Ariel’s urban warm whirling rainbow dream castle/condo

Me 'n' beans, doing what we do
Me and my son, doing what we do in the room where we do most everything.
The offbeat occupant: Ariel Meadow Stallings, Offbeat Empire Publisher

Other occupants: Andreas (spouse), Octavian (son), Sassafras (totem animal)

Approximate square footage: 650-1000 sq. feet

How many bedrooms? 1

Neighborhood: The tip top of Seattle's Capitol Hill

How long have you lived in this home? Four years.

Let's start with the neighborhood. What's it like where you live? I grew up coming to visit my grandmother and aunt in this neighborhood, back in the early '80s when it was known for drunks, junkies, and "the gays." I got my first apartment here in 1997, and with the exception of a few excursions (Olympia, WA; New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; South Seattle), have lived within a few blocks of that first place ever since.

15th avenue
Photo of the hood, by Ben Haley
I LOVE THIS NEIGHBORHOOD. We've made a lot of concessions and pay an ill-advised financial premium to live here, but it is so incredibly worth it. I wrote about this before, but we have everything within walking distance here, including downtown Seattle. But I don't just mean grocery stores, restaurants, bars, boutiques, parks, museums, libraries, etc. I mean like, I have a hospital out my back door if something goes wrong. The police and fire stations are so close I'd likely hear the sirens before getting off the phone with 911.

looking southwest
Photo of the hood, by Ben Haley

Capitol Hill is isn't that much of a gayborhood any more. The LGBT community has filtered out into the rest of the city (yay for people feeling safe outside the gay neighborhood, but boo for Pride Parade leaving), and the Hill is as much about 20-something creatives who like to drink (cough hipsters cough) as it is about rainbow flags. And let's just say we're not the only 30-somethings with strollers cruising down 15th Avenue…

Our house in 1937
The ol' girl, back in 1937

What makes your home offbeat? The space we live in has had a lot of lives. It was a single family Italianate four-square built around the turn of the century. Then, in the 1920s, it was chopped it up into apartments and had a wing of studios built onto one side. In the '30s, a second wing of apartments was added onto the other side of the house. The whole weird complex was a rental until 2006, when it was converted from apartments into condos.

Come in!
Our foyer, with the staircase that way over-promises on the scale of our home. Also, note column on the left, split in half by the wall dividing our foyer from the neighbor's kitchen.

This is all to say, the old girl is a bit odd. We have the original house's grand staircase, which leads you up to our humble one bedroom. There are odd angles and you can see where old walls were just cut open to open up rooms. We have the house's original balcony — but one of the balcony windows looks directly into our geighbor's living room. Luckily we love our neighbor Brett (who I've written about on Offbeat Bride) so instead of being weird, we use the window for gossiping and passing food, babies, and small dogs back and forth.

The wings built onto the house create awkward closeness. Our bedroom window is about three feet from the bathroom and kitchen windows of one of the wings built onto the house… so our bedroom alternately smells like someone else's shampoo, or spaghetti sauce. Our bathroom window looks into Brett's kitchen and his bathroom window. From our toilet, you can sometimes see Brett in the shower. In the summer you can hear another neighbor getting spanked by his girlfriend, and his bong smoke oozes into our livingroom windows. Ah, the urban village!

Peering into the bathroom
Our bathroom, with a POTTY sign from our wedding, and a trapezoidal cabinet made by my mother-in-law.
Sink & Changing table
Note the yurt painting from the Offbeat Home header!

When the units were converted to condos, the decor was pretty standard Contemporary West Coast Yuppie. Stainless steel kitchen appliances with stone counters, nice window frames, laminate wood flooring (cheap and plastick-y to the touch, but looks good until it gets scratched, which is constantly), all beige and sage paint palettes. It was nicely done, but completely void of personality.

Yuppie kitchen, haaaay!
Yuppie kitchen, haaaay! Also note presence of toddler pissed off by the only cabinet that he can't get into, and the griddle where I make my pancakes.

And then we moved in. And the personality was inflicted.

I don't have a very refined sense of interior style. It basically boils down to this: I love color. Lots of it. My color choices don't always (…ever?) fully work or coordinate well, but my appetite for color is boundless. Many blocks of bright color.

Shelf's eye view
Our living room, complete with a painting I did in high school titled GAY PEARY.

ORANGE WALLS! PURPLE COUCH! PINK CHAIR! GREEN RUGS! BLUE WALLS! MY LITTLE PONIES AS DECOR ITEMS! I tend toward the modern end of furniture, so I've jokingly referred to my aesthetic as "Space Station Toddler" (and that was before we had a kid). I'm not sure anyone would call these things tasteful… but they're what I love, and what my partner puts up with in our living room.

