Name: Susy and Dale
Location: Reno, Nevada
Size: 440 sq. ft. studio
Years lived in: 1½ years
Do what we do long enough and one begins to appreciate seeing smart ideas from unexpected places. Although we regularly receive house tour submissions from larger cities like our own, San Diego, Phoenix, Austin and other design-centric regions, we're always ecstatic about seeing a home from smaller, yet vibrant areas outside the usual suspects. Such is the case with Susy and Dale's small footprint Reno studio, which we think is a perfect example of "real people" decor with creative and efficient design planning (loft bed, a perfectly organized kitchen, etc), illustrating many of the concepts we promote here on our site, but with furnishings and decorative items that forgo the design store/catalog aesthetic for recognizably comforting, down-to-earth and inviting decor...all words that befit Susy and Dale's space.
My/Our style: I like our home to be uncluttered, calm, comfortable, and pleasing to the eye – everywhere you look.
Inspiration: In the early 70s I fell in love with David Lance Goines posters and they have always influenced the colors I’ve chosen for any place we’ve lived. I used to pore over the pictures in the old Apartment Life magazines and got lots of ideas from them. I also lived in Japan as a child and the minimal, serene spaces made a deep impression on me. But most of all, being ALWAYS on a shoestring budget forced me to be inventive in creating the home I could see in my mind’s eye. (The fact that my husband can build anything I dream up is also inspiring!)
Favorite Element: I love the whole thing! Just opening the door and walking in. But probably the big south-facing windows – we need a lot of light to be happy. I also love our tiny pocket balcony where I sit with my cat Snooky and read in the evening.
Biggest Challenge: That has to be the wall we took down. On each floor of our building, the three-foot-wide fire escape hall and landing were deeded to the smallest apartments, which were the studios. We hired a contractor to take down the wall – no easy feat in this steel and concrete building! He discovered two anti-sway bars within the wall and the structural engineer we consulted said they couldn’t be cut away. So I decided to leave them, paint them white, and use them as a unique design element. Everyone thought I was crazy but it works. I love those bars now. They define our little “library” and add interest and depth.
What Friends Say: Almost everyone loves it. (Some are taken aback by the bars. Lots of pole dancing jokes.) They can’t believe that our home is really only 400+ square feet. One friend calls it the home with the smallest footprint she knows. I don’t know about that but I do believe most people don’t require a ton of space to live comfortably.
Biggest Embarrassment: I can’t think of any embarrassing thing (except maybe how enthusiastic I get when I describe it).
Proudest DIY: That would be the kitchen. I love to cook and it’s important that the kitchen works. This tiny space does! We put up some lovely white wall cabinets (actually intended for a garage) bought on clearance that we had been carting around. They provide tons of storage space. We used white melamine desktop wood (we use that a lot) to enclose and minimize the refrigerator. White shelves for white dishes. Underneath, white wood for more counter space and some inexpensive closet drawer units from Target for storage. A white metal closet shelf for hanging pots and pans – this is what saves the kitchen. Lots of storage on top and EVERYTHING hangs here. Narrow shelves along one wall to hold all my glassware and white buckets of my low-carb baking ingredients. Another white closet shelf above the sink to drain the dishes. A shelf above the refrigerator holds the microwave, and above that is my “appliance garage,” hidden by a large wooden cutting board hanging from cup hooks. Inexpensive foam molding to make a rack to hold all my spices. The whole thing is super-efficient and pretty too.
Biggest Indulgence: New carpet and ceramic tile in the kitchen, professionally installed. Usually we make do or put down linoleum squares ourselves. We chose neutrals to go with the bathroom tile, which we didn’t replace.
Best advice: Well, the WORST advice was from our contractor Lance after he uncovered the anti-sway bars – to cover them back up and turn the hall into a big closet. Needless to say we didn’t take that advice. (Lance did a wonderful job on everything.)
Dream source: I would love to go to Ikea – I’ve never been. I like the Container Store and unfinished furniture places. But mostly we like to find things in hardware and discount stores and use them in odd or different ways. Or letting something wonderful find you.
Appliances: The condo had a small frost-free Avanti refrigerator, which I love, and a tiny Avanti apartment-sized stove which I did NOT love. Thankfully, my Kitchenaid standard/convection oven (transferred from the unit we bought downstairs) fit into the kitchen. Small appliances, like my beloved Kitchenaid mixer, hand blender, Magic Bullet, and slow cooker. More live in the appliance garage.
Furniture: Some great stuff I found online. An amazing loveseat from HomeReserve.com that comes in two boxes and you assemble yourself (less than $300!). Easy to put together, and there are hundreds of upholstery choices, AND it has storage under the seats. And it’s very, very comfortable. That was a wonderful find for a place that has a small elevator and a very small front door! (Also, Snooky the queen is a rescue cat and pathologically shy. She needed a place to hide since she usually dives under a bed when she’s frightened and of course we have no “under the bed” anymore. There’s quite a large space behind the storage in the loveseat, so Dale cut her an opening and now she has a cave to hide in, which she does. A lot.)
Accessories: The dried flowers are cheesy but have sentimental value for me – I’ve had them since my daughters were small. The beautiful Minton and Dresden china collection in the corner cupboard is an heirloom from my great-aunt. The stones and shells in the curio shelf over the dining table have been collected over the years from all our moves. Years ago my daughter had the wonderful idea to paint coffee cans – I used those little bottles of paint from Walmart. I store yarn in them but you could put anything in them. I love them. They’re getting chipped after all our moves. I’ve pared my book collection to an absolute minimum – gave 2/3 of my books to local libraries. I couldn’t give them all up so we had to fit them in.
Lighting: We love rice paper lanterns from Cost Plus. I have one by the books and one in the bathroom. A VERY cheap floor lamp ($12?) from Walmart but I liked the color. Dale put up all the overheads from either Lowes or Home Depot. A hanging swag lamp in my closet. I like things bright.
Rugs and Carpets: Neutral carpeting from the same discount carpet place to complement the tiles. A small dusty slate area rug from Lowes. That’s all.
Tiles and Stone: The bathroom had been retiled at one time and was in pretty good shape. Not my favorite colors but not offensive.
Window Treatments: Vertical blinds from Lowes. Since I dislike sliding closet doors, we also put up blinds for closet doors – I can open one or both sides to see everything.
Beds: The loft bed is from CollegeBedLofts.com, also less than $300. What a bargain. Dale assembled and painted it in two days. I love the space underneath where I have my office. I spend hours here every day. Our ceilings are only 8 feet so we have learned to be careful sitting up in bed. But you can get used to anything. And it’s cozy up there.
Artwork: My beloved David Lance Goines posters from Cost Plus in 1971. I just put new silver poster frames on them. I never get tired of looking at them. Three pen and ink drawings by Dale’s brother, which I put into pretty cast-off frames from my daughter. I think the contrast of angular lines and flowers is interesting. Lots of cards from different people propped on the bedframe in my office, including my 1976 sketches of my daughters.
Paint: Bright white and lots of it. Not cool but we like it.
Flooring: Ceramic tile from a local discount carpet place. We wanted to match the bathroom, which would have been too expensive for us to retile.
Other: Lots and lots and lots of mirrors. Everywhere.
(Thanks, Susy and Dale!)
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