An art historian's eclectic, nerdy, queer, and academic-themed 650 sq ft apartment

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My decorating style and clothing style are one and the same: lots of texture, pattern, and color, and a mix of old and new, femme and butch. Plus lots of purple and lots of pink, from my hair to my lipstick!

The offbeat occupant: Shannon, Grad Student
Other occupants: Just me!
Approximate square footage: Under 650 sq. feet
How many bedrooms? 1
Lives in: Browne's Addition, Spokane, WA, United States
When did you move into this home? 1 year

Let's start with the neighborhood. What's it like where you live? Browne's Addition is one of the more eclectic neighborhoods in Spokane, with a mix of Victorian homes, both single-family and split into apartments (like mine), historical and newer apartment blocks, the area's Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC), and local businesses and restaurants. I love living just three blocks from a park where local community events like ArtFest happen throughout the summer and where there's lots of space to spread out with a book or a picnic.

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Action figures live over the doorway to the hallway. Sneak-attack nerdiness!

What makes your home offbeat? I've been interested in interior design since I was a kid — drawing up elaborate plans for the canopy bed and reading hammock that would be in my dream bedroom when I was little — and my favorite homes in all the decorating magazines were the ones with whimsy and fun. As an adult, I love a well-designed object or a piece of art, but I like to nestle them in with my own cheap (but well-loved) vacation souvenirs or my nerdy collectibles.

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Philmore, the pheasant, was a flea market find, but Mortimer the whitetail deer was a gift from my brother-in-law, who hunts.

I want my home to feel not just lived-in, but full of items you can't wait to pick up and find out more about. I'm an art historian and a life-long reader, which means lots of books and lots of beautiful things for the sake of their beauty.

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Too many shoes to fit in the closet!

It's nerdy, but it's infused with a queer, feminist aesthetic, with a preponderance of queer and feminist artists included in the postcard wall and the shrine to Oscar Wilde placed next to the mantle.

Handmade Oscar Wilde shrine, just because.
Handmade Oscar Wilde shrine, just because.

What's the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? The size! At 425 square feet, it's not the smallest apartment in the world, but with my books, collections, clothes, and art, I really have to make use of every space.

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The main living area, which serves as library/study, dining room and living room in one. The silver table at the back is desk/dining table in one, but I also have a wheeled "coffee" table that I use as a mini desk, to allow me to work on my computer sitting in the armchair.
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Entertainment station: television, bar cart, board games!

Many things serve double-duty as well, like the desk/dining table/craft table/etc. It does, however, help me stay organized, because a few items out-of-place can seem huge when you're tripping over them every day!

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Pot rack made from an old door. I painted it with chalkboard paint, added an antique doorknob to hold my lunchbag, and affixed bars with hooks from Ikea to hold my pots & pans.

What's your favorite feature of your home? I love the pot rack I made from an old door and some Ikea towel rods and hooks. The set of copper pots on it were a gift from my mom, who is an excellent flea market shopper; those and so many other items passed down and gifted from family members and loved ones help me feel like every space is filled with good memories. And my library — all those books are a pain to move, but there's nothing better than having a book on hand to lend to a friend you know will love it!

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The main library, with books double-stacked to save space.

What's the most important lesson you've learned from this home? It's helped me make some tough choices about the things I'd like to surround myself with. Since there's virtually no out-of-sight storage, I have to decide if that random Christmas decoration or out-of-date guidebook are really something I need around. That being said, though, having a lot of visual interest and items I love — even if they're not "useful" — is important to me, so those that have little memory and little use are so much easier to donate or pass on.

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What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? Don't be afraid of mixing things that might not otherwise go together! Those nerdy pieces of fanart don't need to be relegated to the office, and a bit of profanity and irreverence won't hurt anyone!

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DVD library and gallery wall. As an art historian (and a nerd) I can never get enough art up on my walls.

Any stuff or services you want to recommend?

