Before & After, In Progress, Rental Remedies

Melissa’s 350 Sq Foot Studio {Before the Rental Remedy}

Mealsa Apt Before 4

Last week I was up in Massachusetts, squeezing in some very important best friend time while also working on my most challenging rental decorating/organizing task to date.

When I found out that Melissa had only a few days between jobs to move across the state of MA, I knew I had to go help.   You see, not only is she a surgery resident (which means she is always exhausted and has zero time on her hands), I also know a bit about her moving style (last-minute packing) – as we’ve been friends since we were stuck together as college roommates in our freshman year.

Melissa doesn’t seem to love moving. But I do.  From the packing to the unpacking to solving the organizational and furniture layout challenges, I love it all.  So knowing that Melissa’s moves usually end up with her throwing things into garbage bags as the truck pulls up to her stoop, I headed to Mass to stage a moving intervention.  I really wanted to do as much as I could to help her get settled before she dove into a new, high-stress position at a new hospital.

Me and Melissa. Boston. Summer of 2009.

We spent about 2 totally whirlwind days packing her up and loading her life into a little Penske truck.  (Always go with Penske, even though it’s pricier than U-Haul.  Just trust me on this one.)

When we arrived in Boston, I was blown away by Beacon Hill, M’s new stomping grounds.  It was gorgeous, with narrow, tree-lined streets sandwiched between rows of pretty old brick and iron town homes.  And then the move literally took my breath away . . . as we had to climb three narrow flights of steps to get to her actual apartment, the top floor (essentially the attic) of an old row house.   The view was great, but –

view of beacon hill from 4th floor

I just kept thinking over and over “Thank God Melissa hired movers.”

**Insert huge shout-out to our two guys (names forthcoming) from Pony Express Movers.  They arrived in the afternoon, already having done several moves that day.  They didn’t know they were going to have to carry everything up those three horrible flights of stairs, but did so with totally awesome, friendly, positive attitudes, and were super careful, even though they were literally drenched with sweat after carrying just one load.   And if you need to hire movers in Boston, check this company out.  They fit us in at the last minute, and were willing to provide just the labor for the move-in once we arrived with a truck full of stuff.**

The movers carried the heavy and awkward stuff, and Melissa and I took care of the little things.  It was still a pain in the ass . . . and the thighs, and the calves, and the . . . well, you get the point. There’s a reason I fit into my vintage summer dress for the first time ever.

When the last box had been piled into the new space, we were both a bit surprised to find out just how tiny M’s new studio was.   So we squeezed amongst the boxes and measured it out.  350 square feet, if you counted the bathroom and the kitchen and the closet. Not sure how up you are on square footage,  but that’s a freakin’ tiny space.

Here’s what the space looked like before our invasion:

(Pardon the crummy resolution. I didn’t have my camera so I had to use my phone.)

I tried to make a floor plan and got fed up, so bear with me.

You enter on the third floor and go up a flight of steps.

See the doorway and the cutout in the wall?  The steps are on the other side of that.

Standing at the top of the steps, and looking at the front of the space, you see this:

That’s the living space.  Living room, bedroom, office, etc.

No, really.  . . .

Look a little more to the right and you’ll see a nice little bookshelf tucked under the eaves.  To the right of the shelf is the sole closet.

Now we are looking towards the back of the space.

After the closet (blue/gray doors) there is a kitchen nook.

This kitchen is also tucked under the eaves.

However, Melissa – who loves to cook – informed me that this was actually a better, bigger kitchen than any other studio she looked at.

The bathroom was by far the most absurd space.

Fortunately Melissa is short.

See that thing against her head? That’s the sloped ceiling.

No, really.

A few hours later, here’s what it looked like with all M’s stuff piled into it.


We barely had any room to move!  I felt like we were on an episode of Hoarders.

You know those games where you have 9 blocks in 10 spaces, and you have to organize them , but to do so you have to slide 8 blocks around just to make the 9th go where you want?  And then repeat a million times until each block has been shuffled into place?

That’s what it felt like to sort Melissa’s place out.  A ton of moving furniture and boxes around to one side of the space,  setting one thing up, then moving everything back to the other side of the space.  Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

But that didn’t stop me from making a totally ridiculous and embarrasingly dorky video.  Apparently it’s in “3gp” and needs to be converted before I can share it, so I’ll be back with that later.

In the mean time, I want to know what you’re thinking!  What’s the smallest space you’ve ever lived in?  Or do you think Melissa is crazy to move into a space so small?

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  • Reply Jeannine @ Small & Chic Home at 2:31 am

    Aw…it’s cute!  In my Boston days, I would have loved to live in Beacon Hill.  I always lived with roommates and never saw a time when I could get my own place in Brookline (forget about in town!).  The 25 year old me is jealous of her!  I’m sure you got it looking cute and comfy by the time you were gone.  🙂  I can’t wait to see the next post.

    I assume she’s going to be working at MGH?  She’ll have a 5 minute walk to work (past 5 different Dunkin Donuts). Lucky girl!

  • Reply Fauxshionable at 2:47 am

    I’m really excited to see the after! What  a challenge. But if anyone could do it…it’d be you. Hurry and post!!!

  • Reply Sarah (Freestyle Home & Life) at 2:51 am

    Wow, that looks like one tiny space — especially that kitchen and bathroom. I’m really looking forward to the “after” pics!

  • Reply Iheartorganizing at 3:17 am

    I am intrigued!  Can’t wait to see more!!  The place looks like it has AMAZING potential! 

