Our apartment bedrooms, work space, and storage

This is my fifth and final post in my Montreal apartment tour series.

Our apartment has three bedrooms, one for us, one for Laurent and one for the girls. The bedrooms are a great size, which comes in handy when space is shared, like Laurent's room also being Damien's "office".

We'll start with our room.

I'm a bit shy to share photos of our bedroom on the blog, not because I feel our bedroom deserves any special privacy. If you came to visit I'd take you on the tour and show you our room, even if the bed wasn't made. We're not reserved about that kind of thing. (Although, because you can see our bedroom from the dining room I usually have the bed made.)

I'm shy on the blog because our room is very simple. There is nothing "master" bedroom about it. It doesn't look all that "grown-up". There is no matching bedroom furniture set and I don't imagine there ever will be one. Bedroom furniture is just not that important to us.

I am particular about no mattresses on the floor, so having a raised bed is important to me. And I want a comfortable mattress, but I want it to be simple.

Our bed frame and mattress are from IKEA and we're really happy with them.

As I mentioned on my Instagram recently, most of our home is decorated or accented in bold, bright colors; red and yellow being two of my favorite accent colours.

paintings from homeschool co-op art class
Laurent, left, Renee, right

But a different theme entirely has evolved in my bedroom over the years. I've purchased most of our bedroom linens second hand and it seems the nicest I could find, at the time of shopping, were pale yellow, pink, soft blues etc.

This is a decidedly different feel from the bold colors through the rest of the house. Somehow it all works.

Small Space Living Hack: Apple Crate Furniture

Years ago, when we lived in Maine, our CSA farmer's husband was selling apple/produce crates. We bought five, we should have bought ten.

These rectangular boxes are probably the most versatile furniture we've owned. We've used them to create shelving and side/end tables in the myriad of homes we've lived in over the last five years.

I've written on the blog about how we used these in previous homes for our at-home library. That post includes more photos and a sketch with dimensions if you're interested in building one (or five).

Currently, the apple crates are used as bedside tables in our room and Laurent's room and extra "large book" shelving in the dining/living room.

we have a low bed so this orientation is the perfect bedside table height.

Our bedroom is my retreat space when the family is watching a movie or playing a video game I don't care for, or when the music isn't my taste. I do a lot of writing in here also. Lots of mismatched pillows make for a comfy back rest. I'm sitting on the bed right now actually as I write this post.

Laurent's room is the most multi-purpose bedroom in the house. In part because Laurent is a really easy going person, and as the only "singleton" bedroom he has some space to share.

Small Space Living Hack: Roll-up Mattresses

Laurent's comfortable mattress (it's heftier than our own) is our twin guest bed. Laurent happily sleeps on the floor of the living room or the girls' room when we have guests. We bought a roll-up foam mattress at Costco for this very purpose. It fits under his bed.

This mattress gets used a lot in our house. Our kids, thirteen year old Brienne mostly, still come to us in the night when they are sick or having troubles sleeping. When this happens the opposite sex parent leaves, so that's usually Damien, to sleep on the living room floor.

The eight weeks of sickness in our home this past winter necessitated some creative sleeping solutions. The girls mattresses came down from their loft beds onto the floor because climbing up and down is no fun when you're sick. Kids were in our bed some nights, Damien was on the living floor. I spent a night in Laurent's bed when he needed to be in ours. It was a sleeping circus. This works for us largely because Damien can sleep anywhere and with very minimal mattress.

Laurent's room has a twin bed, desk for art and computer use, and a small dresser (filled 1/3 with art supplies, the kid has the most minimalist wardrobe I know). His room also has Damien's standing desk.

Damien is self-employed and works from home. Practically speaking, Damien works out of the home also because he goes to a cafe nearly every day to work for part of the time. When he's at home he uses this motorized height adjustable IKEA desk. Sometimes he stands, sometimes he sits. Sometimes he works at the dining room table.

As a rule, there is a lot of movement and fluidity in where people work in the house. Desk spaces are the personal "desk" storage areas, but everyone moves around the house a lot (with their computers, tablets, books and papers).

Damien uses a Roost stand (we actually helped Kickstart this product), a wireless keyboard and mouse for a more ergonomically-friendly work set-up.

This is really important since he spends a lot of time working on the computer. You may recall we used to have a treadmill desk. We don't anymore.

Laurent's desk is used mostly as a studio space and it usually looks more like this than the clear desk you see in most of his bedroom photos.

The girls bedroom is the largest bedroom, with the largest closet (so necessary for two teenage girls). I guess you could say we're blessed that our girls get along really well, though we had something to do with cultivating the respect, kindness, and accommodation that we expect each member of our family to extend towards each other.

