...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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Did you happen to see this streamlined family home in the most recent issue of Dwell magazine? The article struck a chord with me. The <700 square foot space belongs to a young family of three – soon to be four. It’s the result of a four-month-long renovation which brought more light and storage and better function and design into the apartment. The use of sliding doors, ample windows and Murphy beds go a long way in making the space feel bright and airy. The execution of a stowaway bunk bed in the children’s room is particularly captivating.

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In embracing small space living, the family spent the last year and a half selling off most of their books, furniture and decorative objects.

“It really made us scrutinize what’s important and what we can do without. Rather than being a burden, that has been liberating. We don’t feel weighed down by stuff we don’t need or use.” – David Friedlander, resident

“People usually try to fit their old furnishings into a new space. We fit ourselves into the space.” – Jacqueline Schmidt, resident

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In addition to being small, the apartment was also in less-than-perfect condition upon purchase. The poor condition yielded a low price tag which meant the family could afford a complete remodel and a few splurge-worthy materials like wide-planked oak floors.

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The kitchen is the perfect marriage of high and low: Ikea cabinets + marble countertops and backsplash.

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The bathroom boasts marble tile and a floating vanity. Natural light streams in through the shower window.

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You can see more of the family home here. I find it so encouraging! It’s a wonderful example of how living with less can actually be a luxury. Even though our home is about twice the size and we’ve done a fair amount of purging already, I am┬ámotivated to edit our belongings even further. Having downsized ourselves, I have to agree: living with less is freeing on so many levels.

Have you ever been inspired to go through your closets after seeing or visiting a smaller home? What one drawer / shelf / closet / room in your home needs a good purge session right now? Our junk drawer and the boys’ closet are calling my name…

images: Matthew Williams for Dwell

49 Comments

13.August.2014

Oh wow, the marble in that kitchen is just PERFECT. The large-scale pattern + all the wood accents are so inviting to me.

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13.August.2014

Dana, in the last 2 years we have sold a 4 bedroom single house, lived for a year as a family of 4 in a 2 bedroom condo and now finally arrived in our “small” townhouse. Through all of this we have purged, learned to buy smart and build storage into everything. The thing I found about myself is that complete minimalism is not for me. I really like the way YOUR home is “lived in” with personal belongings and kid things. The minimal spaces, like above, that I used to covet, no longer hold appeal, because living that way never gave my family that cozy feeling we realized we crave. There’s always room to purge (toys, I”m looking at you!) and I find that we all have a different way of feeling “at home” in our homes. It’s a journey and its different for every one of us. But I’m finding that fore me, the right amount of stuff and furniture and even toys, is the happy middle ground that makes our home our home.

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replied on August 13th, 2014

Oh, I hope this didn’t come across as me wanting to go completely minimal! I’m inspired by the family’s endeavor to live with less. And I realize that the idea of “less” is subjective. It will mean something different to each person but I think we could all use a little less stuff in our lives.

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13.August.2014

You left out the best part of the project – those murphy beds! (Especially the bunks.) That helps a lot in clearing the floor for living / playing during the day.

I thought the project was very nice, and the spaces carefully edited. One of the owners does that for a living – so it was interesting to see her practice that editing on her own home.

I love Dwell. It’s the only magazine I subscribe to. I had a project published in the first or second issue – back when it was a new and tiny thing. Pretty fun though.

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replied on August 13th, 2014

You had a published project in Dwell? That’s awesome!!

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13.August.2014

I think I have a crush on that kitchen!!

—-drool—–

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13.August.2014

I am all for living small, we live in 734 sq. ft. But this place you are referring to is cold, you can live small and still inject “you” in to the place. Don’t purge that much Dana.

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replied on August 13th, 2014

I was more inspired by the family’s motivation to live with less – not so much their style. Although, I have heart eyes for that kitchen and bathroom. Don’t worry, I’m not going minimal!! It just got me thinking about some of the things around here that we haven’t used in a while.

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replied on August 13th, 2014

Makes sense we could all clean a drawer and a closet, I have a ongoing stack of things going to be donated. I too am inspired by living with less, we do it! It seems the general mind set is bigger is better!

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13.August.2014

Love this place, and don’t find it at all cold. I recently toured a couple fixer uppers currently inhabited by hoarders. Those visits inspired me to run right home and “edit” the hell out of my wardrobe and growing collection of tchotkes. Most of us just have way too much stuff.

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13.August.2014

Small world – I follow the husband’s blog on living small and had no idea his wife was a designer! It’s always fun when there is overlap between my two interests. We intentionally bought a small home recently and couldn’t be happier. Less stuff, less mortgage, more life. We had several rounds of whole house purging before we moved here and we should have another round or two coming up… Our garage is the main culprit! Too much storage space!

