Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Once upon a time, I loved living small

There’s something about reading Saturday’s paper on Wednesday that makes your whole week seem shorter.

I was trawling my way through The Spectrum section of last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald today (I always save it, as my favourite section, til last) when I came across Lenny Ann Low’s list of ‘stickiest’ design blogs. Most I’d visited. My house may not be a palace, but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking longingly at the turrets across the street. But there were also some new-to-me ones.

I was particularly taken with, all about living large in little spaces. (Literally in some cases – the image here is from a post about creating a huge calendar for a tiny home, making the most of unexpected scale.)

I wish I’d found this blog years ago when I was living in a studio flat in The Big Smoke’s trendy inner east. It was one of three that had been fashioned out of a terrace house directly across the road from the Showground. The lady in the front flat played 'Blue' by LeAnn Rimes, loudly, every weekend for the entire time I lived there. She was very sad. I was very happy once I got to a place where I never had to hear it again.

The last agricultural show ever to be held there took place not long after I moved in, and I spent a delicious couple of weeks watching cows of large proportion and cockies with large hats traipsing in and out the gate directly opposite my door. During the day, the cows made a hell of a racket (good training for my tree change). At night, the cockies outdid them.

I loved my little flat. It was the first and only time I ever lived on my own. I had one large(ish) L-shaped room, the world’s smallest kitchen (complete with Lilliputian fridge) and a shower room. It was decorated with typical rental style – institution grey walls, carpet of a questionable beige, and an, um, eclectic assortment of furniture that I’d begged, borrowed or stolen over the years. (I am a Gen X, share-house renter. Our sofas tell stories.)

It was a flat with secrets. My brother TICH spent a weekend there once with 14 friends. He was in year 12. I didn’t ask.

I once lay awake all night, quivering with desire for a male friend who’d crashed out on the sofa, wondering if I should throw caution to the wind and make a move. I didn’t, not that it would have mattered as our friendship faded away not long after. So much for respecting the friendship.

My friend J, who lived up the road, spent hours discussing our ex-boyfriends over several thousand bottles of wine. My freelance career started to take off: I wrote the infamous Hairy Armpits story within its walls.

I met The Builder while I was living there. In some ways I think it gave him the wrong impression. He may have imagined briefly that I was much cooler than I actually am. But he’s still with me, in a Fibro no less, so that worked out all right.

The studio and I didn’t work out as well. It wasn’t that I didn’t love it. More that I got sick of the rampant mold that climbed all over my shoes. And everything else. I also realised that my phone bills were huge – like, Everest huge. I needed someone to talk to face-to-face. It would be cheaper that way

So 18 months after I moved in, with the décor unchanged once I removed my oversized Betty Blue poster from the wall, I moved out. To share a modern, airy flat with my dear friend M, a man who does not eat vegetables and will not eat egg whites. (Or is it yolks? Can’t remember. There are some details best buried.)

When I find a blog that specialises in two-bedroom units in 1970s buildings, I’ll tell you all about it.


  1. Love these glimpses into your past. The Betty Blue poster! Wasn't she divine? But tragic. Quivering with desire for a male friend? Ditto. The woman playing LeAnn Rimes - mine was somebody who hoovered a lot. Even on Christmas Day.

    Sometimes I think life is simpler lived small. Now I live in a 4 storey Grade II listed spindly house - and I can never find anything.

    Love that calendar image - I love signs and fonts.
    Lovely post.

  2. I so remember that place! It was quite a year for you as I recall...

    I stayed there at some point on your sofa cum bed. I think most furniture was dual purpose wasn't it?

    A lovely trip down memory lane...

  3. LeAnn Rimes? Hmm. Not sure which is worse, 'Blue' or the endless repetitions of REM's 'Shiny Happy People' that my flatmate used to play. It was her boyfriend's favourite song (apparently) and playing it made her feel closer to him. It made me feel homocidal.

    Ah, good times...

  4. Oh Susan! I love REM but that has to be worst song ever? I must check that blog out Al. Would be most useful with my current set-up non? Thanks for Rewinding. Should be interesting...

  5. The blog has moved! Now at

  6. Before I sold up and went west with the Irishman I lived happily in a tiny art deco apartment with Juliet balconies overlooking Kirribilli ave. I could chat to people from my balcony as they trundled down the street to the ferry...even borrowed a ladder from the guard at Kirribilli House one night when I looked for my key and there it was, gone!

  7. Great memories. Your post got me thinking about a dingy three-bedroom apartment I shared with one roommate as well as a rotating group of others who shared the third bedroom. Fun times, but I did long for a place of my own, too.

  8. I've lived alone twice. Both times I went completely nuts and needed rescuing from myself. I would have been the lady in the front flat, except I was playing The Cure instead of LeAnn Rimes.

  9. Oh SO loved the living alone years, and my little flats. Was such a dream to finally be playing house after imagining living in my own place from the age of 13! Also had little stints in New York and Berlin...sigh...thanks for the memories Allison! Think I got the taste for solo space after sharing a teenage shoebox in London, and is a bit of a similar feel now with 5 in the house and all the little people taking up more and more room...!

  10. My first little place was so grotty it had a bathroom in a wardrobe - no natural light but lists of moist air for mushrooms to grow on the walls. I feel no nostalgia for those days. None! Love this slice of memory. Visiting from the Rewind :-)

  11. I've never lived alone. I guess I'm leaving that for old age. Our first place was not so cool but still had the mold.

  12. I lived alone for a year or so before I moved to the country. I actually really loved it - at the time though I was flat out working in a job with non-stop people interaction so I didn't really get the chance to get lonely. Towards the end of the time I had met The Farmer and he seemed to pop up very frequently every weekend.

    Hi from The Rewind.

  13. I think everyone should live solo for a little while.
    Not too long though - I've known people to get a little too set in their ways!
    I felt really empowered and was rarely lonely in my little space after a messy break up.
    I also loved sharing my next unit with a girlfriend who was my polar opposite.
    Chalk it all up to life experience.
    When my highschool sweetheart and I got super serious, I actually grieved a little for the 'living with girlfriends' experience that I was going to bypass in my life.
    Luckily, we broke up eventually!!

  14. I am very tardy. A week or months late to this, whichever way you look at it.

    I am amazed, yet again, at our similar paths. At the same time that you were listening to 'Blue' by LeAnn Rimes, I was enduring Celine Dion's "Falling into You" album, whilst living in a tiny rented shared unit over looking the beach at Coogee.

    Gorgeous trippin' down memory lane...


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