“When I got here,” says Jeannine Lalonde of the Walker Square condo she began renting in 2005, “there was one guy upstairs, and the next door neighbor moved in the same weekend. It was my first time living in new construction; it was a ghost town.” She kept waiting to meet people, but even power outages didn’t prompt the neighbors to gather.
Five years later, the community is somewhat tighter. Lalonde has a dog, Baxter, who’s a great icebreaker. And she owns her condo. Good thing, because interior design is her thing, and she has to be able to replace flooring and countertops at will. The condo’s original color—“beige, beige, nasty beige”—is now a cool blue; the bathroom’s all new; the light fixtures are anything but builder’s grade. It’s all been chronicled on Lalonde’s blog, Small and Chic in Cville (smallchic.blogspot.com).
Small indeed: the condo is a one-bedroom affair, its dining area more of a nook than a room. But Lalonde packs in the style, mixing local finds with Ikea bargains and custom furniture. (“I made all these bizarre choices when I was younger,” she says. “I had a desk made in Italy. It wasn’t super expensive; it was probably the same as a desk from Pottery Barn. I was just in love with the idea of saying, ‘I had this made in Italy.’”)
From her living room, she can survey the eclectic results, including her favorite element of all: “Olivia,” a John Matthew Moore painting of a sheep. “She makes me laugh and smile,” says Lalonde.
‘‘When I moved in, the floors were laminate. I was like, is this linoleum? I didn’t know anything about building materials. I always talked about getting new floors. In a place this small, it was a logistic problem. Where do you put everything?
“Then a guy upstairs had a leak and slept through it. I was told his toilet tank tried to fill itself all night long. I woke up at 6 on a Saturday morning and saw a quarter-inch of water on the floor. I thought, laminate, you can do anything to it and it’ll be O.K. But within an hour the boards were starting to buckle. It only hit a certain part of the dining room and a closet, no furniture. A couple days before, I had put everything in the closet in plastic containers.
“I was told to take out the floor right away. I spent two days ripping it out. I went to Nature Neutral and he had this stuff on a really good sale. A week later it was done.
“The sofa’s from Quince. I love that woman. She’s hilarious. I’ve been in there and seen people order thousands and thousands of dollars of stuff, and I’m buying some dinky thing and she still treats me like royalty. [My previous couch] was so nice that I was afraid to do anything. Now I have this with a slipcover and I don’t worry about it.
“I used to hide my TV. What’s the point? It’s no secret; we don’t need to hide it. The coffee table I got in Northern Virginia—it was a floor model and on super sale. Sometimes I think it is too big, but it has such good storage. The chairs are from Ikea…Nothing in here is precious, except for Olivia the sheep. I love that thing so much.
“This is home base since there’s no other living space. This is where I do a lot of work online. I do a lot of social media stuff. And I work with students and their hours are totally different. I want to be available, so a lot of nights I’m online.
“I’m not crafty. I’m the only design blogger who’s not crafty. I thought crafters were people with kittens on their sweaters. Now it’s different—most design bloggers are crafters—but it’s still Stitch Witchery and an iron for me.”