Our one-bedroom condo in Seattle: Home to four people and a kitty living well

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The offbeat occupant: Alissa — grad student, Episcopal priest-in-training, consultant, mama, teacher

Other occupants: My husband Andrew, the kids J and S, and the kitty Penelope

Approximate square footage: 650-1000 sq. feet

How many bedrooms? 1

Lives in: Central District, Seattle, Washington, United States

When did you move into this home? six years ago

Let's start with the neighborhood. What's it like where you live? We live about two miles from downtown Seattle in a neighborhood with a great walkability score and a rather bad reputation (for Seattle) for struggling with drug and crime issues.

technically its against the rules to jump on the couch
Technically it's against the rules to jump on the couch… but what are rules for, really?

We love our local indie coffee shop, the community center with tennis courts and an indoor pool across the street, and the bus lines that can take us anywhere. The CD (Central District) is pretty diverse — the housing crash slowed its gentrification considerably — and this is part of the appeal for us as well, as our kids are adopted and a different race from us — we're white.

One really important part of the "neighborhood" for all four of us is the community we have within our building — a 21-unit, 1928 brick beauty, full of families with kids, singles, and gay and straight couples who are child-free. Many of us eat together regularly — we grill on the front patio, watch each other's kids and pets and depend on each other in good times and bad. It's pretty amazing.

What makes your home offbeat? We're a family of four that love living in a pretty small space. Our condo is 730 square feet, one bedroom and one-and-a-half baths.

planting done!

We don't actually feel like our home is small at all. After all we've got the entire city right outside to play in. In fact, we garden in the alley outside. Last summer Andrew built these big gardening boxes outside our windows. It's a great place to grow some vegetables and talk about plants' life cycles. And the girls love to check on the growth from inside or outside, depending on the weather.

Library/closet/entry
Our library/closet/entry. Andrew and my dad built the bookshelf/standing desk workstation as the very first improvement we made after moving in to our home. We keep grown-up folded clothes in the closet, which I have tried covering but for some reason just like better open. The hooks inside are a good landing pad for bags, coats, sweaters, whatevers.

It's not immediately apparent (unless you check out the record collection or the bookcase) but Andrew and I are offbeat in other ways too. We're pretty geeky about sci-fi/fantasy stuffs and indie music from a wide variety of sources.

I don't have the discipline to keep the kitchen baby-safe.
The rest of the living room, leading into the kitchen
home-made window seat
My dad designed this window seat for us and turned the columns himself on his lathe. We built it in a weekend and it's one of my favorite innovations, both for added seating and storage.

What's the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? Andrew and I have had to sort of redefine "alone" time and get clear with letting each other know when we need it. There's no wandering into another part of the house for a moment to oneself around here, and while that works great when the kids are up, when they're asleep there's just one room left to hang out in.

the Sleep Cave
Our half bath, which is curiously off the bedroom, has doubled as a sensory deprivation chamber for Andrew, who until very recently worked nights. We hacked a bunk bed and lofted it over the sink and toilet, meaning that he's got everything he needs in there: water, sewer, sleep!

We're lucky in that we like each other and find it easy to be quiet together and sometimes just to ignore each other for a bit but this more than anything has been a negotiation for us. Also the kitchen is pretty durn small.

lunchtime
Our kitchen seating area has been though many phases — the latest is an improvised nook with a benches and table from IKEA. We can have two adult guests for dinner and still seat everyone at the table. For family time, the adults can share a bench with a kid or sit on one of two stools that tuck easily under the table.
Our galley kitchen with spices on the wall. Most of our daily use kitchen utensils hang from hooks over the sink, as well as the baby's high chair trays. (It'll look nicer when those are gone, but it's handy to have a clean one within reach!)
Our galley kitchen with spices on the wall. Most of our daily use kitchen utensils hang from hooks over the sink, as well as the baby's high chair trays. (It'll look nicer when those are gone, but it's handy to have a clean one within reach!)