  • My favorite places to get items nerdy, irreverent, bookish, and well-designed are Boo Radley's and Atticus Coffee, a pair of shops in downtown Spokane, appropriately named after To Kill A Mockingbird. Great for gifts, homewares, coffee/tea, and books.
  • The best new and used bookshop in Spokane is Auntie's Books.
  • Finally, my favorite source for all things fanart is UnicornEmpire, which is where the "Driver Picks the Music" poster at the top of my wall came from. They have great Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, Harry Potter, and Teen Wolf items.

Show me the decor porn!

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  1. OMG we are identical hair twins! (Where's Regina Phalange?)

    Cute apartment! You've really figured out how to make the space work!

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  2. Awesome! Yay for fellow art historians!

    PS, I totally get you with the books. My husband and moved about two months ago and I actually had a stretch of time where I was regretting all of my books–there were soooooo many heavy boxes of them! Buuut, I love them and use them, so I can't just get rid of them… (And I know my librarian/historian husband feels the same way about his…)

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    • Yay art historians! What's your area?

      The books! Oh, man, the books! I seem to have the amnesia where once they're in the space and organized and useful, I forget how difficult they are to move. Until I have to do it again!

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      • My area of preference is Northern art, mostly pre-1500, though I can't be too picky. Right now I'm mostly working for myself (as an artist), though I am assisting with a catalogue of a museum collection (writing entries for works that definitely don't fit into my category of preference, but that intrigue me all the same). What's yours?

        • Oh, very interesting! I've worked on exhibition labels/object entries before on objects way outside of my area of interest, and I like the challenge of working them out. I work in contemporary art, primarily situated around issues of intersectional identities, and usually though not always in photo/video. It actually gives me a lot of leeway in terms of art objects and artists to work with, which I love!

  3. Where did you get the wheel-y cart o' booze?

    I love how you put together your space!

  4. Your place is super-rad! I completely hear you on this: "I want my home to feel not just lived-in, but full of items you can't wait to pick up and find out more about." It's a fine line to walk between achieving this goal and devolving into anxiety-inducing clutter, but you seem to have nailed it perfectly. Do you have any successful strategies for dealing with dust, cobwebs and cleaning in your very-full space? This is my biggest challenge with having collections of cool stuff displayed on every flat surface in my home, in that it takes a long-ass time when I actually want to get things clean (because apparently there's a big difference between blowing really hard to remove dust and actually removing items from a shelf and cleaning them, and the shelf, off).

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    • Oh, man, I wish I had a perfect solution for cleaning all those little knick-knacks. Honestly, some of them, like the higher-up art pieces, don't get cleaned very often (if ever). To try and keep on top of it, I do the "big pass" cleaning, like vacuuming, really often, and leave the dusting and more finicky cleaning to do in stages. It feels less intimidating if you're concentrating on just one corner for this week, and can leave the desk, say, to clean up next week. Plus, many things do move around a lot — books off shelves, the mantle being re-arranged — so I take those opportunities to run a rag over the shelves and neaten things up a bit. (And thank you!)

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      • This is why I fantasize about having a bunch of cabinets with glass doors, so I can display stuff and not have as much dust accumulate. Would figure that I would want to turn my home into a museum…

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        • Ohhhh that would be amazing. I do sort of envision myself as living within a life-size cabinet of curiosities, so having some massive old-fashioned cabinets to formalize it would be awesome!

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  5. Love-love-love-love-love your apartment – so much eye candy and stuff I want to touch and ask about!

    Could you please have a DIY on how you made your Oscar Wilde shrine?

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    • Thank you! I would love to put together a DIY — I'll have to poke around and see if I have any good in-progress pictures that would help visualize it. I'm considering doing a Sherlock Holmes-themed one next, so maybe I'll see if I can incorporate that.

