I've been thinking about space. Specifically, how much we need. Or, more specifically, how much we don't.
I stop on my fair share of house-search programs and I remain forever baffled by people who want great amounts of space. Recently, I heard one woman lament that a master bedroom wasn't very grand. It was a new-construction home, so she expected a large master.
"Why?" I asked my TV. People spend most of their time in their bedrooms in their beds. Does anyone really hang out elsewhere in their bedroom? If I were the type to read a print newspaper anymore and I was inclined to read it in my bedroom, I'd read it in my bed. I wouldn't get out of bed to sit in a chair to read it instead.
And then there was the guy who specifically stated that he wanted a home with a grand entrance because he wanted people to be impressed when they came to his house.
Anyway, beyond the house-search shows — Aside to HGTV: There are too damn many of them. Enough already. — I've been thinking about how much space my living space takes up in the world and while I appreciate the compactness of those cute little homes literally built on trailers – mind you, I am not referring to trailer homes – that's maybe a bit too little space for me. I don't relish the thought of a home that could be blown over in a respectable wind.
But I have been thinking about my first apartment, a studio. And my second apartment, a one-bedroom. The one-bedroom apartment had a dining room that was too big to be practical but I liked having a separate bedroom with enough room for a queen-size bed. I could have fit a king in there, come to think of it, positioned on the longest wall. Hmm. I should have thought of that then. I love king-size beds. But I digress.
In terms of square footage, my one bedroom apartment was a bit larger than I really needed. On the other hand, my studio was just slightly smaller than I wanted. It would have been perfect if it could have accommodated an adult-size bed instead of the twin I had tucked behind my love seat.
So I guess I think that my ideal amount of space would fall somewhere in between my studio and my one-bedroom. Which is why a whole house feels too big for me, as much as I love this home.
All this thinking about my studio sent me rummaging through my bins of photos to find the envelope containing the shots of my studio from when I first moved in. (The pictures of pictures are taken from an angle so as to eliminate the glare as much as possible.)
I rented the place not for its location – which was awesome, right down the street from Wrigley Field – nor for its price – which was affordable-ish, given my pathetically low first full-time salary at the Tribune
– but for the kitchen. When I started looking for an apartment, I would have been perfectly happy to rent a kitchen large enough to accommodate a bed.
The kitchen in my renovated studio was beautiful to me then. Now, I smile at the cheap materials. But I had a dishwasher, dammit!
My kitchen was the first room that I spent any time on when I moved in, as I had been hoarding kitchenware for a couple of years leading up to moving into my first place, so while I had almost no furniture or art or anything else, I was rather prepared on the kitchen front.
The KitchenAid was my housewarming gift from my mom and dad. And The Pillsbury Doughboy, Mr. Potato Head, and Big Boy were my kitchen muses.
The opposite end of my kitchen had a small area for a small table, which clearly, I had yet to buy. But I loved the panel moulding. My apartment had nice touches, one of the benefits of living in a restored vintage building. The woodwork was stunning. It almost looks painted here, but it's stained and polyed. And the floors had been refinished.
The windows sported the requisite white plastic mini blinds. Good God, those things got filthy and were damn near impossible to clean. But they looked nice when I first moved in. I had almost no furniture, as I mentioned, but dammit, I had a stereo and TV. And a lot of CDs.
And it wouldn't have been a first apartment without the requisite futon. I didn't have that when I moved in. I bought it the second day I lived there. Which means that I spent the first night in my first apartment on the floor. The hard, wood floor. For anyone about to move into their first place, I don't recommend it. As you embark on a life on your own, nothing will make you question what the hell you're doing more than spend the night in your first place on a hard floor. At least, that was my experience.
And then there were the large double doors that took up a good amount of wall space in my rather wee studio. I suspect that back in the day, they closed on a closet that housed a Murphy bed, which would have been awesome, had it remained. Alas, by the time I moved in, it was just a closet. Though a nice-sized closet for a studio, considering I also had a front-"hall" closet just inside the front door. As well as a door that also led into the big closet, so that folks could, as my neighbor did, put furniture in front of the big double doors yet also access the closet.
And having access to the closet from the single door or the double doors was important, because through the closet lay the bathroom.
And what's the bit of color you're seeing reflected in my medicine chest (also an original detail)? Why, it's my Elvis shower curtain, which seemed like a terribly good idea at the time. And yes, those are fuzzy dice hanging on the towel rack at the head of the tub.
I never did take pictures of the other elevations of the living space. I'm not sure why, other than I didn't feel the need to capture my desk and nothing else. I eventually bought a fold-out love seat and later the twin-size bed. And I got a rug, if that painful jute bastard warranted being called a rug. And other things.
It was a cozy place. And, best of all, it was just a short walk down Waveland and across Halsted to the video store – VHS, eh? – and, to this day, the best Chinese-food joint I've ever had the good fortune to frequent. Oh, how I miss that place. And just beyond New Life (which came to be known as Mama's, because every time I'd pop in, the cute Chinese lady who ran the place would ask, "How's your mama?") was a 7-Eleven, so on Friday nights, I would hop off the bus on the inner Drive and walk west, stopping in Mama's to order my usual, the heading to the video store to pick up a couple of movies, then crossing back to 7-Eleven to pick up something to drink, then popping back into Mama's, at which point my order would be ready.
And then I'd head across the street to my building and up to my apartment (Note to those about to rent in an older building for the first time: Rent on the top floor.) and settle in for the night, if not the weekend.
Maybe I'll downsize again one of these days. Although not there, s the building may or may not have gone condo
and as much as I loved the space, it ain't worth $460,000. Nor $1,400 for rent.
But then, I'll still want room for a grown-up bed, anyway.