I love discovering how other people live: How they decorate their space, how they spend their downtime, what their habits and rituals are…you get the idea. Maybe I’m nosy? (I prefer to think of it as naturally curious.) People are just so fascinating! And since our homes often reflect a lot about who we are, I’m always intrigued to see “inside”. So I’m thrilled to feature my second-ever Home Tour today, bringing you into the Portland apartment of my friends Lesia and Sean.
Lesia is an account executive at influencer marketing platform company Little Bird and a photographer, and Sean is a visual artist. They live with their dog Bosco in a 636 sq ft studio in the Crane Lofts building in Portland’s Pearl District. Built in 1909, the building was completely restored and renovated in 2006, and features massive windows and beautiful red brick walls.
Here, Lesia and I chat about what it’s like living with her own Bob Ross, entertaining in a small space, how she makes her home smell great, and what she daydreams about while gazing out their giant windows…
What made you choose this apartment as ‘the one’?
We wanted to live in the Pearl District again and were looking for a pet-friendly building. Two years ago I stumbled upon this one in one of those right place, perfect timing kind of situations. We had been looking at houses on the east side of town and one day Sean suggested we move back to the Pearl. He said, “We live in a city where we can walk anywhere year-round, so why not take advantage of it?” Thirty minutes later, I came across a posting on Padmapper for a studio apartment in the Crane Lofts…and all I saw was red brick. Dreamy red brick on the outside and dreamy, exposed red brick on the inside. The red brick stole my heart.
Can you describe the neighborhood?
The Pearl District is a neighborhood north of downtown Portland. It’s energetic, clean, walkable, friendly, and social. It’s one of my favorite parts of Portland as you can walk EVERYWHERE. If I walk one mile in any direction from my apartment, I can end up in a café in the northwest hills sipping dragonfly chai lattes, on a hike through a mossy Forest Park, window shopping the downtown Nordstrom, grabbing fresh, local produce at the Portland Farmer’s Market, or on the other side of the river taking in a pint at a Winterhawk’s hockey game at the Coliseum. As I haven’t had a car for nearly three years, walkability is important, and the Pearl is a central (and safe) home base.
What are your favorite features of your apartment?
Can I say red brick again? It makes our home feel so rustic and raw and real. Something from the old world. I often find myself staring out of the enormous, rickety windows, past the red brick, onto the cobblestone street, daydreaming of another time. Perhaps the roaring 20’s, with industry booming, prohibition, and jazz music pouring into the streets from underground speakeasies.
Next to the red brick, I’m a sucker for the high ceilings and larger-than-life windows. (They make the 636 sq ft feel not so 636 sq ft.) In the summer, Portland turns into the Garden of Eden: 80 degrees, no humidity, blue skies. We fly the windows open and let the cool, city breeze carry energy from the streets, buzzing in and out of our home. It makes everything feel alive.
How would you describe your decor style, and how do you strive to make your home feel?
Style: Eclectic, modern, and colorful.
Feel: Warm, inviting, and alive.
Your space functions as both a home and an art studio, all in one open space. How do you make that work, so it’s both relaxing and productive?
The productive part is Sean painting, the relaxing part is me watching him paint. I have my very own Bob Ross. A sexier version of course.
Sean’s art is his life and one of the many things I love about him. It feels very natural to have him creating in our home. Any day of the week we could be cooking dinner, he’s in and out of painting, we’ll be spinning vinyl, and dancing. Our life is rather lovely right now and art is a big part of that.
How do you keep a small home feeling fresh? Anything you have done to revive the space when you feel like a change?
YES! November had hit and it was a bit cold and grey. Sean suggested we spice things up… we moved the couches! It opened up the apartment and we continue to move them around, whether we’re settling in for the evening or entertaining friends. We also built a new light fixture (from scratch!) to go above our night stands and acquired a vintage 70’s hanging planter to hang some of the many plants in our home. But really, our place always feels new and fresh with Sean’s artwork coming and going. We have some permanent pieces of his and other artists that have staked claim on our walls, but they always feel new as they change colors as the light changes in our home.
How do you deal with visible ‘clutter’ in an open space? Any tricks for keeping things clear?
There are two tricks…the first is that I have a rather large closet where I store all my “stuff”. The second trick is to live with someone who is an extreme minimalist and loves to clean.
There’s also a really great component to having a small, open space. The real key that changes you as a person, is that you have to get rid of stuff. Let things go, move on, try to only buy things you need. I truly believe the physical clutter impacts the mental clutter… so I let go and clear the way for better things. I recently followed Project 333 on FB, that revolves around a minimal, rotating wardrobe, and they also share great advice around home organization. I recommend checking it out.
Do you use any home scents?
I love Pacifica candles. They’re clean and local. (I’m also a strong advocate for their face lotion.) Like most of their products, they don’t have any crap in them. We also burn incense; the rustic and spicy kind. They warm the place up and make me think of campfires. In addition to that, we cook A LOT. It’s what we do together. So, our place often smells like the meals we make, garlicky, buttery, delicious.
