Imagine two rooms in a modest white-washed multiplex just outside the town center of Seville, Spain. You climb one flight of tile bedecked stairs to an arched wooden door with elegant hand-made wrought iron handles. On a nice day you gaze up at the deep blue sky and give a nod to the ubiquitous sun that warms your back. On the way down, your eyes slide off the terracotta roof tiles to the ground below upon which bright bougainvillea flowers grow, angling down from higher vines.
You admire the beauty around you each day like clockwork before you enter your realm. Tile floors, spick and span, are decorated with simple area rugs to warm up the space. Everything is white, as on the exterior, with accents of green and brown on the wood trim. There is a fair amount of it including two sturdy wooden ceiling beams. Since the area is small, the eye can take it all in with one or two glances.
With admiration, you give a nod to the cuteness of the tiny kitchen with only two above ground cabinets. They are stuffed to the brim. Local tile is everywhere on the backsplash and countertop. Not two feet away is an even tinier bathroom that houses an amazing amount of stuff for its size. To say that it is crammed to the gills is an understatement.
This room bears a little extra scrutiny, especially in regard to the cleverness used to maximize storage. First of all there are built-in shelves practically floor to ceiling. One has a little sliding door so any unmentionables can be hidden. A rack on the shower door holds a towel, a washcloth, and a couple of pairs of drying hose. The compact little toilet looks like it must have required a shoehorn to fit it in between the basin and shower, but it’s there. It’s definitely not the most comfortable one I’ve ever used, but when you’re having such a great time living in Spain, you tend to overlook little inconveniences like this.
Where there is even space to save, “space savers” abound. These come in the form of colorful painted boxes purchased at a local outdoor mart. They are better looking than the plastic kind. Arrayed artistically, they create a nice ambiance to match the towels and area rug. Most are on the shelves, but several of the larger ones are on the ground. The effect is rather magical and very special.
Space saving continues on into the bedroom area that I will call an alcove off the main living or sitting space. A single bed is graced with the presence of an antique fringed shawl replete with gorgeous embroidery. The shawl is cream skill and features an array of pink, green, and yellow roses with entwined stems. It is too pretty to move so it is left on the bed all the time, merely folded back a bit for sleeping. Pillows in the same color silk are strewn about the two-seater sofa at the other end of the room. In front is a small chest that serves both as a coffee table and storage unit. There are books and CDs inside, some old photo albums, and a bundle of letters.
It is a very personalized space, as small as it is, and it seems to contain innumerable belongings for its size. There isn’t anything unused left except for maybe the ceiling. If a way could be devised to use it, I’m sure that it would be done. It seems that finding storage space in a small bathroom, as well as an entire home, is a real project that takes some planning.
When moving to a faraway place like Spain, you aren’t likely to take much with you, but you do need some basic cooking appliances, bedding, and clothing. You have to learn to live on less as a student and with less as an inhabitant of a mini space. You often wonder what it would be like to move to larger quarters. It no doubt would be a kind of culture shock.
Even later in life, when you look back on all this stringency, you smile. You loved it and would not replace the experience with any other.