Category Archives: Decorating & Design

Tiny Space Big Ideas

We moved into Lawrence Apartments at the end of 2011 and stayed through early 2013.  I will outline details about why we chose to leave and such after the fun part of this.  That way you can just read the part about decorating and not worry about the other junk if you don’t want to.

Anyway – we were in Lawrence across from the library in the cinder block style apartments.  We were on an end unit.  One of the things I hope to bring you with this website is some small space decorating and storage ideas.  I wish I had known I would be doing this website back then, because I only got cell phone grabs of what we were working on.  So the image quality isn’t the best and I would have made things a bit neater, but you will get the idea.

We had the “Extra Large Living Room” model, I think.  We used Ikea shelves and some dressers to create a window seat and media storage.  Also my daughter visits and crashes on the couch and stores her stuff in one of the dressers.  We’ve since moved and have had to re-do things, now a third time.  Each time with different challenges and solutions.

This is the apartment empty.  This is pretty much the entire living space except for the bathroom and bedroom – which is to the right of the photo down a mini-hallway.

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Will measured and measured and read the Ikea catalog like a zillion times and figured out that he could fit some things EXACTLY between the end wall and the cabinets.  If you have this same configuration you can fit:

Billy bookcase – 4 – 60cm wide (those at the far end in the image) – they don’t sell the 60cm any longer, but Will says you could instead do 3 – 80cm tall bookcases in their stead.
Billy bookcase (half height bolted to the tops of the dressers) 2- 80cm wide
Malm 3 drawer dresser – 4 of them

If we were to do this again we decided we would do two of the shorter Malm dressers in the center under the window.  I was greedy for the two extra drawers, but it really was too high for a window seat.  It got a little use, but was mostly from the cats.

I used a 50% off coupon at Joanns for the foam and bought a remnant fabric to make the seat.  That foam is really expensive, so sign up for Joanns coupons or app or something and go when you can get it at a discount.


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If I had known I was going to post this on a website like this I would have made the books and media all nice and neat.  Maybe you can imagine that way, aye?  We added some twinkle lights and some pillows and the seat cushion my friends Leslie and Natalie helped with.  They’re awesome wonderful goddesses.

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Ok – for the drama stuff – if you are looking to move to Greenbelt, here is my experience:

In the end we became very unhappy with Lawrence apartments.  In the year and a half we were there the property changed owners once and managers several times.  To the point that sometimes one batch of folks coming in didn’t know what the last batch had done.  Also, somebody had two storage units in the basement, which meant we did not get one for over six months even though everybody else had one.   Part of the reason for this was because of the management shifts, the rules kept changing.   The new managers always had a chip on their shoulder about how things ought to be.  At one point we were told our bikes needed to be in the storage closet and not the HUGE EMPTY basement.  Which basically would have meant we would have had to take up almost our entire storage closet with our bikes.

It was frustrating – especially for tenants who are quiet, timely rent payers who keep a nice apartment.  We put in new light fixtures and door pulls.  We kept everything neat.  You’d think with some of the rowdy, screen-ripping, loitering, littering tenants they had two buildings over they would really appreciate us.

We ultimately left because they wanted to “reward us” for being good tenants by raising our rent like $80.  The letter actually said that.  That property is already higher by almost $100 than the other comparable apartments in the area AND we were on a first floor unit with a hallway that went through the building so our unit was smaller than everybody elses.  I decided we needed to find some other place.

Not that we were paying a ridiculous amount for living in the DC area, really, but because we were tired of the shifting demands and petty rule changes and that their rent is out of line with the other units like theirs in the immediate area.

We ended up moving in to a friend’s place and a year later were looking for an apartment again.  Which was just this past few months.  Lawrence was still under the management that they had when we left, so we thought maybe things had stabilized.  I contacted the manager and not only did she not contact me back several times, she tried to say she emailed me.  I pretended it was no big deal and said maybe my spam filter got it, but I got the distinct impression she wasn’t on top of things and no, it wasn’t in my spam filter.  She didn’t even know what an end unit was.