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replied on August 13th, 2014

What is the name of his blog? This was my favorite house in dwell!

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replied on August 13th, 2014

The name of the husband’s blog is LifeEdited.

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13.August.2014

I think this home is kinda like seeing a model wear something down a runway. You would never wear it yourself in real life, but it inspires you to do similar (but reasonable) things with your own clothes.

It feels like for a while the design world got very Bohemian. Avoided things that were too matchy, added in tons of color and interest-items, and somehow came up with a harmonious end result. Now it feels like it is morphing again, taking the un-matched style as a base, simplifyiing it, and somehow coming up with a harmonious end result.

If you think of the concept of layering items onto a shelf I would say that 5 years ago the designer homes were fully layered and now designers are removing layers. This feels like a home that has been unlayered. You can see the good bones and the first layer of key items, but that is it. I like it — to look at. But I also like my layers too much to go completely in that direction. (And I really do love your home 100% more Dana.)

And totally off-topic, but I covet those bunnies!

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replied on August 13th, 2014

I love your runway model analogy!

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13.August.2014

Oh, I love love love this space!!

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13.August.2014

I started living on a very small house boat two summers ago & that experience gave me a huge push to downsize in my apartment. I deliberately moved from my larger bedroom into the smaller bedroom which forced me to get rid of a ton of stuff (hello clothes & shoes!). I also really purged books and vases that I had been collecting (but were mostly collecting dust). It feels so good now. When winter comes I think I’ll be editing even more of those things.

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13.August.2014

We (family of 5) live in a 1500 sq ft home. I am pretty organized (we don’t even have a junk drawer), and I usually give one item away for each new item I acquire. The one area that needs to be gone through, however, is the garage. It’s a 3 car and it’s packed. The walls are lined with cabinetry (with doors), and the bikes (I think we have 10) are in racks, but things accumulate out there. We literally need to do a major clean up once per month out there. I blame my husband, lol. He has project motorcycles that have been projects for way too long. I say start a project and finish it before starting another one.

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13.August.2014

We actually have an entire room in our apartment that we all call ‘the junk room’. We are renovating our house so it is mostly filled with building materials but it still bothers me to waste that much space so I really want to get on that!

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13.August.2014

Honestly, I feel bad for any child that lives in a space like this. Children need stimulation, as in textures, colors, objects to handle. There is a big difference between paring down and turning your home into a space void of any warmth or personality. There isn’t a single thing in that home that tells you anything about who lives there, not even a family photo. It doesn’t even feel like a family lives there at all.

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

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replied on August 13th, 2014

I agree completely. On a somewhat related note, there’s a very odd cord running down behind the crib (to light up the box thingy?) that looks like a big child safety issue to me.

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replied on August 14th, 2014

I completely disagree (but politely). Children need love, shelter, food, and, if they’re going in a vehicle a car seat. They do not need all those other things (although toy manufacturers and resellers will make you think they do). American children account for 3% of the kids in the world, yet own 40% of the toys in the world. Yes, kids need stimulation. They need it from engaged parents who have time to talk to them, not from ‘stuff’. They can get the texture, color and objects to handle from holding a carrot before you chop it up for a snack.

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replied on August 14th, 2014

I agree with Hayley. Kids don’t need lots of toys or colored rugs, bedding, etc. My daughter has received many toys that would fall into the category of “providing stimulation” and still prefers to play with kitchen utensils and nature best. This little boy is so lucky to live right next to Prospect Park — all the nature, play, exploring he could want.

replied on August 15th, 2014

I also agree with Hayley and would also like to add that I think a piece of the puzzle in downsizing is using other spaces (outdoors, public spaces, friends’ houses) to provide that stimulation rather than staying cloistered in the home, isolated from the outside world. I kind of love the idea of keeping it simple and serene in the home (don’t all kids need quiet space too?) and making an effort to expose kids to everything else that’s outside those walls.

13.August.2014

Ha…And here I was so proud to have a small rental home and thinking I was living with less, when there are homes out there smaller and still living larger…Inspiring – the concept, the willingness to go small and I liked the minimalist style too although I can’t be that minimal. My interest in design started when beige walls started to bite me :-)

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13.August.2014

Definitely inspired, though I know I’ll never be that disciplined. We’ve been selling furniture in advance of a long-haul move and downsizing, but I still have plenty of excess, especially compared with my minimalist spouse, who’d be happy in a monk’s cell that had a decent chair, lamp, and wi-fi. My failing: the thrill of the hunt (yard sales and estate sales and thrift stores, oh my!). The sea change in attitude toward possessions, whether prompted by environmental concerns or necessity, is, I think, a good thing. Whether we pare down a lot or a little, a lot more of us are making conscious decisions about what we own in ways we didn’t before.

