How a couple and their two dogs live in 550 square feet

How a couple and their two dogs live in 550 square feet

Maria-Teresa Andreacchi, 28, and Owen Hillan, 34

Owner of Soar Media Group; welder

Where: Leaside
How much: $1,420 per month
How big: 568 square feet

Despite a penchant for luxury shoes and bags, Maria-Teresa managed to get thrifty in her twenties. She’d been half-heartedly saving for a house since she was 20, but a few years ago she got a reality check from a mortgage broker. If she was serious about getting into Toronto’s housing market, she’d have to double down on the frugality.

When Maria-Teresa and her boyfriend, Owen, decided to buy a preconstruction condo together, they realized they’d need to overhaul their lives to make the deposits. Over the course of a year, the duo managed to save $70,000. The biggest help was ditching their two-bedroom waterfront apartment.

In 2016, the couple moved into a 568–square-foot one-bedroom rental, instantly reducing their monthly housing costs by $500. The first thing they did after they got settled in was nix the cable package and sell their flat screen. This saved them money and space. Their new, shrunken living room has to function as a multi-purpose space: it serves as Maria-Teresa’s office (she runs her digital marketing business from home), and it’s also where they eat and relax.

“Not having TV has brought us closer—we’re forced to communicate, and we’ve become serious about our Scrabble,” says Maria-Teresa. When friends come over (max three), they pull up around the coffee table, which doubles as the dinner table, and play board games, which are stored under the couch.

Before moving in, Maria-Teresa downsized her closet, selling many of her runway pieces to consignment shops, but there’s a clutch of items she just can’t part with, like this Louis Vuitton duffel. There’s no room in the closet (not that she’d stuff it in there and risk scuffing it), so she has taken to displaying it and her other prized possessions in the living room. A curated rack of clothes has become part of the décor.

Instead of decorating with baubles, Maria-Teresa has decked out her space with objects that most people store away. Atop her wardrobe, for instance, her diamond jewelry is displayed, while in the living room her camera equipment is on a glass shelf.

Owen’s work clothes are in rolling Ikea bins under the bed, and he gets the coat closet mostly to himself. The couple changes out their clothes seasonally, putting the extras in their storage locker. When they buy new clothes, they observe a strict one-in-one-out policy. “Everything I buy has Instragram in mind,” Maria-Teresa says. She often uses the living room’s marble side table for work-related product shoots.

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