By Lisa Van Loo| April 02nd, 2020
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Small spaces can present challenges, never more so than right this minute, when even the most spacious of homes feel smaller with each passing day of mandated social distancing.

But, there are reasons to choose a small space. They work great for rentals, minimalists and owners who are rarely home. And, they work for certain budgets.

A home in the Ashland Place Historic District, recently renovated by designer James Judge, seems to check most of those boxes. The 1940s-era duplex, used for most of its life as a long-term rental, is seeing new life as an updated rental, allowing its owner to blend the allure of Airbnb availability with the stability of a long-term tenant. 

“It’s a duplex with fraternal twin units,” Judge said of home, which is one of the newer residences in the district. “They look completely different, but have certain characteristics that are twin-ish.”

Complementing the neighborhood's history

One side of the duplex is more traditional, while the other captures a vintage-industrial vibe, leveraging exposed brick, polished concrete and preserving the home’s original doors and cabinets.

To further integrate the home into the district’s era, Judge added touches synonymous with the craftsman bungalows seen in other parts of the neighborhood, along with the Tudors and Spanish colonials. 

“This property was one of the youngest kids on the block, but it worked well for the roofline,” Judge said of the craftsman touches. “We added a lot of trim work that wasn’t original to the home but something that would be more expected in a bungalow.”

What that equates to is what appears as a double layer of trim along the ceiling, one as larger crown molding and one as an underlying trim. The addition added to the visual appeal and infused the history of the neighborhood into the home's interior.

“People look at the trim work, and they don’t know if it’s original or not,” he said.

That, coupled with the brick and the concrete floors, really tied the look and feel together, Judge said.

“To bring outside in, is a unique way to compliment the history of the home,” Judge said.

'Everything you need, but smaller'

The biggest design factor was that the owner wanted to use one of the home’s units as an Airbnb rental. That meant short-term tenants, low-maintenance features, visually appealing interiors and shrunken appliances.

“It has everything you need, but smaller,” Judge said.

Judge opened a wall to create more usable space, and when he did, he knew the home’s refrigerator would become a focal point of the dining and living area. So, he went for style, choosing a small, retro-vintage Galanz fridge that is very nearly a showstopper. 

“Tiny house, big style,” Judge said, referring to the points that pop across the home’s 750 square feet. “We opened the wall to accommodate counter seating, which is a key element for entertaining and socializing within an Airbnb-focused property.”

As for color, Judge went for drama, knowing those who rent would do so based on thumbnail photos embedded in the property’s listing profile. A contrast between black and white seemed to him to be the obvious choice, particularly with the exposed brick. 

Making it look less like a rental

The bathroom needed only aesthetic updates, with new tub and sink fixtures and replica tiles, sealed with black grout. And, an area that used to house an electric heater was easily transformed into a functional space perfect for storage.

“A lot of the space was about blending old and new and giving it the charm it never had,” Judge said. “It was about preservation, but also about creation and making it better than it ever was.”

When he looks at the project as a whole, and if he were to give advice to other homeowners looking to dive into the short-term rental market, Judge has an interesting, reverse-psychology-like style tip. Make sure it doesn’t look like a rental.

“The big thing is, it was about making it feel more like a home and less like a rental property, which is kind of a weird statement. The before looked like a rental. You could see the two front doors, the separate entrances. Part of this was to make it feel like a single family home,” he said. “Sometimes you can look at a rental and know it is a rental. There’s no question. The big part of this was to make it feel loved and look loved as a result.”

Know of a unique home in metro Phoenix that is not on the market that should be featured? Email [email protected]

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