      • Please do! I'd love a tutorial as well. Also, I was going to comment that I love your philosophy about the space you live in, and that I'm terribly jealous of your *awesome* polished copper pots πŸ™‚

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        • Thank you! The copper pots were such a wonderful gift; useful and beautiful! I will get a tutorial going so that everyone can make their own pop culture shrines πŸ˜€

    • Ooh! Me too! Another request for a how-to on the DIY shrine. We just moved into a smaller apartment and the wall-mounted option is fantastic!

  6. Is that a Queens university tea towel by flaxfox in your kitchen? If so- is there a Northern Irish connection?

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    • It is! I studied at Queens for a year in my undergrad, and much of my academic work has been focused on contemporary art from Ireland and Northern Ireland. (I think I also have the Belfast City Hall tea towel around somewhere…) Are you a Northern Irisher yourself?

      • Yup, living in Scotland now though. Have a flaxfox h&w cranes print above my fireplace at the mo awaiting gallery wall placement!

  7. oh my goodness I LOVE LOVE LOVE that re-purposed door pot rack. I've been wrestling with how to store all my dang pots & pans and now I really want to do something like this! Mine are not nearly as pretty though! I love this apartment. I want to go there and just walk around and look all the cool stuff like a museum.

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    • I LOVE the door pot rack. It's so nice because you don't have to hang anything on walls/from the ceiling. I would imagine it could be done with lots of different materials — an old table top, a scrap piece of countertop, who knows? I had the door because my sister's remodeling her old farmhouse and found it. (Also, thanks!)

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  8. I can tell you've put so much effort and personality into your space. I love it! That pot rack is especially brilliant. What a great idea for renters who can't hang stuff like that on the walls or don't want to invest in a storage system they can't move.

    • Thank you! Renting does bring its own challenges, and the pot rack was so easy to make and set up that it was worth every minute!

  9. Omg! Art Historians for the win! Represent!

    I feel like we'd be good friends. If only I could get my damn family on board with moving to Washington. I only speak of it every day. Your apartment is adorable, thank you for sharing.

    • Yay art historians!! Washington is lovely; you should definitely move there πŸ˜€ (I have actually since moved, in between submitting this and it being posted, to begin a new grad program!)

  10. I love it. It's like a hands-on museum of awesome. I really like how you make the small space useful and have lots of stuff to look at and use without feeling cluttered. And I'd stab a hobo for that blue Ikea cart…my Ikea is ALWAYS sold out of them. πŸ™‚ (Not really. No hobos were stabbed in the writing of this post.)

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    • "It's like a hands-on museum of awesome." This is the best comment ever! I'm totally stealing that to describe my place to people from here on out πŸ˜€ I will keep my fingers crossed that the cart shows up in stock for you sometime soon! (And for the hobos' sake. :D) I really love mine an awful lot and am pleased as punch that teal seems to be in everywhere at the moment so I can snatch up lots of matching accessories.

    • Aren't they great? The shades were part of Liberty of London's collaboration with Target (I bought way, way too much stuff from that collection), and the bases are vintage. I've seen things from the collaboration pop up on ebay, so you might take a look!

  11. Thanks for sharing your lovely home with us! I love the shoe collection, the nerdy stuffs, and the book collection. After moving back and forth across the country, I've had to whittle down my book collection, and I miss having that many!

    I also think it's great that you have a comfy chair and side table set up for your work. I think too many academics think a desk is the only place for serious work – but it should be whatever you find works best! And that chair looks great. Nearly four years out of grad school, and I still end up doing work on my bed once in a while. Terrible habit, but sometimes I just hate desks/tables. I definitely need a chair like yours.

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    • Thank you! Sometimes desks can feel too restrictive, and that chair is crazy comfortable. It's definitely necessary to vary where I study so I don't get into a rut!

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  12. Your apartment is so amazing! So warm and cozy and lived in. I love the amount of knick-knacks and art and tchotskys and the way they're all arranged — it's like a museum of awesomeness!