The Big Pink Chair
Bring on the color, bitchez
Andreas, meanwhile, got complete domain over our bedroom, which he painted a pale purple called Silverberry and furnished with a bed straight out of the virginity loss scene in Twilight: Book 4. Andreas has apparently always dreamed of a lavendar bedroom with a white gauzy canopy over the bed, proving that (despite my My Little Ponies) I'm not the only one in the house with the aesthetics of an 8-year-old girl.

Bedzone
Silverberry. Don't you feel calmer already? Although I suppose the psychedelic Kinoko painting doesn't help…

Historically, our furniture has tended towards the very cheap and utilitarian, with lots of used Ikea crap from Craigslist (why pay full price for crap, when someone else can put the crap together for you?). But then my mother-in-law got into woodworking, and she makes the most amazing furniture I've ever seen… so we have this weird mix of gorgeous high-end custom fine woodworking, and second hand press-board modern furniture.

Eaterypants
Our dining area, complete with ponies lurking overhead

The condo feels very much like a reflection of Dre and me: two urbanites who were raised in more rural areas by progressive outdoorsy types. There's this weird mix of very urban (condo! modern stuff! bright colors!) and very granola (wood! prayer flags! plants!).

Bobos, I think we'd probably be called, although the term's a bit out-of-date.

The ponies see all
The ponies see all.

What are the challenges you've faced with this space, and how did you solve them? Square footage is our biggest challenge. We are a family of three living in a one bedroom. Oh, and not only do three of us live here — one of us works here, too. (The Empire is run from a wall of our bedroom, a few feet from the closet where our son sleeps.)

Offbeat Empire HQ
Offbeat Empire HQ, complete with the dual screen set-up I call THE CONSOLE, in all caps

We've had to be super economical about space use, highly judicious about crap acquisition, and generous about quickly getting rid of stuff we're not actively using. We've also had to remember that part of the advantage of living urban is that the city is your backyard and living room — Dre and I spent a LOT of time wandering our neighborhood with Tavi.

I worried that having a baby would make living here impossible, but it's actually working really well. We've made a concerted effort to keep the space pretty open and not filled with much stuff, so it very rarely feels crowded or cramped.

Overview
Tavi surveys the scene.

The biggest shift in making this space work for us was when I got my desk out of the living room. Our bedroom is big, but since both Dre's and my laptops were in the livingroom, we spent most days with all four creatures (two adults, baby, dog) in the living room, while the bedroom sat there unused. It was also extreeeemely hard for me to get any work done with the cute baby/cute husband combo in the same room with me. Now that my desk is in the bedroom, theoretically we can have a creature in each room (baby in nursery, me in the bed room, Dre in the living room, and the dog snacking in the kitchen) and actually get some personal space!

Tavi-eye view
Tavi's nursery, a converted walk-in closet

What's your favorite feature of your home? The bookshelf my mother-in-law custom built for us. It pretty much owns the livingroom. My husband, the spawn of two academics, is a booklover who grew up surrounded by walls and walls of books.

We split the shelves roughly in half (his on the left; mine on the right) and I'm not quite as bookish as he is, which means there's room for the baby's supplies in the bottom right quad of the shelving.

Playzone
Tavi's quadrant of the bookshelf

Dre's got a workspace built into the left, and there are two sliding cabinets on the right that have become Tavi's toy chest. When I got pregnant, people looooved to tell me how once we had a kid, our house would get taken over by toys — "the plastic crap just seems to multiply," someone once told me, in a "you'll seeeeeee" kind of way. I am proud to say that thanks to these shelves (and our own resistance to acquiring too much stuff), our house almost never feels taken over by toys and baby stuff.

Obviously, as someone who decorated with My Little Ponies and Sunshine Buddies long before I had a child, it's not like my taste in decor is so mature and sophisticated. I don't want to hide evidence of having a child, and I think it's pretty clear from our house that a little dude lives here. I just don't want my home to feel like it's been overtaken — we love our son very much, but he's one of three people living here.

Dre, doing his thing
Dre, working away in his corner of the shelves.

What's the most important lesson you've learned from this home? Downsizing is addictive; I've learned to LOVE giving shit away.

When Tavi was born, I decided I'd enact a strict "one in/one out" policy with stuff. I may over-compensate a bit: it's worth noting that our house is emptier now than it was before I got pregnant.

The room where we live
When this floor is littered with toys, shoes, coats, and sippy cups, it still manages to not too feel too insanely crowded. This is because I got rid of two couches, a coffee table, and a glass cabinet.

I have pack-rat tendencies, and have spent years collecting little bits of Stuff that I would jokingly claim was for "The Ariel Museum." I've learned to stop doing this — I have my sentimental talismans, but they're all small. I shed crap constantly… in part because then it means there's room for new crap!

Shelf detail
A sampling of the bits of memorabilia I've allowed myself to keep around.