Celine and Brienne are very different people and I'm sure they get on each other's nerves but they have always shared a room; years of experience has taught them how to keep the peace. All of that to say, having two teenaged girls share a room has not been a problem for our family.

For almost all of their growing years our kids have not had their own desk. We had shared work spaces - craft tables, computer desks, in common living areas. When they were young there wasn't a need for individual desk space, then we had those years on the peninsula moving around from house to house and we made due with what was available. Before moving to Montreal we knew we wanted personal desk space for each member of the family.

To accommodate a desk for each girl in their room Damien converted their beds to loft beds. Damien built the girls' beds four years ago when we lived at the ski chalet and had access to our friend's wood working tools.

Last summer, he borrowed another friend's workshop and tools to raise the beds and build desks. The girls stained and finished the desks themselves.

The challenge with the girls room has been to tie together the girls' unique styles and decorating preferences. (Sci-fi meets My Little Pony.) The girls each choose their own bedding at IKEA and we settled on turquoise blue/green to be the unifying color.

One of the ideas I have in mind to bring it all together is to hang string lights with colored balls along the ceiling. There is a boutique lighting store on St. Denis in Montreal that lets you create your own mix of colors. These lights are adorable and I think could bring the room together quite nicely.

This is a good palette inspiration that suits both the girls' tastes. (Color palettes are so much fun!)

The girls' room is almost never this tidy. I had to plan the timing of this photo very carefully. It's their room, I try to give them the freedom to make their choices about this space but since our home is quite small and we rarely close bedroom doors I do request regular tidy sessions. (I know my Dad is going to want to comment now on the chaotic state of my bedroom as a teenage girl. He often reminds me of this with some incredulity since I am a fastidious housekeeper now.)

We still need to buy/build/roadside-rescue some nice shelving (with closing doors preferably) for the girls' room for all their "special personal effects" and creative supplies - fabric, papers, journaling materials, etc. Currently, all of that is in bins but assessing and accessing their contents is difficult. As a rule, I want creative supplies very easy to get to and very easy to clean up.

The apartment didn't come with window treatments so I purchased all our curtains at IKEA. They were too long, covering the hot water heaters below all the windows, so I hemmed them and kept the extra fabric to make covers for throw pillows. One of these days I plan to get around to that project.

Storage Space:

We have four closets in the house. One in each room and a small hallway closet we use for off-season jackets and footwear.

Bedroom closets store each person's backpack(s), sleeping bag (kept in large loose bags), and outdoor bin. These are the bins where we store personal hiking, skiing, backpacking effects that aren't in immediate use. For example, ski helmets, winter mitts, headlamps, etc.

Laurent's closet stores homeschool portfolios, memory stuff, irregularly used craft and homeschool supplies (the microscope for example), and luggage. I store guest linens and the extra double/queen sized blankets in our closet.

The girls' closet is the largest in the house and it stores clothes and extra twin blankets. We keep all our camping and ski gear, vacuum cleaner (I'd like to get a more compact model that could fit in a closet), tools, large empty boxes, and a lot of miscellanea in the garage.

Tour conclusion

Our tour of the apartment is now done. It's been fun to share it with you. Your comments and emails (I know, commenting does not work for many of you, a blog upgrade is in the works to fix this) have been complimentary and interesting, as you've shared your own housing stories with me.

Doing this tour of our apartment has brought several ideas to the surface: how people make housing choices, the benefits of city living, small space living ideas hacks, making things work with what you have (and furniture you might find in the trash), and the importance for me of creating a welcoming home.

I had another related thought to add to this list as I was putting together this final post.

I like to complete things. I don't want to live in a house that we are always remodeling or remaking or finishing. I know this is fun for some people and for other people it's just the reality of their housing situation.

While we were living in Maine, living in a house we owned (and still own as landlords), we decided that going forward in life we didn't want to live in a fixer-upper or a house that required a lot of DIY effort. A short season of making or remodeling is ok, but years of renos and building is not something we're interested in.

I'm not a super-duper home decorator. My DIY energy and skills for decorating projects is minimal. I'm not into painting and repainting rooms or doing a lot of thrift shopping, estate sales, or garage sales to furnish space. Damien is very skilled actually at building furniture and finishing work but his time right now is devoted to building and investing in other projects and interests.

I enjoy small creative projects, e.g.: sewing throw pillows. And I love organizing space for efficiency, this is a superpower of mine. Apartment living has allowed me to excel in these areas. I don't feel overwhelmed with unending home projects.

This apartment, with its clearly defined spaces and clean lines, feels tidy and put together, with the amount of effort we're willing to give.

I think that's one of the reasons I'm so happy here. It's not just that we live in a great location, but our living space fits our values and even our personalities.

« Our apartment living and dining room
Spring confessions, a new liturgy, and discipline »
  • Lisa

    Lisa on April 28, 2016, 3:39 p.m.

