I sleep in my lounge room.

By Vita Forest.

Spot the bed.

Spot the bed.

I don’t have a bedroom.

My children do, but I don’t. I sleep in my lounge room on a very comfortable bed that hides away during the day and is lowered down every night. In Australia, we call them wall beds (well, the relatively small number of people who know of their existence do), but in the U.S. they are called Murphy beds. During the day, it hides behind a plain white panel on which the bed rests at night. On both sides of this panel are small metal levers which sit inside the bed cavity but can be activated using one finger. By releasing the lever, the top of the panel begins to descend and two thin metal legs appear on each side and swing floor-ward. By giving one of these a sharp tug, the bed drifts to the floor, landing on its two legs.

The mattress is thinner than a normal inner-spring mattress and is made of latex. It is super comfortable. I made sure of that before I ordered it. I did not want it to be an occasional mattress that was unfurled once a year for guests. This was my every-night bed. This was my sanctuary. It had to be excellent.

I make my bed every morning. I have to. Otherwise I would not be able to pack it away. It would sit all day over the rug between my sofa and my arm chairs. The sheets and quilt have to be firmly tucked in, then two straps are fastened across to hold the mattress in place. This is so it doesn’t slide or fall when the base is lifted up again and rotated back into the wall. (I can achieve this maneuver with one hand.)

The bed panel is surrounded by plain white cupboards that rise to the ceiling with two drawers on either side. I told the interior designer I wanted the whole wall of storage and bed to disappear. And it does. The white of the storage matches the base of the bed. It all reads like a wall. Neither the cupboards or the drawers have handles. Their long edges angle back on themselves to form sloping ridges into which fits your fingers, allowing drawers and doors to be pulled open. They appear as narrow indents between the long plain panels. At the base of each pair of cupboard doors are two drawers. A narrow one topping a larger one. The narrow ones are not drawers. They are bedside tables that slide out to hold alarm clocks, books and cups of tea. They also take the place of extra coffee tables.

As well as my bed and bedside tables, the storage wall holds my wardrobe, my office (laptop, printer, paper), my craft supplies and various other odds and ends. It is a beautifully made piece of furniture that looks and feels fantastic.

Yes, I splurged on an interior designer for the built-in storage. And yes, I bought an Italian wall bed. But I ended up with an amazing answer to the question of how can I make the most of a little.

What we need in a home

By Vita Forest

kindergarten artwork

Detail from a Kindergarten artwork.

I have lived in my current apartment for a little over two years. Before this, my children and I rented another for six months.  We used that experience to really understand what was essential for us in a home.

This is what we have discovered we need…

1. Light! I looked at many, many dark dreary places before being dazzled by the light in the small rental apartment where we ended up.  Although some others were bigger, this one won us over with the sense of optimism and cheer that came from the natural light flooding into it.  Light made it a place we wanted to be in, rather than a place we wanted to escape from.

2. Windows in every room. This means we have air flow and often a delicious breeze blowing through the whole apartment.  No musty corridors in our home.  We are lucky enough to have windows on three sides of our current apartment.

3.  A bath.  When I was looking for our first apartment to rent, my daughter Lucy came along to check out some of the offerings.  One of them looked pretty good to me.  “But Mum,” she said, “There’s no bath!”  We all do enjoy a good lazy wallow in a bath.  (The cats also like a frenzied game of Swat! with a ping-pong ball in there too.  Not at the same time of course.)

5.  A bedroom each for my children but not for me…  My children shared a room in our first apartment.  We soon realized that they needed their own space (they are, after all, “elderly children” according to my son Max).  Dividing up the larger bedroom with bookshelves was not going to cut it.  On the other hand, my bedroom was the least used room in the place.  I went to bed after the kids at night, got up before they did in the morning. Most of the time that room was empty. Having a two-bedroom apartment rather than one with three, solved many, many issues.  I will write more about this another time.

6.  An outdoor space…  We do like an outdoor area, but it doesn’t have to be our own private garden.  We are lucky enough to have three balconies at our current apartment.  Lucy chose her bedroom (the smallest) due to the tiny private balcony attached to it.

7.  Close proximity to public transport. Having elderly children who will soon be teenagers, and also not being a great fan of driving everywhere myself, being close to public transport is important.  We were near buses, now we are near a train line.  It is wonderful on so many levels, to jump on a train and end up in the city, or even a holiday destination.

And these discoveries and clarifications led us to our current home.


Apartment, sweet apartment

 By Vita Forest


Last year’s veggie garden

I once read a statement from a would-be local politician, that people didn’t want to live in apartments. These “people who live in apartments” were really “people who wanted to live in houses” who just weren’t able to yet. My children and I were a little bit amused and a little bit outraged by this idea.

Circumstances mean that I (and every second week, my children) live in an apartment. But I’m not sure that if I had the choice, I would change this. This is what I like about it:

  • Less cleaning. Yes we only have one bathroom. But I only have to clean one bathroom…
  • Every space is meaningful. We use our space, there is no room that we never enter, no corner that doesn’t serve a purpose.
  • More contact with our neighbours. Perhaps you live in an area where you know all your neighbours. When I lived in a house, this was certainly not the case. People tended to drive in and out, often to a garage encased in the house that was opened by pressing a button. There was not much opportunity to engage. But in my apartment block, I chat to the neighbours on the way to the laundry, on the way to the letter box, as I water my plants. It feels friendly without being invasive. My kids are thrilled that they can gather a gang of friends without having to leave the building.
  • Sense of connection. Even when I am here by myself, I can see people, hear people. There is something comforting about observing the lady across the driveway feeding the lorikeets on her balcony, hearing a child practising piano next door or listening to a toddler sing as he splashes in the bath.
  • Affordability. I can live in an area that I certainly could not afford to if I were in a house. I am close to my family, close to the city, close to my work, and close to a train line.
  • Less maintenance. I no longer have to remember what day to put the garbage bins out. Someone else does that for me. I do not have to spend my weekends mowing lawns, fixing gutters, sweeping paths. I have got back some of that most valuable resource – time.

So having been A Person who lived in a House, and now having become A Person who lives in an Apartment, I would say to that politician that there are some of us who actually prefer living this way.

You might be interested to know that the politician did not get elected…