"Small dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it." Da Vinci
Built in the 1920s, The Georgian Apartments blended harmoniously with the single-family homes on Queens Road in Charlotte. The French Colonial style building sat well on the tree-lined lot. Why a French Colonial with large verandas and beautiful ironwork was called The Georgian is an oddity that only serves to make the building more charming. But through the years, The Georgian grew tired while its neighbors grew ever grander. The building was saved from the wrecking ball (a common fate in nice old neighborhoods) because of the vision of one developer who knew, maybe only subconsciously, that Da Vinci was right. Small dwellings discipline the mind and large ones weaken it.
The Georgian was up-fitted and buffed and sold as eight condominium units. My friend owns one of them- 1100 square feet on the second floor- a jewel box of a home. It wasn’t too many generations ago that 1100 square feet for two people would have been called spacious. But now, outside a few impossibly expensive cities, that’s not considered much space.
But to my way of thinking, 1100 nearly perfect square feet are much more desirable than quadruple that amount filled with mistakes. When space is constrained, the mind is not only disciplined but also expanded. Outside the box thinking yields clever solutions. Attention to tiny details makes small, smashing. And that’s exactly what my friend did with the help of a decorator who also happens to be her good friend.
There was no adding on. The footprint was fixed. Few walls could be moved and mechanical chases had to be respected. The restraints inherent in this renovation made things easier, not harder. The choices were limited so each could be thoughtfully considered. A second bedroom became a den with a comfortable pullout sofa for the occasional guest. The former occupant of that room had grown up and was now a budding decorator in New York. And she confessed to her mother that she liked the new room better than the old one. She was ok with her bedroom not being maintained as a shrine to her teenage years! A fabulous little bathroom fit in a closet to make an ensuite, a lovely French term we’ve all learned from HGTV.
The kitchen was redone from bow to stern. And the shipshape analogy is apt, as this kitchen is smaller than most would consider functional. But some of the nicest dinner parties I’ve ever attended have been prepared and served from that kitchen. Everything has a place. Everything is used. That’s part of the discipline that small dwellings engender.
The owner has beautiful things. It’s an eclectic assortment, but with her willingness to experiment and her decorator’s well-trained eye, things as seemingly incompatible as a Lucite dining table and a Chippendale corner cabinet live in perfect harmony. A few new things were purchased when the condo was redone, but for the most part, the owner used what she already had but in different ways.
Antoine de St. Exupéry said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.” By his definition, my friend’s home is perfect.
So consider making the most of what you have without falling prey to the 'bigger is better' mindset. Have a disciplined mind rather than a weakened one. Let’s not argue with Da Vinci.