What would you give up to follow your passion?
Leigh Slingluff and her husband, Jonathan, live in a 250 square foot apartment in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania. They live there because they have a gallery (Slingluff Gallery, www.slingluffgallery.com) and they are living behind the gallery to make it affordable.
They started their gallery with no start up money and are doing what they need to do to make their dreams come true. Before now they had always lived in large homes big enough for four people. This is their first experience with living smaller.
Leigh let me ask her a few questions. Here are her answers:
Karla: What features does your home have – a closet, windows, kitchen, bathroom?
Leigh: We basically have two rooms. One is our living room, pretty “spacious” with two windows and a door to the shared backyard. The other room houses our kitchen, bathroom, and loft. We have a small table in the kitchen for eating. We are still redesigning for storage. Our loft will eventually have a short closet, maybe three feet tall, so that we can hang up clothes.
Karla: What are some tips about designing a small space? Did you keep it simple with clean lines? Use one color palatte?
Leigh: Jonathan, my husband, had a lot to do with the layout, but so did the existing water pipes. Trying to make the layout efficient is the most important part of a small living space, if you have that option like we did. As far as a color palette, use the colors you love and do not be afraid of going for something bold. We play up the small of our space by giving it a cabin feel. Behind our sink, fridge, and stove we have wallpaper that looks like a fall scene in the woods. Jonathan also painted his signature diamond pattern on two walls in our small bathroom, I think the ceiling is only slightly over six feet. Most would not go for that in a large space let alone a tiny bathroom, but it works great.
Karla: As gallery owners, you must really appreciate great artwork. Are you able to fit artwork in your small space and if so, how?
Leigh: We both collected artwork before we were married and have our own paintings too. After we opened the gallery, we have even more. Luckily we have tall ceilings in the kitchen and cluster our collected artwork all the way up. It does make it feel a bit closed in, but the ceilings seem taller and we can actually enjoy the artwork too.
Karla: What items do you love that are not necessarily practical, but you made room for them in your new space anyway?
Leigh: We have a basement so all of the non-practical items are down there. We are still sorting through and getting rid of duplicate pots and pans. Our main guilty pleasure is artwork and art books. Wall space is king in our house. We also have an old cigarette machine. We initially wanted to use it in the gallery for the pottery we sell, but now it is in our living room. Somehow it fits.
Karla: What is the hardest stuff to keep control of? Is there some clutter you have to work harder to contain on an on-going basis?
Leigh: Everything is clutter. Even food we can not fit in the one cabinet seems like clutter. Making sure everything has its place is the most challenging part.
Karla: What pieces of furniture are you able to fit in your space? A bed, a couch, a small tv, a small fridge?
Leigh: We actually have a pretty big couch, ottoman, and love seat in our living room. One of our friends could not fit it into their spot, so we tried it and it fit. Philadelphia has a lot of old houses, with tiny doors and hallways. We are lucky we are on the first floor. We have a dorm sized fridge, but also have another one in the basement for our openings since we supply beer. We do not have a TV, but we could definitely fit one somewhere on the walls. We have a mattress that is in the loft. I do not know if it qualifies as a bed for most people, but it works for us.
Karla: With owning less, do you find yourself focusing more on good-quality things?
Leigh: Yes, definitely. I think everyone should live smaller…we do not need as much space as we think we do and we do not need as many material things either (other than art of course.)
Karla: How have others like your friends and family reacted to your new living space?
Leigh: We have had a few of our featured artists say “Wow, you two must really love each other to live in this small space.” We also get a lot of “Where do you keep your clothes?” From others, I have definitely picked up on shock of the size but everyone agrees that it is a cool space. I am kind of shocked too.
Karla: How were you and your husband able to compromise on what was important to move into your small space?
Leigh: We did some purging before the move. We did not really talk about what we were moving to our living space, I think we both just knew to bring only what was necessary. The basement helps a lot with the gallery’s storage.
Karla: Do you have any tips to offer on space saving storage?
Leigh: Storage can be found in the most amazing places. Keep an open mind, and look around for ideas for that corner that is being wasted. We found a boxed out window when we exposed a brick wall in the gallery. So, Jonathan made a “floating” wall with enough room to fit behind it. We keep our bags for purchases, and other small items like tape and register paper in the discovered nook. Also, we love the website www.apartmenttherapy.com, they always have ideas on storage. Our favorite is making a drawer in the stairs, and storage in the hardwood floor. We will be trying one of those ideas soon.
Karla: What is your best tip for moving into and living in a small space comfortably?
Leigh: Be prepared that most of your things will not fit. Cutting down and simplifying life before moving helps a lot. Realizing that you can survive with four mugs and four plates is a must. Do not buy in bulk, we can not even do that with food. Learn to can soups and pickles. It cuts down on cost, leaves fridge space for the necessities and it is fun too.
Are you ready to move into 250 square feet like Leigh and Jonathan? If not, I do not blame you. While inspirational, our family will not be moving into a home that small any time soon either. So if the size of the home you are living in starts feeling small, before you buy that larger house, what can you do to make your home feel larger? Try some do-it-yourself storage projects, finish the basement, or buy smaller furniture from stores like Habitat or Ikea.
Was Jonathan and Leigh’s sacrifice worth it? Most definitely. Their place, Slingluff Gallery, was just voted “Best Art Gallery in Philadelphia”. If you are ever in the area, you should check it out at 11 West Girard Avenue.
Any other tips on how to make a small home more comfortable? If so, please post in the comments.