My Dallas Apartment Costs $1,200 A Month — Here's How Big It Is

appearance by Erica Massey; edited by Jesse Rindner; produced by Jessica Chou.
In Refinery29's Sweet Digs, we take a look inside the sometimes small, sometimes spacious homes of millennial women. Today, 28-year-old Erica Massey shows off her Dallas home, filled with her own designs and DIYs.
When PhD student Erica Massey decided it was time to get out of downtown Dallas, she knew her biggest hurdle would be her books. "I have over 1,000 print books I had to move. So that was just annoying," Massey says.
What it really meant, though, was that she needed to find a space with 10-foot ceilings to accommodate her massive bookcases. The first apartment building she signed with mis-measured the height of the ceilings, and management called her 5 days before moving day to inform her that no, she would not be able to move in. "I desperately called back all my other top places, and it turned out that this unit became available that day," Massey says. "It was luck, mostly."
Massey fell into a 530-square-foot studio with 10-foot ceilings and enough wall space for her books. Even better, at $1200 a month her new studio was significantly cheaper than her $1500-a-month downtown apartment — albeit smaller.
"The rent is definitely a lot on a PhD student’s budget, but the $1200 includes utilities, a parking garage spot, in-unit laundry, direct White Rock Lake hiking/biking trail access, and there’s a Dart (train) station next door, so I’m happy to pay for location and perks over square footage," Massey says. Bonus: The apartment building has a self-service dog wash, so she can wash and dry her service dog Deacon if he gets muddy from the trails. And at the end of the day, the distance from the city gives her a small escape from the day-to-day grind.
"When I come home, I want my space to be as warm and inviting and cozy as possible. I have so many pillows and blankets and all different textures, and I'm very much a 'wrap myself in blankets and drink hot chocolate' kind of person," Massey says. "I have to be pretty serious on campus, and I have to act very put-together in my demeanor and my dress because I get mistaken for being a lot younger. So when I come home, I like to be completely rid of all that." Read on to hear more about how she turned this space into her own.
How much smaller is this space compared to your previous apartment?
"It is 200 square feet smaller. I had a couch made out of palettes at my old apartment, and it would've taken up most of the living room here so I had to get a new couch. And then the bedroom, I made my bed so my dog's crate is underneath my bed. I already had this at my last place, but if I didn't I definitely would've had to come up for it with this one."
How did you come up with your idea for the combination bed frame and dog crate?
"I wanted to find something online, but there just wasn't anything. The only thing I could find was either super expensive or for a smaller dog, and they would all be custom-made. I was like, I don't have that capability. I have power tools and nothing else. So I found on Ikea Hackers someone who used Malm storage units for a kid's bed, and I thought, Oh, I can use Malm on the outside and Kallax on the inside. And then I put standard wooden bed slats on top, and I can pull the crate in and out to get the storage. The only thing I needed to do was make sure they were all anchored well. The whole thing took me two hours."
How did you learn to be so crafty? Where do you get your inspiration?
"Both of my parents are engineers and my dad is quite handy, so I grew up with this idea that if you can't find something you want, make it. I just have to be aware of my limitations. So I tend to save things on Pinterest and see if I can figure out a cheap way to make the same thing. The Ikea Hackers website is really handy — I got ideas for my credenza and my bed from there. Other than that, I'd just think, oh would it look cool if I did something like this? And then iron out the details while scrolling Pinterest."
What are your decorating rules/tips? Best tip you’ve ever learned?
"Don’t spend money you don’t have. I put very firm limits on myself, and this was true when I was looking for apartments, too. 'This is the ideal you want to spend, but you definitely will not spend more than X.' I hold myself to that. Even if you see something you really really want, is it really going to be worth it if you blow your budget on it and something happens and your dog needs medication and you can't pay for it? So I have a strict budget and I stick to it. But that helps me be more creative."

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