Don't let me mislead you: I like crap. A LOT. I am a total materialist and I LOVE my things… but I love giving them away, too.

The colon + your resident and photographerWhat's your grandest plan for the space? I have a scheme for how we can turn the space into a modest two-bedroom, and rip out the wall of the stairwell to create an epic family room/mezzanine space at the top of the stairs. That stairwell is so grand and filled with afternoon sun… but it's a fucking stairwell. If we opened it up to a mezzanine, we'd really feel that square footage more.

Plus, Tavi would have a bedroom.

What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? Figure out what the priorities are for your lifestyle. Living small and in-city has made me happier than living big and suburban was ever going to. I can't say how long we'll stay here (I grew up on a forested island half an hour away, and the siren song of the island ex-urbs is hard to ignore — especially when I know first-hand how good the schools are), but these years in this condo have been some of the happiest and most… well, self-actualized of my life. I like where I am, both literally and figuratively.

Any stuff or services you want to recommend?
In my photos on Flickr, I've tried to caption all relevant artists, but here are a couple worth calling out:

  • Nepotism alert: my mother-in-law's woodworking is amazing. She's in Iowa City, but does commissions all over.
  • My favorite painting is by Kinoko.
  • The big pink rocker is a brand called Nurseryworks. I got it half off because it's an atrocious shade of pink.

Show me the decor porn!


I made a point to caption my photos pretty extensively on Flickr, so if you have any questions about stuff in pictures — head over there!

  1. I have SERIOUS bookshelf envy… that is exactly what we plan to do in our living room on one glorious "someday."

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    • "why pay full price for crap, when someone else can put the crap together for you?" I am *so* with you there. I used to shop at Ikea when I was in college but now I shop Craigslist for certain Ikea items.

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      • Hahaha, we've totally been haunting the Clist this week for just the right Billy!

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    • I agree. This is exactly what I need for shelving… too many books, movies, etc.

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    • My very first thought when seeing that very first picture was "Oh! I lust for that bookshelf!" I mean, we have a pretty huge ikea shelf, but it's not quite the same as a beautiful floor to ceiling, wall to wall. I want a book shelf that requires a ladder.

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    • This post fills me with regrets that I gave away my My Little Ponies… what was I thinking??? I still have the "next age up" model horses from childhood, but they're just not the same.

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  2. Your house is frakking amazing. It's incredible that it's a one-bedroom, because it looks so spacious. My husband and I both have serious packrat tendencies — not helped by the fact that we both have large collections of '80s toys and assorted geekery (and, being a pretty visual person, I end up getting all kinds of STUFF because it looks neat, even though it also makes me really stressed and overwhelmed to have it around) — so it would be the best thing ever if sometime you could do a whole post about how you've reconciled your packrattishness (a word?) with downsizing. I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want to majorly get rid of a ton of stuff before we move this summer, but every time I try I freak out because it all has some obscure sentimental meaning to me. If you could share how you got to the place of loving your stuff but also love getting rid of it, I would appreciate it beyond belief.

    Loving the site so far, btw! So much awesome content (and variety of it)!

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    • Celeste, that's a great idea for a post! Overcoming packratishness has been a major ongoing project for me.

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      • Allow me to recommend the blog unclutterer.com as a great source of downsizing advice–including the psychological side of it. I appreciate that they don't have a monolithic idea of what constitutes "clutter" but only define it as, basically, "stuff that keeps you from living the life you want to be living."

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    • I down sized to about 270 sq ft boat and can really recomend this for a way of getting rid of junk. Alot of my stuff is in storage and whenever I go and look for something I always end up chucking stuff out that I realise I haven't even thought about for three years.
      You don't have to move on to a boat though, just put stuff in boxes if you haven't noticed its gone in a few months just get rid! :)

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    • For me, being able to find someone who appreciated the stuff, and getting to tell them some of the story behind it, has really helped me.
      I'm not there yet, but I *have* gotten rid of a pretty good amount of stuff in the last while, including a ton of awesome books from my college studies to a friend interested in the subject.
      Good Luck to us. ;D

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  3. I was so excited to see this! I've admired your house from afar via Flickr for a while – this is honestly one of the things I've been looking forward to most. Gah! Ariel, I totally want to be your new BFF and come hang out with you guys. And I mean that in the least possible creeper/stalkerette way possible.

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  4. Cool-old-house-turned-condo on the top of Cap Hill? I swoon!

    Mostly, I can't get the color "Silverberry" out of my head. Partly because of the name "Silverberry", also because it's the grayish-sherberty-purplish color I've been searching for. I hope whatever company made it still does!

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  5. Lovely surroundings! It reminds me a lot of our old house in terms of decor. We were colour junkies too!

    As an aside; I'm either being really thick (or just British) but what exactly is a condo? Is it just another word for an apartment?

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  6. i love your pink rocker and don't think the color is atrocious.

