Friday, July 29, 2011

Working from home: desk and sofa combinations

Better Homes and Gardens

Working as the web admin for Sophie's World isn't all glamour, all the time. There's lots of typing. And clicking. And scrolling. And more clicking. And more typing.

But I do have the advantage of being able to work from home once in a while. I can't tell you how much I love not having to commute (or even brush my hair), but I lack a dedicated home office. When you're in a tiny-ass apartment, the space you have has to be multi-function, and your living space often doubles as your work space.

Dividing your living room by putting your desk against the back of your sofa is an idea that I love. It visually separates the two areas in such a way that if you're sitting down at your desk, it still feels like work time. And, if you're lounging on your couch, you can lazily put a drink on your new de facto sofa table without even getting up.

Check out some of the fab examples I've found online (yay Pinterest!).

Caymanian Compass Observer



Kimberly Seldon via Domestic Bliss

Room and Board via Apartment Therapy

Also from Room and Board

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm sensing some tension...

Have you ever walked into your apartment and felt the need to apologize to it?  "Oh god, I'm so sorry.  Yes, I know.  I'll vacuum you soon.  Aw, jeez, I know it's bad.  I'll take care of those dishes as soon as I can.  I've just been so busy!  I'm sorry!"

Your home can't be your sanctuary if its messy state makes you feel guilty.  Here are two quick ways to cut the tension with... tension rods.

In the kitchen, you can use small tension rods to help organize a few perpetually-frustrating areas: that drawer of pots, pans, and their lids, and that oxymoronic messy cabinet full of cleaning supplies.

Found on Pinterest (by the way, I'm finally on Pinterest!  Come say hi!), this is a quick and clever way to bring your spray bottles up off the cabinet floor, clearing some room for more cleaning essentials.

And via Real Simple, you can use a rod to corral your lids, keeping them neatly upright against the drawer and allowing you to quickly see and grab the appropriate one.

All it takes is a quick trip to the Home Depot, and you and your apartment are on speaking terms again. It's also a lot cheaper than couple's therapy.


Via Pinterest and Real Simple.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grill 'em all!

I'll allow those of you in the Midwest, South, and parts of the East Coast, all of you under the "heat dome," to get out your tiny violins.  I'll wait.

Ready?  Okay.

It is sooo cold in San Francisco this summer!  Cold, gray, wind, fog, tiny droplets of moisture hanging in the air and sticking to my hair as I walk outside.  Last month was the rainiest June on record, so I'd heard.  Definitely not ideal barbecue weather.

But despite the fact that it's not a great time to fire up the grill in San Francisco, and that it's probably too hot to cook over an open flame in most other parts of the country, I was still so taken with this tiny grill (and herb garden) that I thought I'd share it here, ready to be used when the sun comes out (or goes away).



Featured on Remodelista and available for sale at A + R, this "Hot Pot Barbecue Grill" from Black + Blum is a terracotta pot with a secret identity.  The top portion contains a planter, but lift it up and underneath is a little grill.  The whole thing is perfect for a tiny balcony or terrace, or even just your front stoop.  Clever cooks will use the top portion to plant a mini-herb garden, so that all you need to flavor your food is right at your fingertips.

But with the Bay Area weather being so chilly, I might use this grill for yet another purpose -- to keep me toasty warm.  Happy summer, everyone!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Little Apple

Last year I saw Sex and the City 2.  It was only partially voluntary: I hadn't seen a good friend in a long time and she wanted to make a big event out of seeing the movie and getting cosmos afterward or whatever with a gaggle of girls.  So I went.

It was so bad another likewise cynical girlfriend and I couldn't stop giggling throughout the movie at its sheer ridiculousness.  Really, Carrie, you're going to wear a face-crown for the gay wedding?  Samantha, you're going to end up in jail or something the way you're carrying on in a well-known conservative country. And do not even get me started what they wore.  It looked like someone with dissociative identity disorder pulled the clothes from the costume rack of a colorblind theatre troupe.

But the most unbelievable thing were, of course, the characters' New York apartments.  The place Carrie shares with Mr. Big must have cost so much that I'm sure Sex and the City 3 features Mr. Big doing down for some Bernie Madoff-esque scheme he started just to afford it.

Now Felice Cohen is a real New Yorker -- and her 90-square foot apartment is much closer to your typical New York apartment than Carrie's digs.



