A Minimalism Coach Shows How to DIY Big Style in a Small Space (on an Even Smaller Budget)
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Name: Melanie Gnau, husband George, and dog Bambi. Melanie is an enrolled member of the Isleta Pueblo tribe.
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Size: 888 square feet
Years Lived In: 3 years, owned
Minimalism coach and small space stylist Melanie Gnau of A Small Life spent about four years living in an Airstream with her husband and dog, and it would seem she picked up a lot of small space knowledge while living on the open road. Now back on solid foundation with her husband and dog, her most recent renovation project has been using that expertise to remodel the 888-square-foot house they’re now living in. The entire stylish space is proof minimalism doesn’t have to be boring. And though seriously stylish, she’s clearly had plenty of fun with design. Her sense of humor—and small space smarts—flow through her home’s design into her social media presence, where in honor of the New Year she’s been walking her Instagram followers through the “Stupid Small Challenge“; insanely small little decluttering assignments that are as tongue-in-cheek as they are genuinely helpful.
“Our home wasn’t love at first sight,” confesses Melanie. “We live in a competitive market area and this was the first house that we saw in our price range that wasn’t falling off a mountain! Luckily we had the skills and resilience necessary to transform our house into a home we love.” To say they were on a budget is an understatement; they didn’t take out a loan for this remodel, many things were made out of reused or salvaged items, and they DIYed everything themselves.
Melanie admits the remodel has been exhausting at times, but considering how much time the couple spends at home, it’s clearly been worth it. “My husband and I both work from home, so our home has to serve a lot of different functions,” Melanie explains. “It needs to be a creative space to work, but it also needs to be a space that we can relax in at the end of the day.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Cozy art gallery in the woods.
Inspiration: To be honest, I’m inspired by my limited budget! Sometimes limitations are inspiring because they make you think outside the box. Lately I’ve also been very inspired by the zero waste movement, how I can apply that to my home, and how I can teach others to do the same.
Additionally, I’m infinitely inspired by the resilience and creativity of my ancestors, as well as other Indigenous peoples. When designing I try to keep the resourcefulness of Indigenous peoples at the forefront of my mind.
Favorite Element: I truly love my entire home. It was in bad shape when we bought it and it’s been a real labor of love to bring it to its current state. We had to tear out all of the drywall, put in new electrical, new insulation, refinish the floors, replace the roof, and do a lot of other things that were very expensive and not very “fun.” But I think it’s made me genuinely appreciate my home.
Biggest Challenge: My biggest challenge has been patience. We didn’t take out any loans to remodel our house, so sometimes we sacrificed time for money. I also didn’t anticipate how emotionally exhausting it can be to live in a construction zone, but it’s been worth it to not take on debt.
Proudest DIY: Our entire home has been one big DIY! But I’m probably most proud of the cabinets my husband built out of barn wood that we bought off of Craigslist. The cabinets are totally unique and by using barn wood we were able to save money and use materials that may have gone to waste.
Biggest Indulgence: I don’t feel like our home is particularly indulgent, but our solid white quartz countertops were on the more expensive side. We also paid to have a white quartz hearthstone installed, as well.
Best Advice: Take your time. Don’t be too influenced by quick “flip” TV shows. And you can find almost anything at yard sales, flea markets, or thrift stores if you have the patience!
PAINT & COLORS
- Valspar — Ultra White
- Bathroom Valspar — Dark Kettle Black
- Chamberlin Recycled Leather Love Seat — Urban Outfitters
- Bokarv Cushion Cover — IKEA
- Sanela Cushion Cover — IKEA
- Fawna Rug — One Kings Lane
- Hunter Dempsey Ceiling Fan — Hunter
- West Elm Cotton Luster Velvet Curtains — West Elm
- Classic Woven Wood Blinds in Hilleria (in all rooms) — Select Blinds
- Mirror — Urban Outfitters, no longer sold
- Summers Heat Tranquility Woodstove — England’s Stove Works
- Woodstove heat shield — DIY using American Tin Ceiling tiles
- Coffee Table — DIY
- Record storage — DIY
- Art — DIY by Melanie (nude art inspired by Kami Baergen)
- Chair — Yardsale
- Lamps — Flea Market
- Boxes — Flea Market
- Cabinets and shelves — DIY with barn wood bought from Craigslist
- Sink — IKEA, no longer sold, but similar
- Sink lighting — Flea market
- Circle vase — Antique mall
- Canisters — Flea market
- Main lighting — CB2, no longer sold
- Mugs and vase on coffee bar — Willowvane
- Spice Jars — Amazon
- Art on kitchen shelves — DIY
- Manifesto framed print above washer/dryer — Addie Best
GUEST BEDROOM/MELANIE’S OFFICE
- Fyresdal Bed — IKEA
- Pillows — Homegoods
- Bell Black Flush Mount Light DIYed into a hanging light — CB2
- Desk light — Thrifted
- Aker Fan — Hunter
- Sanela Curtains — IKEA
- Spliced Stripe Rug — West Elm (Outlet)
- Desk — DIY with thrifted filing cabinets
- Wood art — DIY collaboration between George and Melanie
- Lady art — Flea market
- Motorcycle Painting — George
- Chair — Antique mall