Saturday, September 26, 2009


Hi Everyone! My lovely Design Grandmother has asked me to be a contributing writer to her fabulous design blog and I am most honored! I hope for this to be a fun experience for myself, sharing my thoughts and ideas on “Small Space Living,” and for this to be an open place for you readers to critique, learn and share your own thoughts. All that said, for the past week I’ve been rolling around in my head several places to start my entries, and what makes the most sense is to “start from the very beginning… “ as we all know, it’s a wonderful place to start! Let’s begin with experience, and then in future posts, we can discuss some ideas I have and how to decorate small spaces (often in renter friendly ways) and economical decorating ideas for all types of living.

Also, remember that in no way do I think that we live in a model of awesome apartment design! We will only be here for another few months probably, so we’ve done what we can to make it comfortable and as colorful as we can!

I’m a little long winded (my writing is proportional to how much I talk!), so here goes a long post…

In my adult life (only about 6-7 years now),I have lived in two dorm rooms and four apartments, each rented and temporary, and me living on a very (very) small budget where food and gas for my car was a top priority, thus not allowing for many design changes to make it a real HOME. For this entry I will focus on my current apartment, my very first home with my new husband, Adam (who is so ready to buy a house!).

Location, Location, Location! We chose this apartment community after only looking at one other place, and ultimately chose this one because through Adam’s job, he could get a discount on the application fees… and it has a spiral staircase! Adam moved in first and lived oh so sparsely as a bachelor, and since I’ve been here with him, we’ve gradually tried to do small things to make it a home… but more on that in later posts. This is our home:


We live technically in Arden, North Carolina, which is about two minutes from Asheville city limits and fifteen-ish minutes from downtown Asheville. There’s a great grocery store right across the street (which is nice to walk to for small visits) and right around the corner in both directions from a busy retail road, which leads straight downtown and a new upscale condo town center community, which is growing into a fabulous shopping venue. Homes right behind us in Biltmore Park Town Square are $300,000 to over a couple million dollars. We also live 5-ish minutes to Adam’s work and less than 5 minutes to both of my little jobs. Our unit also overlooks the main pool and right next to the main office at the front of the community. So, for this lovely location and for 931 square feet, we pay right around $850/month. We are mostly happy here, but every now and then we just get very frustrated and say… “We can’t wait to have our own home! How much longer until we can buy a house?” We both have our own gripes about our rented living, but there are benefits too (I see more benefits than Adam does, but that’s really just our difference in personality… I have more patience than him for sure!).

Visit http://biltmorepark.com/ for more info on our growing surrounding community.

So, as most of us tend to do, let’s start with our three main gripes of renting, our experience specific:

We have “crappy to fair” quality appliances.
We bought our own washer and dryer (I did laundry 3 times going up and down 3 flights of stairs and across the pool to the laundry facility caring my own weight in clothes… and that was enough of that!), but the provided appliances are a little… well, crappy! The oven is calibrated by moving the temperature knob off kilter, the bottom drawer handle falls off, the fridge’s crisper drawer falls out every time you open it, the dishwasher is ok, but not super, and the faucet drips. We are lucky to have a dishwasher and disposal so yay for that! And as a renter, there’s nothing you can do about it! Oh, and they’ve also started to renovate the kitchens and bathrooms, BUT not ours since we are already here. I’m sure this unit will get the update as soon as we move out.

The walls, ceiling, trim and doors are all WHITE WHITE WHITE.
You would think that maybe they could have painted the walls “eggshell” or “clean linen” or something, but no, everything is the same same same bright white paint! No depth or coziness, just harsh and sterile walls. I painted one wall upstairs in the loft space (my studio space!) but any wall we paint must be painted back, by us, before we move out. We both love color and we can’t wait to be able to paint whatever and where ever we want! I do have some thoughts on getting around this lack of color issue, but we’ll save that for a later post.

We live on the third floor and neighbors are close, sharing walls. and floors/ceilings.
We are glad to be on the third floor (the top), thus not having anyone above us, BUT we can hear any loud TV noise (like the base during an action movie) or music from the apartment below, and likewise they can hear ours. Adam loves to have his surround sound blasting and gets very frustrated with having to keep the volume down. We didn’t care so much a few months ago when there was a man below us who LOVED his action movies, but as apartment tenants do often, he moved and we got a complaint from the new tenants. We only share the wall off of the kitchen with our neighbors, but as my mom knows, I have a cabinet slamming problem and I’m sure they can hear that, as we hear theirs. We are lucky that this is all you can hear, but it would still be nice to have FREEDOM to live as we please. Another gripe about the third floor is moving furniture in and carrying groceries up. Gosh, I can’t wait until I can just walk right up to our door from the driveway!

Ok, enough gripes (although there are more, but this is getting long enough!). Things we like:

We have no maintenance to do (other than normal cleaning).
Adam would love to have a lawn and to take care of it (so he says!), but I am happy to not have to do any of that. Our community takes good care of the surrounding green spaces and has a lawn crew to tend to it! We also get a pretty quick response to any maintenance issues we have within our apartment and the fix-it guys are very nice. But we still have a drippy sink…

We have great closet space in relation to the size of the apartment.
We have lots of closets and good size ones too! Our closet count is FIVE, plus a laundry room: in the bedroom we have a mini walk-in, upstairs is a long double door closet, a coat closet at the entrance, a linen closet in the bathroom (and our bathroom is a good size too!) and an outside storage space. We also store our bikes under the stairs, which is a perfectly sized space for them! Yes, I do dominate the use of the closet space, but Adam said I could have it… so there! We try really hard to optimize our storage space, first by not keeping everything we’ve ever touched or thought we might need later (Adam is helping me with that concept), and by using all the space, vertically and horizontally. I actually love to browse through home storage sections at home improvement stores and we have tried to implement some of the most common storage solutions. I also technically have two dressers (Adam gets one drawer in the one in the bedroom…), and by fitting one in the closet upstairs, I can store out of season clothing in a hidden, yet accessible way. And per Adam’s gripe of not having enough counter space and too much clutter in the kitchen, we used our good size laundry room and rigged up the microwave to be out of sight, but still accessible to the kitchen. I know some new construction homes that have less storage space and a smaller laundry area than we have!

Ok, I’ve given you all enough of what we have to work with and my experiences with apartment and renter living. From here we can discuss your own gripes… and then try to find some easy, creative, and cost effective solutions to make small space living not a pain in the bootay, but a cozier HOME! We all have our limitations, whether it be renters limits, financial limits and/or creative DIY abilities, but my hope if that together we can inspire each other to do more than we have now, and to accomplish more than you thought you could!


PS: Adam and Mr. Peter Kiddy say hello.


  1. Great job Erica!! You hit a lot of the "sore" subjects of renting. It is wonderful to have your own home and you two will one day. Remember these gripes when it's time to buy...Love you...Mom

  2. Great post and great addition to the blog!

    I have some questions for Erica- I live in rented houses in LA and I'm interested in making my bedroom "my own". I was thinking about doing white bedding and maybe painting the walls. Do you have any suggestions for this clueless renter who needs a new bedroom?


  3. Claire! Well, I am planning on posting next about adding color in creative ways to a rented space on my next post. Check it out hopefully next Sunday! It will include several ideas and easy how to instructions. You room will be fabulous! In the meantime, start collecting paint swatches for overall colors and find a bedding that's mostly white with maybe an asymmetrical design covering about 1/4 of the white space. This design will look great with white walls OR a color (and can move with you and look different in your next space). Keep watching the blog and I hope we can work together to create something fun!

    Take photos as you progress if you can... that might be interesting to share!