Design for Small Spaces: Curated Life

In a diminutive Pearl District apartment, every object plays its part to expand the space.

By Amara Holstein March 22, 2013

At every turn, Facer plays with scale, whether it’s a giant paper clip or a tiny niche that becomes a desk space.

Every square foot of Robby Facer’s compact apartment lives large with his personality. Paintings with pithy phrases beckon visitors to the walls. A chartreuse Buddha is bathed in light from the 17-foot-wide expanse of windows. Pops of red pillows and turquoise vases stand out against the white walls, and sunbeams bounce against mirrored side tables, scattering throughout the rooms. “Where I live needs to feel like it’s part of me and personal,” Facer says. “That lends itself well to a small space, where you can almost see everything when you walk in.”

Facer has lived all over the country as a corporate retail marketer. Along the way, he lived in a 450-square-foot apartment in New York City. “I fell in love with the space,” he says. Drawn to urban vibrancy and walkability after his Big Apple sojourn, Facer chose the downtown energy of the Pearl District after relocating to Portland last winter for a job at Adidas. He happened upon an open house at the just-opened, 50-unit Janey apartment building, and the place instantly fit.

 “The goal of the Janey was to have East Coast living on the West Coast,” says Agustin Enriquez, lead designer on the project for GBD Architects. “We wanted to see how small we could make the units and not compromise the way people live.” The LEED Platinum building’s units range from 487 to 684 square feet. Facer chose a larger one on an upper floor. “Walking in and seeing the light and view to the north reminded me of my New York apartment,” he says. “Plus, I’ve grown up a bit and like having a separate bedroom.”  

The roof deck of the Janey offers views, greenery, and a respite from compact interiors.

Ceilings reach over nine feet tall, an enormous wall of windows anchors the exterior wall while extending the inside out, and a sliding door gives privacy to the bedroom but keeps the place otherwise unfettered by doors. Most notable is the built-in storage: floor-to-ceiling kitchen cabinets, an entry nook with a shelf and electrical outlet, and two walls of closets in the bedroom. And then there’s the flow. “You can walk a circle from the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and back,” Facer says.

“My aesthetic is a fairly modern take with a mixture of vintage to offset it,” says Facer. Case in point: a pair of sleek Eames chairs around the dining table are illuminated by an antique store letter “R.”

Within the outlines of the apartment, the ardent design fan has carved out his own functions from the form. He defined a shallow cutout in the living room as his office area, with a homemade desk on four skinny red legs. He gathered a serene array of furniture in grays, whites, and glass, allowing the vibrant colors of his eclectic art collection to punctuate the room. A dining area consists of a diminutive table with minimalist Eames chairs. Such divisions within the open floor plan give each area a purpose—and help to avoid the pitfall of what Facer calls “a big cluster of things.” The walls are where Facer lets his collections run wild, with objects like a paper zebra head and a massive illuminated metal “R.” 

“If I lived in a large space, I’d feel lonely,” he says. “This place feels like an extension of me. It feels like home.”

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