The offbeat occupant: Colleen, Nonprofit volunteer coordinator
Other occupants: Husband Sam
Approximate square footage: 650-1000 sq. feet (60-93 sq. meters)
How many bedrooms? 2
Lives in: Northeast Minneapolis, MN
When did you move into this home? Sam moved in in February 2009 and I in April 2010.
Let’s start with the neighborhood. What’s it like where you live? We love where we live! Our neighborhood has lots of personality and variety. Northeast Minneapolis has great restaurants of nearly every global cuisine, and the arts scene is thriving here. So much is within easy walking or biking distance; I love knowing that I can easily get cough medicine when I’m sick, fresh doughnuts for a treat at work, and last-minute cilantro for dinner all within just a few blocks.
What makes your home offbeat? Our house was built in 1901 and by the time Sam bought it, it was condemned and boarded. He spent over a year doing a complete rehab inside and out. I helped some, but Sam gets most of the credit.
One of our priorities was making our home efficient and eco-friendly. All of our appliances are really energy-efficient, which keeps our utility costs low. We chose a bamboo floor, well-insulated windows, and the other “green” things we could afford. Next items on our earth-friendly list are expanding the vegetable garden and building a rain garden.
We’re both inspired and calmed by nature, so we chose relaxing earth tones for the house and a lot of wood furniture. However, we also like modern vintage stuff, so our artwork leans towards more urban style. Most of it is from local artists and came from our giant annual neighborhood art crawl.
A lot of our furniture is vintage finds from Craigslist because we like the personality and affordability of it. The rest is a mix of Ikea, Room and Board Outlet (anyone in the Twin Cities MUST check it out!), Target, and the dining table is a family antique. It may not all represent the same era or style, but we think it mostly goes together well enough.
Our house isn’t that large (850 sq. feet, 79 sq. meters) but most of the time we like its little size. Although Sam is a little possession-prone (which means clutter in such a small house), it’s easy to keep such a small space clean. The high ceilings, open floor plan, numerous windows, and large yard help our home feel larger than it is.
What’s the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? Our house is not very big! That’s both something I love and something that drives me crazy. Our house and room layouts are limited; for instance, our bedroom opens right into the dining room. That means that there’s no such thing as public and private space. Occasionally I wish we had an upstairs or a hallway to make things feel more separate. We don’t have many options to arrange our living room furniture, and our bedroom barely fits a queen bed and one dresser. We have three small closets in the whole house, and while we have a small garage and basement, they are both kind of gross, damp, and not ideal for storing some things.
Overcoming this challenge is still a work in progress, especially since we’ve been living together less than a year and are still figuring out what we each need and want from our space. Because I am less into “stuff” than Sam is, I’ve had to learn that not every nook and cranny can be organized the way I wish it were. Despite me wishing we had more kitchen storage, one drawer will be for Sam’s random junk. I try to let little spaces like that go.
On the practical side, we benefit a lot from closet organizers, good shelving, and storage-centric furniture such as our buffet, armoire, and kitchen cart.
What’s your favorite feature of your home? Because nothing was salvageable, we got to select everything from the doorknobs to the paint colors to the medicine cabinet. That means that we like a lot of things about our home!
My personal favorite feature is our yard. We’ve got almost a double lot, which gives us ample space for a garden, fire pit, and outdoor entertaining. Because our indoor space is limited, we have friends over a lot more in the summer when we can be outside. Come winter, I love our plentiful windows so I can enjoy the sunshine without being in the frigid cold.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from this home? This home has taught me to love the imperfect. Our place will never be quite done; that’s the challenge and exciting potential of a self-done rehab. I used to think that a few unfilled nail holes or missing cabinet knobs would drive me up the wall, but I’ve slowly learned to love my home despite what’s not perfectly complete. Making progress on those small to-dos is exciting, but I can survive without most of them.
What’s your grandest plan for the space? We love our house and neighborhood, but we know that someday we’ll want a bigger place. We’ve talked about adding on a second story so we can keep what we love but have that dreamy master suite with dual closets, a living room that can actually hold a normal-size couch and loveseat, etc. Maybe we’ll do it, maybe we won’t.
Shorter-term projects include putting up the crown molding and curtains we have just begging to be installed, painting the bathroom blue, rehabbing the ugly front porch, and continuing to improve the landscaping. Some day we’d like a bed frame, “real” nightstands (mine is currently fashioned from a Three-Buck Chuck box), a dining table that’s not falling apart, and things like that — but they’re not too high on our priority list.
What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? These days, it seems that a lot of friends of mine in their mid-twenties are buying homes or dreaming of it. I generally like owning our home, but I’ve also enjoyed renting. Neither is right for everyone. There’s no one way to make a home. Don’t buy unless you’re sure it’s what you really want for yourself, and at that time do a lot of research and get some financial advice. With the market as bad as it is, home ownership is tough to get out of if for some reason you want a change.
Show me the decor porn — AND the crazy condition the house was in when they bought!