refining a room for two kids.

    August 14, 2018

    It’s a vulnerable, if decidedly lucky, exercise to photograph a room in the place you call home and share it with perfect strangers. Especially when the room belongs to your kids. Especially when you want the photos to show the room as you yourself see it, but more than that, how you feel in it, which is peaceful and cozy and safe. How to convey in pictures, the particular sense of a weight being lifted when, at the end of the day, you ease onto the bed with your four-year-old to read one last bedtime story?

    Green trees outside our attic apartment throw heavy shadows in this time of year, and I tend to focus my lens on small details, but I hope I’ve captured at least the sense of the place in these shots. Over the past year I’ve been strategizing ways to make Faye and Silas’s shared room feel a bit more intentional, a bit more homey, and a bit more functional. It’s a privilege to be able to put any thought at all into this sort of thing and even though moving out of our apartment, and immediately back into it this spring was decidedly not something I’d call fun, it did provide us with a good opportunity to assess our things and our space and finally implement a few of the little changes I’d had turning around in my brain. I’ve tried to make a space that feels peaceful, but not austere; childlike, but not cloying.

    Here are details, in case they’re useful to anyone who’s curious. This little room is such a joy to be in these days.


    + We choose simple white sheets as the base for our kids’ beds. Silas sleeps very hot and so he’s still sleeping on his crib with just a crib sheet and his baby blanket—but we recently added a pillow and a mattress pad to try to cozy up the bed a bit and—hopefully—encourage him to sleep comfortably in it for a while longer until we decide what to do about a bigger kid bed in this space.
    + On Faye’s bed, we traded a feather duvet for a simple cotton blanket. For now, she’s sleeping without a top sheet—we just wash the blanket every other week or so and switch out the fitted sheet for a clean one weekly. The blanket makes for clean lines, easy bed making, and a cool kid in a small space that’s always a bit on the warm side.

    + On each bed, we added a bit of color in the form of cheery linen pillowcases from local shop, Collyer’s Mansion. (The bolster pillows on Faye’s bed are several years old from Muji. The small walnut-dyed pillow on Silas’s bed was one of my very first Etsy purchases, from the since-closed shop of Liane Tyrrel.)


    + The new-to-us tall gray wardrobe has proved incredibly helpful in terms of creating storage in this skinny room. (Lots more about it this way.) We made the little rack below before Silas was born, using a found piece of one-by-four and three iron hooks from Rejuvenation. 

    + We keep toys in a combination of baskets, and found wooden crates (with felt pads on the bottom to help them slide noiselessly across the floor), and drawstring pouches. We also have a few baskets from Acorn Toy Shop and Indego Africa.
    + The tall lidded basket was a gift from Misha & Puff. The blocks were all gifts: colorful alphabet blocks are available from Acorn Toy Shop; the painted gray set were a collaboration between Wilson and Willy’s and Beka Blocks; the natural maple set are from Maple Landmark


    The most impactful change in the room visually has been swapping out two bright navy striped rugs for rugs that are brighter and softer. My internet friend, Kim Woods, of Willaby, works with Amish rug makers near her Ohio hometown to weave upcycled and zero-waste rag rugs. She sent along a few for us to try in our space. We chose the striped Oyster rug for this room and the subtle grey stripe is exactly what I’d hoped for in this room.


    + Taking everything down from our walls gave us a nice opportunity to start fresh. Lots of the art in our apartment falls into this graphic, black, and white category and when we had everything lined up against a blank wall during our move, it occurred to me that it might be nice to have it all live together for a while. I was nervous about a gallery wall overwhelming a small space, but it actually makes the room—and Faye’s bed in particular—feel cozy but not crowded.

    + Print details for the curious: Peace Print; There is an Alternative; HomesteadOutside No. 2: Yard Birds; Outside No. 3: Gingko Leaves; Moon Calendar (2014 edition). All of our framed prints have custom frames. We’ve used local shop Make A Frame as well as Framebridge and Simply Framed. Unframed prints are hung up using small metal clamps.

    Other things:

    + Kids’ books live behind a small curtain on our crate-turned-bookshelf.  

    + We still use our homemade blackout curtain!

    + We changed the ceiling lamp in this room a few years ago; this is the Large Alabax in white from Schoolhouse Electric.

    + Above Faye’s bed is a mobile that I made with seashells and driftwood and two prisms from ABJ Glassworks. Above Silas’s bed is a Haptic Lab Swallow Kite that we found locally at Acorn Toy Shop.

