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Space Saver Staircases

My sister, who lives in Chicago in a late 19th century architectural gem has a loft that needs a new staircase, so I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ladders, and spiral staircases and other moderately affordable, space saving solutions to her problem.

A spiral stair case would be a dramatic and attractive solution. I, mean, look at this:

Sprial staircase

It’s attractive in a modern way, it doesn’t take up much of the precious floor space, and it looks like great fun. The problem, however, is that spiral staircases are really only for the young and healthy. If you’re a stout person, or elderly, or someone with a bum knee, then a spiral staircase is not the ideal mode of transportation between floors. The treads are too narrow and the turns are too tight for many of us to negotiate in comfort.

The better solution, for her however, is a space-saving staircase (especially if grandma comes to visit). The treads are not quite as narrow, and for a loft like my sister has with a shorter distance to top than a full second floor, there’s no need to put in turns to save space.

The traffic to her loft is comparatively light, they use it mostly for storage, so I would say a relatively inexpensive modular staircase might get the job done.

Sweet Ideas for the Parent: Curtain Room Dividers in Studio Apartments

How much space is necessary to raise a child? I would never claim to be an expert, even with a child of my own. Some days, I feel like we could happily roam the country in an RV. Other days, my little Cape Cod house feels almost too small to contain the twister that is a tantruming toddler. If you’ve ever wondered how someone could possible cope with raising a child in a small home, it may surprise you to learn that I’ve known a few people who’ve shared studio apartments with partners and toddlers. And successfully, too. Could I do it? Sure, Do I want to? Nope! With a baby, maybe, but not with a toddler. Sometimes – very occasionally, promise – it’s that cheap hollow door between her and me that keeps La Paloma on this earth.

IF I was going to move into a studio loft apartment with my family, I think I would at least need something, anything to differentiate my space from kid space. Maybe that space would be a corner for a grownup bedroom or a built in reading nook or even a biggish closet with the doors taken off that’s just big enough to hold a desk. But whatever it was, there would be curtain room dividers. Nice heavy, drapey ones that you couldn’t see through. DIY drop cloth curtains, perhaps. If you think hospital curtains when you think curtain room dividers, don’t! Curtain room dividers for the studio apartment family, even the single gal or guy, can look pretty darn good!

Super small spaces can benefit from a couple of curtains

Even if all that's blocked off is the bed...

You could SO DIY this one

What else is great about curtain room dividers in small spaces? In addition to looking good, they provide you with another degree of flexibility when it comes to how you utilize the available space. And they’re a lot less expensive than bookshelves and standing room dividers. Installation can be super easy, too, and there’s the fact that there are a bunch of different ways to hang a curtain in a rented space that won’t make it so you lose your deposit.

While a curtain room divider may not be as good as a wall when it comes to putting yourself in time out so you don’t FedEx your kids to Dubai, they’re still better than nothing!

How Attached Are You to the Homes of Your Past?

Is it unusual not to feel any particular attachment to, say, the house you grew up in? Maybe it’s because we moved so frequently and the houses we were in seldom belonged to the family, but I can’t say I feel any particular attachment to the houses, apartments, and neighborhoods of my past. I can look back fondly on some of the places I’ve lived as an adult, but it’s not like I ever stayed long enough to put down roots. Now that I own a house – or slightly over 20% of a house, I guess – my plan is to stay put barring any amazing job offers across the country or natural disasters. Which means my children will spend their entire childhoods in this one wee house, in this one suburban coastal neighborhood.

Will my daughter and my future children feel a strong attachment to our house and our town, our beach and our neighbors, looking back fondly once they’ve moved away?

Out with the old?

I don’t even know if their memories will be accurate. As with all things, I can imagine that there’s a tendency to view the past through rose colored glasses, so a house that was falling apart becomes charming and an apartment that was cold and drafty becomes full of character and quirks. I can already feel myself doing just that with the apartment in Brooklyn that was in a hub of gang activity and surrounded by who knows what else. The finish on the floor was flaking off and would give me splinters. There were critters. But the view from my windows and the fire escape was amazing and there was a shop nearby that made the most amazing fresh doughnuts and another shop that sold fried chicken sandwiches on sweet buns for a buck. It was hell and it was heavenly, both, and I’d never want to go back to it.

Tell me about some of the homes of your past… do any of them still tug at your heartstrings and make you feel wistful?

Loft Love!

