Tours

This 100-Year-Old House Is One of the Most Minimal, Organized Homes Ever (And Is Full of Ideas to Steal)

updated Jan 28, 2020
Tours

This 100-Year-Old House Is One of the Most Minimal, Organized Homes Ever (And Is Full of Ideas to Steal)

updated Jan 28, 2020
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Home Type
Style
Bedrooms
Square feet
1020
Sq ft
1020
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Name: Kristen Ziegler, Nacci (bunny), Bubsy and Spot (fish)
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Size: 1020 square feet
Years Lived In: Almost 7 years, owned
Year built: 1920

Professional organizer and former architect Kristen Ziegler says that on an ideal evening, you’ll find her taking five to 10 minutes to do the dishes, put things away, and hit the “reset” button on her home so she can enjoy it fully in the morning. When she’s stressed, she’ll run her beautifully designed MUJI aroma diffuser to reset the mood. She has a nightly gratitude practice that involves telling her home and herself “Goodnight, love you. Can’t wait to see you in the morning.” And lately she’s been making her bed every morning to start her days out on a win. Kristen—and her impeccably organized, minimal home—is the living embodiment of the the truest fact about organizing: Getting your home organized isn’t something you do once and walk away, and neither is being an organized person. “In reality, it takes a lot longer to make lasting change,” she explains. “Putting the real time and work in to assess your belongings and pare down to what you truly need takes a while, but is always worth it. It becomes more of a life practice like yoga or meditation.”

Credit: Minette Hand

Kristen—whose company Minima is dedicated to helping clients get organized and stay that way—has been the subject of an Apartment Therapy house tour before. I was in awe at the intentional way she designed every inch of her home, and enviously pored over all the photos of her open drawers. To end a month of touring the homes of professional organizers, I knew we’d have to cap it off with another tour of Kristen’s Richmond house. She’s not only done a few improvements to the space since our first tour, the timing also couldn’t be better: Her 1920-built home is officially 100 years old this year.

Credit: Minette Hand

“Fixing up my home has been a long and slow journey. I am so happy with how things have turned out and am truly in love with the space. “I enjoy giving people the tour and telling them to “open any cabinet or drawer, really!'” she admits. “My home is a genuine expression of my beliefs as a designer and organizer, and has become a sort of real life showroom for my company, Minima. We don’t expect our clients to reach the level of minimalism in my home, but it serves as an example of what is possible.”

Credit: Minette Hand

One of the biggest updates to her home since the first tour was having the downstairs floors refinished and the upstairs floors and stairs replaced. “It all started with the redesign of my stairs, which were close to 100 years old, falling apart, and not to code. I selected red oak and finished it with Rubio Monocoat, a zero VOC natural oil finish (made from flax seeds!) with a soft matte look and feel. Going back to my desire for low maintenance, the finish can be touched up easily without having to redo the entire floor. No need to panic if it gets scratched.”

Credit: Minette Hand

Other changes have been fairly minor, but show the impact that adjusting small details can make to a minimally designed home. She added artwork above her beloved HAY sofa and the dining room table, she swapped out a white desk for a black one in the home office, and a black floor mat for a white one in the bathroom. She hung a small IKEA cabinet (the same kind she has in other parts of the home) under a mirror for a great little entryway makeover. There’s even more robust storage in her office to hide office-y things, and a standing rack for drying clothes joins a beautiful big plant in a corner of her bedroom (also notice how big and beautiful all her plants are since the last tour!).

Credit: Minette Hand

“As a professional organizer and former architect, creating a beautiful living environment that’s equal parts form and function has always been a priority,” explains Kristen. “I spend a lot of time at home—both running my company, Minima, and enjoying down time. I’m not into entertaining big groups, but prefer one on one time with my boyfriend (Jonathan), family members, and close friends. I also have my team over for our monthly meetings. Other at-home activities include dancing around in sock feet and playing with my pet rabbit. I love the location of my home—I’m right in the middle of the city and can walk to just about anything. Even if I spend most of the day inside, I feel connected.”

