Category Archives: kitchen

Bicycling In Search Of Small Space Living

Juan and I are quickly approaching 1 year since we made the plunge to downsize… get rid of STUFF and simplify our lives. It has been met with challenges…from people who thought we were crazy and from ourselves trying to wrap our minds around living in a small space and getting rid of excess baggage.
However, if we had to do it all over again…we would in a heartbeat. We have had a wonderful opportunity getting to meet great people that have plunged into small space living and enjoying a simpler lifestyle. We are experiencing learning about great companies out there that build small spaces or furniture to fit in those studio style spaces.

So here’s to enjoying the simpler lifestyle and creating beautiful living spaces (I know, my favorite “word of the day” is spaces).

My home at Patio 71

Since we love to spend the weekends riding our bicycles, we decided that we should seek out some cool spaces more “multi-living” style. Of course we live at a great place (Patio 71) that once were apartments built in 1970 and a couple of years ago, were rescued and brought back to their beauty and now are condos. What we liked about the place we live in is we were not looking for the typical condo/apartment style living where there are 100’s of the same apartments slapped together. B-O-R-I-N-G!! We wanted an older structure as we knew apartment homes were built with great architecture detail not “cookie cutter” style. We also wanted to be more urban to be able to walk or ride our bicycle to local shops, restaurants and other independent businesses. So today we wanted to share a couple of other Multi-housing mid-century beauties that make a joy to come home.
So hop on your bicycle and take a ride with me. 
The Cascades “modern 60’s” style check out the architecture design in the building! They have great floor plans from studio to 2 bedroom 2 bath at 1,243 square feet!

Close-up of design

The details in design of this structure is so cool! And they have kept up this look and fell throughout the complex.

Entrance, The Arc Lofts & Apartments

The Arc Lofts and Apartments are right across from The Cascades. Not as many units but they have updated them as well with three levels of modern 60’s fun.

Courtyard of The Arc. small community feel!
It’s three stories of apartments and these are rentals as well. A small complex with what appears to be a beautiful area to meet with other neighbors!

Looking out to the street of Three Fountains

Another great architect of midcentury modern design is Al Beadle AND I la-la love two multi-housing buildings he designed…Three Fountains and The Boardwalk.

Patios out back-Three Fountains

Very simple front entrance-Three Fountains

Although there are times when one may come up for rent, these are condo/townhomes. People like me search out these places as they have beautiful clean lines and great bones. (Wow with my flowery words, I should be on HGTV! Wink wink smiley face)

Entrance-The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk

What a great entrance at The Boardwalk-Look…for rent!

Walkway-The Boardwalk

Triplex living

So if you think by downsizing you have to settle for some “cookie cutter cardboard construction” Multi-housing unit…think again. Across the US there are great older style units you should consider if you are truly looking to downsize. Start by researching your area for stories on homes or buildings that are going through renovations, seek out the older style apartment homes where there are 70 units or less in the group. This brings a much smaller community feel.
 If you want a standalone home (ever think of duplex or triplex living?)….check out the historic areas… great place to meet people that have the same passion as you and are also a great source of information on the area and what you are seeking. Of course realtors that specialize in small space living or historic area knowledge is a great source too.

My “swanky” living room

So every day I enjoy coming home to my small space. I have enjoyed decorating with some great midcentury modern furniture and it makes me happy how much easier managing this space is, more time for FUN! Of course due to my style and taste in furniture, my brother keeps telling me that I should have a beehive hair-do mixing a martini and Juan wearing a smoking jacket! LOL…
I live in the Phoenix metro area… I would love to hear from you and share the beautiful small spaces/multi-housing that have recaptured their beauty (love the mid-century modern stuff) in your area.

Thinking “Small Space” At a Very Early Age

At 16 years old, what were you thinking about? Seriously…what was on your mind? Was college? Having a home? Having no mortgage? Not me! I was enjoying the fruits and labor of Mom and Dad “officially” being able to drive legally. (Okay, I used to sneak the car out at night when my parents were out for dinner or out of town and yes…I had no license).

All I was thinking about was the fun I was having driving, friends and family fun…the latest fashion and cool stuff I could buy. Yes, high school was mixed in there but to me that was fun! Loved school and I made good grades but I will be honest with you, I was NOT thinking about my immediate future which was just around the corner as in college…let along buying or having a house in the future.

