Little Luxuries for Even the Smallest of Homes.

By: Jen Shoop

After ragging on Louise last week, I have been making amends by cataloguing all of the things I love about her in list form — part of a new and bizarre kind of list therapy I’ve been indulging in, which one or two of you pointed out in comments on this post is more commonly referred to as “bullet journaling.” Below, some of the things I love most about our current home:

+The view from my bed. The west-facing window at the foot of my bed is not exactly scenic, but it looks out onto a small courtyard whose treetops dance when it’s raining or windy. The south-facing window over Mr. Magpie’s sleeping form to my left opens onto a quiet drive in front of an elegant apartment building whose glassed-in lobby showcases an enormous chihuly glass chandelier. Neither view reveals foot traffic — just the shape-shifting of trees and the tangle of artful glass. Urban poetry.

+The formality of the dining room. In the very center of our apartment, we have a small but proper dining room, segregated from the television and the living space. Recently, we started eating dinner together in it almost nightly, as a little pod of three: we say grace, we pass plates, we share the roses and thorns of our respective days. For many months prior, I fed mini at five P.M. so that I could bathe her and have her ready to play with Mr. Magpie when he arrived home around six. After her bedtime at seven-thirty, we would prepare dinner for just the two of us, relishing the stretch of quiet, adult time. It took us a long while to give up that leisurely time together. But we have recently evolved into what I consider a proper family, one that breaks bread together, with our daughter alongside us. We listen to music. We clink glasses. We attempt to act calm and disinterested when mini eats — as she did over the course of a recent week — the entire skin (!) of a twelve-inch (!!) pan-seared trout (!!!), several ounces of veal, a heap of brisket Mr. Magpie had corned for eight days and a hunk of homemade carraway-seed-studded Irish soda bread I’d baked in a delayed celebration of St. Pat’s, and a mound of vermicelli noodles doused in nam pla (Vietnamese fish sauce). Mr. Magpie and I have discovered that mini eats more — and more adventurously — when she sits at the table with us, eating what we eat, and when we do not remark upon what or how much she eats. We refrain from entreaties like “just two more bites and then…” or “don’t you want to try a bite of xyz?”, which can occasionally try my patience and result in a pathetically spare dinner for her. But there are many later-at-night marvelings over what she has eaten: “Did you see how much of the potato she ate?” “I can’t believe she ate all that spicy sausage.” Etc. The stuff of parenthood, I tell you. And Louise anticipated — and accommodated — this new life stage together.

+My writing nook. We used a rug to square off the roughly five by seven foot enclave in which I do all of my writing. It is nothing but a desk against a wall, and though she is exposed and can feel infuriatingly ill-placed when I am in a flow and little feet are amok, the fact that I was able to squirrel away this little bit of space for my own purposes makes me feel as though Louise sanctions my creative endeavors.

+The fact that we have a washer/dryer in unit. This is not a given — even in the nicest of apartments — in Manhattan. God bless the apartment gods for this gift.

+The warm taupe color of the walls (we did not pick it), which glow incandescent when the lights are dim and candlelight dances against it.

+The smallness of the kitchen. I go back and forth on this one. Some days, I curse the pathetically limited workspace of our “galley plus” (not quite a galley, as she is several feet wide, but not large enough to qualify as anything else) as I find myself frenetically stacking and schlepping piles of bowls and ingredients to make enough space to complete a cooking session. On gentler days, I like the efficiency she affords, as everything is within arm’s reach: the stove, the fridge, the cabinet, the sink. It makes for nimble cooking. And we have thoughtfully stored our implements within it, sussing out which whisks and measuring cups we tend to favor and keeping those easy-to-access while stowing duplicates. I can cook by touch here.

+The crown moulding. Old-fashioned and just my style.

+The length of the master bathroom. In an otherwise petite apartment, the master bathroom feels unexpectedly gracious, as she runs along the full length of the master bedroom. And because of her configuration, there is no way to clutter her expanse: she is recalcitrant in her narrowness, forbidding the introduction of storage bins or shelving. She is determined to establish the feeling of space in an otherwise diminutive apartment.

+The heft of the doors. Mr. Magpie and I have a potentially idiosyncratic rubric for evaluating the quality of a home: how heavy are its doors? In our early apartments, we found the doors were thin, lightweight, unsatisfying to slam. Louise’s are stolid, stubborn, heavy, and surprisingly good at mitigating sound. They bespeak workmanship and age. I love them.

What do you love most about your home?

Post-Scripts: Little Luxuries for the Home.

A couple of ways to make your home feel more luxurious than its small square footage might otherwise permit:

+An obvious one, but fresh flowers or — better yet — botanicals like sprigs of eucalyptus (shown above) or even dried lavender, which last for a long time. I also like to be creative about the vase situation — things like a copper canister (seen above) or a bee-emblazoned drinking glass or a spongeware pitcher can be a great way to add a sense of elegant rusticity to your home.