What's your favorite feature of your home? I love our Murphy bed. Originally the plan was to just share the bedroom with the kid (at one point there was just going be one kid) and then get a bigger place when we needed another bedroom. But our Murphy bed changed all that — plus it's just super cool. And there's a TV on the inside.

lay 'n play
Lay 'n play: a shot of the bed down, and the TV that lives inside.

What's the most important lesson you've learned from this home? This home has taught me that where I live can not only reflect my values but also has the power to shape them. We didn't intend to stay here, and I certainly never expected to end up loving small space living or a minimalist approach to possessions, but this home has taught me the value of both and shaped the expectations I put on myself for how I want to show up as a homemaker in the world.

The kids' room. We used Ikea picture shelves for kid books down low, and to display records and photos up higher.
The kids' room. We used Ikea picture shelves for kid books down low, and to display records and photos up higher.

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What's your grandest plan for the space? OMG, so many plans, I have got layer upon layer of plans! I think the very grandest dream would be to open up the kitchen — take out the wall between kitchen and living room and completely redesign the living room/kitchen area as a great room type space. If only the electrical panel weren't located in the wall I want to demolish… it'd be so cool though.

What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? Get to know your neighbors — our quality of life is immeasurably enhanced by the friendships we've formed with ours. Also, Murphy beds are cool.

Thanks HomeKey!
Stacey from Home Key Organization helped us figure this corner out so it could work well for kids at different places developmentally. Although these days our little kid is laser focused on being a big kid too.

Any stuff or services you want to recommend? One run through our flickr set will tell you we're IKEA addicts. I would recommend Home Key OrganizationThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them — the lovely Stacey helped me think through organizing the bedroom for our little ladies and her advice was awesome.

Show me the decor porn!

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  1. Everything about this is adorable! Your daughters, the cool things hanging over their beds, and the color of your walls! OOOO!
    For a small place, you managed to keep it looking really spacious! Great job!
    Is the Murphy bed comfy? My husband and I lived in one bedroom apartments (and a studio) for a few years with our little one, and we always just threw our mattress in the living room like it was another couch. : )

    • We love our Murphy Bed – it's basically a platform bed and the fact that it's attached securely to the wall means that its, um, quieter than a freestanding bed. πŸ™‚ We have a latex mattress and are super comfy.

      We found a carpenter on craigslist who builds them and he also delivered and installed it. It was significantly cheaper than any other option I found for getting one.

        • You know, I have lost his information!! But I found him by searching for Murphy Bed on Craigslist and ended up paying around $1200 for the whole shebang. Which is still spendy but WAY less than most any other option. Also, google The Bedder Way co. they have kits you build yourself and frequently run free shipping sales. They were our next choice.

  2. I salute your small-space and minimalistic living, and think you have a super cool name. Also, your kids are amazingly cute. πŸ™‚

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  3. You guys are such an inspiration! I'm not sure how long my son can keep sleeping in his little bed closet, and it's so great to see the ways that y'all have found of accommodating space for everyone.

    I feel like, if a family of FOUR can make this work so elegantly, the rest of us have no excuse. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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    • Aw, thanks!! I feel like it's important to LOVE the place we live in, and if we do it will keep working for us. Our home has been through at least one major evolution every year we've been in it to accommodate new ideas/changing needs/etc. It would be hard to have that kind of variety dealing with a larger space, if that makes sense.

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    • "I feel like, if a family of FOUR can make this work so elegantly, the rest of us have no excuse."

      This. Exactly. Love to see that families can THRIVE without the 2,000+ sf house that seems to be the expectation nowadays. πŸ™‚

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    • Wow, I feel really marginalized by this comment. Consider the concept of assistive living devices like wheelchairs, crutches, etc which require more room to maneuver, or mental health issues that may require more open or personal space.

      There are all sorts of value differences that wouldn't necessarily work with this sort of set-up, completely aside from "disabilities." For one, I'm very uncomfortable with the concept of having grown-up bedrooms without a door that can be closed, when there are kids around. For another, the absolute last thing I want is to not be able to use my kitchen because someone is sleeping in the same room.