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13.August.2014

Funny that you posted this, your blog over the past few months has inspired me to really edit our stuff. We have 5 kids in a late 60s house. Our 4 bedrooms and 2 baths take 800sf, but it is crowded! Having 2 beds in the kids’ rooms just swamps a room, and bunk beds haven’t worked for us. Anyway, I’m really feeling like we are down to only things we use or love (hoping both!)… And it does feel good!

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13.August.2014

Love this post, Dana and the interesting dialogue it’s sparked! I did a big toy purge at the beginning of the summer and it felt soooo good that it inspired me to go after that junk drawer and the random trays that have collected items on the dresser, kitchen counter, etc. Feel like i’m getting more on top of all that now that the boys are older and look forward to tackling moreo. I agree, I need some level of “stuff” around to feel at home. Could never part with the many many books that line our shelves, art leaning here and there, and a smattering of (well organized on a good day) toys. These things remind us of who we are and who we hope to be…

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replied on August 24th, 2014

I think you said it best! At the end of the day it’s about what’s important to each of us, and balanc, I suppose. I just read Nate Berkus’s book “Things that matter” and it got me thinking more about not necessarily “more” things, but at the very least the things we own should be special to us and tell a story. I’ve never liked buying decorations for decorations sake, but I’m also not completely minimalist. Lately I’ve just accepted that making a house a home is a process and I’m still at the beginning. Love your thoughts and all of Dana’s inspiration!

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13.August.2014

What a timely post! I’ve been going through our spare bedroom aka junk room (not drawer!) and dealing with years of junk, I’ve gotten rid of so much in the past but still have more to deal with. I feel bad filling up the trash can and our landfill, and I try to recycle what I can and donate, but honestly, I feel like I’m throwing out money even with donating decent items. How do you handle that? I’ve sold a few items on Facebook but things like $80 shoes that are barely worn, what do I do?

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13.August.2014

I often feel inspired by spaces like this, but most recently I was…inspired?…scared?…by a visit to a neighbor’s house. He was having work done on the house and showed me around to show it off. One of his bedrooms was filled, chest-high, with clothes stacked on top of each other. Every room was bursting and required a little path to get around all of the things, but the clothes room was unenterable. His hoarding has a context- lifelong poverty and years of not having enough- but the feeling I had when I left was that I just wanted to clean out our things again. It was really really stifling to be there.

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I have a feeling Ill be purging a ton in the upcoming weeks. Moving into our downsized home at the end of the month and I’m interested to see how we integrate into our smaller digs. Im thinking it will be really tough because I love eclectic and collected spaces, and almost tend toward a more is more design aesthetic. The key will be to strike a good balance between editing what we don’t need and still having a space that feels full, if that makes any sense.

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14.August.2014

i can’t believe they removed all that beautiful trimwork. i realize that moldings are not part of a strict minimalist aesthetic but the removal of that type of existing architectural detail is surprising. i’ve seen many modern minimalist homes that honor the age and history of a home in a beautiful melding of elements. i know… different strokes for different folks but to me, ripping out all of that beauty was a shame.

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14.August.2014

I love this and I think it is so true we do not need so many material things in our life. Sure at times it is fun to dream to have the huge house with a movie theatre etc. Then I come back to reality and think
1. I do not want to clean and dust all those things and rooms. 2. At then end of the day it is who I am with in my home not what things are in my home.

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14.August.2014

I just finished purging about 75% of my husband’s 40 years worth of ‘collections’ (that’s right, including grammar school science projects that have been packed, partially crushed and moved for 30 years). I ran out of time and I fear that he would have lost his mind if anything else went. I’ll have to work on the rest after we move in to our not-so-new home. I have one box of items that are meaningful to me and gleefully recycled or gave away (tossed a bit too) everything else. It is so liberating to get rid of things that you no longer use or have forgotten about. The most free we ever felt was when we moved to Europe with 6 suitcases and had only a minimal amount of rental furniture plus one set of linens per person. No clutter, no stress! Love the kitchen in this flat, I need to remodel the one we are moving into and am very seriously considering IKEA for the cabinets and carrera for the countertops.

