Living With History: Eleanor's Waterside Apartment

Living With History: Eleanor's Waterside Apartment

Anne Reagan
Jun 17, 2010

Name: Eleanor (+2 shelter mutts)
Location: Ballard — Seattle, Washington
Size: 490 square feet
Years lived in: almost 2 years (rental)

In the old fishermen's enclave of Ballard, in the city of Seattle, rests a charming apartment building constructed in the 1950's. Eleanor's tiny home was a popular entry in Small Cool 2010: Eleanor's Everything Important. The structure is so close to the water that a salty breeze greets you outside the door. With its inner courtyards and outdoor swimming pool the building draws in as much natural light as possible, taking full advantage of the sunshine — a very important attribute in the Northwest. Eleanor has lived in this one bedroom rental for nearly two years and has managed to effortlessly blend her love of animals (she has two adorable dogs) and her appreciation for vintage, repurposed décor.

Living in a 50-year-old apartment has its challenges: inadequate storage, dated tile, odd vintage storage compartments that reflect life as it existed a long time ago. Fortunately Eleanor's apartment has a comfortable floor plan and was designed with large windows facing an inner courtyard. Plenty of natural light floods every inch of this 500 square foot apartment and there is a sense of peace and quiet, despite being located on a busy road in a lively neighborhood. Eleanor's fondness for vintage pieces works well on a budget and with the exception of her sofa, most of her furniture and furnishings were purchased for less than $100.

Eleanor first shared her space with Apartment Therapy during the Small, Cool Contest and readers loved her style. She is an avid crafter and artist and her spare time is kept busy making things for others. With a true artist's eye she sees potential where others may not – enabling her to snag great pieces at flea markets or repurpose what friends and family might not want any longer. Her walls house a collection of handmade prints and paintings, reflecting her love of dogs. And she has a real knack for displaying her décor, creating interesting vignettes out of ordinary items like her "arrangement" of paint brushes on the dining table. There is a story behind each piece of furniture: her first dining set purchased for her first apartment, the tea cup from her mother's collection, her waterfall dresser lovingly restored by a local fisherman for his daughter. Surrounded by stories, Eleanor is living well by the water.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My style: Vintage by default! I have very little that was purchased new (mostly due to my non-profit salary constraints) so over the years I've been able to define what I like through other people's stuff. I love mid-century modern pieces with modern or farm-house style additions here and there.

Inspiration: Apartment Therapy of course! Ready Made, Real Simple, Dwell. I read way too many blogs and covet other people's rooms.

Favorite Element: This is really hard to answer because it changes all the time. The white sleeper sofa was a big leap for me – I didn't know if I could pull it off in a room full of vintage furniture, but I love how it all came together. I also love my green reading chair and my waterfall dresser (bought from an old fisherman off Craigslist – literally, a real-life fisherman). And of course Myrtle – my beach cruiser!

Biggest Challenge: Money. Moving anywhere can be expensive – but moving 3,000 miles across the country is REALLY costly. When I moved from DC to Seattle I had only an 8' x 5' trailer and the back of my Forester to pack my things in, so very little furniture came with me. I had to be very careful about how much I spent and on what once I got here, but I took the time to find things I really loved. The result is a home that I feel completely myself in.

What Friends Say: The first thing most people comment on is how 'me' my apartment is – which I suppose means I did something right!

Biggest Embarrassment: My kitchen table and chairs. They are from Ikea and at least 7 years old – bought by me and my two former roommates in DC when we all moved in together. At the time we thought we were so grown up b/c we stained them ourselves (being an adult apparently meant you stain your own furniture) and I think the whole set cost under $100. They're so beat up now, but I can't get rid of them – we have such a long history together!

Proudest DIY: My little yellow nightstand. The fisherman I bought my dresser from threw that in for free because he didn't want to deal with it. He'd stripped and re-finished the dresser, but only gotten halfway done with the nightstand before, well – I don't know. Maybe he had to go fishing. It sat in my bedroom for months before I saw a post on a design blog featuring a yellow dresser, and I knew immediately that's the color mine needed to be. A coat of paint and some new knobs later and I love it!

Biggest Indulgence: I am proud, and kind of shocked, to be able to say that nothing in my home cost me more than $100 – excluding my mattress. A lot of things were just given to me – either as a gift (the couch was a 'woo-hoo, you moved to Seattle' present from my parents) or because it was unwanted. The beautiful corner cabinet that holds my art supplies and books is on loan from a friend who doesn't actually have a corner in her home that it can live in. Most everything else was a totally rad and lucky craigslist or vintage find.

Best advice: Take the time to keep looking! Don't get caught up in needing something, anything, right now – you can probably make do while you take the opportunity to find furniture you really love. It took me a year to get my home where I wanted it, and it's still evolving all the time.

Dream source: Area 51 in Seattle (Amazing mix of vintage and new furniture).

Resources: Vicki Nelson of VeganMe – she did the portraits of my dogs hanging in the living room. Etsy. Craigslist. The stack of wooden boxes came from Area 51 in Seattle. Eastern Market in DC. Target (gasp) and Ikea (gasp)!

Thanks, Eleanor!

Images: Anne Reagan

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