When I first found Sarah Wissinger on Instagram, I was immediately excited to see her home because it’s in Pittsburgh! I have a deep attachment to that city because I went to college there. The architecture and homes are so unique (keep reading and you’ll see why), so I knew Sarah’s house would be a wonderful small space squad tour!
Home Tour: Inside the Modern Eclectic Home of Sarah Wissinger
Who: Sarah Wissinger aka The Surznick Common Room
Where: Pittsburgh, PA
Number of years spent living small: in this home for 3 & a half years
To start, tell me your story about how you ultimately ended up choosing a small space?
My boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to Pittsburgh about 6 and a half years ago and were living in the first floor of a big, three-story house. When we started house hunting, finding a single-family home was our number one priority and since we live in a city, single-family homes in our price range are usually pretty small! We don’t mind though — we are used to living in smaller spaces and had always lived in small apartments before purchasing our home. Since it’s just the two of us, we don’t need a ton of space! We fell in love with our house the first time we saw it and knew it was the right fit for us.
What is your biggest challenge in your small space?
Cooking together in the kitchen — our kitchen is very small and has very little counter space. It’s the one room in our house we haven’t touched renovation-wise yet (hence why it is not pictured here) but we hope to someday update it to work better for us.
What is your favorite part about living small?
I love that we use every part of our home and that there’s not a single room that isn’t used every day. I also lived in a pretty small house growing up (I’m an only child) so I think I’m just used to it! I remember growing up my friend’s families had homes with formal living and dining rooms that were only used during holidays — it just seemed so strange to me. I love that our home is just big enough for the two of us, but not too big that we don’t use it all.
What is your number one hack for living small?
Don’t fill your space with too many things. While we’d love to have more seating in our living room, for instance, we just don’t have the space to accommodate. Also, natural light and white paint are your friends. We keep our shades open almost all of the time in an effort to let as much light in as possible. I think the lighter and brighter the house feels, the more open and spacious it feels.
Do you ever feel pressure to be “minimalistic” or feel guilty about buying things you don’t “need” for your home?
I don’t feel pressure to be minimalistic — after all, I do have hundreds of books that Marie Kondo would probably tell me I don’t need. But I do feel guilty if I buy something just because it was cute or on sale and it turns out that I don’t really have a place for it in my home. I’m definitely getting better about this — I used to have a phase where I wanted to buy so many thrift store chairs just so I could reupholster them and make them pretty again. Turns out I can only fit so many chairs in this house! I think just learning to be more cognizant of our consumption is important all around.
What have you learned about yourself by living small?
That we don’t really need more space! I think a lot of people assume that this is our “starter home” and that one day we will graduate to a bigger home, but in truth that’s just not in our plans. We love our house, it has just enough space for the two of us, and we’re hoping to stay here forever.
What’s your number one storage hack?
Utilize wall space as much as you can. I’ve been collecting books since I was young and I knew that keeping them was non-negotiable, even in a small house. We built the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our living room to house all of the books, and it’s hands down my favorite feature of our home. Our bathroom, which is the smallest space in our home, used to have a pedestal sink with no storage. When we renovated, we swapped out the sink for a vanity which gives us storage for basic bathroom things. Pittsburgh homes are notorious for their super small closets — we definitely don’t have enough closet space for both of our clothes, so we built out a closet system on the wall of our guest bedroom that has effectively become my “closet.”
Who is your biggest small space inspiration?
I don’t really have small space-specific inspirations, but two of my biggest home inspirations are Emily Henderson and Ashley Goldman of The Gold Hive (see her home tour here!). While Emily’s homes and the homes she designs are generally larger than mine, I love finding ways to translate her designs and styles into a smaller space. I actually discovered Ashley’s blog when her home was featured on Emily’s blog! I fell in love with her home, style, and her incredible DIYs! As I try to be more aware of my consumption and waste, I am also so inspired by Ashley and the ways she makes her home (and life) more eco-friendly.
What do your friends and family say about your choice to live small?
We really don’t get comments about the size of our home! Since both my husband and I grew up in smaller homes, our house really doesn’t feel abnormally small to us. Most of our friends are in the same situation as us (first-time homeowners, late 20s/early 30s, no children) so we all live in similarly sized spaces. As mentioned before, we used to get a lot of comments about this being our “starter home,” but I think it’s become pretty apparent how much we love our space and have no plans to leave!
You can find even more Small Space Squad Home Tours here:
- Wild and Pine
- Arielle Vey
- Anne Sage
- Jess Ann Kirby
- Sara Toufali
- The Gold Hive
- Harlowe James
- Den For Our Cubs
Photography by Sarah Wissinger, used with permission.
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