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14.August.2014

While I am a fan of purging every couple of months/ living under our means, keeping “junk” to a minimum and small living this house is cold and sterile feeling. It needs a warm soft rug or some colorful pillows. The kitchen and bathroom seem somewhat warmer due to the fact they used gorgeous countertops, tile and fixtures. I love the use of space with the murphy bed/bunkbed! But, honestly the overall theme of the house seems drab and boring.

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replied on August 14th, 2014

Amen, very well said.

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14.August.2014

This is a very inspiring space – I think it’s important how the rooms/finishes/furnishings relate to each other as it is fairly small. I could never live with white walls, though, and I’d be interested to see a colorphile’s take on living small. That said, my family of four lives in a house that’s 1150sq feet with one bathroom and while we eye the basement as potential living space (maybe 500 sq ft more, for a rec/exercise/laundry space) it hasn’t happened yet. We aren’t falling all over each other and it is liberating to know we aren’t overrun with stuff (with the exception of the garage – filled with tools and my husband’s miscellany). Also, I work in the home care industry and as people age and their children leave home, they’re left with these huge homes with stuff and stairs they can’t manage anymore. It’s nice knowing that this space will remain manageable for us for the long haul.

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14.August.2014

If you’re wanting to get rid of any 4T-5T boy clothes – I’m your man… well lady but whatevs. :)

Nicole B.

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14.August.2014

I dream of living like this. But with a bit more color.
Well, half of my Gemini side does. The other twin wins and my house is full of momentos, keepsakes, pictures, family & pets (they out number us).

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14.August.2014

i love this place. though i admittedly hoard WAY TOO MUCH STUFF, the idea of purging fast and hard sounds like it would be (as they put it) liberating. my only question (which has nothing to do with the subject of this post) is about the kitchen sink. i see these sinks set under countertops all the time and all i wonder is how they keep that little wedge of space between sink and counter clean? maybe it’s because i live in the world’s oldest most poorly constructed home, but i would think that area would collect grime like nobody’s business!

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replied on August 14th, 2014

It does collect grime, but I clean mine about once a week with a q-tip. Easy! :)

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14.August.2014

I always get rid of unwanted and things that aren’t needed around the house as much as possible. I have the same problems with my boys harboring junk in their rooms too.

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14.August.2014

The truth is I preferred the “before” picture. It needed paring down and new paint, but it looked like people actually lived there and used the space. I agree with a previous commenter that I would never have taken out the wood trim. The picture of the little boy playing in bare room with no pictures or rugs was sad.
Obviously I am not a minimalist.

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14.August.2014

I don’t want to sound critical but I do think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that they actually “downsized” since their previous apartment was only 500 sf. Apparently they tried living in the country for a bit but missed city life and this apartment was the compromise; less expensive but they were able to completely renovate/streamline it. We all know NYC-Brooklyn is one of the most expensive cities in the US to live and folks generally have less space. It’s a lifestyle choice. That being said, I commend the family for their minimalistic family style.

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14.August.2014

I love it! I’m not sure I could go this minimal for long term but I love that this family made the home work for them and their aesthetic.
We are considering converting our walkout basement to a one-bedroom rental unit. That would put our family back into a 2 bedroom/1 bath home, 1027 sq ft. We’ve realized how little of the space we use and are hoping that the rental will pay at least half the mortgage. I’m excited to downsize without moving!

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14.August.2014

I love every single element about this, and then some! I’m off to look at the whole tour. Thanks for sharing this.

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15.August.2014

It would be interesting to see how they feel about that small of a space when their kids are older. I’m not one who thinks teenagers need a ton of space. I’m about to gain my 3rd teenager with a birthday coming up, with five boys total, who are split between two bedrooms and a total of 1740 sq ft. in our 3 bdrm home. No having your own room in our house! But even so, we finally made it priority to add a 2nd bathroom onto our house this year. We’re not adding it for the kids but for hubby and I, since we are greatly desiring more privacy. Trust me, it can be easier to find privacy in a house of little kids than in a house full of big kids.

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18.August.2014

I love this article. Thank you for highlighting the beautiful reno in Dwell. What I love is that they fit themselves in their space. Last year we moved from our rental home in Annapolis – with basement, huge backyard etc. to a 3 bedroom apartment in Northern Virginia. This was a move to better accommodate my husband’s work and commute. We are a military family so moving and purging is our way of life. In fact, about every six months I am purging!! We have had to really really get down to less because we are a family of 6 – so the girls share one room and the boys share the other. We have 2 bathrooms. We LOVE our apartment. It is open concept living and the kitchen is open to the living space. Our kids do their homework at the dining table. Yes there is always more to streamline and declutter. But we have come a long way. Seeing this article inspires me to continue to make a home with less. After all its the folks in the home that I want to see not the stuff.

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