Home design magazines always leave me feeling inadequate. I can understand the artistic strategies for furnishing a particular space, but not how people live in spaces so empty of stuff. You know, the stuff that we live with: newspapers, magazines, cellphones, sunglasses, half-full cups of coffee, paper napkins, and the paperback we’re in the middle of right now. Where do the people whose homes are featured in these magazines hide that stuff? Or are they inhuman and not need these things?
Apartment Therapy has been an excellent rebuttal to that brand of interior design. The website shows real spaces designed and lived in by real people, and even if we don’t see the half-full cups of coffee we understand that actual real people live there and that they probably drink coffee.
To put together Apartment Therapy’s Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, the website’s founder, traveled the country searching for the most inventive, inspiring, small homes. Like the website, the book showcases spaces that are lived-in, that are cluttered with the stuff of everyday life. They’re organized but they don’t have that pristine, hyper-clean, impossible-to-maintain feeling that most homes in magazines have.
And, like the website, the book focuses on smaller spaces and elements rather than entire homes. Its approach is to to tackle one space at a time by making one small improvement at a time. So rather than numbing me into complacency, the spaces featured in “Big Book” actually prompted me to take action in my own apartment.
There are great ideas inside about design problems that I have right now. There’s a way to fill bookshelves so that they won’t overwhelm my living room There’s a way to organize the electrical cords, power strips, and routers below my desk so that they’re no longer an electrical hazard and an eyesore. And there’s a way to set up my entryway so that it’s more than a small, blank space you walk through to get to the living room
With the “Big Book” by my side, I fee inspired to tackle all the projects I need to in order to sweeten my small home. Stay tuned!
Apartment Therapy’s Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. New York: Random House, 2010.