Monday, August 25, 2014


I truly appreciate your recent comments, especially those suggesting a slanted drafting table as a possible solution to my back/neck problems.  Since several of you chimed in with that, I thought I'd devote this post to making clear for you the physical limitations of where I live and work, i.e. Rose Cottage.  It's really hard to appreciate just how small "small living/working space" is until you know the particulars.

My entire inside life takes place in 294 square feet of space, plus a small closet and bathroom.  In the photo to the left, you can see the mirrors on the closet doors on the left beyond the ironing board.  Just to the right of the closet is an alcove with my bathroom.  I have a nice tile shower, but no tub.

This room houses the larger of my two studio tables (both of which are elevated several inches beyond normal table height).  I can't simply replace this table with a slanted drafting table, because then I would lose all that storage space, those crate and plank shelves sitting atop the worktable.  I also have storage tubs underneath.  Drafting tables are great for folks who do the same thing all the time, like drafting or drawing or even writing.  You simply can't do mixed media work on a slanted table -- it's not about doing the same thing consistently and all those different techniques require a horizontal surface.  Plus the fact that anything put on a slanted table would simply roll off.  And then there's the issue of my wrists, which are one of my many compromised body parts.  Wrists consistently bent at an awkward angle, like working at a drafting table, would only add insult to injury.  As it is, I already wear wrist braces at night, and have for over six years.

A few months ago, when I was painting and thought that was what I'd do forever (hah!), I bought a table easel from Dick Blick.  I really like it, but I actually only used it for about 15 minutes.  I had to keep moving the easel out of the way to get to my paints, and the easel kept hitting my studio lamps wherever I positioned it, even though my lamps are adjustable.  There simply wasn't enough space on the work table for me to use it, and no other appropriate surface to set it on.

This is the other end of the same room.  I was sitting in the office chair here when I took the first photo above.  Sometimes my computer sits on this table (also, you might be able to see my sewing machine just to the left of the lamp on the right, behind the chair back).  Often, though, like right at this minute, my computer is sitting on the big work table and I am sitting on my high drafting chair. My printer sits atop a plastic storage tub under the work table.  I have to bend down frequently to use it.  I'm just glad it's wireless.  When I watch DVDs or stream TV online, the computer sits atop two pillows on my lap, on the couch.  I keep the screen at eye level virtually all the time, to favor my neck.

Just to the right of the photo is a nearly-floor to ceiling window with grid shelving in front.  The shelving ends where the ironing board begins.

That's BeeGee there, looking out the window.

This is the hallway connecting my two rooms, from the north room with the big table into the south room, which serves as my main "living" area as well.

This is my smaller work table, which also has shelves built on top of it and storage underneath.  The black shirt on the far right is hanging on the back of my front door.

This is the same room, looking the other direction, away from the front door.  My kitchen.  My living room.  The refrigerator is to the right of the stove in this photo, and to the left of the work table in the photo above.
Another view of my living space.  Notice, if you will, that in all these images, there's no bedroom, no dining area, no regular dining-type chairs to sit in, and not even enough room for me to get down on the floor and really stretch out.  I eat most meals sitting Indian style on the couch with a tray on my knees.  

Also notice that just about every inch of space is being utilized.  I have things tucked in nooks and crannies that you likely didn't even my folding futon (housed during the day to the right of the drafting chair, between the work table and the shelving unit, in the first photo at the top of the post), or my foam mattress topper rolled up and stowed in a spot in this photo, between the round end table and the cart my microwave sits on.  Likewise the rest of my bedding is stashed in spots so it's out of the way during the day.  Every night I move the ottoman over toward the sink, lay out the futon and topper on the floor in front of the sofa, and make up the rest of my bed for the night.  And I put it all away every day or there's simply no space to do anything else. 

My couch is smaller than a normal couch.  Any other couch, including traditional style fold-out sleepers or those new, modern couch/bed things (the sleek but cold looking ones), would take up even more space in this room than my current couch does.  So that is not an option to my sleeping situation.  Actually, my futon is the most comfortable bed I've ever had, so even if I had a real bedroom, I'd likely just get a low frame to put the futon on.

This is looking back from the south room into the north.

So, this is Rose Cottage.  Tight as a drum.  You can see why I am constantly reorganizing supplies and getting rid of stuff -- I simply don't have room to spare.

When I first rented this space, it was as an art studio only.  I was staying with a friend at the time and had the rest of my household goods in storage.  When that living situation changed after 1-1/2 years, I basically had to move into my art studio because I couldn't afford a second rent.  I also couldn't afford to keep all that stuff in storage so I sold or gave away everything that wouldn't fit in Rose Cottage.  So this was a case of my art studio having to accommodate me living in it -- as opposed to my carving out space to make art in my already-established home.

I'm all for tiny-house living, but in order for me to live and work in the same space, then obviously I need a bigger place.  Unfortunately, that's simply an impossibility for me at the moment.  As it is, the rent I'm paying for Rose Cottage is more than half my monthly social security income (plus the rent has gone up 15 percent since I moved in in 2009 while social security has increased maybe 3 percent).  I rarely sell any art (or used books or CDs or art supplies) anymore, and when I do, it's not enough to make a significant difference to me financially.

