Walking into Chan’s apartment was profoundly satisfying. A cohesive den of sultry neutrals, it was bathed in soft light and punctuated at every sight line with unruly local flora. The most fulfilling thing of all was the overwhelming sense of relief that I felt upon entering her front door: it was the inner satisfaction of a person who could finally rest in the fact that the realization of a moment long anticipated far exceeded the expectation of it.
She truly created a cocoon for herself within the refurbished Storeroom space. The lighting in the space was softly diffused by both linen drapes, and natural bamboo blinds. There was light air-conditioning although the doors were open, welcoming in the crisp air that was left after a light afternoon rain. It was moody, yet pleasant, with a deep forest green accent wall facing you as you entered the living room, melting into a warm white in the kitchen and bedroom areas.
The story behind this tour (which , coincidentally is my first post on this new blog} is as unexpected as the beauty that welcomed me upon entering the studio. I had met Chan many moons ago through a mutual friend but we had not been acquainted at that time. Fast forward many years later, through a link from another mutual friend, I discovered a photography Instagram account featuring stunning , brooding imagery: @introvertlybubbly. After some super-sleuthing, I was able to track the pseudonym back to the elusive Chan.
I spent some months religiously fangirling in hopes that some of her incredible visual storytelling skills would be mine via optical osmosis, but after seeing her post some macro images of her aesthetic apartment, I developed higher aspirations.
After weeks of courting Chan via social media, I was invited to take a little tour of Chan’s studio. I would soon realize, however, that no well-designed space is without its muse. Chan would give me an intimate peek into her private world, and just the few hours spent with her capturing her space would reveal the attitudes and motivations that make such high-design, yet simple living a possibility: “Slow-living” she called it.
Everything that Chan has acquired in her roughly 280sf apartment has a delightful story behind it. As we sat in her kitchenette at a rustic, bar-height trestle table (lightly scented with teak oil) we got down to the business of chatting. The mint-infused water and roasted corn that Chan provided made for easy conversation.
As an avid lover of all things rustic, of course my first question was about the table. Chan told me about her travels, and how an extended vacation in Europe in 2013 had taken her to some of the less "touristy" parts of Southern Italy where she had fallen madly in love with the Italian tradition of community meals around a large table. Upon returning to Trinidad she had her table made locally by a friend, and eat around it we surely did!
A yard away from our table lay a pale timber board strewn with drying roses in yellow and blush tones. I smiled. I recognized them from a few recent posts on Chan's feed. "I like to observe them", she said. "As they age. That's what I do...I study." Her seriously photogenic dog, Stushy brushed around our legs every so often, stopping to sniff the roses intermittently.
What's in Name?: "Introvertly Bubbly"...
Chan: ...it’s a play on my personalities. I’m an introvert...although I don’t really like the term because everybody is an introvert lately...or not. (She laughs) It seems to be a trendy term now. But I’ve always been that girl who ... used to separate myself and do things: read, or sleep (I’m a sleeper); so I have this way that I become a recluse. Honestly, it’s only lately that I've learned the term for it (we both laugh) .. And then, well Bubbly: I have this way that I just get ...GLAD and very excited and my mummy says “I does catch a glad” .
On the name “Introvertly Bubbly” , Chan gave me the backstory of her family’s long-time tradition of celebrating birthdays and other special occasions around food- especially at fine–dining establishments. She would always snap foodie pics with her then Blackberry, with both her mom and cousin urging her to take her amateur photography passion to the next level by pursuing it more seriously. Eventually taking heed, she decided to mimic her mom’s gear (mummy was also a photography aficionado) and she shelled out the big bucks on what would end up being the wrong camera. Nevertheless, she and her “wrong camera” ended up being a match made in heaven. Her brother , who she described as her creativity manager, urged her to find a name for her photography practice and a couple of iterations later, “Introvertly Bubbly “ was born.
Interestingly enough, Chan actually moonlights as Introvertly Bubbly, which I would never have guessed from the quality of her work if she hadn't told me. Her photos just look so....studied. I would have guessed that she had the luxury of spending hours and days just perfecting the lighting and composition. Au contraire, Chan is an Electrical and Computer engineer by day. A quest for greater work-life balance coincided with slower days at the office; coupled with a pivotal Euro-trip that allowed Chan to use her evening and weekends to explore Trinidad with a coworker and friend who shared Chan's photography bug.