      None of these are "excuses." These people have some great ideas, all of which may be helpful to somebody, but it doesn't mean that the rest of us must emulate their lifestyle.

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  4. So glad to see this! We live in a one bedroom condo with our daughter & I'm pretty sure it makes everyone else crazy.

  5. Can I just say that I love that your home is a little bit messy and disorganized? My house is never, ever clean and it's so refreshing to see other people's REAL homes in action.

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    • haha – and this is after I cleaned it up!! No, really – I'm just not the sort of person who is comfortable in a completely pristine uncluttered universe. Which is an advantage for us in our space (and with small children). Practically – it takes me about two hours to do a fairly thorough cleaning/straightening to my satisfaction. Another benefit of limited space.

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    • Messy?? I was just thinking how tidy and organized it looks for such a small space!

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      • Especially considering all the spaces you DON'T have to hide stuff in, like extra closets, under the bed (ha!), etc.

        Once for a party, my husband and I literally put everything that we couldn't find a place for into our bedroom. My friend's girlfriend was in awe of how tidy the apartment was (although it was still certainly far from perfect), so I took her aside and let her peek into the bedroom – we had a good laugh and I think she felt a lot better…

        1 agrees
  6. The circus tent canopies (?) over the beds make me squee!
    I'm liking all the ways you've made use of your closets–and that you've left them open! I have those folding doors that really just seem to get in the way and look like more clutter than what's inside. I might just pop them off the tracks!

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  7. My little family lives a small group of side by side duplexes that share a courtyard. Over the years, we've grown very close to our neighbors. Like you describe, we take care of each other's children and share meals together often. Our family is growing and I always thought we'd get a bigger place someday, but the sense of community we have now is worth WAY more than an extra bathroom or bigger kitchen. Like you, I didn't start out committed to small space living, but my community has inspired me to keep the stuff minimal and stay in our awesome little corner of neighbors.

  8. It is great to see this for so many reasons, but especially for the comments about the communities in which we live. I have always been attracted to small spaces, but when we moved into our current house, I sort of wondered how we were going to make 800 sq ft work for our family of four. But, we loved the house and loved the neighborhood, and five years later, we still love it. Our neighbors are so great – we are so close to people here that I cannot imagine moving. Our only reoccurring point of conflict thus far has been the bathroom. It always seems like our boys both have to go at the exact same time…

  9. I love how the space worked out for you all! Right now, my family of 4 (soon 5, and right now I'm including our cat Persephone) live in one bedroom in a very large house our family owns. Problem is that the house is so large, but all the other bedrooms are full of clutter. I am not going to lie; I desperately want out of this one bedroom! Here in a little over a week, our relatives that live here with us will be going down to Florida where they stay for approximately 6 months out of the year. That will give us some more space to roam around in, but the ultimate goal is to move in somewhere by ourselves. I'm expecting, and considered getting a 2 bedroom apartment, but with rent soaring in our area that may be out of the question.

    SO, instead what I considered doing was getting a 1 bedroom apartment (most all here come with dining rooms), curtaining off the dining room and making that the baby's and the toddler's room and using the bedroom for us, or vice versa depending on the layout. I do like the thrill of making small spaces work, and I guess it's because I've had to do it for so long. That and finding thrifty deals on furniture, since I've never been able to get a brand new set. I personally think it is more fun, and I am using your layout as inspiration for when we make our move! BTW, your children are SO adorable. My husband and I are a mixed couple (I'm black, he's white), and our two children are/will be mixed of course. We've wanted to move to a place like Seattle because of the good things we've heard about it from others, especially for diversity. So it's nice to see a couple like you with such a unique situation similar to our own. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I'm wondering about the wording used regarding the half bath, that it's "curiously" off the bedroom…isn't that standard??

  11. Shout out to the CD! So good to see another lover of this marvelously eclectic neighborhood. πŸ™‚ This area has such a bad reputation, but I've never had the same level of friendliness and graciousness from my neighbors in any other area of the city.

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