No Space to Waste

For an airplane interior engineer, 182 square feet is big enough by far.

By Christopher Werner December 13, 2010 Published in the January 2011 issue of Seattle Met

IN 2003, STEVE SAUER, an airplane interiors engineer, purchased a century-old basement storage space in Queen Anne. Seven years later, he’s created an intimate party spot and work den that soon, if he can sort out the zoning legalities, will be his home. The tight quarters here are just right for Sauer’s little-big thinking: When space is at a premium, every detail must be function-forward. Sauer, who holds a degree in whole systems design from Antioch University, aspires to one day outfit an entire building with these meticulously crafted mini pads. Making such a tight spot work, he says, is about “simplifying the right things, making everything better quality and better designed and more intentional.”



1. "When I put this thing up—I called it the tiger cage—it started to feel a little imposing,” says Sauer of the steel rods surrounding his coffee-sipping spot. The solution: swapping the horizontal metal bars for wooden ones. A suspended box below frames the four-foot-tall TV nook.

2. The cantilevered table folds out to seat six, ideal for Sauer who entertains often and—believe it or not—has hosted up to 14 people at once in the apartment.

3. Sauer is a big fan of wood. “You can do almost anything with it.” He repurposed Ikea pieces to custom build almost all of the shelves, cabinets, and trim. He incorporated plenty of white throughout to avoid that dungeony ’70s look that too much natural oak can channel.

4.The closet–slash–computer corner: Clothes hang from a rack beneath the shelf where Sauer works on his laptop. Above, a twin bed—lined with a bolster that extends it by 10 inches—sleeps two. “It’s tight but peaceful.”

5.An Eames chair, always in style, makes for a cozy spot to take in the street-level Queen Anne bustle. Steps to the bed serve as additional seating. “What I find amazing is how comfortable each little station is,” says Sauer, who’s six-foot-two.

6.The three-foot-deep tub, complete with a sitting perch, took 100 bags of concrete—and nearly a year—to build and seal, and is hardly noticeable thanks to a circular rug on top of the seamless translucent trapdoor. Sauer plans to spend the winter soaking in style.

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