After debuting Single Women and Their Spaces last month we received an outpouring of emails and messages from readers either wanting to share their space with us or suggesting someone who should be considered for future inclusion. In this mix we were introduced to photographer and single mother, Erin Little.
We researched Erin's work and spent time taking a virtual tour of her beautiful, inviting and lovingly curated space. It was during this time that we stumbled upon a revealing and honest podcast interview where she discussed her journey to leaving an abusive relationship - this is noteworthy because the interview is both difficult and inspiring, but also because it makes the definition and creation of "home" that much more exceptional and imperative.
Erin is an old soul who is committed to living an honest and thoughtful life. No detail or corner is overlooked in the radiant, light-filled apartment she shares with her daughter, Elisabeth, bulldog, Lou and three cats ("long story"). Today Erin talks about finding a home that felt right for she and her daughter, her rituals for making a space her own and the spiritual benefits of living alone.
Can you tell us how long you have been living in this space and how you found it?
My old space was a home I bought, renovated, and lived in for 5 years. It was an old church (1850s) in midcoast Maine and it was so hard to leave it. But because my relationship was ending, I decided to put that house on the market and move back to the city to be closer to the majority of my work and my mother. It was a tough decision because that house was so magical, so I knew I would have to find a space that felt almost as good. I was obsessively checking Craigslist and Zillow for rentals, but they were all so expensive and had things like low ceilings, carpet, stripped of any character, etc. I was starting to feel like I would never find a place until I stumbled upon this one apartment. It had high ceilings, beautiful details and molding, big windows, and the most important piece —two bedrooms and an extra room for my studio/office. We’ve been here for just over a year!
Who shares your home with you?
Our family includes my 11 year old daughter, Elisabeth, an Olde English Bulldog named Lou, and three cats who all look the same. (Yes, three…long story. And I was never a cat person!)
Living as a single woman is a choice you made and something you very much enjoy at the moment. Can you tell us why this is important to you and what you value most about having a place of your own for you and your daughter?
I have learned over the years that I very much like living alone. I crave a space that feels safe and that I can freely be in. I have my own routines, uninterrupted by anyone else. I like my alone time at night when I can just relax and sit with my own thoughts. In the mornings I have the same routine of making espresso, then sitting down to journal and often meditate. The lack of any drama from living alone is heavenly. It’s also a space that I feel I can take pride in. I am supporting this space, from the rent to the things that make it a home—it’s all from my hard work. And that makes me feel good. Being able to show my daughter that you can be self-sufficient, and with hard work anything is possible, is so important to me. It’s nice having this space together where we depend on each other to make it run efficiently. As she has gotten older, she’s accepted more responsibility in caring for the space which I think helps her feel like she has some ownership. I hope it sets her up well for being mindful of her own living situations and spaces when she’s older.
Do you have any rituals that help you get settled into a new space?
Well, when I see a space that I know is going to be home, I know it instantly. And because I am a very visual person, I know immediately where everything is going to go. So even before I move in, I know exactly what is going where, even down to the art on the walls. Within 24 hours, I typically have the entire space unpacked and set up. It’s a lot, but I can’t really sleep until it's home and things are in their new places. And I feel that is also important for my daughter to not feel unsettled. I love moving and having a blank space to work with, so the entire experience is one of positivity. I think I impart that to my daughter, so it’s never been associated with a negative change. Nothing in life is permanent, and learning to embrace change with excitement and happiness is important for me to teach her.
Why is investing in your home important to you? What values of "home" do you want to pass on to your daughter?
My physical living space is one of the most important things to me, and has been since I was a kid. I am obsessed with curating spaces that feel good to me, and my style has evolved over the years. Whatever my space looks like, is basically a reflection of how I feel and where I am in my life. I like that it changes and gets more “me” as the years go by. I’ve always had and wanted an open door policy at home. I like people dropping by. I like having a fully stocked bar for people who might pop in to say hello at night. I like creating a space that feels inviting for socializing. And I like it to be interesting. I mostly want my daughter to feel like intention is important. Putting thought and effort into every aspect of your life creates a rich and unique experience as an individual. I feel like if you’re going to do something, don’t just do it—do it the best you can. Put thought into it. Creating a home that feels safe, warm, and inviting are the things I want her to learn from our experience together.
We know, even in this "woke" time, there are still misconceptions about being a single mother. What are some that you encounter that you would like to correct?
I don’t run into this much, I think because I’m a pretty strong individual, so in conversations about living alone and being a single parent, I talk about it as a choice and a positive experience. But there are many times where trying to juggle a child (who also is in ballet five times a week in two different places), a dog, three cats, and run a business is absolute insanity. Which is pretty much every day for me. I often don’t sit down until after 10 p.m. Juggling work, clients, travel, and household upkeep is hard work. When you throw in being a single mother on top of it, it is just crazy. But we make it work. I think any misconceptions would be that I could be pitied, which has happened before. And if I could correct that, I would like to turn the pity into respect. But every parent should be respected, whether they are doing it alone or with a partner. Raising another human is hard work.
Tell us about a few of your favorite pieces in your home and the story behind what makes them special.
Oh, every piece is special! I don’t have anything that doesn’t have a story behind it. My most recent addition is a beautiful figurative painting by a Dutch artist Jan ter Weele. I have slowly been collecting art and this is my favorite piece so far. I paid it off in three installments, but I was determined to have this hanging over my mantle in the living room. I love looking at it every day and it brings me such joy. Another favorite piece is an oil painting in my dining room. It belonged to my uncle who was an art professor. I was very bonded to him as a child, but he died when I was nine. The other two pieces that are most special to me are from him as well. One is a prayer rug that is on the floor in my bedroom, and a Japanese screen that I have at the end of my shoe hall.
What three things do you need to make your home feel complete?
That’s a tough question! Really all I need is my daughter and some art. I can, and have, created a home out of nothing. As long as we have each other, we are good. And art always makes things better.
What makes your current home special and what do you love most about the space?
This is the first apartment I’ve rented in many years. It’s odd to have such love and respect for a space and for it not to be my own. I love that, for the most part, the original features have been left untouched. The marble fireplaces in the great room are my favorite parts of this space. I line the mantles with candles each night. The high ceilings and large windows allow my energy to feel expansive and vast. That’s really important for me in a space. The kitchen is quite dated and definitely not how I would design it, in terms of functionality and usable space, but I’ve learned to accept it and its quirks.
You have a beautiful, eclectic approach to decorating. How has that style evolved and how would you explain your method for filling your space?
As I become more aware of style and design around the world, my own personal style has evolved. I don’t like new. I’m pretty sure the only pieces I have in my home that are new are the dining room chairs and couch. Everything else was found on Craigslist, resale shops, antique stores, and some family heirlooms. I don’t like when a space feels uniform, and instead I prefer to mix and match from different eras. Mixing midcentury modern with classics, taking a blank palette and slowly adding in pops of color, and really using art to tie everything together are my favorite ways to approach spaces. I like when every piece has a story behind it. And I also like to create a style that is new.
How do you want people to feel upon entering your home?
When people enter my home I hope they feel a sense of warmth and creative energy. I always want my home to feel inviting, and have a vibe of sophistication mixed with playfulness.