December 2010: Your kids


 Problem: Welcoming a baby into a small apartment

From the northeastern window of the Sparling family’s fifth-floor Charlottesville apartment in the 90-year-old Altamont Circle building, you can see rooftops, steeples and the gray-blue edge of the mountains. The approximately 750-square-foot space is home to 7-month-old Arlie Pearl, her parents and two medium-sized dogs. What this cozy and stylish residence doesn’t contain are all of the baby accoutrements that have become de rigueur in the homes of many new parents.

“A big thing for us is that we don’t have a lot of space, so a lot of toys are not in our future for her,” Anna, Arlie’s mother, points out. “She’s going to need more stuff (as she grows) but right now I don’t think she’s under-toyed.” (Anna laughs and her daughter follows suit.)

The Sparlings moved to Charlottesville two years ago from Portland, Oregon, so that dad, Chase, could pursue a Master’s degree in architecture at UVA. Leaving behind a much larger living space, the couple had to significantly pare down their belongings to maintain a harmonious lifestyle (and without closets!). Chase’s woodworking tools are in storage, along with books and a few other odds and ends but, in the apartment, what you see is what they’ve got.
Arlie was, in fact, born in this very apartment, and she and her accompanying toys, books, diapers, and so on have been seamlessly folded into the aesthetic of her parents’ home. 
“I like to reuse older things. I don’t like new things, I guess,” Anna explains. “I like things that have a little bit of character to them: a table that has been worn and has some love in it, as opposed to something that’s brand-new.”

Not too shabby chic

Want to keep storage cost-effective, earth-conscious and simple? Take a cue from the Sparling family: Line an old wooden crate ($7.50 and up, Circa) with some vintage fabric (prices vary at Antics) or even remnants of new fabrics from Les Fabriques. Stack a couple for salvaged shelving with a story.—C.B.

In the family bedroom, each person has a chest of drawers. Just like in the children’s story, Papa’s is big and tall, Mama’s is medium-sized and sweetly painted, and Baby Bear’s antique oak chest (which doubles as a changing table) is the smallest, with a tiny mirror perfect for practicing silly faces. The only evidence of baby gear is the hand-me-down crib that has become necessary for Arlie’s midday naps, because she is, as Anna puts it, “movin’ and rollin’.” At night, the family shares a bed (there’s also a futon available in the living room, if need be). 
A few delightful objects are arranged here and there, functioning as playthings for Arlie as well as pleasing curios for her parents. This pattern of multiple-use items is essential for living in tight quarters.
Smiling and crawling around the fluffy body of Layla the dog, Arlie’s eyes shine with curiosity. She giggles when she finds her favorite toy, an abalone shell that sparkles in the sunlight streaming through the windows. Later she moves on to the old weathered crate that houses her books, selects one and sits smiling as she examines the cover, simply content with the world.