Chan: We were both in place where we wanted to explore...My friend and I -we literally told each other "Here nah!" We just met, but we seem to...we clicked. She liked food, we had similar interests; and the places that she was interested in, and I wasn't (and vice versa) we still went with each other.. At the time, I can't remember if we had boyfriends or not but we literally decided we were gonna ..not date, but you know nah.
Me: Yea. (We both laugh)
Chan: She was also very much into photography so if we stopped fifty THOUSAND times on a trip it didn't matter. So around that time I made the switch from phone to camera...So it's now 2013, I'm now Introvertly Bubbly, I'm taking this thing seriously, I have a real camera , I have a url and I know what I want to do. So I'm just moving around and documenting things. I literally felt like I just WOKE UP.
For the Love of Green
One thing that overwhelms you (in the best way) about Chan's apartment is how ALIVE it is. There were literally REAL plants of all kinds in every direction, and all of them in astonishingly good health. At Chan's kitchen sink stood a mason jar with the most luscious sprig of mint I'd ever seen in person.
She told me of her years trying her hand at farming: specifically, aquaponics, and her unexpected success with it (she writes extensively about her aquaponics journey on her blog). As we look out the window at her modest setup, I can't help but admire her for her productivity. Here was a person who simply pursued her interests, and to the best of her ability. She loved giving life to her projects, and it showed. As I snapped back to our conversation, the Monstera Deliciosa perched precariously on the chest of drawers of her semi-private bedroom radiated with silent splendor.
Chan told me that she initially wanted to remove all the walls that separated the bedroom from the kitchen, but that she was convinced otherwise by her dad. I had to agree with him.
Me: Oh thank God! I honestly think you would have hated it. At least with the sliver of wall that's here there's a clear boundary. It helps to guide visitors. Or else when you entertain you would have had people all over your bed...all over everything. lol.
On Storage and Display:
My absolute favourite part of Chan's apartment was the focal wall, faux finished using several tones of forest Green, white and yellow. The juxtaposition of tones created a Chiaroscuro effect. For in-depth information on it's creation, check out Chan's blog post on it here
Chan had her brother build her simple wooden shelves along which she displayed her most precious things: books, terrariums, and a clever standing stack of her most recent photo prints.
As Chan extracted a 5"x 8" print and held it in her hands while Stushy nestled between her knees, I thought about the incredible value added when we really elevate the things that we are proud of, by displaying them well, and often.
TIPS FOR SMALL SPACES, FROM CHAN'S STUDIO:
1. Invite natural Light:
Natural light instantly gives volume to small spaces, and is also a mood enhancer. Chan managed to flood her studio with natural light from all sides, while diffusing it through window treatments to manage its harshness. Having windows in all directions also allowed her to capitalize on the best light at several different times of day.
2. Create a dynamic experience through colour-play:
The juxtaposition of a deep, moody green in the living room , fading into a warm white in the bedroom and living area helps to create a fluid spatial experience similar to what we encounter in the natural environment. We could imagine if we were taking a forest walk, we would be in shade in some areas and then burst into pockets of light. Recreating that transition in the home makes for an experience that feels natural and soothing.
3. Create boundaries between spaces, but generally employ an open plan concept:
Using an open plan with intermittent spatial boundaries makes a space feel larger by allowing the eye to trick the mind into perceiving wider spatial boundaries than are actually present. How this works, is that as your eye sweeps around the room, you attribute adjacent spaces to the space in which you are currently standing. This makes the room feel larger.
4. Manage clutter through aesthetically pleasing Storage and Display
One of the biggest challenges in small spaces is how to fit everything you have and also keep it looking neat and managed on a consistent basis. Chan successfully created visually pleasing storage groupings which infuse the space with a sense of order. By juxtaposing storage with display, she draws the eye toward things which spark joy in her, and in her guests. This is a fabulous way to always feel as though you are surrounded by the things you treasure.
5 Put yourself into it!
If I was left with anything after my chat with Chan, it was a sense of the fact that we can make our space feel special, no matter how small, if we infuse it with ourselves. The care she put into curating her space creates a warm, welcoming and high-design-yet-casual atmosphere.You can get throw pillows like the ones in her living room (they were actually made from her photo prints) by contacting her at Introvertlybubbly.com. She also sells her photo prints at different sizes.
A concluding thought...
My hope with these home tours is that they inspire someone who might be thinking that they want to live well, but need to challenge their concepts of what living well means. I will leave you with some words from Chan for your meditation:
Chan: ....Anything is possible...but sometimes you just have to SEE it