Sunday, February 21, 2010

Something happier.

Because I need happier things to think about than idiot lunatics who think killing other people is OK.

This is a slideshow (in the NYT Home section) about a man who lives in a tiny studio apartment. 178 square feet. That's like, 10 by 18 feet. Amazing.

And yet, he has everything he needs. He has books (up on a shelf over the bed! I should do that - well, I would, except my "inspiration wall" where I have framed sayings and a cross and gifts from friends is up on that wall). He has a bedroom and a living room space and a desk that serves as his office. He has a tiny kitchen (although he admits he doesn't really cook, because the smell gets to be too much in such a tiny space).

And I admit, I couldn't really do that - well, for one thing, I own a largish piano, and I'm not giving that up. And I own a crapton of books...if I had an apartment that small, I'd have to have bookshelves on every wall and under the bed. And I'd have nowhere to store my craft supplies.

But still, I find tiny living spaces fascinating: how people make use of the space, how they make space for the really important things (the things important to them). It requires a level of paring-down that I would find hard to do (though I probably could, if I had to).

I still, from time to time, check into the Tiny House Blog that I posted about a long time ago. I admit, I'm not so crazy about the occasional smug-story about someone who thinks they're Better Than You because they have a smaller footprint.

But I do love seeing the houses, and how they are decorated. I love the idea of everything being that close within reach, with everything designed for convenience. The self-containedness of it makes me happy.

I think also, it's the privacy thing: most people who live in such small spaces live alone. Or at most, with one other person (usually a beloved spouse or other partner). So rather than being a "showplace" of sorts - and I tend to find houses-as-showplaces kind of impersonal and uncomfortable - the home becomes a very idiosyncratic place: it's more of a shelter or a cave or...something. I can't think of the right word, but something very personal, something that is designed and outfitted for the comfort and ease of the people who live there, rather than to impress people that they have over.

And I guess I like that for a couple of reasons: first, I think when you're selecting furniture or decorating a space with a mind more to "what do I love, what do I want, what do I need to lead my life," you wind up with a more interesting space. I can get a better sense of what a person is like when they've decorated a room (or chosen furniture, or dishes, or whatever) with a mind purely to "what do I like," rather than with the thought of "what is popular now? What will impress people?" Sometimes there's the unfortunate situation of (usually) the husband's taste and stuff being pushed out of the way in deference to what the wife wants.

What I'd rather see is a home than a house...something that represents the accumulation of furniture over the years, where there are "funny" things on the walls - like, the old medal someone won years ago in a 5k race, or a framed drawing from a younger sibling when they were a kid. That tells me something about the person who lives there, and it makes me happy to see it. Houses that look too much like an anonymous hotel room (and I've been in a few that were like that) make me feels sad and uncomfortable. Houses don't have to be perfect!

That may be part of the reason why the "writers' rooms" that Sheila posted about a long time ago fascinated me: those rooms were almost pure idiosyncracy - they were set up for the writers to work in, so one person's room was very spare, another's was crowded, yet another's had lots of floral prints, while still another was done in stark orange and white. The diversity of what made a 'good' room was interesting.

So the smaller spaces, smaller houses interest me. Because there's less of a division (if any) between the public rooms and the private get to see more of the personality of the person come through. And maybe, people who take a more idiosyncratic living space are also less likely to be swayed by fashion or what is "done," and instead say, "Well, I'm going to have my house this way because I like it, and if people think it looks funny or is a little tacky, I don't really care."

I love the idea of a tiny space - of coming home, being able to see your possessions. Of curling up on the bed or the sofa with a book...and if you want a different book, the bookshelf is right in arm's reach.

I admit it: I lived in a studio apartment for a while as an undergrad. It was mostly ok, the main thing that bothered me was the kitchenette. (I didn't like having to see the pots and pans out drying on the rack when I laid in bed). And it did get kind of "close" or cramped feeling during periods of bad weather...but again, I was an undergrad. I was using the rental furniture that came with the unit (plus an extra bookshelf of my own, and a little rickety table for my radio and more books). And I wasn't allowed to make holes in the walls, so I only had a couple of posters stuck up with blu-tack as decorations...but if I had owned the place, if I had had the right to paint it, and to bring in my own furniture, maybe it would have seemed even cozier and nicer. (And I could have done things like used more bookcases as room dividers). As I said, I doubt I could do that now, but it was okay when I was 19 years old.

But the whole idea of a small, tight, ship-shape house appeals to me still, even if I'd never actually (practically speaking) be able to live that way.


Sheila O'Malley said...

I know we have discussed before our shared childhood love of "tiny" things (like The Borrowers - the best example I can think of) - and I too love to see how other people live. Here in New York, that kind of nosiness ("how do you DO it and how much do you pay for it?") is not considered rude, because it is a struggle - to just keep it all together, and so everyone is curious about how everyone else manages. My new apartment is a 2 bedroom so I am able to spread out a bit more - but compared to other abodes it is miniscule. I, like you, also love the idea of something small and manageable where I can see all my things - books - photos - and where everything is neat and tidy.

Kate P said...

I feel that same sense of wonder when I look at the IKEA catalog--they always have at least one spread that is a studio, and I just think, "How did they come up with putting shelves/racks/whatever THERE?" It's neat.

I had a studio my senior year of college--hated that the bed was right there when you walked in the door. Other than that, the simplicity was kinda nice.

Lisa said...

I lost your e-mail (Computer crash!) but I thought you'd enjoy this:

Warning: language! especially in the comments