Those who love sweetness and light could do worse than to take inspiration from this very lovely Williamsburg Brooklyn loft. There’s not much not to like about it! It’s simple and pretty, but in a grownup way, and I think my favorite thing about it is that it doesn’t look like the lair of Hipsterus Americanus. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that look – it’s just not my thing.)

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Wish I Still Had One of These…

…or, you know, the space for one of these. I’m not sure how it happened, but when I moved from an apartment into an actually house, I lost bathroom space. The old apartment didn’t have much going for it, but it sure did have a sizable bathroom, and a sweet free-standing clawfoot tub to soak in.

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4 Ways to Make Small Feel Big

Built-Ins, Built-Ins, Built-Ins
Obviously you can bring a ton of furniture into a small house or apartment, but you can maximize the space you have with built-ins like cabinets and cupboards and window benches and bookcases. These don’t have to be as deep as standalone furniture so you’re not encroaching too much on the airspace of the room, and you end up with a place for everything and everything in its place. Have I mentioned that clutter is a major no-no for those of us who live in small houses and apartments?

Divide With Doors
In my house, the kitchen and the living room are open to each other in two ways: a big interior window sort of thing in the wall and the wide doorless doorway between the two rooms. The idea is that a small kitchen and a small living room will feel larger if they’re attached, but instead it ends up feeling like one cramped room because there’s no usage division. Installing a set of French doors in the doorway between the two rooms helps the mind see two separate spaces that are useful and sizable.

Let In the Light
While not a solution for the renter, the homeowner can install more or larger windows that let in light, air, and a view of the wider world that will make a small space feel more ample. Bumped out windows can do a lot to enlarge an awkward space, as can very tall windows.

Make Rooms Do Double Duty
The reality is that if you don’t have a lot of space, you don’t have the luxury of having a room just for X and another just for Y. That means that whenever possible, a room should have more than one purpose. You can put a pretty writing desk in your living room, for example. Your home office can double as your crafting room. A landing can play host to a chest of linens. Bookcases in the dining room. And so on.

What are your favorite tips for making a small house or apartment feel bigger?

Winterizing An Apartment

Ah, home winterization tips. They work great for people like me – I have the freedom to damage my home because I own some percentage of it. But what about renters in chilly flats in cities and suburbs? As someone who once upon a time lived in an apartment with wall cracks so large that frigid air blew in along with huge old windows (fun in summer, hellish in winter), I sympathize. What good are home winterization tips like “Install energy efficient windows” and “Add extra insulation to your attic”? Because, yeah, your landlord is just going to looooove that.

With that in mind, here are some tips for winterizing an apartment so you can stay warm without losing your security deposit:

1. Caulk (with rope caulk) around all of the windows and seal them with plastic… BUT if you have painted sills, don’t use the tape that sometimes comes in the kits because at winter’s end it will peel you paint off. Use masking tape instead. You’ll probably have to re-tape at least once during the season.

2. Install fire-retardant foam insulation pads inside of outlet covers and switch plates. Sure, the word “install” can be scary for renters, but your landlord will never know it’s there and especially in old apartments with a lot of outside walls, it can make a world of difference. Weather stripping on drafty doors and windows is another installable option that won’t make your landlord’s eyes bulge out.

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Feminine, Not Frou-Frou

It’s been too long since I’ve gotten my girl on, and with Sunday having been Valentine’s Day, it seems like the perfect time to channel some femininity! I’m not talking about ruffles and bows, though, since we can be girly without being wicked lame about it. This isn’t the 80s, after all! I don’t need a floral print couch to feel like a lady (and I can only hope that The Beard appreciates that). I’m working on making my own tiny house a little more girly without going overboard or offending guyish sensibilities, but it’s slow going. To inspire myself, and hopefully you as well, here are six very different feminine interiors.

feminine bedroom II, feminine decor

How can I acknowledge Valentine’s Day and not have at least one room with the appropriate red and white love theme? Especially considering my not-too-recent post about love pillows! I’d say this bedroom is feminine but that a guy wouldn’t balk at the idea of sleeping in it.

feminine kitchen, feminine decor

“Too cute” is how I’d describe this kitchen, and not in a bad way. I happen to love that color of green, particularly when it’s combined with that color of pink. And the shabby chic table? Somebody pinch me! I will say that I’m not sure I’m a fan of that half canister thing hanging on the wall, but nothing’s perfect.

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