really good point about problem-solving in design in general. From Apartment Therapy:

Not having the answer to a problem in the immediate moment isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I am teaching myself to let a problem task go unanswered at the end of the day and still be able to sleep at night. Though not always in clear sight, an answer can almost always be reached, or perhaps we’re not asking the right questions.
Often times, struggling through a task can lead to creative options that aren’t always visible. Looking externally for answers (through what you don’t know yourself) can lead to more successful solutions – listening is key. The opinion of our friends, family, and coworkers is a valuable asset. There’s tremendous value is in translating and understanding the advice and opinion of others.

Check out the full before and after on Apartment Therapy, and be sure to check out Matthew's firm's website at too. His incredible talent has made the prospect of hitting the highway much more appealing -- although if I had a lot in gorgeous Santa Barbara, I think I'd just park my Airstream there, too.

Via Apartment Therapy and Small House Style.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Following up: Starched fabric walls and loft pics

Prepping the starch (Image from How About Orange)
Starched fabric walls are a hot-talk topic these days! More and more people are trying it -- or thinking of trying it. I got a question from TAA reader Saz...
will it work if your walls are already wallpapered?! I'm guessing not. My new rental house has plain neutral coloured wallpaper in some places which has then been painted on in yet more neutral colour, I was looking for a way to add a splash of colour/pattern to the odd wall or chimney breast.
Hmm. While I don't know for sure because I haven't tried it (nor know anyone who has), my inclination is to say no. You see, to get the fabric properly starched, you have to soak it in the water and starch mixture before slapping it up on your wall. Your walls will be wet to the touch for at least a day. And moisture + traditional wallpaper = bad. I'm envisioning scenarios where the wetness and the weight of the fabric pulls down the original paper, or maybe the fabric goes up on your walls without a hitch, but when it comes time to remove it, it'll yank the paper down too. Either way, the paper underneath will be ruined. So if you're trying to preserve what your landlord already put up, I'd avoid the starched fabric wallcovering. However, if your place has wallpaper that's since been painted on, I wonder if your landlord cares about the condition of the paper? Maybe they'll be cool with you pulling it down (and then putting fabric up). I would definitely ask... or be prepared to lose my deposit.
I also just wanted to share this pic; I tried and tried to find it in my saved pictures folder on my laptop for the lofts post yesterday, and thought it had been lost. I saved it long ago -- I think it was from Curbed LA, but I'm not sure -- I know it was from a real estate listing for a loft in LA -- and I was so taken by the brick wall and spiral staircase that I saved the picture. Mostly because I knew I couldn't afford such a cool apartment. But if it's true that you capture someone or something's soul in a picture, then in some small way, this is my apartment now.

I want to go to there.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Loft love

Lofts seem like the visual shorthand for someone who's young, hip, and urban. It's true in TV and movies -- while I was in LA I worked on the movie "Cloverfield" (in a very low-level capacity, admittedly), and to convey that that the main character, Rob, was a young, cool guy in New York, he was shown as living in a bitchin' loft. Sure, it almost certainly got destroyed by the monster, but while it was still standing it was pretty awesome. I got to visit the set once during the shooting of the trailer, and I was more impressed with how amazing the apartment was than the fact that I was on the set of a J.J. Abrams movie. Exposed brick always trumps celebrities!

Lizzy Caplan takes direction from Matt Reeves... Oooh, a built-in bar!
I'm finding this loft-trope borne out in real life, too. Someone I met recently lives in an industrial laundry turned loft, complete with exposed brick, cement floors, and I-beams crossing the high ceiling. Was I jelly? You bet. And let us not forget Megan's downtown LA loft -- she may have moved to Mexico (miss you!) -- but her loft will live on in these amazing pictures. (BTW, Meggy, when do I get pics of your current digs?)

Broadway loft, you will be missed
Of course, just because an apartment is a loft doesn't necessarily mean that it's a tiny-ass apartment. But the open floorplan of a loft presents the same problems one might have living in a studio, and therefore lofts are still a great sources of design inspiration. Dividing up an open space into distinct living zones is always a challenge.
Using furniture, especially large bookcases, is a quick and easy way to delineate different spaces, as seen above in an example from Freshome.
The cover of The Book of Lofts, available on Remodelista, uses floor-to-ceiling curtains to create interior rooms; the light fabric keeps the space open and breezy. Grouping furniture around a central point also helps to break up the space without throwing up large dividers that might block the free light- and air-flow that lofts are loved for. The pic below is a great example. Sure, it's kind of cheating because it's not a real loft, but a pic from the interior of an Anthropologie store. I think it counts, though, because lord knows I'd live in there if they'd let me. (Oh em gee, did you hear Anthro's opening their own home stores? I can't wait!)
And of course, the architecture of the loft itself can allow you to make a distinction between public and private areas, like the South-of-Market loft that's currently on the market below (from Curbed SF).

The lofted bedroom area of a New York loft, found on Home Design Find
Or maybe you can just ditch the idea of traditional furniture and make the best use of an open loft: indoor playground.
He may have been a kid in a man's body, but I think Tom Hanks in Big was onto something here...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Off-topic: Other blogs!

In case you TAA-dwellers had been wondering what's been keeping me so occupied, you may want to check out the links below. I'm proud to be a part of two other wonderful blogs -- they're not design or small-space related, but I thought I'd share them just the same!
Sophie World ( I was in college when I met Sophie, children's party planner extraordinaire. I worked at events on weekends for a few years, then after graduation I moved to Los Angeles. She and I stayed friends on Facebook, and when I moved back to the Bay Area it just so happened that she needed some help around the office. I came onboard, and now we're working on a new website project. We're putting together a comprehensive site with crafts, games, activities, party ideas -- just about anything you need to keep your kids entertained. Right now we have our Facebook page with a tons of pictures and a place to interact with Sophie and other parents, our YouTube channel with our how-to clips, and our blog with Sophie's party-planning stories. My favorite stories have to be her tales of cakes gone bad (think Cake Wrecks, but from a panicky party planner's perspective), and Sophie's "MacGuyver Moments." I'm telling you, what that woman can do with just some tape and a paper clip...
Stellar Four ( Stellar Four captures two of my favorite things: nerdiness and girliness. The lovely ladies at Stellar Four make no apologies for being the kind of gals who love a good Star Trek marathon as much as they love MAC's new makeup collection -- and it doesn't hurt that the collection is Wonder Woman-inspired, either. If you're a fan of both io9 and Jezebel, but wish they would make cute and geeky babies together, Stellar Four is the place for you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Well, duh.

This is one of those, "Oh duh, why didn't I think of that?" moments. I was going through Design Sponge's Sneak Peek of London-based illustrator Debbie Powell's home when this image caught my eye. It's a simple solution to a small space with an inconvenient nook -- just shove your furniture in front of it anyway! I know that if I had Debbie's bedroom, I would have tried just about every furniture configuration to get all my things to fit, but it would have never occurred to me to just let the bed hang over the nook, and fill the space behind it with a side table. It's so simple and obvious! The rest of Debbie's apartment is adorable too. Go to Design Sponge to check it out! Via Design Sponge.
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