After all that, a good all-day window opening is in order to clean everything out and start fresh.
What are weekend mornings like in your space? Any rituals you look forward to? How about evenings?
Like any good Portlander, we have a fascination for good coffee, and we’ve set upon the ultimate quest to make the PERFECT cup. Mornings consist of Sean either making pour-overs or using the Chemex as if he’s in chem-lab; the perfect coarse grind, water boiled to 170 deg Fahrenheit, then patiently waiting, watching, pouring, and stirring until completion. Then I wake up to a cup and a kiss. It’s my favorite way to start the day.
I like for our place to feel lived-in and alive. So evenings are just that. When I come home from work, we cook and sing and dance and read. One of us paints, while one of us learns to play the guitar…terribly. We drink wine and craft beers and good whiskey; and enjoy the comfort of the home we’ve created. In addition to that, we loved your idea of picking a book we’re both interested in and taking turns each night reading to each other. We started with Sick in the Head, Judd Apatow’s interviews with some of the world’s greatest comedians spanning from when he was 15. Now, we’ve decided to delve into some classics. We’re planning to meet at the library this week to grab a copy of Alice in Wonderland.
When Joe and I lived in a studio in Portland, I remember sometimes craving a door to close. (Though this was mostly to keep our cat from waking us up at 6 a.m.) Do you ever yearn for a separate ‘room’? Any tips for other studio dwellers on creating privacy in a small space?
We moved from a one bedroom to a studio and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about not having a “door to close”. But after three years of living together that has never been the case. We like being around each other…all the time. It’s kind of weird. However, if there ever comes a time where we need space, we take it by either heading to a coffee shop/library/brewery or going on a stroll/bike ride around the city.
Another key is having something in your home that you both enjoy separately. I’ll shoot and edit photos and he’ll paint, and while we’re only five or six feet away from each other, it’s as if we’re both in our own little worlds, doing our own thing. So, not so much physical elements that create privacy but more so personal elements that allow you to escape or retreat within yourself.
Any secrets to creating a great gathering? What are the pros and cons of a studio space for entertaining?
The most important aspect…good people. Then providing good food made with lots of love. And adding wine never hurts. We keep our place really clean, open the windows so there’s a breeze, and let the energy flow through our home. We often ask our friends to spin vinyl records of their choice. We have a pretty vast collection spanning from rock ‘n’ roll to rap to oldies to jazz and indie rock. It’s great to add a musical element and experience everyone’s personal tastes and hear their memories that go along with the records, all through the ins and outs of good conversation.
The biggest con is the lack of a kitchen table. We can only have four to six people over at a time if we’re doing dinner. We crowd around our craftsman coffee table, which was commissioned and traded for a piece of Sean’s art, and pull our couches and large floor pillows around it to make just enough sitting/dining space. I love the way it feels, but would be lying if I said I didn’t want a large table to entertain friends around.
I know you try to live in a way that’s environmentally conscious. Anything specific you do in your home environment to live greener?
We try to live as clean and green as possible, and there are little ways that we can continue to get better. We take mason jars to the coffee shops with knit cozies instead of continuing to buy and trash paper cups and plastic, non-recyclable lids. We love it and so do our baristas.
The size of our place plays largely into environmentally conscious living. We don’t have a large house that we’re buying furniture for, heating, cooling, and not using. We have and use what we need. I think there are a lot more people living like this and that’s why we’re seeing a rise in the tiny home movement. Some people are realizing that more stuff is just more stuff.
Another component is kitchen storage, or lack there of, and walking access to some amazing markets, bakeries, and butchers. Everything we get is very fresh and we only buy what we’ll eat for the next few days. We never waste food. Two years ago, we threw out a whole chicken and I almost cried. Sean and I still talk about that to this day. We’re not poor and we’re not struggling, but there’s nothing I hate more than wasting food…and wine.
You guys are big music lovers. What’s on the record player these days?
With his recent passing, we’ve been listening to a lot of David Bowie. Bonnie Raitt or Rhye for a casual Sunday afternoon. Led Zeppelin when we’re rocking out in the kitchen. John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald for a relaxing and jazzy evening. And when we hang with our favorite two year old, Ollie, he requests “Jackson”, as in Michael, and wants to “dance” with us all night long.
Music is life and we surround ourselves with it everyday.
Thank you so much, Lesia! Your home is beautiful. :)
p.s. Do you or does someone you know live in a cool/unique/inspiring home? I’m always on the lookout for awesome homes to feature on the blog. If you have an idea for one, please contact me here.
p.p.s. I’ve been lucky to collaborate with Lesia and Sean on three other projects: Check out my interview with Sean on his creative process, Lesia’s DIY lemon scrub, and our adventure to one of Portland’s coolest places…