Felice says she always wanted to live in Manhattan, and after finding her home through a friend, she's right at the heart of it all.  With all of New York and Central Park "as her backyard," Felice is content in her 12' x 7' microstudio.


Felice and her kitchen area behind her (note the bananas stored in the toaster oven!)


It's lucky that Felice, in addition to being an author and artist (who specializes in Shrinky-Dink art, heh), is a professional organizer.  And I must say her place looks great.  She makes good use of vertical space, building storage all around and over her desk.  (But oh, girl, please don't stand on a rolling chair to get to the top shelf!  You're gonna crack your head open on that lovely brick wall behind you.)  Next to her workspace is a cozy chair for reading, and on the opposite side of the room is a kitchen area with a mini-fridge.


There's only 23 inches of clearance above the bed -- sitting up in the middle of the night after a nightmare would lead to a whole new kind of pain...


Across from the kitchen is her closet, and above that, her lofted bed.  Felice said she had a panic attack the first night she slept there, convinced she was going to fall out.  Just next to the closet is her bathroom, which is full of awkward angles.  She says she sometimes sits sideways on the toilet, and in the video she demonstrates how she gets out of the bathtub (very, very carefully).

But despite the extra effort she had to expend in setting up her home, and the effort it takes to live in it, Felice is happy in her tiny apartment.  She had only intended to stay there for a year, but now she's going on three.  And with a rent of only $700 for a place on the Upper West Side, I can see how it'd be hard to give up.

Maybe she can spend the money she saves on rent on face-crowns.  I hear they're popular out there in New York City.



Via Gawker, The Daily Mail, Dornob, and Yahoo! Shine.  Images from's Flickr.  (Except the face-crown, obviously.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ship me off to France: shipping containers turned student housing in Le Havre

My love for the French got three little boosts today, just in time for Bastille Day.

First, I learned that the French call flip-flop shoes "les clap claps."  (Not that they would actually wear them, of course.)

Second, this free app from the Mac App store is a fun, easy way to brush up on your basic French vocab.  It also makes me feel like a genius, the way I can whiz right through the lessons.

And third, these shipping container dorm rooms in Le Havre, France.



Called the Cité A Docks, this complex with 100 units was created by Cattani Architects.  Each dorm is 24 square meters and includes a bathroom, a kitchen, free wifi, and the feeling like you just woke up at the beginning of Portal 2.

The building was raised from the ground so that even the first floor could have a bit of privacy, and the walls have been "coated with fire walls in reinforced concrete 40cm wide, and come within layers of rubber to dampen vibrations" in order to maximize heat and sound insulation, according to Contemporist. The exterior keeps the look of the separate containers, but unifies them by painting them all the same shade of metallic gray.

If I were a university student about to take up residence in these dorms, I'd be so excited I could barely contain myself.  (Ugh, just awful, I know.)  Still -- these little units are très cool, even if I'm not.


Via Reddit, Freshome, and Contemporist.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Your local delivery joint won't be happy: making the most of your itty bitty kitchen

laziness threshold: noun \ˈlā-zē-ness thresh-ˌhōld\

1: the point where a situation becomes so intolerable that one must finally overcome their own laziness to do something about it.

"I'm hungry, but my laziness threshold has not yet been met, so I'm not going to get off the couch to go to the kitchen."

That's a phrase that I came up with not long ago, mostly to describe my preference for whining about being hungry as opposed to my actually cooking. But I recently found a similar phrase that I think goes hand-in-hand with "laziness threshold." In the book, The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook, by Justin Spring, he describes the "shut-off point," where clutter and mess so overwhelm a workspace that it cannot be used for its primary function anymore. In the kitchen, "clutter stops most food preparation and the local takeout place gets a lot of business" -- that's how Tricia Postle eloquently sums it up in her review of the book on Kevin Kelly's site,

The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook is full of tips and tricks like these for making the best use out of your tiny kitchen. And Spring should know from tiny: he grew up on a boat, with a kitchen so small it was little more than a camp stove and ice chest. In addition to small-space-specific lessons, Spring also discusses basics like cleaning and maintenance, appliances and tools, and even includes recipes aimed to use as little of your resources as possible. Though the book is no longer in print, Postle points out that it can be found on Amazon.

To go along with Spring's practical advice, Better Homes and Gardens has a collection of 11 Clever Kitchen Storage Solutions. While all are gorgeous, most of them seem to be permanent renovations that many renters couldn't get away with nor afford. However, this one caught my eye...

