Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Space: It’s all about how you use it

I like to tell people that my renovation is about creating a jewel of a house. For a whole host of reasons, I’ve come to prefer small, refined and beautifully crafted spaces to big statements of success. I really abhor the hummer and McMansion society that has defined America in the last two decades…. starting in the dreaded 80’s.

I hope the great awakening in this century is about less consumption, more conservation and less of a desire for bigger cars, homes, possessions, footprint etc. If society would realize that: “bigger isn’t always better;” “more is less;” and my new favorite…… “the wise man carries his possessions within him”.

Let me be honest though, I’ve had my own share of consumption vices in the past. I’m still in recovery from a lifetime of amassing a collection of shoes, dishes, even cats. But as I tell my friends, going green is about making small steps to change some of the more egregious practices that degrade the health of the planet. Eventually those small steps multiply and you are able to do more, comfortably about a new way of living. This is a marathon we are in, not a sprint.

On small space usage.

Cemil, my trusty green guide, has taught me how wasted space in a home is just unacceptable. As a good student, I’ve now become very adept at coming up with solutions for every little nook and cranny in this house project as a result of relocating rooms and walls. And I now have some of the coolest features in my small home and I can’t wait to live with the conveniences that they afford.

My beloved baker’s/butler’s pantry.

I love to bake and in the past I would have to do so while my boyfriend was in the middle of creating some elaborate Mediterranean feast. His garlic mincing would often meander over to my pastry rolling area, exposing it to unsavory additions. Anyone who uses a rolling pin also knows that there is an optimum height and it’s not the same counter height that you use for chopping vegetables. But now I have my own baker’s pantry that has been crafted to my specifications. With: lowered counters; a touchless faucet for floury hands; an extra dishwasher to keep my food processor from being confused with the one making a soffrito. And of course, just the right number of cabinets to accommodate rolling pins, cooking sheets, and measuring cups.

Side note: this space used to be a washer/dryer room that was misplaced in the center most part of the house. The washer and dryer have been stacked and put in the garage and this new center of the house will now produce freshly made cakes and pies!

A corner kitchen desk.

In creating the necessary returns to complete a room design, it often means that there are little niches that are generally unused. One such space revealed itself between the baking pantry and the kitchen. It was just the right space for a little desktop surface and a bookshelf for cookbooks. The counter area is just the size for a laptop, but it means that quick lookups on will become easier.

The cat excretorium.

With four cats, one is bound to have issues with cat pans and waste disposal. So Cemil came up with a clever solution that has been coined “an excretorium” by my boyfriend. It’s been carved out of a back hallway that abuts the garage. So on the inside, the cats can enter their own tiled bathroom through a little kitty door. On the outside, I will be able to access the cat pan area from the garage in order to remove the waste, wash down the area with an internal faucet, and whisk the offending refuse away to the outdoors. Cemil will install a motion-sensor fan to come on 10 seconds after a cat leaves the excretorium.

A guitar cubbyhole.

The boyfriend is a musician and he plays guitar. As a result, he has several. In the past, we always leaned them in their cases in the closet or corner of the room. But they always interfered with the space and were constantly being moved to get them out of the way. Cemil pointed out that we had a narrow, but deep space that came about as a result of carving out a coat closet and bookshelves from a wall in the office. As I looked at it, it seemed perfect for tall slender guitar cases. So now the guitars will have their own closet, behind a closet.

Wall safe, James Bond style.

Since the bedroom has been carved up to accommodate a walk-in closet and more spacious bathroom, we felt that we needed to balance it by putting in built-ins. This does two things: 1) the room won’t feel so small as there won’t be lots of furniture to clutter it up; 2) the room is more symmetrical and truly becomes a cozy place that feels “dedicated” to its defined use, as a bedroom. In making these changes, we created a “dead” space that was too small for another built-in. But it wasn’t too small to insert a safe that will be neatly disguised by a movable wall piece and a painting...... hence, the James Bond reference.

Bookcases instead of cabinets.

I have noticed, sadly of late, that homes no longer seem to have a prominent display of books. I will give the benefit of the doubt, and assume that many people just hide their books way. I prefer to think that versus the alternative: which is that people just don’t have books anymore. Anyway, I decided that a significant amount of wall space would be devoted to bookshelves. I’ve added them in as many places as I could and truly believe that they make a good bed backboard, end of hallway statement, and should be a key element of a room claiming to be an office or a “library.” So now all my books can come out of boxes and from storage and beckon to me to reread some of my favorites.

After all, if we carry our possessions with us, let our imagination and knowledge be the result of what we’ve read in literature!

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