    Thank you for this tour! It's been wonderful and inspiring. I'm at the point you've been at--not wanting to live in a house that requires constant maintenance any more. I'm so excited to be renting our first apartment after 21 years of old houses together! 

    Thanks also for the link to the Roost desk stand. My neck is in desparate need and I might just order one soon!



    • renee

      renee on April 28, 2016, 3:42 p.m.

      Damien takes the roost with him when he works at Cafes also. And the other week he saw another person using one also! 


  • Shelly

    Shelly on April 28, 2016, 4:06 p.m.

    I think your apartment has more space than our house! The decor is absolutely beautiful, and I wish you could come here and give me some tips. I love it!


  • Jenn

    Jenn on April 28, 2016, 5:04 p.m.

    Thanks for the tour! I really like how you have everything organized and functional.

    I did gasp when I saw the girls' beds up so high with no railings. Even as an adult, I would be terrified of rolling off in the middle of the night. I take it they don't have that fear:-)



  • Nana

    Nana on April 28, 2016, 5:34 p.m.

    I'm feeling a need to come visit you - and see your place! Looks much more settled (and You!) since last summer; you'd barely moved in! xo, Mom



  • Jen

    Jen on April 28, 2016, 6:17 p.m.

    I have really enjoyed these posts, your home is just lovely! Like you we have very simple bedroom furniture (hand me down nightstands and a homemade headboard) and I have no desire to "upgrade." It always surprises me how much pressure there is from society and well-meaning friends and family to constantly be improving your home and furnishings. It is almost unheard of in my middle class suburban community to buy a house and not "fix it up" regardless of the current condition! It is so refreshing to hear the opposite from you, someone with a comfortable and welcoming home, happy just as it is.


  • Kathleen

    Kathleen on April 28, 2016, 8:25 p.m.

    I think your home is beautiful and really appreciate the organization, efficiency, and furnishings. There's obviously been a lot of thought put into making it a comfortable home for everyone in your family. I too like my home to be organized and enjoy small home-improvement projects but not major DIY and renovations. Thanks for sharing this.


  • Pamela R

    Pamela R on April 28, 2016, 8:50 p.m.

    Thank you so much for opening up your home to your blog readers.  I was particularly touched that you were willing to share your bedroom.  We have a similar bedroom set up, never having had (and never planning to have) fancy bedroom furniture.  We don't have a master suite/room by any means either and it's fun to see that someone else shares that aesthetic.  Thank you for being willing to share this series.  It has been very affirming of simple home choices!


  • BethB

    BethB on April 28, 2016, 9:25 p.m.

    I too have enjoyed this series and echo my comment from the other day about how welcoming your home is. Thank you for sharing.

    The bedroom furniture bit in the master made me laugh. For years I wanted to buy nice "grown up" bedroom furniture, mostly an official bed frame of some kind. Other than the metal model without a headboard we currently have. This past spring I realized I don't care enough to bother with the money and decision making output. (Buying furniture is something I find stressful because of the decision part. Too much pressure!) Our dresser is from my husband's childhood. Next to it is a wing chair I got at Salvation Army in 2001 and a large file cabinet for the more valuable of my husband's comic book collection. Not going to make the magazines but it doesn't bug me. As long as we have bedding that makes me smile I'm good!


    • renee

      renee on April 28, 2016, 9:40 p.m.

      I love hearing the stories of people's bedroom furnishings. I hear you on the decision fatigue. I didn't even choose our bed. We arrived in Montreal without a bed (all the houses we lived in on the Peninsula came with double beds so we gave back the hand-me-down bed my parents gave us when we got married, we didn't want to store it for an undetermined number of years and it was antique so we thought they'd like it back.)

      So, we arrive in Montreal without a bed and I'm super stressed out about living in transition and because we didn't have a bed I wondered what kind of adult I was. What kind of "middle class" 40 year old in North America doesn't have a bed to her name?! (I was feeling especially vulnerable and insecure at that time anyway at the height of my anxiety).

      The first night in our house we slept on camping matts. First thing the next day, before we had a stove or fridge (no microwave either), Damien went to buy us a bed and it was the first piece of furniture we put together in our new home. He called me from IKEA and I goggled the models he was looking at to see if I liked them. He narrowed down the choices to a style he thought I'd like (simple) in a price we could afford (near the lower end of the middle). 

      Our dresser is a very simple piece I refinished before Laurent was born. It was old then! It's gotten banged up in all our moves but I rubbed it down with olive oil when we set it up here and it looks great. 


      • Beth

        Beth on April 29, 2016, 4:27 p.m.

        "What kind of 'middle class' 40 year old in North America doesn't have a bed to her name?!"