We found out our old neighbors across the hall were moving out and we might be able to get into one of the coveted “den units” that has an enclosed patio that ended up being a sort of den.  In apartments this tiny, space like that is nice to have.  I proposed something I thought was fair considering we had a good rent payment record and got our full deposit back for no damage at the last apartment.

After a frustrating conversation with the manager I wrote to her boss at Oculus Realty:

I just want to be certain you are aware of our offer for XXX, even though it was declined by XXXX I don’t have a lot of faith in her communication and I want to be sure she is passing our requests on to her supervisor. Below is what I wrote to her.  I got a request to call her, so I did.  She informed me that you could not do a two year lease because it was not legal in Prince Georges County.  I do not know if this was an outright lie or yet another thing she is simply unaware of, but I cannot find any indication of such a law.  I will have better luck tomorrow when offices are open to complete my research.  Additionally she explained that you would be charging $30 per month for the storage units starting in January.  I can’t even express how disappointed and surprised I am. It makes me wonder just how much more unfriendly this organization could become to tenants.  I’m not sure the spirit of the Old Greenbelt community is fully understood by management.

We owe you $40 for the application fee.  Please tell me where to send it.

LETTER TO HER, CC’D TO BOSS:

Thank you for the notice of our application approval for apartment XXXXXXXX.

I have asked that we be able to provide new light fixtures for the apartment and I understand that we must install them ourselves and that it is legal for us to do so. I also understand that you are allowing us to combine our two cats under a single monthly pet fee of $25 additional per month, and that our first month’s rent would be waived if we sign before December 31.

It seems then that, with things as they are, you are asking for $1175 per month rent for XXXXX.

This is still more than we are comfortable paying, given that the apartment is 30 sq. ft. smaller than comparable units within Lawrence, and that all four of the other properties renting similar units charge less than $1000 per month, and that our pets (who also lived with us at XXXX) have never caused any damage.

(edit paragraph for privacy)

We are willing to sign a two-year lease.  We would do so by December 31 to secure the first month free offer.

We would like to have a $75 per month rebate for the loss of 30 square feet to the first-floor rear hall (calculating the loss of 30 feet, using your current per-square-foot price of $1.77 for an improved one-bedroom with den, actually yields a difference of $88.46).

We are happy to pay a refundable pet deposit of $200, but would like the pet rent to be waived.

That would make our rent $1075 per month for two years.

Aside from these monetary requests we would also like a guaranteed storage space in the XXXXXX basement (we had to wait seven months for a storage space when we rented XXXX because one resident had two units and management could not sort out who had done it) and permission to secure our two bikes in the basement (outside of our storage locker).

Please let me know if our requests are acceptable. If so, we can have a money order to you for XXXXXXX this week and sign a lease for January occupancy.

If this is not acceptable, please give me the address to send our $40 application fee. We appreciate your processing our application before receiving the fee, and want to be sure you get it in a timely fashion.

Thank you,
Heather

***
HIS REPLY:

Heather,

Thank you for your email. I will be happy to review your proposals with XXXX. However please know our managers have authority to manage their communities within broad guidelines that take into consideration creating value for all the community’s stakeholders.

XXXX

***

Ok – so, the location of the Lawrence apartments is nice.  Right across the street from the library and community center.  But I only live a block from those things at Parkway.   Also, Lawrence did upgrade their apartments – they have full size appliances and the space is set up nicely.  But they still don’t have washer and dryer in the unit – like here at Parkway they are in the basement and Will told me the washer and dryer are actually a smidge cheaper here.  Don’t forget, they also don’t charge for the storage units!  Also,  Parkway has had the same guy managing the property for like ten years.  He has been kind and helpful and on top of things.  I mean, he even did everything he said he would do before we moved in!

The cabinets here are old.  and there aren’t any counters, but I will show you how we compensate for that with some photos once we are all set up here.  Other things make it a bit of an adjustment, but not anything like the drama of Lawrence.

I would not recommend Lawrence.  Not at this time, anyway.  They could still straighten out, but  I’m pretty bothered with them overall.  We haven’t lived at Parkway long, but already it’s been a more pleasant experience.  ALL of our neighbors have made a point to say hello.  And I see the neighbors in the building next to us talking to ones in this building, so it seems really nice.  I will keep you updated.

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