A 190-Square-Foot Afrohemian Studio Apartment Is Inspired by the Renter’s Mom
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Name: Crystal Wyatt
Location: University City — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Size: 190 square feet
Type of Home: Studio Apartment
Years Lived In: 1 year, renting
Crystal Wyatt owned a house in Philadelphia for more than 18 years before needing a change. “There were great memories in that home, as I raised my son there, started my first business (a prison transportation service), and wrote my memoir there,” she writes. “But it was also the home that my mother had died in, and I could never really shake the sadness. So, after shutting my business down (it was stressful) and surviving the pandemic — I decided to sell!”
“I needed to do some healing work — for myself and my community — but I needed a new space to do it in. I also knew I wanted to go ‘tiny,'” Crystal explains. “I went on apartmentlist.com and found a (less than 200-square-foot) studio apartment in University City. I’d lived in U-City 25 years ago and was surprised that I could even afford to live there anymore. The fun fact about this property is that it is owned by UPenn and is somewhat ‘rent-controlled.’ With that, I’ve found a safe and affordable space to clear my head of past trauma and cultivate my new love for massage therapy and keeping plants alive.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Afrohemian
Inspiration: My home is inspired by a photograph of my mother from the ’70s. She was an Afro-chic woman, and a seamstress by trade that made 90 percent of our clothing growing up. In the portrait, she is wearing an orange-patterned head wrap and because of that, the subtle base color in my home is orange.
Favorite Element: My favorite part of living in this tiny space is that I get to see all my favorite things when I wake up. Downsizing from a two-bedroom home to a studio apartment meant that some of my art didn’t make the cut. But what did make the cut is a quilt a Yoruba priestess curated for me. It is made of two of my mother’s favorite jackets (one from the ’70s and one from the year she transitioned), one of my favorite dresses, and my son’s first sweatsuit as a newborn. It hangs in my tiny kitchen, and it grounds me.
Biggest Challenge: I know it might sound weird to say, but there are no challenges for me living in this space. As a 4’11″ woman, this is first place I’ve lived that I can stand on my bed and touch the ceiling (which is great for hanging my plants). But it is a challenge for guests over 5’8″ as my ceiling fan may skim a hairline or two.
Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY is finding the right weight and style of room divider. Since the space was essentially a box, I wanted to create separation between the kitchen and living area without closing off the space. I also didn’t want to look directly at my refrigerator when laying in the bed. I searched high and low and found the perfect room dividers on Etsy. They are lightweight and see through. Hanging them was easy because I didn’t need a ladder. I just stood on a step stool and screwed the hooks into the ceiling.
Biggest Indulgence: My biggest indulgence was the velvet Chair and Ottoman from Albany Park. I had been stalking Albany Park, the Ekaabo Collection, for two years while living in my other home. I wanted the couch, chair, and ottoman but had to settle on just the chair and ottoman because of my tiny space. The chair actually fits two people and the ottoman I use as a separate seating area.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? My favorite decorating product has to be the home stickers I purchased from Etsy. I used the tribal stickers on my sliding closet doors and over the stove as a “backsplash.” It was an easy way to decorate a space without using just paint. My other favorite are stools I purchased from HomeGoods. The bones were great. But I knew I wanted them reupholstered with curtains from my old home that my mother made for me. I use the stools as extra seating but also as seating at my desk (which is really a sofa table).
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I think what’s most unique about my space is that I sleep on a twin bed. I told myself if I was going to sleep on a twin, it had to be luxurious. I chose a twin because I’m small, my space is small, and I didn’t want to use up too much of my floor space. As a licensed massage therapist, I sometimes massage clients here and I need to get around my massage table with ease. It works!
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I can not reiterate enough the benefit of buying a smaller bed for your tiny space. Think about it, you only sleep on one side of a bed anyway! If you have guests, invest in an air mattress. (I have a twin air mattress too!) Also, when dividing your tiny space, be sure to use items that you can see through to allow energy to flow. Layer, layer, layer — rugs, pillows, and bedding!
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? My best decorating advice is to fill your space with items that speak to you. Don’t be afraid to put images of yourself up on the walls. Be bold with your patterns and keep your color scheme limited to four and use variations of them throughout your space. My four colors are: orange, black, green, and white. Those four colors have also been used in my business logo designs as well — again all inspired from the orange in the photo of my mother.
PAINT & COLORS
- Sherwin-Williams’ NW09 (white), PP09 (black), UO01 (green), and UO04 (orange)
- Chair/Ottoman — Albany Park Ekáàbò Collection
- Cushion on Sofa — Target
- Cushions on Ottoman — Target and HomeSense
- Twin Bed — Mattress Firm
- Stools Under “desk” — HomeGoods
- SofaTable aka “desk” — HomeSense
- Storage Cart — Home Sense
Thanks to Crystal for sharing a beautiful and inspiring home with Apartment Therapy and our readers! This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity. Share Your Style: House Tour & House Call Submission Form