+I always have a candle burning. I just ordered Maison Louis Marie’s Bois de Balincourt after many of you recommended it as a solid dupe for Le Labo’s celebrated Santal candle, but at half the price. Into the Gloss knighted it “the best cheap candle,” so — there you go.

+I always have long matches on hand for candle-lighting — often ones that come in a pretty matchbox, like these from Annechovie (great gift to accompany a gifted candle) or these from St. Frank. In one station in my home, I keep matches in a beloved decorative match-strike Mr. Magpie gave me as a gift many years ago. Taking the time to make such a minute part of my daily routine prettier leaves me happy.

+Under-cabinet lighting. We initially went with these inexpensive lights, which are actually quite good for the price and an excellent option for fellow renters looking for more lighting in their kitchens, as they adhere to the underside of a cabinet with 3M stickies. Mr. Magpie loved that they are controllable by remote and can be set to turn off after a designated amount of time. However. They burn through a lot of batteries if used often. We just decided to upgrade to Hue light strips instead, which are genius because they sync up with our Homepod setup so you can say: “Siri, turn off the kitchen lights,” and they’ll turn off. (The quality of the light itself is also substantially better.)

+I have a collection of julep cups (look for less with these) I use throughout our house for various reasons — as a pen cup on my desk, as a toothbrush holder, as a makeup brush holder. A small way to elevate the ordinary.

+One reason why I love The Laundress’ products is because they are so gorgeously scented. I have written profusely on the subject of their Crease Release, which I use in between launderings of our bedding, but part of the reason I am so hooked on this product is because it makes our entire bedroom smell incredible. You can also buy their Fabric Fresh — a far more elegant take on Febreze. We also use Diptyque’s Baies Room Spray, though it is heavily concentrated and I find can be a bit overpowering if you’re not careful with it. I tend to use this only when I also have a window cracked.

+I love to keep a glass carafe of water at my bedside. It makes me feel as though I live in a hotel. I will also put this on our dining table for dinner (another option: this rustic white pitcher), which gives the impression of languor and sophistication, even when my daughter insists on walking over and spitting out bites of food on my lap when she finds them distasteful. Similarly, I have been eyeing these glass bottles as a way to serve juices and other drinks when guests are over. We already have two lovely small glass carafes we often use for milk, juice, etc — but these are coordinated and would be easy to stow in a fridge.

+I have framed special cards and little bits of personal memorabilia in these inexpensive acrylic frames, which can stand up on their own.

+I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a trillion times more: investing in good towels can not only transform your shower experience, but also lend a sense of luxury to your bathroom. I love Matouk’s Auberge and Cairo collections. I have both.

+Lavender sachets in your linen drawers. Such an inexpensive way to perfume your clothing beautifully.

+If investing in an entire new set of dinnerware is impractical for you given space or cost considerations, buy just one or two pieces you know you’ll use heavily from a pattern you love. Maybe you eat cereal daily, for example — order two of Juliska’s Berry & Thread pattern bowls.

+I spent months agonizing over counter stools for our old home and then we sold it before I ever took the plunge. I feel like my indecision was a gift from God because we wouldn’t have needed them in our current apartment, and I think we’d just have had to sold them. High on my list: the borderline ubiquitous Serena & Lily Riviera bar stools, which add just the right amount of casualness and style to a counter area in my opinion. I just found these far less expensive stools that nail the look for a lot less.

+One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a set of 12 white appetizer plates from Crate & Barrel. They’re just the right size for — anything. They make even the most pathetic of snacks and treats more luxurious, whether I’m treating myself to a mound of stoned wheat thin crackers, or a tangle of grapes, or a fistful of Swedish fish. I also like to keep one underneath my mug of tea so I can easily place the tea bag alongside it. White goes with anything and never tires (I’ve learned the hard way that it’s probably best to go with a white or highly minimalist china print), but I find Aerin’s printed dip bowls fetching and perfectly proportioned for daily indulgences, too.

+Greenery is always a lovely addition to any room. I love this faux olive tree and this boxwood for instant elegance without the upkeep.

+Adding a pair of ottomans to the foot of a bed or beneath a window or underneath a console table affords major style points (richer texture! a plusher, more refined look!) without a huge investment. I’m in love with the palm print (and round shape!) of these, but I also adore so many of the prints available in this affordable style. Bonus: additional seating when you need it.

+Mr. Magpie has mocked me for my endless purchasing of baskets. But they’re such a great, and often inexpensive, way to tidy a space while adding dimension and texture. I love these, and this set of four looks like something from Serena & Lily (but costs far less).

