A Small Shared Condo Features Smart Storage Solutions and Over 50 Different Houseplants

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Full view of our living room/dining room area. Given our small space, we've invested in furniture that is modular: the dining table can be expanded and the coffee table has a lift top with storage inside.

Name: Alicia Mazzara, my husband, Rob, and an alarming number of houseplants Location: Columbia Heights neighborhood — Washington, DC
Type of home: Condo
Size: 600 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I live with my husband, Rob, and over 50 different houseplants. We’ve lived in D.C. for over a decade and met at graduate school at George Washington University. We’re now living the nonprofit worker life, though I also run a small side business called Rock Paper Plant with my friend Cielo. We teach creative workshops and sell wall-mounted plants. We moved from an apartment about twice this size, and I will admit that I had a small meltdown while unpacking because I didn’t think we’d be able to fit everything in. (Rob might quibble with my use of “small” here.)

We searched for months for a sectional that would be small enough for the space, but it was totally worth it. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of tea and admire the plants (or, let's be real, Netflix and chill).

But learning how to downsize has some great benefits; it forces you to think creatively about how to to live. For example, we aren’t afraid to switch up the layout as needed to accommodate different activities. We’ll move the sectional back and expand the dining table to host game nights or for me to teach private workshops. We even came up with a configuration to host 16 people theater-style for a movie night. We’ve also made very deliberate furniture choices. Most of our furniture is modular (sectional and dining table) or does double duty with storage space inside or underneath (coffee table and bed). Our home even helped inspire my small business: When I was running out of room on the windowsill, I started experimenting with mounting my plants so I could use the vertical space as well.

This is our living room gallery wall/accent wall. I would describe my fashion and design aesthetic as "toddler grandma style," as explained in this Medium essay.

What is your favorite room and why? I love the dining room, living room, and kitchen equally… because they’re all the same room. But in all seriousness, I love this room because it’s warm, cozy, and full of personality. I’m drawn to bold colors, patterns, animals, and anything with a retro or mid-century feel—hence my use of the term “toddler grandma style.” I think the red gallery wall is the perfect encapsulation of this, from the quirky taxidermy deer from Horrible Adorables to the vintage fruit crate labels.

A glimpse of some of the many mounted plants around the house. I started mounting plants to save space and take advantage of our deep window wells. Two years ago my friend Cielo and I turned this into a full-blown side hustle, called Rock Paper Plant, where we teach workshops and sell our planty creations.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? There could always be more natural light! We live on the first floor, so neighboring buildings do block more of the sky than I’d like. The plants get a bit of an assist from our Modsprout Grow Bar.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? This dapper ocelot plate from West Elm. We actually own four of these fancy animal plates and use them as decor. You can see her dapper buddies (fox, owl, and bunny) on our gallery wall.

We had to get super smart about storage when we moved into our condo. Our bedroom doesn't have any closets so we installed an IKEA Pax wardrobe system and a storage bed with drawers.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Focus on where you spend the most time. We love our bedroom and bathroom as well, but we’ve invested the most time (and money) in our living/dining area because it’s where we hang out, work, relax, and entertain.

Other small space dwellers have said it before, but I’ll say it again: Invest in items that you love, because you’ll have to look at them. All. The. Time. That can mean saving up for the nice shoe rack, or it could mean doing some DIY or upcycling projects. You don’t have to Konmari your whole house, but it is worth asking if something sparks joy before bringing it home.

My husband commissioned an artist on Etsy to make a triptych version of this print for us.

Be true to yourself! My mom is an interior designer and my dad is an architect. When they first came to visit, I felt a lot of pressure to make sure my home was up to their design standards. Truth be told, it’s probably not–because we have very different personal styles. In the end, I took a cue from my own wardrobe. I’ve always been drawn to playful, colorful, vintage-inspired fashion. Minimalism and white walls have been all the rage for a while, but I’m a maximalist at heart. Your home isn’t going to be for everyone. But it should be for you.

This submission’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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