It’s snowing a lot again this week, so I thought I’d focus again on small-space living. While I often daydream about becoming a minimalist, I’m not one. My tiny, colorful, packed living room demonstrates this. It’s filled with homemade and hand finished furniture, books, plants, Ollie toys, and artful objects by family and friends. And I love it.

A post in the Small Spaces series.

Image of my home
The hallway through my living room to the kitchen

I have a crush on minimalism, but I am no minimalist

I have a crush on minimalism. Like my crush on France, it’s a bit ridiculous. I follow minimalists on Instagram. I love the airy, tasteful, space in their homes. The exquisite details of their few belongings. Dreamily, I imagine minimalists floating through life, in unwrinkled linen. Their grids, with their washed light, soothe my cluttered soul.

But we are who we are, and, alas, I am not a minimalist. I love color in my home, and I have a few too many books. Ollie has his BarkBox toy menagerie and his little bed that he always drags to that spot, no matter where I try to put it. Then there’s my plants. The Christmas cactus grew from a cutting from my great-grandmother’s cactus. And then there are my treasured pieces, many of them handmade or hand finished, from family and friends.

French film Cleo de 5 a 7
My crush on France

Small space living room design challenges

When I read design articles about keeping furniture away from walls, I laugh. Well, I laugh now, after I tried dozens of configurations in this postage stamp of useable space (that rug is 5×8). The rest of the room doubles as an entryway/”hallway” through the apartment. Oh, and the only functional closet in the apartment is squeezed in here too.

One wall is all windows (which I absolutely love, but it presents challenges). Then there’s the vintage radiator dominating nearly a third of another wall (again, I love the aesthetic, if not always all the heat it churns out). What should be the focal point, the fireplace, lies on the other side of the “hallway” from my bedroom through to the bathroom and kitchen.

Small space, big function

Like many of us, I spend way more time at home than I used to, so this space has to function for me. That means a place to put my feet up and a spot for coffee in the morning and wine in the evening. It means a place to hang up masks. It means a spot for the humidifier in the winter. And allowing airflow from the fan (and once in a while the AC from my air conditioner—that radiator is no slouch). It means being able to access my closet. It means being able to work. And it means having a good spot where I can do nothing.

My living room makes me think of family and friends

It may not be minimalist, but I absolutely love my living room. When I look around, I am reminded of my family and friends. My living room is filled mostly with homemade or refinished furniture from my family. The awesome wooden bookcases? Made by my dad. Alas, I had to buy the sofa quickly before I moved here, as my old one, while it might have technically fit in here, would have rendered the space unusable. Someday I’ll replace it. The metal “bookcase” is a plant stand that didn’t really work with my plants but fit in the tiny space between the windows.

Art on the walls are wonderful gifts from my incredibly talented sister, Rosemary Scott, who creates dreamworlds from photographs, and she’s an excellent painter as well (she painted the trees that hang above the radiator). Other artwork hanging I purchased from a friend I made from my last blog, James of Man and a Cat Photography. On the mantel is another piece by Rosemary, and a beautiful from my dear friend and artist Johanna Finnegan-Topitzer. Glass came from flea market finds and my mother’s genius for finding treasures at the Goodwill.

The entry way, with Finnish stars made by my mom

The entry way is made up of a table made by my dad and a coat rack made for me. The Finnish Christmas stars, which look better when not obscured by my winter coat and mask collection, were made by my mom. I leave them up all year. The bird is another gift from Johanna.

Looking at the clouds, instead of my neighbor. Blanket made by mom

A little privacy

I’m not a huge fan of curtains, but they are a necessity here. This apartment is a fishbowl—my neighbor in the third-floor apartment across the street and I have never actually spoken much beyond hello, but we definitely know each other.

I saw single panel linen curtains tied up on Erin Boyle’s Instagram (I told you I follow minimalists), and I thought that style could work in here. Her curtains are way cooler (and not tied with yarn I had leftover in my stash, from the container that does double duty holding my coffee table books), but I like it.

The side table next to my sofa offers a bit of additional privacy without blocking too much of the window. It has a small piece by an artist friend I’ve missed since she moved away from Boston Meghan Samson, and a rock vase from a gallery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

A room that makes me feel relaxed and content

As I sit here writing on the sofa, with the ten-hour fireplace video streaming and Ollie curled up against my hip, I feel relaxed and content. And that’s what good living room design should do, so maybe it’s OK that I’m not a minimalist.

What about you? How do you organize your space?

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