Any other available living space in Fortuna would cost more than I am currently paying -- and believe me, I check all the time.  Plus, utilities are included in my even if I found another place, I'd have to fork out an additional $75 - $100 a month for utilities on top of higher rent.  The ideal situation for me would be a detached one-bedroom mother-in-law unit behind someone's home, where they were more interested in having a solid, mature, clean, quiet, long-term renter in the space than with getting market-rate rent.  Rents in California are out of sight, even in rural, largely low-income Humboldt County.  The rent I pay now for under 300 square feet of space is 500 percent higher than my mortgage payment was for a "2-bedroom and office" home in Santa Cruz in the early 1970s.

We do have low income housing in Humboldt County, of course.  I'm on the waiting list for a voucher, I'm like number 350 on the list.  There are a lot of low income families here and very few vouchers to go around.  Still, even if I was able to get a voucher, all the low income units in the county that take housing vouchers are in huge apartment complexes filled with noisy, ill-behaved kids and their clueless, often negligent parents, as well as a lot of druggie types.  I simply couldn't live in one of those places.

We do have a private senior-only complex in Fortuna, where residents pay only 30 percent of their monthly income.  You have to be at least 62, low income, and have a disability of some sort.  I meet all the qualifications.  I've been on the waiting list for two years.  I keep getting booted out of first place by the next person who comes along who also meets all the qualifications but is older and/or more disabled than I am.

So there you have it.  This is what's so in my little world.  I'm stuck, until I can get into Mountain View Village (the place I just mentioned), or that perfect mother-in-law unit magically appears.  I just have to make the best of it in Rose Cottage, and that's exactly what I've been doing.  Despite the space limitations which make it nearly impossible for me to implement any significant changes in my setup that might be more body-friendly, I'm happy being here.  It's really quiet, it's cozy, I have great neighbors, I have a fabulous view over the Eel River Valley only about 100 steps from my front door.  But I'm also not psychically ready to move yet, either.  I figure when the timing is right, the Universe's timing that is, then the appropriate next place to live will become available to me.  I'm doing and have done everything I can.  The situation is out of my hands at this point.


Marybeth said...

I love your little cottage! I think you have done a wonderful job building a creative space to live in. It feels warm and cozy just looking at the pictures. Will be praying that your name comes to the top of the right list soon!!

Bonnie said...

Too bad you aren't living in Missoula. I have some extra space. So you really don't sell much of your work? I thought you had that part of your trip worked out pretty well.

Roberta Warshaw said...

Ooooo. I am oogling all your wonderful storage ideas! My teeny studio needs all the help I can get! I am constantly having to move things out of the way to get to things. When my grandson sleeps over I have to move the art table down so he can get into the bed. That blocks, the closet as well as some of the drawers......SO I understand exactly what you are saying! My entire condo is 900 square feet but that is for two people, sometimes three.....sigh....Boston is too expensive for anything bigger as well.

Jan said...

Slant boards are for neck issues: Dad made me one that was adjustable and it was great. Heavy, so I was lucky I didn't need to move it. It did have a lip at the bottom, which stopped the papers from sliding off.

I loved being in your cottage as a guest when it was an art studio and not a residence. I marvel at your ingenious adaptation of it for living and making art.

Leslie said...

Pretty small but looks like you've done a great job piecing it together to work for you. I spent a summer long ago in a 398sf cottage on a lake in Michigan. Had a little garden and an Old Towne canoe. One of the best summers of my life.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Thank you for the great tour of your cottage. I can easily understand how you must not collect too much and how everything has its place. The key for all of us is to be okay where we are ... making the best of what is difficult and moving forward with good humor. In your case ... one beautiful view in one of the most beautiful areas in N. CA.!

Anonymous said...

You are the model of tiny house. I too love futons and yours is sweet. xox

Christine Adams said...

you've got the fabled "room of your own!" Cozy, bijou! The trouble with mixed media is that you have to keep lots and lots of stuff around, just in case... You evidently have things really well worked out. So, even though you can't follow up on our well-meaning suggestions, take them in the spirit they are meant. Though we don't know you, or at least some of us don't, we wish you well. :)

tronaldte said...

How wonderful that you shared your lovely space with us! I share your love of mixed media and appreciate the storage and working space challenges. I also share your love of reading and was wondering where you read. I loved laying down with a book before I napped, however, my wrists are weak and I find it difficult to hold up a book. So, now I read sitting up with the book in my lap and that bothers my neck. I also share your enjoyment of postage stamps however, I collect postage stamps and have yet been able to force myself to use them in my art. But, your "stampheads" intrigue me. I have considered cheating and cutting up a stamp catalog. Thanks for sharing your life stories. I look forward to your posts daily!

Judy Sall Fiber Art said...

You have done a wonderful job with what you have... makes me want to go through my space and do some serious de-cluttering. I don't blame you for not wanting to be in some of those 'affordable housing' dwellings! I am such a hermit these days, I would go crazy living in high-density housing. Nice to have a peaceful place, and good neighbors are a blessing!

Maggi said...

Thank you for sharing your home with us, and your positive attitude.

Irene said...

I really enjoyed this look at your living/work space and how you have to neatly arranged a thousand things into a cohesive whole. I can see how it works perfectly for you because no space is wasted and each space holds a treasure. You do, it seems to me, always have to be a well organized person and not leave anything lying around and maybe that can be an obstacle in your spontaneity. But, of course, that is just a guess on my part. It doesn't seem to limit your choices of the things you try to undertake. xox