I decided I would take my own overused advice to begin this section of the blog - well, Arthur Ashe's actually as he's the one who said "Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can!"
So as much as I would love to be posting about beautifully spacious homes, elegant decor and well thought out colour schemes, at this precise point in our lives, this little compact unit is where we temporarily call home - and we have actually come to quite love it. We measured it out yesterday and including the garage it is an 83m2 little box. To be more precise, 66m2 of living space that includes 2 bedrooms, a shower room, a kitchen/living room, a hallway and a laundry cupboard cleverly built in. The previous rental home we'd been in for over 2 years sold overnight without even making it on to the market - the agents said we'd made it look too nice, but it seemed pretty bland and empty the day we moved out! Anyway, we didn't have much time to find anywhere else. That was a large 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 living areas, large kitchen dining room, double garage house, so unsurprisingly this was a bit of a squeeze! Luckily it came with a handy parking spot meaning that we could very cleverly pack up the garage in a well planned out Tetris manner to keep the majority of our things stored away for the duration of our 6 months or so here. Moving in day was a bit of a headache and there was a lot of packing, repacking, manoeuvring, back & forth, in & out before we could finally close the garage door and take a seat amongst the boxes and furniture that was somehow supposed to remain inside...
First thing was first, we had to get the girls bunkbeds built so they had somewhere to sleep while we tackled the living area. We didn't mind spending the first night on a mattress on the floor but for all of you out there with children, you'll know what I mean when I say often it's just easier when they are in their own beds. Whilst Simon built the beds I emptied their wardrobe and bookshelf boxes, found the rug and before they knew it, they had a bedroom and happily went straight to sleep that night. The next morning while they were at school and kindergarten I decided to finish their room off (they really had been very well behaved and predominantly patient during the whole move). I blue-tacked their names on the door, put up some bunting & pompom fairy lights, hid toys away in baskets under the bed, set up their play kitchen, emptied the cushion & teddies box and put their name pictures on the wall. I know it's all just "stuff", but it really does transform a space. When they came home and had a look, they were delighted and said "It looks like home!". Phew - one job well done! Now go and play while I find some plates to eat off for dinner...
The Living/Kitchen area was well underway, but I knew it would take a few more days at least to get through all the boxes we thought we "needed", find room for everything or try and find more invisible space for them in the garage. So I decided we might as well build our bed and get that room set up as well. One bright yellow lamp, a matching picture frame, a fragrant candle, a happy cushion, a pinboard for all the notes and pictures the girls would no doubt be making and a quick hop, skip and a twirl later... Voila! We now at least had somewhere to sleep and a place to get away from the boxes.
OK, admittedly it was quite a bit more than just a few days before our living area resembled a home space! We did manage to squeeze a few more things into the garage, we took some boxes to the charity shop, sold a bit more on trademe (NZ equivalent of ebay), weeded down to the bare minimum and worked out what we could put on the walls with invisible Command fixtures.
We decided our main two features would be the fibre panel board we'd covered in striped fabric for behind the TV in our previous home (as this could sit on the big chest of drawers), and one of our favourite pieces of Art "Lollipop Trees" by the very lovely Janet Bell (light enough to hang with Command strips). Janet is a wonderfully talented Artist - definitely worthwhile checking out her site - who lives on Anglesey in Wales just down the road from my Dad & Stepmum (in their best friend's gorgeous old house incidentally.) We met whilst I was pregnant with Arabella and I fell in love with this piece that was hanging in her gallery. She was moving to a larger space and needed some new shelving built, so Simon solved her problem by designing and building them for her and she gave us a good deal on this original canvas that we have lovingly treasured ever since.
We couldn't fit our dining table in, so decided to use the palette table Simon had made for outside at our previous home. After a few days it was clear that all the crumbs falling through the gaps and at least one messy little eater would just be a constant cause of drama if we didn't think of something... So Mr fix It in his ever practical problem-solving manner decided to get a piece of perspex cut to fit the top. I originally thought of putting pretty fabric or wallpaper underneath, but that very same day we brought home a file full of Kindergarten artwork. As I was photographing it for Lucy's end of year project, I thought to myself that a lot of it was too nice to simply put in a folder. There and then my grown up trendy wallpaper/fabric idea went out the window and the art table was born - much to both girl's delight!
Living in this compact, cosy space after coming from bigger houses has been a great lesson in patience, compromise, teamwork and more than anything figuring out what we actually need and what we can do without. It has been a reminder of European apartment living, where clever storage is key and there is only room for those things that you absolutely love. Moving house is always a cathartic process of paring down and shedding excess baggage but this extended period of doing without most of the stuff we thought we needed has proven even more so that we can happily do without. Obviously there are some things we have missed and wish we could get to in the garage (winter coats seem to have been buried somewhere!), but not having everything visible has made us enjoy the things that we do have around us more. We have been more productive, spent more quality family time together - good job we all love each other! - and since we can clean the whole place in an hour or less, there is more time for things like walking to the park, getting out to enjoy the weather or simply playing a boardgame/crafting/baking with the girls on rainy days. When we do come to buy or build our own home eventually, we will definitely bear in mind that less is indeed more.
The other lesson we have been reminded of is that any house can be transformed into a home. It doesn't matter where we find ourselves, how big or small a house we live in or how much money we do or don't have. It is what we do with what we have that makes all the difference! The furniture that we have lovingly upcycled, the wardrobe that Simon built for the girls from a picture I ripped out of a French magazine when we couldn't afford to buy something new, the dining table that all of our nearest and dearest have spent uncountable happy hours around, the chairs, bunting, kids artwork, cushions and other treasures that we have made, been given or collected over the years... These are the things we carry with us like a snail shell on our back that make our house feel like a home. They may have become slightly scratched, worn, chipped and a bit beaten around the edges with every additional move - much like ourselves - but we treasure them all the same and look forward to creating our next lovely home when we move on again...
What advice do you have for small space living? What favourite pieces have you come to treasure over the years?
Love Holly x
PS: I will follow this up with my "Top 10 Tips for making the most of rentals".