+NOT an affordable little luxury, but I am absolutely dying over these scalloped banquettes and had to include them in this roundup. Swoon.

+High-end hand soap in every bathroom makes such a huge difference. So many friends comment on our beloved Molton Brown scents, but I have also used and loved Malin & Goetz’s Rum scent (trust me, it smells SO GOOD).

+A small and inexpensive rug for the kitchen. Buyer beware: these do not last long in our home as we cook a lot and often keep Tilly behind a baby gate in the kitchen (and she will sometimes affix her attention to destroying said rugs), so I find I need to toss them after a good run. But. A fresh rug in a lovely print can completely change the way you feel about your kitchen, dimensions be-damned. I just found this inexpensive 3×4 foot vintage-inspired rug and think it would be the perfect way to invite spring into my kitchen.

+Upgrade your tissue situation by covering the round-style Kleenex box in these brushed aluminum covers.

+Decant your shampoos and conditioners into dispensers. (And your kitchens in soak into one of these!)

+Similarly, stow loose snacks and pantry items in the containers and jars like these. (I love buying a few different bags of Haribo candy and stowing them all in one or two of these.)

+This will require some engineering/wiring, but these inexpensive sconces are SO chic. My sister recently told me: “I’ll know I’ve made it when I have bedside sconces.” We laughed for a long time about that, because I knew exactly what she meant: they’re for grown-ups with taste.

+A smart-looking side table like this would make for a lovely little reading nook set-up: just enough space for a cup of tea and a candle.

P.S. I just updated my Best of Everything: Home Edition post to clean up dead links and make important additions, like our beloved bed pillows, which have enabled us to sleep so much better than we ever have before. Also: they never.get.hot. (?!?!?!) Incidentally, this might be a good post to use if you’re building a registry or preparing for a move!

P.P.S. My LR sandals just dropped LOWER in price in Saks, and are now under $90! Thanks to the promotion, I also managed to snag a couple of additional Kissy Kissy layette pieces at 25% off. Saks always has the best selection for this brand.

P.P.P.S. A REALLY GOOD TEE (under $30). I wore this constantly in two colorways pre-pregnancy. Great for layering but also just a chic, timeless cut for wearing with jeans on a Saturday morning.

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18 thoughts on “Little Luxuries for Even the Smallest of Homes.

  1. I know this might not be interesting to everyone, but I’d love to hear how you adjusted your daughter’s schedule to accommodate family dinner! Currently my 22 month old eats dinner with her nanny every night at 5 (while my husband and I are at work) and then my husband and I eat after she’s down around 8. What time do y’all eat? Do you give her a later snack? Does she go to bed later after a later dinner? I’d love to do family dinner too but am not sure how to make it happen and appreciate your insight!

    1. Hi Leah! So funny — another reader asked a similar question; see my full response below. I was very curious about how other people managed this, too. But the short answer is that we eat dinner between 6 and 6:30 and I put her down at 7:30. The later dinner time puts some pressure on getting everything else done (now I often give her a bath before dinner, which is questionable on spaghetti nights), but we are generally flexible anyway, and if she goes down 15 minutes later than usual, so be it. I also find that dinner is now the first step towards bedtime: we eat dinner together, she helps us clear plates, then it’s time to get into jammies, brush teeth, read two books, give Dad two big hugs, and go to bed. It all feels very logical and orderly and she knows what’s coming. And though it makes for a bit of a compressed evening schedule, we’ve found the tradeoff worth it in that she eats a lot more (and a lot more adventurously), and we are beginning to treasure our little family ritual. I do find that she sometimes needs to get started on something before dinner properly starts — I often give her her milk cup and a little plate of fruit/veg while we’re getting dinner on the table since she’s usually very hungry by the time we sit down.

      But, more generally, one thing I’ve found in all of these transitions is that mini is far more resilient/adaptable than I give her credit for. I was like, “Should I phase in dinner?! Gradually move it up?” But no. We just started having dinner later and it’s gone really well.

      Hope that helps?!


  2. So much to comment on here! First: roses & thorns. I love this “game” (? — it’s not really a game but I’m at a loss for a better word in this moment) and we use it all the time!

    I think the in-unit washer & dryer tops my list of things I love about my home as well. I also love the generous (in size and quantity) windows and how there’s light on four sides of our apartment. I also love how surrounding trees afford us extra privacy in the warm months, and how it’s on the small side but there’s still enough space for us AND our offices, given that we both work from home (!)

    On the topic of room spray: I have & love Aesop’s Istros variety. It smells delightful!

    1. Oo, there is an Aesop not far from me on the UWS. I’ve been meaning to pop in there to check out their products; I know a lot of people love their handsoap.