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    • Maybe it's just because I bought it online and it was called "berry" and looked a little bit more subdued. I was pregnant, and when it showed up, everyone was like "OH! You must be having a little girl!" I was like, "No, I just have a really, REALLY pink rocking chair."

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    • I deserve no credit for that. Coming next week, there's a post about how I finally got over my liberal guilt and got a housekeeper. ;)

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      • I can't wait to read that. Hiring a housekeeper was one of the best decisions I made when I was an intern and now I recommend it to every med student I run into when I talk to them about residency. My perspective is that of someone who works 50-70 hours a week so I'm interested to hear someone else's take.

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        • THIS! My mom suggested to me that I should get a housekeeper as soon as I/we made money. She said: there's no sense in working (both) 40 hrs a week and expecting to have energy left to clean your house.
          Alas, I am not making money (yet), but I am sure planning on getting one!

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      • We just opened our own business (a gamer/hobby shop) one year ago and I told my hubs that it didn't need to ever makes gobs of money, I would consider it a success when it brought home enough for me to hire a once a week housekeeper. Still waiting…

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      • That's right! I've been thinking about how I have very few memories of my mom cleaning when I was growing up (except for the occasional vacuuming), but also have very few memories of the house being a mess. We had a maid service! I totally forgot! Thanks for filling in that hole from my childhood.

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  7. I love, love, LOVE your bookshelf wall and that you put those big soft lights on it. We're hoping to move soon and that's the first big project I want to tackle in a new space. *wishful sigh*

    Also, do you and Dre not own a TV or is it cleverly hidden? We don't have a TV and just watch movies on our laptops… And I'm in no hurry to get one, ever.

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    • I love the couch too! Can I ask where it came from/who made it?

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        • Thought it might be a great used one, thanks for checking for the label. :)
          Any other readers know what this style of couch is called?

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  8. Your house just makes me ridiculously happy! Such great color and fun little bits everywhere you look. Thanks for letting us take a peek.

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  9. Let's make a deal, Ariel. You give me your condo, and I give you… uh… a broken down car and two cats? Uh. My rent is only $449 until November, so… fair trade?

    This is so remarkably much like the magical plans I'd had for my home six months ago. I'm so glad you guys are in a place where you can be you and with people who help you express that!

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  10. Gorgeous place. Love the orange walls and custom woodwork!

    Our bedroom is my domain decor-wise and painted a warm orange with a hint of rose/pink/peach in certain lights. I call it terracotta pink. Benjamin Moore calls it Adobe Dust. It's so warm and rich and friendly – the paint color makes it my favorite room in the house.

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    • Good to meet you. Love your card, too darn cute! Congrats to those LUCKY gals who won those classes and gift ceifrticates. Have a happy day!

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  11. I now feel the need to display my My Little Ponies and my Star Wars collection alongside my Royal Dalton figurine and crazy religious toys. Wonder if my dude will go for it. Loving the colours. I also have bookshelf envy.

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  12. WHERE did you get that tree comforter on your bed? I LOVE it. (I'm slightly obsessed with trees)

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  13. I have a question: How does the potted plant/toddler combo work out? I've been dying for more green in the house but so certain that will mean potting soil everywhere, every day.

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    • The bamboo pot has a layer of very large, heavy rocks over the soil. This keeps the plant from tipping over, keeps Tavi out of the potting soil, and gives it a sort of zen garden feeling. :)

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    • While I love the design of the rocker, I will not lie: it is not as comfortable as it should be and even at half-off, shit was STUPID expensive. It was my special "It took me forever to get pregnant, I want this magic rocking chair for when I have the baby!" gift to myself, but I nursed much more often sitting on the purple couch.

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  14. Your place has so much personality, I love it! And you are totally right, downsizing is addictive! I absolutely love getting rid of things. We downsized from a huge 2 bedroom apartment in the suburbs to a tiny 1 bedroom condo in the city and had to part with a lot of stuff. It was hard at first, but now I can't stop! We're living in a bigger place now, but I'm still so careful with what I choose to bring into my home. I find that when I do decide on something to buy, I feel good about my purchase because I've thought about it and I really love it.

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  15. I have looked at your set like 3 times now because I love your house. And I've never been but I WAS at your old house and I can tell this place is so much better for you. *sigh* LOVE it!

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  16. I LOVE your space! I am a color fanatic too and also have realized my house will never look too put together because I like too many different styles I toss together in hopes they work hahaha! Thanks for sharing!

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  17. I'm digging the secretary desk. My mom has her mom's and they are just so cool. Also, the Twilight bed comment made me laugh: we have the exact comforter as Bella does in the movies because I'm secretly a fan girl. Anyway, I am learning to get rid of crap in preparation for our first place and every time I think of how it is impossible I have to remind myself that others have done it. I'll just read your post when I need strength.

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