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Resourceful Renters 

Brandy Agerbeck/Edgewater

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Space 570 square feet | Rent $843

Brandy Agerbeck, a self-described recovering slob, is a firm believer in the old William Morris adage "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." But Agerbeck's aesthetic couldn't be further from the Arts and Crafts master's. Her one-bedroom apartment, which she shares with a cat and a hedgehog, explodes with bright, poppy, saturated color.

She moved into this vintage one-bedroom in a 1920s high-rise in January, but before that Agerbeck lived for years in a 425-square-foot studio. That's where she learned to make every inch count; in fact, before she moved she obtained a floor plan of the new place and studied it to see how all her stuff would fit. "I really like RVs and ship's kitchens," she says, "anyplace that has to be designed to be very small and very efficient." Her living room is dominated by a mass of 15-inch-square cubes made of particle board and white laminate, each decorated with repurposed materials: a wine-colored bath mat, a yellow velvet dress, a pair of olive green cords. She made the daybed under the west windows from more cubes, which she fabricated from wood cut to order at Clark-Devon Hardware, and a thick foam pad she ordered off the Internet. She dyed the cushion covers, made from old curtains, marigold to match the chenille bedspread (an eBay find) and is working on a yellow-and white quilt. The base still needs a paint job, but when she's done the whole thing should glow, echoing the sunset view.

Agerbeck's home-based business, Loosetooth.com, encompasses her art and craft endeavors (prints, drawings, collages, dolls, cards) and her work as a "graphic facilitator"--in a nutshell, people hire her to draw pictures of corporate meetings as a problem-solving tool. Paramount in her decorating plan was dividing her work space from her living area, so she turned the sunny bedroom into an office and sleeps on the futon couch. Cubes are the operative design theme in the office as well: six sets of eight small plywood cubes from Ikea hold pens, glue, tissue paper, glitter, batteries, fabric paint, and other supplies. Each drawer is painted one of the dozen Pantone colors in the palette for the entire apartment. (The Ikea desk unit is Pantone 116, the armchair in the living room a fair approximation of 390.)

Elsewhere Agerbeck's got other schemes: to make the most of her four-by-seven kitchen, which has limited cabinet space, she decanted her dry goods into clear glass jars and installed lazy Susans on the shelves for easy access to everything. Utensils are stored vertically, on rows of hooks. Inside her front door she's hung a set of clear plastic pockets, each labeled with a directive: see, save, listen, read, pay, respond. Inside are bills, stamps, coupons, an MP3 player, each in its proper place. These, above all, may best exemplify her organizational philosophy: "What I like about living in small spaces is that you can put your hands on everything," she says. "It keeps you honest about how much stuff you have."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Leslie Scwartz.

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