Leeward Woodwark + Spruce Street Commons take on Tiny Living

February 19, 2020

As Creative Director of Spruce Street Commons, Liz Solms considers herself a “steward of old buildings.” With this title comes the challenge of making even the idiosyncratic floorplans work for her residents. The units in Spruce Street’s historic portfolio aren’t cookie-cutter boxes but rather nuanced layouts that range from 250 square feet to some well over 4,000 square feet.

Clocking in at just 250 square feet, Apartment 1B is the smallest at the Annex property. When Liz decided to take on the tiny living challenge at this unit, she had a very distinct vision of what was needed. In order to pull off the challenge, she partnered with Leeward Furniture – a carpentry and design studio based in Kensington, Philadelphia. The company is owned by the husband and wife duo John and Gina, Pennsylvania natives who met at just 13 years old at Abington Junior High.

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While others may have found Apartment 1B’s floor plan to be difficult, John and Gina said that they were energized by the need to limit themselves on the project. They also found it reminiscent of an earlier, more personal project. “Before we had our daughter (baby Miki), we had this awesome old van that we were going to convert and road trip in. This project reminded us of those tiny living dreams we once had and reawakened those feelings of adventure.”

John and Gina, believe in living small for numerous reasons: “Not only is it more sustainable, but it also forces you to be intentional about the things you have and where they go. It seems to us that in situations of living small, a person is more in tune with their spirit and what matters most.” With the Spruce Street Commons project, they had to make sure that their pieces were not only made for max functionality but that they also made the space feel homey and light.

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Leeward Furniture’s process for creating such intentional design starts with establishing practical purpose and aesthetic wants with the client “Once we get a good idea of the client’s needs, we brainstorm and research together and create rough sketches with paper and pencil. When we have an idea we’re both happy with, we take our sketch to the computer and create a rendering that we can change and edit with the client’s input. After we have a finalized design, we create shop drawings and start building!”

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For the Tiny Living project with Spruce Street Commons, John and Gina added a few more steps to their usual design process: “Our process was basically the same but since it was more of a site-specific project, we did a couple of site visits before beginning. This really helped to get a feeling for what the space needed and what it was capable of handling.”

The final piece was exactly what this tiny living space needed and perfectly complemented the original vision for the apartment. Serving as a bed, desk and plentiful storage space, the room still feels breathable and light as intended. The apartment now has everything a person would need including a retro fridge and 5 windows.

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John and Gina themselves were happy with the final product, and of the learnings, they gained. “One thing in particular that we’re proud of in our craft is our growing understanding of the qualities and behaviors of organic material like wood. It informs our designs and makes them more tenable and longer-lasting. The more things we build, the more we learn, it’s never-ending!”

To learn more about Leeward Furniture visit their website, or follow their inspiring Instagram feed.