  13. I love your apartment! Everything is my favourite, especially your postcard wall and your black and white carpet in your living room. Oh, and your Gilmore Girls collection πŸ™‚

    • Gilmore Girls!! Most definitely my most-beloved show, no question πŸ˜€ The postcard wall has been such a labor of love; it's so rewarding to look up at it and remember all the museums I've visited over the years. Thank you!

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  14. Just want to say I love your action figures. I have that Jane Austen one and I got all excited over recognizing your doctor who ones (now that I've finally started watching Doctor Who, I feel fully initiated into the realms of nerdiness). Also, I'm totally jealous of you getting to live in a Victorian.

    • Welcome to Doctor Who! I started collecting those way back, I think before they were even sold widely in America, so it always felt so rewarding to track one down. It makes me just tickled that so many more people love the show now πŸ˜€ And yay Jane Austen! Thank you!!

  15. 1. I love your apartment, thank you for sharing it with us.
    2. I am in crazy jealous lust of your copper pots and pans. Like, unbelievably so. Like I was hoping you got them on Amazon and I could click through an OBH link and support the empire and buy them and make a bitching rack like yours. – Thank you for saying your mom found them at a flea market so I don't spend the day searching the interwebs to find them.

    • I'll be very (un)helpful and let you know that the copper pans are from the Paul Revere 1976 limited edition set, pieces of which often show up on ebay πŸ˜€ They can run pretty pricey, there, though; I think my mom snagged them for $35 for the lot, which makes me very glad the seller didn't look on ebay for the going rate!

      Thank you!

  16. Oooooh I love it! I just can't get enough of collage-y cozy homes with cool things every where! My hubster would much rather have a clean modern minimalist look but I get away with this style in the bed room. πŸ˜‰

    • Thank you!! The bedroom is definitely the best place to go with the super-cozy look, anyway — all those soft textures and sentimental items are good for the heart, I think!

  17. I absolutely love your apartment!!! The postcard arrangement on your wall is an inspiration!

    Also, I'm so happy to see another home feature!

  18. Love this home! Love the mix or nerdy and artsy. I always enjoy seeing how other people make use of their small spaces (I live in a 900 sq ft apartment with three other people), I really want to implement a pot rack like yours now!

    • I know what you mean; I love taking inspiration from other small spaces and seeing how people make creative use of storage! The pot rack is super helpful, especially if your kitchen has some wall space but not a lot of cupboard space, like mine! Thank you!

  19. oh man. tea towels as wall decor, why did I never think about that?
    also as someone who is literally sitting here in UnicornEmpire's Sherlock tshirt, RESOUNDING AGREEMENT ON THEIR AWESOMENESS

    • Sherlock! AWESOME. The only thing that bums me out about UnicornEmpire is that they only very, very occasionally make their teeshirt designs into posters. I don't wear tees much, but I would plaster my walls with their stuff if only I could! The Sherlock one! The Hobbit one!

      • I am now also sad I cannot buy ALL THE THINGS as prints, because prints. LOVE. and I only have one torso to adorn with tshirts.
        I do however have the Castiel cushion on my couch already…

  20. I want to go to this apartment and look at all of your books and art work! That's a good thing, right?

  21. I have to ask: on the bottom right of your main library, are those books from the Royal Daries series? It was my favourite 'series' of books when I was a kid. If not, they seriously look like it!

    Also: I freaking adore everything about your apartment!

  22. They are indeed! I loved them so much as a kid that I couldn't quite stop collecting. I think I'm only missing a couple now. They're so good, right? And thank you!

  23. I love your clever adjustable shelving unit you transformed into your closet space. Did you get that at the container store?

  24. Charming. Love your retro artsy nerd vibe — and seeing examples of how real people can attractively dress their environment using their favorite stuff! Not all of us are minimalists. Although I would have to put a curtain in front of your closet storage wall in the bedroom. While a necessary nook, facing that kind of open clutter would make it difficult for me to relax. Might have to steal your vintage door pot rack! Adore racks of all kinds, especially ones that be made to stand against the wall with a little ingenuity. Always appreciate inspiration to extend storage!

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