Commuting 1.5 hours each way every day for a month has given me new respect for career addicts and long-distance commuters. It’s also given me new respect for working moms–how do they find time to be moms, let alone make dinner and do the laundry and dishes and have 20 minutes of downtime before bed? With that commute, I would get home at 7pm at the very earliest, and if I had any errands to run at all (grocery shopping, pharmacy, Goodwill drop), I would be home at 8pm at the earliest.

By that point, the idea of making dinner becomes a Major Life Trauma and I would be hiding under a blanket eating a piece of cheese to stop the blood sugar crash (have I mentioned that my brain turns off if I don’t eat every few hours?)  and taking mental stock of what we had in the freezer that could be cooked up in less than 20 minutes. Finding nothing easy to fix up and eat (I was raised to Cook From Scratch Because It’s Cheaper and More Healthy! and still shop accordingly), I would eat Cheez-its and stare at the inside of the fridge making depressed sounds.

And that’s about when Kevin suggested that we move into town. But after looking at apartments on Craigslist for a few evenings, we admitted that the cost of living inside the Beltway would be prohibitive, and maybe we’d just get some healthy freezer dinners and try to make this work for the time being.

However, a whim  of a search on Craigslist one morning a week later led me to an ad that was so perfect, it could only be a scam–except there was a phone number posted. I emailed it to Kevin: “Honey, can you call them and see if this is legit?” He called the couple who had placed the ad, and that evening we walked into the tiniest basement studio apartment I have ever seen. It wasn’t a scam at all. It was just less than 300 square feet.

But it had nice tile floors. And a renovated kitchen with brand new cabinets and appliances. And three nice windows above ground! And free laundry, parking space, and internet hookup. Oh, and utilities were bundled into the price of rent, causing the expenses to break even with what we were currently paying for our spacious place so very far away from our new jobs.

The best part? It was in the nicest neighborhood in DC (outside of Georgetown, that is), and was literally across the street from our church.

Kevin was in love instantly. I was not interested.

Objectively, it seemed like a good place, and it made sense financially. It would save us a lot of time to not have to participate in the mass exodus to and from the suburbs and the city every morning and evening. It was near our church. The landlords were okay with our cat.

But I had a visceral reaction to the concept of a basement apartment, and there were a couple irrational things about it that just left me with a bad feeling about it. I might have thrown a hissy fit about how small and dark it felt. Kevin might have backed off on the whole idea altogether.

A few days of talking it over, and one more visit to measure the space (and searching ApartmentTherapy for stories of living in less than 300 sq. ft. and creating a Pinterest board for decoration and organization ideas), we settled with the landlords and gave ourselves 3 weeks to move in. I was rationally pleased with the decision, but still going back and forth about whether or not I liked the place and felt like I could make it a home.

Kevin really salvaged the whole thing by suggesting we repaint it before moving in and negotiating with the landlords to let us in a couple evenings before we were to move in, so we could paint. It was what we now call “vomit beige” and was done in flat paint, in one sloppy coat, and it looked hideous.  (I wish my camera wasn’t still missing! These are from Kevin’s iPod)

Ktichen, pre paint

Main room, from front door

Main room, looking at kitchen/bathroom door

With the very cheery help of his siblings and a few good friends, we utterly transformed the place with a few evenings of work (and lots of pizza). I cannot tell you what a difference it made to have nice fat thick coats of high quality satin paint in nice colors! Simply painting the trim in a bright white made me feel optimistic and excited about living there.

In the end, we did these colors in the main room (the blue on the side with the two windows, and the white on the opposite two walls):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this one in the kitchen:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll take pictures of the finished space later this week to show off. It looks really nice. The cool, bright colors give the room a much more spacious feel, and the contrast of the dark blue with the white trim is really lovely. Kevin’s got plans to do a wall arrangement like this sometime soon:

Image from Pinterest

I think we’re planning on using white picture frames and mirrors. It’s going to look lovely. He has a good sense of space and color.

On an opposing  (light blue/white) wall, I’ve been working on a light decoration out of mirror thread and twinkle lights, but I need to switch out the lights we have with ones with white wire, rather than green. Once that’s complete, I’ll show you all. It looks nice enough for the time being, but it will really pop once I change the lights.

We also got a darling loveseat in eggplant purple from Craigslist. It was brand new and in perfect condition, and we were thrilled to discover that it was the updated version of our previous couch set, which we loved. And it’s PURPLE.

Pair that up with this rug from Urban Outfitters:

…and you have a happy girl who feels like this apartment is becoming a home.

[coming!] Hot and Sticky Part 2: Moving into a Basement Apartment in a Swamp in July


  • Great post. Except the part about eating a piece of cheese to stop a blood sugar crash. Cheese (almost always) has no sugar or carbs in it, so your blood sugar would not go up by eating it. Sorry. I just had to say it 🙂

    • Ha, yes. It’s just that cheese has enough protein to tide me over until dinner. I usually try not to snack on quick sugars or carbs because they don’t make enough of a difference. I’m not truly hypoglycemic, but my metabolism is high enough that I’ve had similar situations where I did have to have a quick bite of something to keep me stabilized.

  • Rachel Walker

    GAAAAHHH YOU GUYS ARE LIVING IN A STUDIO TOO!?!?! We’re moving into a 390 sq. ft. room on Monday. Let’s be a support group!

    • Yes! It’s about 270 square feet and it’s been great so far. I think I need to find a beach within daytripping distance to preserve sanity, but that’s doable. 🙂 Also the cat likes the small space better. Go figure.