  • Reply Anna Hull at 3:25 am

    Wow.  I mean, I knew it was tiny, but that is exceptionally small!  I am really looking forward to seeing what the “after” looked like.  Thanks so much for helping Melissa get moved and organized, Jane!

  • Reply Erin Lassahn at 3:41 am

    Wow, so tiny! I have lived in tight quarters before, so I don’t think the size would bother me as much as those sloped ceilings! BUt I can’t wait to see what you did with the place!

  • Reply Skooks at 5:48 am

    You know, I lived in an upper apartment of a house about 10 years ago.  It had 2 technical bedrooms with those same kind of sloping ceilings.  In the bathroom you could literally soak your feet in the tub, sit on the toilet, and wash your hands with no stretching.  It was TEENY.   I had 2 roommates and we all shared the “big” room which was barely big enough to house our beds and dressers . . . it was also the biggest room in the house.  The “living room” was the size of a small hallway and we shoved a couch and TV in there with enough legroom that you could change the channels with your toes.  And there was NO organizational structure.  None of us had ever lived together before and 1 of the roommates had no interest in cleaning, organizing, or generally being helpful to keep things up.  It was quite an experience.  Oh . . . and we still invited people over to hang out even though it basically meant we were all on top of each other.  A bit ridiculous . . . especially since there was no one living in the MUCH larger apartment just down the stairs.  😛

  • Reply Jen on the Edge at 12:14 pm

    It’s cute. Small, yes, but that could actually be a good thing — less space to clean and less space to fill with clutter.

  • Reply Candy at 1:29 pm

    It looks even smaller than I imagined!   It looked larger on the original “for rent” photos.  But — it’s less space to keep clean!  And it has great windows.  And a fantastic location.   I can’t wait to see the “After” pictures. It worked out well that you helped Melissa instead of me.  I would have been overwhelmed and it would probably still look like the “Before” photos.

  • Reply Tiffany Leasure at 3:42 pm

    The kitchen and bath look like a panic attack waiting to happen for me! Can you say claustrophobia?? I cannot wait for the after pics though!!

  • Reply Tracie at 4:49 pm

    oh how adorable! really great bones to work with!!

  • Reply Christina Leaman at 6:08 pm

    Wow. Tiniest space ever. I don’t think I’ll be able to complain about my kitchen again! LOL Can’t wait to see what y’all did with it. 

    Christina @ The Scrappy Housewife

  • Reply Jennifer McCormick at 7:00 pm

    OMG, 350 SQUARE FEET?! That is itty-bitty! Although, I might deal with 350 square feet for a chance to live in Beacon Hill. That area is to die for. I always think I’d be completely claustrophobic in a space that small, but then I see space that small decorated (have you seen Apartment Therapy’s small space contest? AWESOME!), and I think it might be cozy and nice. I am super excited to see how you guys got it all organized and liveable.

  • Reply Becky Hull at 9:38 pm

    Except for the sloped roof, the place reminds me a bit of my dorm rooms in college.  We were able to pack an unbelievably amount of stuff into our room without it looking overly cluttered.  That kitchen is actually almost twice the size of my kitchen in college.

    Thanks again for helping Melissa move.  I can’t wait to see the “after” pictures!

  • Reply Kelly at 10:40 pm

    Oh my gosh – everyone needs a best friend like you!  The pictures make this space look completely charming and full of personality – but 350?  Wow.  Looking forward to seeing the end result.

  • Reply Leigh at 1:07 am

    Wow-that is a lot of stuff in a small space and lots of stairs.  Glad it went well.

  • Reply Mikalah at 4:32 pm

    Wow, what a crazy trip that must have been! Now I know what you mean when you said it was a whirlwind trip. =D That area looks amazing! I love the old brick buildings, what a fun place to live! The only time I really lived in a studio apartment was in the dorms in college. We had 3 girls in a studio apartment! We managed just fine though with bunk beds and such. I can’t decide if I would love the “freedom” of living in a small space (with less stuff), or if it would drive me insane to not have the space I’m used to!

  • Reply Lifeinrehab at 8:54 pm

    I…I…no really, where’s the rest? Is this an IKEA display? The fabric of my head is just not wrapping around how this is going to work, so Jane, crate magic!

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 11:28 pm

      No it’s most definitely not an Ikea display, though that reminds me that
      I’ve seen Ikea displays larger than Melissa’s new apartment!

      Remember, M doesn’t have minions. She only has to fit her tiny self, and
      one feline overlord, into the space.

  • Reply Lauren Lanza at 4:00 am

    oh dear. i remember the days… my hubs and i lived in a 350 sq ft studio in atlanta right after we go married. it was the greatest apartment!!!! it’s always hard to gauge with all of the boxes, once everything is sorted and organized it’ll be genius!!

    http://laurenlanzaosias.blogspot.comit's giveaway time with shabby apple…

  • Reply Maxing Out the Closet {Melissa’s 350 Sq Ft Apt} | The Borrowed Abode at 7:13 pm

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  • Reply Angela at 2:05 am

    definitely a small space, but I think it has a lot of character, which
    can be hard to find in an apartment. I can’t wait to see how it gets


  • Reply KJHC at 4:00 pm

    500 square feet is the smallest apartment I’ve lived in and I loved it. Easy to clean and there was no room for clutter, so I had to stay neat. That apartment may be a challenge, but it will always be cozy!

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