In April of 2001, I bought a studio condo with an expansive view of Fort Pond Bay. It was to be a small weekend escape from the stress and noise of living and working in New York City. However, everything changed on 9/11. I lost my home on West Street with most of its contents. Five days later, I lost my job. With my dog, Jasper, I retreated to a place some call “the end.” But, for me it was “the beginning” of living as a minimalist.
I may live and work in just one room, but the view is unbeatable. It offers an ever changing of scene of nature.
Having tight quarters does not faze me. I grew up happily spending summer weekends and vacations living aboard a 40’ boat with my parents, three brothers, and our dog and cat. In comparison, this place is more than ample. At 453 square feet, the main area is 20 feet in length and, at its widest, has 16 feet of depth. Living here is akin to living in a capricious tent. One wall is nothing more than two sets of 8’ sliding glass doors that frame a captivating bay view, and the ceiling boasts two skylights that capture tumultuous clouds by day and glowing stars by night.
For me, minimalist doesn’t mean living the life of an ascetic, but rather one of simplicity. Small doesn’t mean doing without. In fact, I find it to be luxurious. I believe and practice what I call “conscious consumerism.” Where I am cognizant of what I am purchasing whether it be organic chicken or well-made furniture from IKEA or a MacBook Air. I believe in form and function. Design and clean aesthetic is critical for peace of mind.
I have found that scale is critical. If you live small, everything (furniture, appliances, lamps…must be small. The other rule is that the everything I own be easy to keep clean. I want to spend as much of my time doing things I move here to do…hike, kayak, bike ride, etc. and spend as little of my time doing maintenance.
So what do I do…select white is the color scheme…as I want nothing to compete with view. Ha! Thank goodness for slipcovers. I have two settee sofas with washable slipcovers. This is compulsory when you have a big, black dog that roams the beach nosing every piece of seaweed and thinks nothing of plunging into the surf in hot pursuit of gulls.
There is one piece of furniture…a dark cherry cabinet that houses a small television (I know not so minimalist…but I make my income, albeit a small one…as the marketing and communications director for the local museum and theater). The wood allows for a warmth feel that is especially appreciated when the cold weather blanches color from the marsh and the bay turns nickel gray.
Every piece in this apartment serves two or more purposes. The slip covered ottoman acts as a coffee table and holds linens and quilts, and the sofas convert to full-size beds for guests. At sunset the kitchen counter hosts formal candlelight dinner parties, but by morning is converted into an office. This is a home where everything is always in its place and there is a place for everything.
Mirrors line the walls, providing an illusion of doubling the space and bringing the outside in. From any point, you can see the bay.
During the summer, there is dining alfresco on the deck. The outdoor furniture is weathered teak, its silvery ash complementing the cedar siding and rocky landscape.
After moving here, where “delivery” is as rare as a yellow cab, I learned to cook and surprisingly found a genuine pleasure in the task. Now, I am soothed by the summer scent of finely chopped basil, the winter fragrance of roasting chicken, and the everyday intoxicating aroma of freshly ground coffee beans.
Cooking is confined to two pots, two pans and a couple of baking trays (that I made in pottery). The plates and bowls are “fine” china salvaged from the shelves of T.J.Maxx, and the flatware is a mixed bag of heirloom sterling purchased from a pawnshop in South Carolina. Together it all makes a welcoming place setting fit for a princess but on a pauper’s budget.
Often I am asked, “Don’t you want a larger place? “
I confess there are moments. But, they exist only when family and friends come to stay. Otherwise, this space suits me just fine. I may live and work in one room, but the living is simply beautiful.