    + Our wooden music ball and Faye’s piggy bank are no longer in stock, but both came from Over The Ocean.

    Special thanks to Coyuchi, Collyer’s Mansion, and Willaby for providing the recent bedding and rug updates in this space. Where possible, I’ve made use of affiliate links in this post, which means Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links. 

    life in a tiny apartment.

    August 13, 2018

    in a small space, cover a bookshelf with a curtain | reading my tea leaves

    Tip # 172 – Straighten your stacks (and hide them).

    I’ve written before that my approach to making room for books in a small space is to not hang on to too many and to tuck away the ones I decide to keep. Shocking though it might be for bibliophiles, as much as I like to run my finger across a row of spines and pick out a favorite book, I don’t get the same joy from looking at the spines of books in my small space. Indeed, in an effort to achieve a bit of visual peace, I prefer to keep books more or less under wraps. I’ve covered books with brown paper bags and marbleized papers saved for the purpose. The crates I use as nightstands hide small stacks of books. More crates tucked under our couch cache still more.

    Most recently, I made a curtain for a book shelf. In tiny apartments, or anywhere, you have to be willing to be a bit quirky to make your space right for you. I remain unapologetically myself, which is really the only advice I have to offer to any of a small space, cover a bookshelf with a curtain | reading my tea leaves

    Until recently, the kids’ books in our house were something of a challenge. We have a lot of them. And on top of the books we own, we usually also have a large stack of choices from the library. To keep up with the growth, we’ve moved our kids’ book collection around a bit. What started out in a crate under our cot-turned-couch moved to a larger crate. What was in the larger crate got moved to a shelf that formerly held cookbooks. What was formerly in the living room was moved into the kids’ room, et cetera.  We went through a few successful rounds of making seasonal edits—for instance, sending summery books into hibernation in the closet for the winter—but a few months ago, Faye decided she did not want to relegate the Tomten and fellow wintry company to storage, and shortly after that, I decided that this would absolutely not be the hill I die on. We cleared a shelf in the kids’ room formerly used to display a few toys and put the full picture book collection there instead. It’s a smarter use of the space, but it made for a bit of a jumble. To help control it, I kept my eyes peeled for a set of bookends, and eventually I found a slim steel set that’s been perfect. They don’t inspire my four-year-old to reshelve with her mother’s precision, but they do help keep things generally a small space, cover a bookshelf with a curtain | reading my tea leaves

    A curtain to cover the whole thing made the move feel even better. I cut and hemmed a rectangle of fabric from an acorn-dyed swaddle we used for Silas, and strung it up over a bit of wire. For the kids, it makes the shelf of books feel extra dramatic—a secret spot for hiding bookish treasures. For me, it makes it so that when I sit at the kitchen table to work, my view is calm and uncluttered. 

    Who knows how long it will last there. No doubt our book collection will face another round of edits and new additions. We might need to find it a new home. Maybe I’ll eventually decide a curtained shelf looks too much like something a pair of puppets is going to pop out from behind. But for now, tucked behind a curtain, our favorite stories have a sweet spot to rest. (More updates to the kids’ room coming tomorrow.)

    What about you? Quirky small space solutions of your own?

    Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 171.

    my week in objects (mostly).

    August 10, 2018

    five little things that made my week.

    1. these sedum 

    {for lasting so long.}

    2. this coverup.

    {because sometimes you just hafta cover up the warning tag.}

    3. these new rugs.

    {more soon, but i couldn’t not share.}

    4. this curtain.

    {and a new maybe-solution.}

    5. this cord again.

    {i was so reluctant to get an air conditioner, but this week, i’m only grateful.}

    other things:


    shallow scoop.

    mosquito supper club.

    the home is saturated with stunning mementos of black life.

    baby doll.

    art collection.

    tiny lidded things.

    what are white writers for?

    improving, evolving, moving forward, inspiring, teaching, and learning.

    samples, sold.

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    August 6, 2018 39 Comments
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  • how to know it’s august.

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    August 1, 2018 16 Comments
  • make-believe: a space to sleep.

    Over the past few months I’ve been collecting bits of inspiration for turning Faye and Silas’s space into a cozier nest. It’s been a year and a half since Silas was born and a…

    July 30, 2018 23 Comments
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    July 27, 2018 10 Comments