One of the realities about living in a small space is accepting what you have and making the best of it. I've lived in older apartments with some wacky drawers: drawers that were useless because someone installed an appliance that blocked it, teeny drawers that would maybe fit a couple of toothpicks and chopsticks. What about those who have no "utensil-sized" drawers, and only big, deep drawers? The solution above of storing your silver vertically is total genius.

And now that I've overcome my my laziness threshold, and with my kitchen not quite yet at the shut-off point, time to figure out what to do for dinner. But, um, is there a phrase that means "can't cook anything beyond a frozen pizza?"

Friday, July 8, 2011

I feel happy of these walls!

Just to update you on something I brought up in a recent post: this past weekend I tried to re-learn how to ride a bike.  It did not go well.  The bike belonged to someone much, much taller than me, and teetering on the top of it, unable to reach the ground, scared the bejeezus out of me.  There may have been tears.  It certainly did not go as well as it did for this little dude:

But enough of my failures as a fully-functioning adult. Let's talk about not being able to afford wallpaper. (Oh, wait...)

Over at The Gloss, Jessica Ogilvie bemoans the fact that she's too poor to afford the adorable wallpaper she so desires. And who hasn't been there? Who hasn't browsed Graham & Brown with lust in their heart and nothing in their wallet? Still, Jessica's found a way to get at least a little taste of the delicious colors and patterns she wants at a fraction of the cost. Her solution: order samples, mount in picture frames, and hang on the wall. (It also helps get around the arduous task of actually putting up wallpaper, and gets around the no painting/papering problem many renters face.) Check out her full post for the details.

Now, if you're a little less industrious, and have slightly more cash, check out these amazing wallstickers from The Wallsticker Company. These ain't your average wallsticker -- these cover the entire wall. So, essentially, they're one-sheets of wallpaper that you can remove, adjust, take with you to a new space, and get around those pesky landlords holding onto your deposit. Babble's Family Style blog (yes, I read a lot of "mommy blogs" now for my day job at Sophie's World) featured some really cute ones. It's hard to believe that it's not paint or traditional wallpaper -- those stripes are amazing!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A little something for the kiddos

One of the advantages of children is that they're small people.  Really small.  Like, toddlers are, what, two feet tall?  They can fit into all kinds of spaces that most adults would say violate the Eighth Amendment.  You could practically put them in a large dog crate and they'd be fine, although I seriously don't recommend it if you have real, living children in your care.  (Aren't we all glad that I don't?)  I mean, Harry Potter lived in a cupboard under the stairs and he turned out just fine.  Besides, the little nooks below, courtesy of BabbleApartment Therapy, Southern Living, and Lykke Og Lykkeliten are sooo much cuter than a crate or cupboard.  Your own tiny people would love spaces like these, and you won't even have child protective services called on you!

Via BabbleApartment Therapy, Southern Living, and Lykke Og Lykkeliten.

Monday, July 4, 2011

19 tiny houses - A photo gallery from Design Crave

Shhh. Let's not ruin this moment with too much talking. Just feast your eyes on this lovely photo gallery from Design Crave, "19 Pictures of Remarkably Tiny Houses." Though these pictures sadly don't appear to have sources, sharp-eyed readers are sure to recognize a Tumbleweed House or two, as well as our beloved Little House of Toronto. Check it out, and let these mini-homes speak for themselves.
Via Design Crave.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Bike Shelf

After leaving Los Angeles, which roughly translates to "No One Walks, Everyone Drives," I've been thinking more and more about using a bike to get around. Sure, I haven't ridden one in maybe 15 years, but if riding a bike is the go-to example for things that you'll always remember once you've learned, maybe starting up again won't be so hard. However, in a tiny-ass apartment, a bike can take up a LOT of space. And when leaning it up against a wall or mounting an ugly metal rack are simply not enough, consider this beautiful solution. Chris Brigham is a designer and woodworker based right here in San Francisco. He says he created the "Bike Shelf" because "while visiting friends who live in small apartments here in San Francisco — and even more so in NYC — I noticed that there is a void when it comes to elegant bike management," he says. The Bike Shelf is available through Chris's studio, Knife and Saw, in walnut for $300 or in ash or maple for $275, with customization available for an additional fee. Not cheap, no, but it still keeps your bike safely put away while simultaneously turning it into a hanging work of art.
Via Remodelista and Knife and Saw.
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