The other day, I came across the coolest group of people and their website *Fair Companies. *faircompanies is a free resource to help you act responsibly, an independent website with information and tools on sustainability. They have great resources and videos that really meet my passion, small spaces. Kirsten Dirksen along with Nicolas Boullas have dedicated themselves to talk about green products, ethical consumption, clean technologies, social responsibility, ethical investment, and related topics. (Taken directly from their website)

I encourage you to visit their website and see what people are doing out there to live a smaller, simpler and mindful life.

In the meantime….please check out this video created by *faircompanies about Austin Hay who is 16 years old and building his future home.


Sometimes the simplest things in life….Are “Old School”

It’s kinda funny as I look back on this year and the changes we have made. This time a year ago we were in the beginning stages of discussion about what we are doing? Why are we doing it? And what are we going to gain from it? My “real role” is running a staffing and consulting firm. We place people across the US in all levels and all departments. (A shameless plug, Kellen James).

As I digress, Juan and I have talked with countless Managers, Hiring Authorities and people looking to make a move and there seems to be a common goal ever since this economy took a dive…A need for a simpler life….A need for quality time with family and friends as that is what is most important.

Going back to my original thought (I know Juan says I have three or four conversations going at once), it was a huge undertaking getting ourselves situated in a much smaller space. Yet, we are so much happier now than when we were in a larger home. I am not a slave to my house/pool/yard. It is like living in a vacation home! (No not as cool as Ileana’s beach house/Previous blog article) But…it’s close.

We find ourselves enjoying our home, hanging out with friends and family here. We enjoy creating cool bar-b-que dishes and sitting at our kitchen table with a cup of coffee and just chatting. We can step outside (when it is not 114+ degrees) and get on our bikes and cruise the canal trail or walk to several neighborhood haunts and enjoy wonderful cuisine of all kinds.

We have an urban space which is very new to me and this area has 71 of these cute 900 sqft “bungalow style homes. There is a sense of great friendship and community here much more than when I was up in the “burbs” where everyone waves but drives right into their garage and shuts the door behind them never to see them until the following morning. We get together as a community for impromptu “happy hour” celebrate a birthday or hang out at the clubhouse to watch a game. It’s truly a community of friendship.

If this is the cost of downsizing and moving to the city?….I wished I did it years ago. So now I will sit with Juan, drink a nice cool “Arnold Palmer” and enjoy “Old School Style” listening to records on my 1962 Fisher Electra Stereo.

A small “taste” of what I am enjoying! Cheers!


The New IKEA Book Is Here!

It’s that time of year; the new IKEA book is out Whooo Hoooo! When Juan came walking in from the mailbox, I could see the tiny little BIG book tucked under his arm. So I patiently waited for him to put it down….Ok…put the book down Juan….Quit talking to me and put the DARN BOOK DOWN!

IKEA really has it down with small space living. Every nook and cranny can be utilized with “multi-purpose” furniture. Really cool! How many of you (raise your hands) LOVE heading to your nearest IKEA store to check out their “small living” spaces? Well, those of you fortunate to have an IKEA near you, it truly is an experience. It’s so fun to view outside the square footage of the space you are about to enter and be amazed at the way you can make a home out of 600 square feet or 248 square feet or dorm room living. You have every convenience.

Take page 30 for example, the basic bookcase…What a great piece to do so many options. We took a book case that was four cubes long and two cubes high (Yes, very technical terms here). We added the doors and made it into a cabinet to hold boundless amounts of Juan’s main wardrobe, T-Shirts! In living in a small space you always want the rooms to appear bigger and a great way to give that spacious look is to add legs. If at all possible, “lift your furniture”. I know that sounds strange but it truly gives a small space an “open and airy” look!

Fold up t-shirts, organize purses or tri-fold your jeans

IKEA can give you so many options at such a great price. If you truly are waiting for a vintage mid-century desk but need something in the meantime, check out IKEA. You may also find you like it just as well AND it does mix very well with different styles.

Also think outside the box…we turned the book shelves into extra space for our clothes by adding the cabinet doors, everything stays neat and hidden. They also have drawers you can add to book shelves to organize smaller objects such as scarves or jewelry.

Added simple straight legs to lift cabinet off floor

For all you smart phone users, IKEA has their catalog available on The App Store and Android Market. So when I am sitting patiently in the waiting area at the Doctor’s office… as my Mom provides details of her ailments plus her weekend activities of garage sales and great food…I sit and electronically thumb through the pages. You can miss so much on a page that you have to go back through 3-5-7 multiple times!
Speaking of waiting for perfect pieces or allowing for extra cash to funnel our way….We took our old office cabinets from our office in our old home and made them our bed side tables for the time being. Hey, it works, right? It may not be optimal for many but until I am ready to look for a better piece of IKEA or other furniture….it works!
By the way…if you recall in my blog (I Thought 900 Square Feet Was Small) I mentioned how hard it is for me to give up the accessories like purses and SHOES!!! Well check out page 280-281 in the IKEA book…great storage solutions to hold all my shoes. I need more shoes to fill in all these racks! 

