We are the women who live in tiny apartments. We are the women stretching out on our beds alone. Our laundry and our empty bottles of La Croix and scribbled notebooks, our own. We are the women that cry in our pajamas late into the night. We are the women that feel the strongest we’ve ever felt, cooking a roast in our kitchens listening to Solange, growing well into the seasons of our lives. We are the studio apartment society. The big-hearted variety.
A talented friend of mine, Laura Rae, and I are venturing on a little journey to share the story of these quaint apartments and the women living in them—here on Wit & Delight. She’ll capture the visuals and I’ll try the best I can to tell their stories. Studio Apartment Society will follow the stories of the things they keep, the spaces they tend, and the people they love. Out on their own in the world.
Let us usher you into Giselle Ugarte’s empowering, bold, and plush downtown Minneapolis den. We spent a unseasonably snow-lacking November morning sipping coffee and smoothies in her apartment. I wish we could have stayed the entire afternoon.
A very joyous long-haired white and chestnut Chihuahua, fondly known as Penelope, welcomes us first, followed by Giselle’s hugs. Giselle calls Penelope “her large hamster” after pecking her cashew-sized nose with a kiss. Penelope fits like a well-accessorized clutch under her arm.
A Wonder Woman business card holder welcomes us on the front table, the baddest primary colored superhero wrapped in sheen and brass. A golden podcast microphone is next to a framed article by Minneapolis/St.Paul Business Journal with her profile highlighted in bold. The book “Wolfpack” by Abby Wambach rests on the desk and the book “I Am Grateful, Recipes & Lifestyles of Cafe Gratitude” on the kitchen counter next to a bushel of fresh bananas. A backwards “You Love I” framed quote on the wall near the doorway reflects “I Love You” to herself on the mirror adjacent to the frame. One personal affirmation before walking out the door every morning.
Instantly, the room prompts a positive energy. This is a place Giselle finds inner solidarity. More importantly, an inner motivational victory plan. The space is a breath of fresh air. It withstands a deluxe boldness.
The apartment is quiet. No music. Simply the sound of exhaust and cars scattered within the downtown AM hustle. And the sound of Penelope clicking her joyful toes on the kitchen hardwood. Giselle holds a plum-colored smoothie in a satin robe and asks Penelope if she’d like to give us a tour. A giant, gorgeous silver deer head hangs on the wall near the window, bathing in sunlight. The antlers are painted in punchy pink. It’s the first thing that catches my eye.
I was afraid of all the pink once. I was afraid I’d make the place too girly. Now I’m like, f*ck it, I don’t care. This is my apartment.”
“I was afraid of all the pink once. I was afraid I’d make the place too girly. Now I’m like, f*ck it, I don’t care. This is my apartment.” She looks up at the center point of the room at her chrome-silver wall deer, “I painted those antlers pink when I moved in. It’s my favorite piece in the room. Which, I need to come up with a name for her. I think her name is Selena.”
The pink doesn’t end there. Color splashes all around like a thick paintbrush on canvas. A blue throw is paired with a blueberry stripped rug in the living room. Colorful throw pillows on a chair she calls “her cloud” pop like couch accessory popcorn. She tells us she was inspired by The Coven’s expressive color story, the community workspace for women, sharing the downtown skyline with her walk to work.
A bushel of pink roses adds a splash of flirty color to a nightstand next to her white couch. “I always have pink roses in my apartment now. Dead or alive. Maybe I thought red was too cliche. Either way, roses are always something you think someone else needs to buy for you. But that’s just not true.”
A Freida Kahlo framed photo joins a photo mural on the main wall, next to a mugshot of a brave lion. “The photo wall started with that lion,” she tells us. So, for the rest of the time, I imagine every gutsy, courageous, colorful moment in her space evolving from that lion. It’s a good feeling. Giselle’s home encompasses a lioness charisma. She’s found her place. And she made it her own.
Mirrors are everywhere. Giant mirrors. Ones that I imagine to be heavier than me. And they’re beautiful. Inspiring quotes and words are written on some of them with what looks like lipstick, but I know is pink pen.
“You’ll notice that I write a lot of messages all over my mirrors and walls,” she says, pointing to a calendar written out in full on the mirror in front of her Peloton, dates crossed out when she practiced movement. “I thought I would hate my Peloton in my living room. But I find it very empowering that it’s there.”
Intention is as much as an accessory within her home as the lavish faux fur throw on her couch. Negativity and self-deprecation isn’t an option here. I’ve counted four or five different Wonder Woman murals (a packaged doll, a thumb-sized action figure on a Joyce Meyer book, a framed quote, and a business card holder). What is physical here, becomes emotional. The room is the internal ideal Giselle believes in with every fiber in her body.
Finally, finally, finally. The room feels like a “Finally, finally, finally. This is all mine. I am all mine.”
It’s bold. It’s reflective. It’s colorful. It’s prolific.
“This apartment feels like the most ‘me’ apartment I’ve ever lived in,” she tells us. And when we walk out the door and she quick glances at her Wonder Women quote on the wall, “Time to Change the World,” the energy drops on all of us. And we go out to do just that.
Looking for more inspiration from the Studio Apartment Society? Have a look at our first post in the series, featuring Emily Eaton’s beautiful sanctuary of an apartment. More to come soon!
Brittany Chaffee is an avid storyteller, professional empath, and author. On the daily, she gets paid to strategize and create content for brands. Off work hours, it’s all about a well-lit place, warm bread, and good company. She lives in St.Paul with her baby brother cats, Rami and Monkey. Follow her on Instagram, read more about her latest book, Borderline, and (most importantly) go hug your mother.
BY Brittany Chaffee - November 19, 2019
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
wait. why are we crying in our pajamas late into the night?
THANK YOU for starting this new collection of essays! Not everyone who reads W&D is married with kids, a huge house and someone to lie beside every night. It’s great to finally see the team here acknowledging your other type of readers, who are going through life solo. And just because we are solo-living, certainly does not mean we don’t have beautiful spaces, and intelligent thoughts and insights, to share!
LOVE this. The apartment, her dog, that fur coat! Looking forward to more of these!
So well written ! Her place is so chic yet lived in details abound.
Can’t wait to see more of these.
And more cashew shaped noses !
OMG I cry all the time. Feelings are a good thing! Especially in pajamas 😉
Thank you so much for reading!!! Solo-living was one of the most powerful and profound experiences of my life, so I’m grateful I can share the experiences of what other women are going through as well. Stay lovely!
Isn’t she the most fabulous!? Thank you for reading!
All the cashew-shaped noses!! Thank you so much for reading and commenting 🙂
This was fantastic!
Thank you so much, Kate!! Giselle is wonderful <3
I get so excited when I see a new entry from you! I SO love your writing style and these essays on solo living.
Kiersten!!! This is the most incredible compliment ever. THANK YOU!!
Living alone has been the best thing. I’m so LUCKY I can afford my own place, studio or not. I cannot say enough positive things about living solo = I’ve learned so much about myself over the last 6 months and I feel like it’ll make me a better (eventual) roommate to my significant other. Great series.
Thank you so much, Mallory! Living alone is THE VERY BEST. We are fortunate to be able to do so 🙂 Keep enjoying the good life solo, it’s such a great opportunity to learn about oneself.