Credit: Minette Hand

With the flooring and staircase project finished, Kristen says the next phase of her home’s evolution will be Jonathan moving in. “We’re a lot alike (he’s also a minimalist) and we’ve discussed in detail how we plan to merge our belongings,” she says. “The house feels pretty palatial for one person, so I think it’ll be easy and fun. He’s a great cook (unlike me), so I’m especially excited about that aspect!”

Credit: Minette Hand

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I think more in terms of a guiding philosophy than a style. I view minimalism as a holistic approach to life, not a restrictive aesthetic. Something I buy should serve a purpose and be beautiful, so I’m very selective and do a lot of research. I want my home to be fairly low maintenance—less stuff equals manageable cleaning and more free time. I have learned quality and texture are essential to making a pared down space feel warm and inviting, whether that’s a felted wool sofa, art with dimension, or a subway tile wall.

Inspiration: Scandinavian and Japanese design. Jonathan and I finally traveled to Sweden and Denmark in 2019 and we look forward to visiting Japan in the future.

Credit: Minette Hand

Favorite Element: My floors and new stairs! I recently had the downstairs floors refinished and the upstairs floors and stairs replaced. It all started with the redesign of my stairs, which were close to 100 years old, falling apart, and not to code. I selected red oak and finished it with Rubio Monocoat, a zero VOC natural oil finish (made from flax seeds!) with a soft matte look and feel. Going back to my desire for low maintenance, the finish can be touched up easily without having to redo the entire floor. No need to panic if it gets scratched.

Biggest Challenge: There have been two main challenges. As someone who loves precision, one challenge has been renovating a very wabi sabi 100-year-old home. You won’t notice it from the photos here, but there is hardly a single straight floor, ceiling or wall. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected with each renovation project and have (mostly) accepted and embraced my home’s imperfections as part of its essence. I have made renovation choices that are modern, but simple and quiet enough to flow with the remaining older elements of the home.

Credit: Minette Hand

The other challenge was laying out the downstairs space after removing the dividing walls in 2013. Being a row home, it’s long and narrow and only has windows on the two short sides. The long wall my couch sits against was especially hard to design. It took a lot of trial and error to get the artwork selection and placement to feel just right, but I’m happy with where it is now. It only took six years, ha!

Proudest DIY: I played the role of Interior Designer and Project Manager for all of my renovations. During the final phases of the renovation last year, this felt like a second full-time job! I had to manage all of the different tradespeople and make sure the work was done correctly. I collaborated on the stair and railing design with a friend from architecture school, Chase Goitia, which was a lot of fun.

Biggest Indulgence: My biggest investment has been my HAY Mags sofa and ottoman (I chose the Kvadrat fabric Divina Melange 120). Before buying the HAY sofa, I had a thrifted light grey IKEA KIVIK sofa. Upgrading completely transformed my space and the HAY sofa is easier to maintain. The cushions of the IKEA sofa would always get misshapen and need to be fluffed whereas the HAY sofa holds its shape and is also comfortable. It’s wool, so it’s very durable and soil repellent. Jonathan spilled half a beer on it once (in case you were wondering, I stayed totally calm) and it has been stained by dark denim—both cleaned up just fine with a cotton rag and some water. I’ve had it for almost three years now and it still looks new. A bonus feature: it’s actually four separate pieces. Not only does this make it easy to move (like when I had my floors redone), but it can be reconfigured if it’s ever in a different space. For awhile I thought I might move to New York, so I wanted something flexible.

Best Advice: I believe in a slow approach to designing a home. It can take time living with a space to realize what is needed. For instance, I didn’t have much art on my walls at first. This felt right to me until I found pieces I loved. Don’t be afraid of empty space, it isn’t a negative. Also, plants are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to bring purposeful color and life into your home. Invest in a light and water meter if you’ve had bad luck keeping them alive.

Credit: Minette Hand

Resources

PAINT & COLORS

  • Benjamin Moore — Oxford White
Credit: Minette Hand

ENTRY

Credit: Minette Hand

LIVING ROOM

Credit: Minette Hand

DINING ROOM

Credit: Minette Hand

KITCHEN

Credit: Minette Hand

BEDROOM

Credit: Minette Hand

OFFICE

Credit: Minette Hand

HALLWAY

Credit: Minette Hand

BATHROOM

Thanks Kristen!