 I am lucky to have an IKEA store near me so I can see, feel and touch all the great stuff! Also they have a cafe where you can enjoy great breakfast, lunch and dinner at very affordable prices.

That’s the other thing about IKEA…great prices on all products. Yes, you may have to assemble pieces of furniture but it truly is worth it. Very simple instructions….even I can figure it out! So if you ever have any challenges with space, need multi-purpose furniture or seeking a piece of furniture that will fit in an odd shaped corner of a room?….You’ve got to check out IKEA. I am sure they will have something right for your needs.


I thought 900 Square Feet Was Small….

Anyone here ever seen the show on HGTV, “Small Space, Big Style”? I LOVED that show! Juan and I never missed an episode. The show hasn’t been on for quite awhile however even back then, we were fascinated with what people were living in and enjoying a simpler life.

What it came down to was the essentials. Things people found most important to them in order to enjoy their space without feeling so cramped and crowded. I STILL struggle with “giving up” stuff. I can never have too many shoes, purses, accessories. But how do you store these items???

I guess if there are multiple people that are going to live in a small space you certainly BOTH have to agree to jump in with both feet. As I mentioned in prior blogs, it is very hard to “UN-condition” yourself to what you have grown to know all your life. Choosing to eliminate the extra “stuff” in your life and only keep the things you use regularly….well it is a very hard step to take and we are still learning and eliminating STILL!!! It’s a slow process however we are embracing it fully.

So, some things to consider….

  • Prepare to eliminate a lot of stuff! Only keep the things you will use regularly and don’t be afraid to use the silver, special glasses, the dishes you save for special occasions.
  • Think about multi-functional furniture (If you go really small…Office workspace becomes dining table)
  • Think about RV or Boats….If you were to live long-term on a boat or in an RV, think about the functionality of the spaces. Think about what you could possibly live with and/or without since you won’t be able to take it all and cram it in live with all that stuff.
  • If you have the opportunity to have a patio/deck/porch…any outdoor space, make sure you design an exterior room as part of your square footage. You might find you spend most of your time there. (Not always applicable if you live in extreme heat and humid climate OR extreme cold and wet) however, there will be times of the year you can and will enjoy the outdoor space.
I found this last week to give you an idea what someone will go through to have a Manhattan zip code. You thought 900 square feet is small? How about 78 square feet!!!!!
Next….Great places to find multi-function frurniture

So What If You Could Have a Little Place at the Beach?

For me and Juan….we love the west coast especially the beaches in Southern California. We took a break from the heat and spent some time down in Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar, Newport, San Clemente and Dana Point. Yes, we spent time walking, sitting, basking and driving along Pacific Coast Highway viewing the spectacular ocean views and seeking out that perfect shell.

It seems you can tell who the tourist is and who the locals are. So many of the locals with their daily routines of rising before sunrise to hit the beach and make their daily pilgrimage up and down the shore taking in the calm sounds of the ocean and filling their lungs with the sea breeze air. It seems that all your troubles fade looking out towards the horizon as the fog hugs the shore and bluffs around you.

Small Church

I wonder how many people visit and wonder…”Wow I want to live here but how can I afford it?” “It’s too expensive!” Well, I have great friends that live here and love their life here. They live within their means and don’t have a need to keep up with The Jones’! Example…I have a friend (has been more like a brother than just a friend) that has been married for over 11+ years, has two beautiful  boys and a great life together. They are my inspiration, why????They live simply and in a small space. A two bedroom one bath apartment sitting on the bluff with Full Ocean views in every room! Some would say they sacrificed what? Extra space to store more stuff! Extra storage to keep things you really don’t want to keep but do out of guilt or laziness. I think they have it perfect! A perfect life in a great space with incredible views. Every time I see them or speak with them, they are blissfully happy. I think they figured it out….they get it.

I have another friend in the Los Angeles area that has done the same thing. She went small in order to have an incredible life on the beach in Redondo. Hopefully, I would like to “interview her” and get her perspective on her “small space living” and the incredible designs she has come up with in living in her space.

What would you give up to live at the beach? We had an opportunity to walk up and down the narrow streets in Laguna Beach and view some of the small places people live in for a place near the ocean.

