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Shoebox Dwelling: Living Large in Small Spaces

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h1There is a beauty in living small. Space limitations motivate us to simplify, unclutter, and select rather than accumulate.

Natalia Repolovsky, Shoebox Dwelling

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Less really is more, especially when the results are stunning. Natalia Repolovsky has a knack for finding simple, space-saving, and beautiful minimalist things on her aptly named site, Shoebox Dwelling. Whether it's gorgeous modern furniture, genuinely smart IKEA hacks, or beautifully designed mini homes, Natalia curates the world of living large in small spaces.

Natalia and her site are a recent addition to the SAY 100 design channel curated by Tina Roth Eisenberg of swissmiss. We took the occassion to ask Natalia about the dignity of small spaces, what design trends she's most excited about right now, and where she finds all the mimimalist items she loves to share.

You find comfort, style and dignity in small spaces. Why did you add dignity to that list? Simple. It’s about striving for better conditions than the ones life throws at us. Decorating a tiny space can be discouraging. Many of us lack proper storage, the layout is often hideous, we don’t get enough light or ceiling height… But, if we have enough respect for our home, no matter how big or small, - we can find a solution that won’t compromise our aesthetic identity. My role is to point to the examples and help happy epiphanies happen.

You also explore the beauty of human thought behind objects. Can you give some favorite examples of that? Through my blog I've met many interesting people with great ideas. I've recently featured Swiss Army Style Apartment - a tiny studio in Gramercy Park area, filled with amazing custom storage. The owner, Rob Monahan, a math teacher, has built most of it himself. It was amazing talking to that guy, his story was so inspiring... I also love it when a designer takes an understated material – cardboard, plastic, resin, or some other inherently cheap substance, - and just by virtue of an idea turns it into something exquisite. It is an eco-friendly concept too – as consumers we see the value in design, not in the resources used to produce it. A beautifully thought-out piece doesn’t have to be made of mahogany wood to appeal to us. And beauty of human thought is one resource we can never exhaust.

You've been a design reporter. How does that play into what you cover on your site, or does it? I used to be a design reporter back in a day, in Russia. Being an immigrant, I had to reinvent myself in order to survive, so I went through an array of odd jobs here in New york. Right now I hold a ‘normal’ corporate position as a technical writer at a software company. Blogging is my way of bringing some of my past back.

How does being born in Russia influence your design aesthetic? I was born in what was called Soviet Union. When the old regime ceased to exist, the new era emerged, letting in some winds from the West. The notion of design was introduced to the masses. It was still new, of course, only the wealthy could afford to hire a designer or a decorator. As a reporter, I'd spend my days visiting and describing huge, palatial and often ostentatious pads, and come home to a tiny studio apartment. And surpassingly - I felt much better in a small space, where every item had a purpose and every inch was used to its fullest potential. There is a beauty in living small. Space limitations motivate us to simplify, unclutter, and select rather than accumulate. Living in style is not a prerogative of the rich, it is a way of thinking. I guess I was lucky enough to see all ends of the spectrum to really understand that.

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What design or product trends do you find most exciting right now for small spaces? French designer Matali Crasset (whom I greatly admire) famously said: "An object isn't generous enough if it has just a single function." This idea of flexible, multifunctional design is a godsend for limited space dwellings, where every inch is precious. I always feel grateful when I come across an item that can perform multiple roles, adding different dimensions to the space it occupies.

Describe your design media diet – how do you find all this fun stuff? I spend hours online and read many blogs and news engines (Feedly takes a good minute to load all the feeds I follow). I’m also blessed with good submissions. As the site became popular, designers started sending their stuff, which made my life so much easier.

What items do you most admire or covet at the moment and why? I have a major Eames fetish. Corny, I know … In a perfect home of my dreams Eames’ lounge chair will harmoniously coexist with Pascal Mourgue’s Calin sofa. I don’t think there could be such a place though.

Tina calls your site one of her current design favorites. What are yours? If I say swissmiss, it will sound obvious. But it is true. Tina was (and is) a huge influence. She has a unique gift of attracting great things. Another blog admiration (which actually has grown into collaboration) is Minimalissimo. I’ve always loved the clean beauty of the site and the quality of the content. I now contribute to it myself every Friday.

What have been the most popular posts on your site to date? And what does that say about what people are looking for? That would be the Garage Mini House, designed by Seattle based artist Michelle de la Vega. And understandably so. Who doesn’t like a good makeover.

What's something your readers would be surprised to learn about you? I write poems in Russian.

Follow Natalia on Twitter @shoeboxdwelling.

[Natalia photo by Dmitry Gudkov]

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