The Newsome-Campbell Family Living Small

Bedrooms: 1
Property: Rental
Square Feet: Approximately 600
Adults: 2
Children: 1
Pets: 2

14-month-old Freja lets out a squeal as she spots a large labrador retriever being walked along the narrow street below. Perched on top of the sofa, Freja lights up at the sights and sounds that filter through her living room window.

As with many city kids, Freja’s front yard is her neighborhood - The Mission, a bustling San Francisco zone with a changing face and a long history. In contrast, her back yard is home to two redwood trees, standing tall on a patch of earth that is now more accustomed to sprouting apartment blocks.

This second floor apartment is home to Freja, mom Wendy, dad Brett, Flaca the Italian Greyhound and Natsu the cherished elderly cat. Wendy is a hair stylist and Brett works in corporate catering. They lead busy lives and have lived in this apartment for several years now.

Wendy and Brett managed to create a nursery for their daughter in what was previously a small sunroom occupied by pet and household storage, “we had to purge a ton of albums that we've collected and rearrange the ones that we've kept. And also find new places for our pets food dishes and litter box,” said Wendy. With a little reorganisation, the tiny alcove space off the kitchen has become a living breathing nursery. Housing a mini crib, changing table, storage for baby items, and a whimsical monster-unicorn-head-trophy thing. It’s cute.

The nursery works remarkably well for now. The mini crib fits perfectly, and a full-size crib or toddler bed could even replace it when Freja gets too big. The real challenge for Wendy and Brett is not the space itself, but the closeness of their surroundings. Noise transparency in particular.

With no door on the nursery, and upstairs neighbours that don’t share Freja’s 7pm bedtime, allowances must be made in an attempt to create a quiet sleeping environment for the youngest Campbell. Particularly difficult is the lack of access to the kitchen once Freja has gone to bed for the night, or is down for a nap. Especially for a couple that tend to work later than the traditional working hours, and for someone in Brett’s line of work, “Brett would love to be able to play around more in the kitchen and try out recipes but it's not always possible with Freja's sleep schedule,” said Wendy. The pair have adapted their lives to facilitate quiet as much as possible, “we hide away in our bedroom a lot to listen to music or chat on the phone… it is also hard to clean and get caught up when Freja sleeps, because of her room location. We'd have to go through her room to take out garbage, and the same for taking out our dog.”

Freja eats a snack in her Ikea Antilop high chair. Loved by many parents for its simplicity of design and ease of cleaning, it's also only $20.

Freja eats a snack in her Ikea Antilop high chair. Loved by many parents for its simplicity of design and ease of cleaning, it's also only $20.

In terms of the space itself, the kitchen has not seen huge changes since the arrival of Freja. With the exception of the high chair and a small wooden play oven. Despite the limited access, Wendy and family like to spend time in this room. The parents both enjoy cooking and Freja takes advantage of the floor space to move and play. What’s more, its view out the the redwoods is special for a city apartment (one of which they have dubbed ‘Freja’s tree’, as it lies directly outside her nursery window).

An umbrella stroller like this Summer Infant 3D Lite is perfect for navigating stairs, then stowing indoors.

An umbrella stroller like this Summer Infant 3D Lite is perfect for navigating stairs, then stowing indoors.

Follow the aptly named dog, Flaca (skinny in Spanish), down the hall and the rest of the house unravels; revealing a bathroom, master bedroom and lastly the living room, adjacent to the front door. While the hall is not wasted space either, playing host to storage, art and Freja’s stroller, which stays folded neatly until the next outing.

In the living room, Freja’s toys are mostly neatly stored away in a basket under the coffee table with the exception of a wooden activity center. It doesn’t feel cluttered or kids-y. There is ample art and personal pieces in the room that play homage to lives lived by a young couple. When Freja needs entertainment however, toys can be pulled out to transform the room into a play zone.

So far, Wendy and Brett have enjoyed family life in the apartment, “we've been pleasantly surprised at how well we've been able to live with less,” said Wendy. Beyond the sound transparency issue, the biggest challenge has come from storage. Or lack thereof, “it's been interesting trying to fit things in every other nook and cranny that we can come up with. Our closets and drawers are packed and there's no wiggle room under our bed,” Wendy adds. The couple try to keep on top of what is being used, what isn’t, and to purge the superfluous items. Bulky things that Freja used in earlier stages of her development, such as their cherished Bednest bassinet, or baby toys like a jumper and walker, have already been moved on.  

The family are in a constant state of give and take. And this adaptability is how the Newsome-Campbells are making it work in their small apartment; crafting a home for themselves out of, and with respect to, their urban environment.

Words: Rachel Jamieson
Pictures: Rachel Jamieson