Name: Chris Nguyen
Location: Houston, Texas
Size: 500 square feet
Years lived in: 2 months
There's big and then there's Houston BIG. In a city known for embodying the idea of gigantic Texan proportions, Chris Nguyen's extremely modest sized 500 square foot apartment is an anomaly. It also happens to capture exactly everything we hope to showcase here on Unplggd: a small space with an excellent eye for incorporating technology with carefully considered style, all with homegrown solutions. The space may be limited in space, but it's rich with inspiring ideas for home theater, wireless audio, and creating a flexible living space which suits a self-described "technologically inclined and obsessed individual" needs...
My/Our style: Clean lined and right angled with an occasional affair with the round. I like to lean towards mid-century modern, but I am drawn to anything well-designed, new or old.
Inspiration: The opposite of everything in Texas. Things really are bigger here, but I'm not sure why. Upgrade, expand, repeat is the typical living pattern regardless of practicality. I once, on a whim, toured a 283 sq. ft. high-rise pied-à-terre in downtown Houston with a 20 ft unobstructed up-close panoramic view of the skyline. I scoffed at the idea until I started thinking about what I could do with a space that size. While the rest looked for more square feet, I started to look for less. The thought of a smartly designed small home with just what you need really grew on me, and I've been obsessed ever since.
Favorite Element: The large windows on both sides of the space.
Biggest Challenge: The first was playing furniture Tetris with to-scale furniture shapes for two weeks prior to moving in to fit real-sized furniture in a small space. The second, I am a technologically inclined and obsessed individual, but simplifying required me to put away the vintage electronics collection, find an alternative for a giant flat-panel, and realizing I didn't need the 8 Macs I had at one point.
What Friends Say: I would move in, but you have no room.
Biggest Embarrassment: The bathroom. Oh my, the bathroom.
Proudest DIY: Figuring out that a sheer panel can be used as a two-sided projector screen
Biggest Indulgence: Actually, I am waiting to cash in my big indulgence on a large-scale piece of art. I haven't found it yet.
Best advice: Just because the space is small doesn't mean the furniture has to be too.
Dream source: Craigslist NY.
- MacBook Pro
- Apple Airport Extreme
- (3x) 1TB External Drives for Media and Backups
- Kenwood KA-5700 Vintage Receiver
- Polk Audio RM30 Speakers
- Sony HWS-BTA2W Bluetooth Audio Receiver
- Olympus VP-1 Projector
- Tupplur Roller Blind (Sheer Panel Projector Screen)
- Craigslist (Houston & Austin)
- Room Service Vintage (Austin)
- The Guild Shop (Houston)
- Sunset Settings (Houston)
- Furniture Markets at Westheimer & Woodhead (Houston)
- Austin City Wide Garage Sale
Tips and tricks:
Sheer Panel: The most notable element in the space is the sheer panel room separator that doubles as a two-sided projector. I just unfurled an Tupplur roller blind from Ikea and strung it up with a steel wire hanging system, and in my opinion makes the space. It can be viewed from the sitting area or from the bed on the other side. Not bad for $50 worth of materials and about an hour of time.
Wireless Audio: I have two main media sources, my MacBook Pro and my iPhone, and neither is really ever in a fixed position. I use a HWS-BTA2W bluetooth receiver to stream audio from both devices and can be nearly anywhere in the apartment (it is just one big room after all). This works especially well for the projector setup as the video source usually needs to be across the room next to the projector itself. When all is done, there's not a wire in sight. The quality of the audio is more than adequate especially in relation to convenience and aesthetics. If I really want high fidelity, I can connect directly.
Network Box: The network connection for the apartment is in the kitchen high on a wall next to the counter ‚Äî what a terrible place for it to be. As a solution, I bought a wooden CD/DVD storage box with a flip-down door from Ikea and assembled it without the backside. Inside sits the modem, Apple Airport Extreme, and a networked media drive. The box is high enough to cover the connections and there is a space to allow heat to vent.
Charging Drawer: In a small space, in particular one that is just one big room, there aren't a lot of places to cleanly set up a charging station for all ones wireless accessories. As a solution, I cut a hole and fed an extension cord through a drawer in the kitchen sideboard. Easy access and well hidden.
We've had amazing response to our Apartment Therapy House Tour Submission Form and also invite readers to submit their best tech spaces, including bedrooms, kitchens, home offices...anywhere you've combined home technology with a sharp eye for design. While we will work with homeowners of our favorite homes to feature full tours, we will also share the best as Close Ups — short, quick tours of readers' homes highlighting smaller and/or specific spaces in the home. Submit your home here.