        I hear you on that one!  I think that was part of my desire for real bedroom furniture!  Then I realized that neither my parents nor my ILs have a fancy bedframe and their homes look just fine. 

        Another problem is we have a 22" tall mattress.  Plus a box spring.  That's what happens when you mattress during the seventh month of pregnancy and go to the expensive store first, people!  The bed is already tall enough without adding a fancy pants frame to the mix.  Lesson learned.

        What I love is the lesson you're teaching your kids about not getting to attached to "stuff".  We briefly considered a job change and move to the West Coast 9 years ago and I remember feeling distressed about leaving behind my brand new refrigerator and Christmas tree (we'd only been in our current house two years).  I'm glad we didn't make the move, for many reasons, but looking back on that I want to tell my past self to get a grip.  It's only stuff. 


        • renee

          renee on April 29, 2016, 4:34 p.m.

          It is just stuff, but I am learning to appreciate that some people have more attachment to material things by virtue of their personality and wiring, not simply because they are "materialistic" people, or raised to be consumeristic, or whatever.  Brienne is more like this and I'm thankful she's my daughter so I can appreciate this difference, and learn to respect this difference, in other people. 


          • Beth

            Beth on April 30, 2016, 1:52 p.m.

            I agree and I hope you don't think I was making a judgment!  Frankly, I'm probably more like Brienne, particularly with clothes, and I don't think it makes me materialistic.  What I meant was more along the lines of not being attached to things that aren't important in the overall picture of one's (or a family's) values and life goals.  I go back and forth as to whether I could willingly purge the number of belongings, specifically furniture, your family did in order to pursue a different way of living life.  Sometimes I think I'd be game but  other times I'm not so sure.  Whether or not your children develop attachments to their belongings I think you and Damien have given them a beautiful example of the courage it can sometimes take to build the life you want.  I hope we're doing the same for our children even though our journey looks much different than yours.


  • Tonya

    Tonya on April 29, 2016, 11:55 a.m.

    Hi Renee,

    Your home looks beautiful - inviting, simple, and functional.  It is funny, Mike is woring on old apple crate boxes for our neighbor farmers for their CSA and I am hoping he will end up bringing a few home when he is done:)

    So good to see bits of your family's life.  


  • Lee-Anne

    Lee-Anne on April 29, 2016, 1 p.m.

    Your housing philosophy is very similar to my own parents who have never desired home-ownership, do not place value in conspicuous consumption, and looked at our home and belongings with an eye to how flexibly functional they could be in serving us. They are also the most minimalist people I know!  With six children it was crucial that no one become too attached to a specific space or belongings. Creative solutions may have been unconventional but they worked!  For a while, in high school, my desk was in a small alcove in the hallway and bedroom configurations were always in flux.  I think that kind of thinking allows for creatively flexible people. Sharing and accommodating doesn't have to be taught, it's just an obvious way to live. I was always aware that we lived very differently than other people, but as I got older I saw that there were definite benefits. When my cousin, at 22, came home early from a backpacking trip around New Zealand and Fiji because she was too grossed out by sharing a bathroom in hostels I knew my parents had given us a gift. 


    • Lee-Anne

      Lee-Anne on April 29, 2016, 1:04 p.m.

      I forgot to say that I love the space you have created - cosy and serviceable and eminently functional. Thanks for sharing. 


    • renee

      renee on April 29, 2016, 4:29 p.m.

      Lee-Anne, thank you for sharing your experience. I really appreciate hearing about it. Also, I love what you said here, "Sharing and accommodating doesn't have to be taught, it's just an obvious way to live".

      I think this is what I was trying to communicate about the girls sharing a room. It's not that we've "taught" them to share a room, it's just the way we live.


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on April 29, 2016, 2:35 p.m.

    I'm right there with you on bedroom furinture - never had a "grown up" set and never will. Currently we have our matress off the floor on a platform my husband built and that's it! It's a large room, so it looks a little bare, but I don't need anything else. No side tables...no dresser. I guess we have a big bean bag chair in there. 

    Loved the house tour and all the small space hack ideas. 


  • San

    San on May 4, 2016, 6:25 p.m.


    Loved catching up with you.  I don't know how you do it but I have been reading Fimby for some time now and you have an amazing knack of making your home environment not only functional but beautiful.  I think I have apartment envy :-)  San 




  • Marcia from OrganisingQueen

    Marcia from OrganisingQueen on May 5, 2016, 12:43 p.m.

    I loved the tour - thank you! You're braver than I am - there are definite sections of my house that are for our real life friends only, the internet is a bit too outspoken. We're selling and I even feel too "aware" of our house on the property sites!

    I did worry about the girls falling out of those bunks; they have much better spatial awareness than I do, clearly :)

    thanks again!



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