August 2011: Rental Rescue


 Working for the University, I often catch myself reflecting on my own days as a college student. These days, I have a little less hair and a little more money, and my china collection has expanded beyond red plastic Solo cups. But I still have a soft spot for my former life.

Most homeowners and renters complain about a lack of space, but I lived for two years in a 10’x12′ cinderblock room with a stranger, shared a bathroom with three boys, and ate out of a mini-fridge. We even managed to hang a hammock in our room sophomore year.

Whether you live in a studio apartment or a house, compromising and getting creative can help you find the space you need. The first step is to explore your space. Open up doors, look behind corners, and discover what you’re really working with. Are there awkward spaces you don’t know how to use—nooks, dormers, even closets? With a little imagination, those spaces can go from dust-collectors to prime real estate.

I was really impressed with my boyfriend’s creativity in working his Woolen Mills space. Faced with a large staircase that leads nowhere (seriously, it just goes to the ceiling) and even trickier, the space beneath it, he was able to create a home office and find much-needed storage. The staircase makes a perfect bookcase lined with books, videos, photos, and keepsakes. Using a large, vintage steamer trunk, paired with a modern chair tucked under the staircase, he created a cozy spot for paying bills, sending emails, and Facebooking.

In the same spirit, you can easily retrofit a dormer for a home office. If you can’t find a desk that will fit in your dormer nook, try two filing cabinets for instant storage (pick them up cheap at The Habitat Store, Allied Street), and top them with a piece of glass from Charlottesville Glass & Mirror or Dodson Glass & Mirror.

Not in need of a home office? Fill an unused corner with a twin or crib mattress covered in fun fabric from one of our many local fabric stores, then layer your new daybed with floor and throw pillows for a perfect reading nook.

Line the awkward space above your kitchen cabinets with store-bought lattice racks for clean, symmetrical wine storage. Short on space? Use bookcases as a headboard, creating a fun, yet functional focal point.

Sometimes we really do run out of space. So, we have to rely on smoke and mirrors—literally. Reflection is one of the best design tricks for creating a feeling of space and depth where there is none. Placing mirrors opposite of windows and even other mirrors can create the feeling of space, reflect light, and open up a room. You can achieve the same feeling by incorporating metallics, glass, and shimmery materials.

Consider furniture pieces that don’t weigh a room down. Opt for a glass top coffee or dining table, not solid wood. Choose end tables with legs instead of a solid space—not only will you create the feeling of space, but the underside provides storage for a stack of books or a basket of blankets and throws.

Looking to invest? Consider a Murphy bed that you can stash during the day. Sleeper sofas have come a long way in regards to comfort and style if a guest room isn’t on your floor plan.
Whether it’s finding new space or creating a feeling of space, these little tips and guidelines should help you live large.—Ed Warwick

Before joining the ABODE team, Ed Warwick was the author of “Simply Cville,” a blog about D.I.Y. design, entertaining, and home improvement projects. A UVA grad, Ed currently works as the Coordinator of LGBT Student Services under the University’s Dean of Students.

Join the rotary club

A surgeon, a small machine repair-person, and a part-time crafter are all likely to have something in common: a rotary tool. Popularly known as a Dremel, these hand held devices employ low levels of torque but enough rotating power to sand, polish, cut and grind just about anything.

The applications of a rotary tool are extensive and sometimes disturbingly familiar. For example, the same device that is wielded by your local dentist to drill out a nasty cavity is also applicable to the handiwork of an artisan jeweler. The guy fixing your vintage blender could talk shop with a knee surgeon—the rotary tool is that versatile.

Why should you, as the average layperson, ever want to get close to, much less handle, one of these gizmos? Well, besides being the Swiss Army knife of electrically-powered tools, its small size and affordability make it a must-have for the home toolbox. (A quality Dremel, including an assortment of bits and accessories, shouldn’t set you back more than $30-$40.)

Using various interchangeable bits, such as cutting burrs or sanding wheels, one can quickly and effectively eliminate jagged edges on metal, ceramic and even glass. With mine, I’ve created a hanging wooden “bird” mobile for my son, fashioned a ring for my husband and smoothed out several slightly damaged glasses and bowls. I may have even used it to polish a chipped front tooth, but I don’t recommend that type of D.I.Y. “home improvement.”
All in all, the rotary tool is a multi-talented device that deserves a little room next to your screwdrivers and hammer.—Christy Baker

Christy Baker is a local Jane-of-all-trades. Whether it’s fixing furniture, building a chicken coop or maintaining her roller skates, this creative mom of two always keeps a toolbox (or at least some duct tape) handy.