      Totally agree on w/d. It changes the quality of your life 🙂


    2. Aesop products are wonderful; their Resurrection hand cream is lovely and the aforementioned room spray is one of my favorites. I also love their ‘Tacit’ fragrance. I will say that the experience in their retail stores is a bit … obsequious. The sales associates are almost TOO helpful and the style in which they speak, act, etc. is highly servile in an odd way. It’s noticeable enough that sometimes, when I’ve needed to re-up on certain products, I just order them online. :-\ That said, the products are GREAT and their stores are so well-designed! Curious to hear what you think when you stop in. xx

  3. I love this. It reminds me of the quote “bloom where you are planted.”

    The only size left in the LR slides was mine! Felt like a sign 😉

    1. Um, definitely a sign. Now we can be twins 🙂 I love them even more in person. They’re so happy!

      Love that quote, too.


  4. We recently upgraded our throw pillow inserts and our couch is much more comfortable for it. It feels luxurious to have a singular, perfectly squished yet firm pillow behind you while watching TV. I am also a huge believer in good towels. I recently bought a set from Weezie, and they are only okay (so much hype on IG though, I feel victim to it). I really like Frontgate’s towels, decently priced but plush and absorbent. But my favorite thing we’ve bought for this house are 10 foot iPhone cables. The luxury to sit with a charging phone where ever you need to be- bliss! Bathtub, bed, couch, dining room. I have a few extra cables that I leave out for guests, and everyone raves about them.

    1. These are EXCELLENT additions. And so interesting to hear that about Weezie! What a disappointment. Stick with what you know and love, I suppose.


  5. Good views really can make all the difference in an apartment! My studio apartment in Brooklyn is truly tiny, but what I love most about it the size and heft of the windows. There are only three, but they are taller than I am, and the sills are low and deep. When I stand on the sills to clean the panes, my head doesn’t even reach the top! They let in an incredible amount of light, which is important to me as an early riser. Our homes, however modest, do so much for us. It’s nice to take the time to appreciate them.

    1. Oh, I love this: “Our homes, however modest, do so much for us. It’s nice to take the time to appreciate them.” Thank you for these words.

      Also, I want your windows.


  6. I’m curious, does your daughter still sit in a high chair beside you all at the dining room table? I would love to enjoy our dining room but the thought of our daughter throwing food on our nice rug and having one more room to clean up is quite daunting! I’d love to get to the point where she could sit in a booster seat at the table with us but not sure when that will be.

    1. Abby! I could write a small treatise on this topic. At around 18 months, mini started resisting the high chair. She’d turn into a limp noodle and SCREAM until blue in the face when we’d wrangle her in there. At the recommendation of a dear friend (hi, S!), we bought her a booster seat and made a *BIG DEAL* about unveiling it and calling it her “special big girl chair.” It worked. She loved sitting at the table with me next to her, and life went on beautifully for a time. Then, about three months later, she decided she was O-V-E-R the booster seat and we had to retire that as well. From there, we did a mix of two things: sometimes, especially in the morning when she has a lot of energy and Mr. Magpie and I are kind of running around taking care of a trillion things at once, we serve her breakfast at her small table and chair in the living area. She’ll eat a bit, then play, then come back and eat. It works. But most of the time, at most meals, she seats in a chair with us at the table. She does get distracted and occasionally wander around, but if we’re sitting there, she’ll at least keep us company for a time and eat a consistent amount of food.

      More to your point: I’m sure you’ve considered this, but for a long time we used a Gathre high chair mat beneath her high chair and then beneath her booster seat for the food-throwing situation. You can pick the mat up and empty it into the sink / wipe it down afterward, and I personally like the style of the Gathre mat — nondescript and comes in great colors. Not as garish as your run-of-the-mill baby gear. At this point, she does not throw food as much, but we’ve run into issues with her trotting around the table and spitting out food she does not care for — onto my lap or onto the floor in front of me. Sigh.

      It’s always something…

      Not sure if that’s what you’re asking, but that’s been our journey 🙂


  7. What I love most about our home is I designed every corner of it. We built our home two years ago and within days of beginning the year-long project I found out I was pregnant for the sixth time. I half expected to miscarry that pregnancy like the four previous but instead that baby stuck it out with me through the blood, sweat and tears of moving our family around the city during the transitional period, and building a home. Paint colors, tile, wallpaper, furniture, doors, hardware, etc. are such personal choices, but this is the first place I’ve lived that feels like it’s truly my own. And bringing my baby home at the completion was the ultimate joy.

    1. Oh Amy! How lovely. I can imagine — that’s like nesting in overdrive 🙂 But, I’m so sorry to hear about your troubles with pregnancy. I am so sorry you had to go through that. My heart goes out to you all these years later.


  8. I think I’ll know I’ve made it when I have a properly lit home, inside and out. I can’t resist landscape lighting outside and little lamps in nooks inside. I always notice a well-lit house on tv shows and movies.

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