520-Square-Foot Seattle Home with Efficient Storage and a Roof Deck

Name: Hannah Herman
Location: Cap Hill, Seattle, Washington
Size: 520 square feet
Type of Home: Efficiency Loft/Penthouse Microstudio
Years lived in: 4.5 years, renting

“Imagine if a tiny house and a one-bedroom apartment had a baby… that’s my apartment,” Hannah Herman says, “My home is the top floor apartment in a building of micro studios that was originally two separate units and the center stairwell was initially the whole building’s access to the roof deck. Due to late-in-project changes to Seattle housing regulations, what was once its own unit is now my bedroom, and I have my own private roof deck with amazing views of Lake Washington and Mount Rainier! I love that the ceilings are so high; it goes a long way toward making 520 square feet feel a lot bigger. Plus, since I have an upper floor and landing at the top of the stairs, I can keep the window up there open all the time. This does wonders for passively cooling my home — super important when you have no AC!”

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“I actually first found out about this apartment when I staged its mirror image for promo photos during the original lease-up when the building first opened. I also did much of the interior design of all the common areas in the building — you could say I’ve known this building since it was just wee studs instead of walls. When an opportunity came to move to Seattle, and this unit was available, I knew it would be an incredibly fun challenge to make such a weirdly-shaped space work for everyday use.”

“I’m a neurodivergent interior designer (and a Junior Interior Designer at Loftium), artist, photographer, stylist, and reform Jew of eastern European descent. I’ve been on a mental health journey and journey to define myself both within and outside of my culture. I lived in an eco village in Israel for eight months before moving to the Pacific Northwest, and a lot of the items in my home were purchased second hand as part of my commitment to sustainability and leaving a lighter footprint (…okay fine, and also my budget). My tendency to feel strong attachment to old items I think comes from my culture as well. I like hanging on to history. My coffee table was a vintage wood mailing trunk that you can still see part of the address on one side. (I hope whomever it originally belonged to wouldn’t mind that I added wheels.) I also have a lot of my grandfather’s old cameras sitting out to remind me that he was a lawyer so my father could be a teacher and so I could be an artist.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Colorfully cozy eclectic treehouse maximalism

Inspiration: Ecovillages, treehouses, non-traditional communal spaces, the Southern wrap-around porch, every vintage store I’ve ever been in, the artist Yaacov Agam.

Favorite Element: Next to my bed is a vintage lamp of a little girl. My grandparents bought it at an estate sale in Florida and sent it to me when I was about 8 years old. I guess they always knew I’d be into design. The glass shade broke a few years ago but a friend was able to find an old metal piece that fit instead and painted it cherry red for me.

I also really really love my sleeping loft area. A twin mattress and small green settee fit just barely perfectly up there. It’s a delightfully calm place to take a nap and listen to the rain, and also serves as a great guest space!

The art above my bed I painted on some old wood panels leftover from another project and the old pastel bust framed in cobalt blue is one of my favorite pieces I did in college.

Biggest Challenge: Living on a fifth floor walk up — without a full kitchen — is not without a plethora of challenges, but with great challenges come great creative opportunities! In the main room I added a long counter space on the far wall that serves as additional kitchen prep space, desk, dining table, storage — it kind of does all the things. I added some floating cabinets from IKEA for added storage and to help keep me organized. I love styling the top of the cabinet — it’s my rotating art gallery. My acrylic spice rack on the counter is actually an old Farrow and Ball paint sample display!

Roughly a third of my apartment is a stairwell dividing the main living area from the bedroom. I utilize the stairwell as extra storage, and the railing works great to hang laundry to dry. My favorite spot in the stairwell is the hammock my friend helped me install at the top landing, just before the door to the roof deck. You can tell I really love taking naps, for such a small place I have four excellent napping spots.

Proudest DIY: It seems so simple, but I added wheels to the vintage trunk I use as a coffee table. It used to be an old mailing trunk from probably the early 1900s (you can still see the address on one side!). Not only did adding wheels raise it to the right height to make it much more ergonomically comfortable, but it also makes using my tiny, weird-shaped living room SO much easier. I am also pretty proud of adding the Plexiglas to the back cabinet wall. I use it as a mood board for my design projects, and dry erase markers work well on it, too!

Budget: Butcher block kitchen counter: salvaged for free from my old work (but I know the top is from IKEA and the metal legs are from Home Depot)

The Eileen Gray vintage glass + chrome side table next to my bed I got for $60 at the Grimm Rummage Sale after they finished filming the series.

The green hammock was a total SPLURGE from Anthropologie for $100 (exact colorway no longer available).

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? If you go up to the top of the stairs (they take up the center third of my apartment!) my beautiful green hammock hangs just before the roof deck. It’s my favorite color and brings me so much joy to sit up there and watch the world go by.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Don’t be afraid to organize up — using vertical space is a powerful and often underutilized tool. Stairs can be powerful advertising tools; just make sure nothing is a tripping hazard!

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice?

This house tour’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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