The first season of living in my new 400-square-foot winter home, has been challenging and life-changing. It is teaching me a lot about what I “truly need” vs I “really want”, and about the line between comfort and chaos. I still own my Minneapolis home, and while I’ve done some decluttering there, I’m not at the age (yet) where I have had to get rid of my precious, sentimental stuff. So this has truly been an opportunity - and privilege - to create more joy in my life.
In outfitting this “miniature” house, the challenge has been three-fold.
First, I needed to ask myself “what does the next 5-10 years look like?” Will I want to keep this place? If not, what changes are reasonable, and what needs to wait?
Second, given that I don’t have a crystal ball, I had to decide how much change I needed to make this place feel like home RIGHT NOW.
Third, since I decided to stick to decorating only, I needed to find the right “stuff” – with forms, colors and textures that delight me, without creating visual clutter.
I bought my place in March of 2022 and planned to return in December. It was a bit agonizing to wait to get started! One item that couldn’t wait was getting my “catio” built. Tilly would be making his inaugural visit to the southwest, and I wanted him to be safe while outside with me on my deck.
I knew that most other things would have to wait until I could see, touch and measure in person. Note: even though it was fun to dream, plan and “fantasy shop”, long distance decorating – like long-distance relationships - is frustrating. I was able to solidify my color palette – taupey-gray, copper, and orange, with pops of green and turquoise. I knew that these hues would blend well with the backdrop of beige walls, brown floors and cabinets.
On day one of arrival, I commenced a whirlwind of measuring, researching and shopping. Some crucial decisions: How did I plan to entertain? To work remotely?
The pullout sleeper sofa had unfortunate fabric but was brand new. I pored over websites and landed on a fun gray throw with a generic, southwestern pattern. Next - the brown Naugahyde recliners had to go. I posted and sold them in one hour (!), and settled on two airy, modern and comfy Poang armchairs from IKEA. I repurposed the patio table as a coffee table, and after a few false starts (and many UPS and FedEx returns), I found the perfect area rug, lamps, chandelier and decorative pieces to update the original 2012 décor. My criteria was to only add things that I was drawn to, would bring me joy, and would also look great in my Minneapolis home if I chose to bring them back and forth.
For the deck, I found a round glass-top table that looked great with the wicker furniture left by the sellers. It is a perfect for an outdoor office and for entertaining. I bought colorful pillows to go with a set of table linens gifted to me by a dear friend. A funky floor lamp, LED string lights, an outdoor rug, and fun metal wall sculptures make the deck festive and comfortable. I also purchased the ubiquitous propane “patio heater”, which was a great decision considering the chilly winter we’ve had this year.
For the landscaping piece (the 11’ x 6’ patch of gravel in front of my unit), I found an adorable, cast concrete “turtle family” and a lovely Talavera planter. I wrapped colorful string lights around the railings and placed bright potted plans on the front steps.
In the space of a few months, through dogged effort and perseverance, my place now feels like home. I do have plans and dreams for next year. I might paint some walls. I might change some hardware. I might replace the original tub/shower unit with a walk-in shower. In the meantime, I’m content. Here is the "space in progress':
In closing, I hope that, whether you are nesting in your new apartment, settling into your first new house, considering a second property, downsizing or upsizing, my story will inspire you and encourage you to lovingly create a space that supports you and truly feels like home.
P.S.: I’ve discovered even more empathy for my clients want to make changes without majorly impacting their retirement portfolios!