Beach House on Legion St
Laguna Beach Cottage

It’s not about the size or the square footage…it’s not about the quantity…for me, it’s about the quality of life. Living small with a view like this? I would do it….would you?


STUFF!-Juan’s Perspective

So…you got to hear my side of the whole “What is STUFF thing and how to get rid of it”, now here is Juan’s thoughts on the subject.

Realizing that we were committed to significantly downsizing, I knew we were going to have to make sacrifices. That always seems easier in the “talking” stage than in the “doing” stage. Shawn and I had already had several conversations about “stuff” and how, over the years, we had both fallen victim to the “stuff” is important mindset. Being committed to break free from this thought process; I thought the easy place to start was with my stuff. Easier yet, was with the stuff I had no sentimental or emotional ties to. Or so I thought.
I’m not necessarily a “pack rat”, but there are some things I have trouble parting with. Consequently, I have pockets of well organized clutter. For instance, the garage. This seemed like a logical place to start as I knew at best we’d just end up with a small patio storage room.

Most of the important lessons of life were handed down from my Grandparents. All were very wise individuals who had survived the “Great Depression”.  A valuable lesson my Grandfather’s taught me was never to throw away a good nail, nut, bolt or screw.  Advice that served me well throughout life. I can’t tell you how valuable a .10¢ bolt becomes when it’s all that stands between you and completing a project. Being practical, I tried to exercise some level of discretion with what I collected over the years and only had about two Xerox paper boxes full of misc., but valuable hardware. (You laugh, when my Father passed away recently I threw out boxes of nuts, bolts, screws, etc. that had been carefully saved by my Grandfather and maintained by my Father since the 1940’s!). It seemed like this would be an easy task, but when I started looking at my carefully collected assortment of hardware and weighing the value of each item, it started to get complicated. Everything I picked up had a valuable purpose. Perhaps not an immediate purpose, but valuable if and when the right set of circumstances came into play.

It wasn’t so much the actual act of discarding the items as I knew that logically I’d probably never use much, if any of this stuff. Most of it was the leftovers from past projects. Even if I had a need at some point, the replacement cost for the necessary piece of hardware would be pennies.  What was hard, was letting go of the mindset that had been ingrained in me. The hardware issue was relatively easy in the end as there wasn’t even a strong economic argument for keeping it.

Riding on a euphoric high from my sense of accomplishment, I decided to tackle another challenge. Tools.  Another group of items I was taught to value, collect and maintain at all costs! The yard tools were easy. I wasn’t going to have a yard. Garage sale! Hand/power  tools posed a problem though. Some were for very specific purposes. So specific, that they’d been used once and stored for 20 years. Others had never been used at all. However, one must keep them as you never know when that special project might pop up! Ok, it probably never would, but what if? Again, I was battling a state of mind. After all, you don’t just throw money away on tools and discard them when you can use them for a lifetime. Focusing on our goal, to simplify our lives, (i.e., not to seek out all those great DIY projects so I could buy more tools) allowed me to let go and add most of them to the garage sale pile. I have to admit that over the course of the next few days, I’d stare at the garage sale pile and re-think my decisions. In the end I managed to hold strong. (Strangely enough the 20 foot extension ladder was hard to part with. Hey, you never know when you might need an extension ladder in your condo with 8 foot ceilings.)

What I began to realize during this process was that my attachment to “stuff” really was complicating my life. It really wasn’t even the “stuff” that was the problem, rather stubbornly clinging to a mindset that you “have to” do something a certain way or that you are “obligated to” do something a certain way simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it!” Many of us place value or significance on possessions, even after they’ve outlived their usefulness. In part it’s because we don’t want to be the one who makes the decision to get rid of something. Here’s a perfect example, saving the carafe to a broken coffee maker. Let’s throw the coffee maker away, but keep the carafe in case one day they decide to re-manufacture that same design. Think how smart we’ll feel when we now have a spare! (We threw away half a dozen carafes when cleaning out my Father’s house). Letting go of the mindset was a huge break through. Coming to this realization or revelation made it easier to begin eliminating the clutter.

All that “stuff” that had seemed so invaluable for years, actually did pay off in the end as we made a nice profit at our garage sale! (I value money even more than nuts and bolts).

p.s. Okay, I confess I wasn’t completely cured of my need to hang onto tools. I had to pull the steering wheel off of my 1968 VW recently. Not a problem! I had a steering wheel puller in my toolbox that I’d used exactly one time, 20 years before!

(Hardware Store 12th Street & Glendale Ave)
Next, Garage Sale……
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