Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Space saver

Most of us have access to more space than we realize. I love looking at space-saving storage and design. We used to tour RVs to see how livable small spaces could be. But I also love creating space where none seems to exist.

We're downsizing in preparation for moving away. Moving from our 2750+ house into 1000 square feet (into the 1000' basement that was storing our excess stuff!) It's plenty of space if we don't take everything with us. We'll let others stay there while we're gone.

"Oh, don't worry," my Mom assures me as we sell off and give away our things. "Should you ever come back and need to refurnish, I have enough for both of us. China. Silver. Furniture." That's made me smile.

Today I revisited a space I expanded. It functioned as a passageway, but now it's a living space. How did that happen?

At the university, a huge concrete and glass foyer was created to connect several classroom buildings. There was not a lick of furniture in it. Everyone used the too-hot-in-summer or freezing-cold-in-winter space as a hallway, but no one lingered. Occasionally, maintenance would drag some tables in for a reception and take them away after the event was over.

However, I needed a place to hang out with alumni on campus. The Caf could get too noisy and my office was too small to meet for group chats. One day it stuck me: "What about our empty plaza?" Could furniture and a rug stabilize the perceived temperature and invite people in?

The business manager graciously let me furnish the plaza. "Please don't put junk in it," he warned.

Meanwhile, our friends Arlyn and Sharon Nelson were downsizing their parents' estate. Sharon's dad was an alum of NU, and they cheerfully donated a gorgeous cream-colored leather suite (a Lazyboy, an armchair, and a sofa). We posted a plaque in her dad's honor.

The same week, W and I drove past a "free" beige leather sofa at the side of the road in Redmond. We pulled over to look. The sofa was solidly built, though the center cushion was ripped. Big deal.

We tossed it in the back of our truck, I bought $10 of upholstery fabric, recovered the cushion, and made toss pillows with the scraps. Then we added it to the new lounge.

I unrolled a rug we picked up on Freecycle and plopped a heavy oak table (another freebee) in the middle. I brought leftover blankets for winter meetings, and placed a slate tile and some pebbles on the table. I hoped creativity would draw students into the unwelcoming space. Anyone can play with stones, after all.

It was amazing! Within 10 minutes, students were sprawled on the sofas, arranging the stones, and conversation was flying. Six years later, the sofas may be worn but they're still beautiful. A student peer told me, "My little niece was playing with those stones last week!" Yes, people still sit, chat, and snooze in Dickey Plaza. Strangely, I never hear comments about the temperature.

Last weekend, I similarly got to arrange existing furniture and accessories in a Street-of-Dreams style home. It had been left unfinished, in a hurry, and wasn't pulled together. We set up 2 new areas for conversation in the enormous upper hallway and warmed up the rooms with accessories from throughout the house and garage. What fun! There's a lot more to be done. (Maybe I'll get to play again when we get back after summer. Those silk kimonos stuffed into a box in the office? They look like wall hangings for the hallways to me!)

From Real Simple
Do you rework and beautify a space by showing up? 
  • Do you leave memories of a lovely conversation?
  • Do you rearrange the furniture?
  • Do people know more about Jesus by the time you move away?
  • Do you clean up and leave places more orderly?
  • Are items assembled, repaired, or put in working order?
  • Do you leave new ideas floating around?
  • Do people feel loved after they've met with you?
Read more:
*All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:6,8 (NLT)

*He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (NLT)

*Christ says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:33 (NLT)Paul wrote: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5 (NIV)

Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, when we are bogged down by the petty matters of life, give us perspective. Remind us that our real home is with you and we will worship and enjoy you in the heavenly kingdom forever!

We pray to you, Lord, for justice and peace. Help us always to walk humbly with you and in a right relationship with all your children. Amen.


  1. You, my friend have the gift of "seeing" what others do not. :) You are an inspiration!

    1. Everyone inspires with something, I think. I love love love the possibility of place and area.