This Apartment Has the Secrets to Beautiful, Uncluttered Small Space Living

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Credit: Amrit Pal
When we first moved to San Francisco, I followed the age-old advice: buy a neutral sofa. I regretted it every day for a year and obsessed over Pinterest photos of blue couches before finally finding this one on Craigslist and deciding to take the plunge. Zero regrets, I still love it every day.

Name: Gabi Horowitz, my partner Amrit, and our dog, Freckle
Location: Mission District — San Francisco, California
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 550 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, renting

Credit: Amrit Pal
We found this coffee table at BoConcept, which raises up to table-height and unfolds to be a proper dining table. It's meant to fit eight people, but we managed to cram in fourteen the first time we hosted here, and it was a blast.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Amrit and I moved from Seattle to San Francisco four years ago, and spent our first three years living in a 400-square-foot basement apartment. It was a beautiful and cozy home, and living there taught me so much about my own priorities and design preferences. You have to be really careful when you’re living small, so you learn to constantly edit your possessions, to be really thoughtful about what you want to surround yourself with and what you want to buy.

Credit: Amrit Pal
I made the thread painting based off of artwork by an artist named Emil Lukas. The painting of the woman is the only art that we've bought, from a local artist named Pamela Mooney. I found the tansu trunk from someone selling it on the side of the road during our first month in SF. I paid him $100 cash for it and he said he'd deliver it later, and I walked away hoping I hadn't just fallen for a scam. I thought it wouldn't fit in our old apartment but had to have it anyway, and it's turned out to be a blessing sent straight from the storage gods.

We both loved the coziness of that apartment but wanted a place with more sunlight, so we waited to move until we found a sunny and bright space with a nice view. That may not be asking for the moon in most cities, but in San Francisco it was a real scavenger hunt. I love the “less but better” philosophy when it comes to possessions (I only own one nail polish, and I’ve had it for ten years!), so living in a smaller space provides a good framework for that lifestyle.

Credit: Amrit Pal
I love walking through that front door and coming home to sunlight, plants, and art. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so living in a sunny city is something that I'll never take for granted.

I’m constantly asking myself, “Do I love this item enough to make room for it in our home?” As much as I’d enjoy a vintage bar cart or a KitchenAid or watching Netflix on a real TV screen, the answer is a clear “no.” We have just the right amount of space that we need at this point in our lives, and I love that⁠—it feels very Goldilocks. With that said, I’m not a minimalist at heart⁠—I love pretty things just as much as the next person, and probably more. If I were living alone then I could happily indulge in a more maximalist aesthetic. But Amrit is easily overwhelmed by clutter, so we meet somewhere in the middle. We both lived pretty nomadic lives before we met, always moving from one place to another, so creating a home has been a fun adventure that neither one of us anticipated but both of us have loved.

Credit: Amrit Pal
The books used to be lined up from one end of the bench to the other, with all of the plants on top. But when we started working from home in March this year, I tried to think of how to create a workspace without needing to buy a new piece of furniture, and voila: the bench desk was born.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Bright, airy, curated, collected, and alive

Credit: Amrit Pal
I have so many projects in mind for the bedroom—swapping out the half-boob light for a Moroccan-style chandelier, finding just the right piece of artwork for Amrit's side of the bed, hanging curtains... but at the same time, I just really love it as is. The sun steals the show, and she deserves it.

What is your favorite room and why? I love our bedroom. It’s huge, which I thought was ridiculous when we came to check out this apartment⁠—I couldn’t understand why the architect had made the living room so small and the bedroom so big. I still don’t really understand it, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the bedroom to the fullest. I love waking up with the sunlight beaming onto my face, love that my plants can be so happy here.

Credit: Amrit Pal
I love hunting for the right piece of furniture, no matter where it comes from. Our bedroom is such a mix—the dresser is a vintage mid-century one from Craigslist, the mirror is from a vintage shop in our neighborhood, the nightstand is an old wooden crate that we found next to a dumpster outside an art studio in Seattle. I bought that vase at a market in Vietnam, and the flowers and Persian rug were gifts from friends.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The plants have grown SO much since we moved here, so I just repotted most of them. I bought four of these clay pots from Terrain, and love how much texture and warmth they carry.

Credit: Amrit Pal
I started renting an art studio about a year ago to have some space to paint and make a mess outside of our home, and this cow is the first thing I drew there. I've been in kind of a rut with art for a while, so this cow always reminds me that sometimes the best work happens when you're really not trying.

Any advice for creating a home you love? My mom is a great cook, and the most valuable cooking advice she’s ever taught me is that the secret to great cooking is great ingredients. I think the same can be said for creating a home you love. There’s no one formula that will beautify your home, it’s just about filling it with items that give you joy. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re the same style, it just matters that you love everything you surround yourself with.

This submission’s responses were edited for length and clarity.