Working as a manager in this industry, it is not uncommon for you to have on-site housing at the facility you manage. But adapting this home--which can come in all shapes and sizes--to your lifestyle can sometimes be quite a challenge. I am sure some of you can relate to having a one-bedroom apartment to accommodate you, your spouse and a child, or having to put two children in the same bedroom. It may be wonderful to have the benefit of housing, but it's frustrating when it doesn't meet your needs. When you take the job, you take on this new home and begin to adapt it to your family situation.
During the experience of living on three different self-storage sites over the past five years, my husband, Jim, and I have had to be creative in many instances. Our first managers' apartment was smaller than a mobile home and had to house the office as well as our belongings. Our next apartment had fantastic local and cultural assets--being near Cape Cod, Mass., and the ocean--and we had fun adopting a beach and nautical theme. But the challenge was the place had only a loft bedroom. We frequently had to find a reasonable motel close by to accommodate those who came to visit.
For a while, self-storage owners started to phase out resident managers to try to cut costs; but it was determined the security and peace of mind they provided company and customer was too valuable to relinquish. We are seeing the resident manager become an important asset once again, and developers are becoming more aware of what constitutes proper housing. That is great for the new builds being constructed, yet many of us still have to make due with the housing already available.
I have found it exciting to decorate homes with various disadvantages and would like to share some thoughts and ideas that may help with your interior-design challenges. Some homes may be easier to adapt than others. Don't give up, though--after all, it is your home.
- Try to keep clutter down to create the illusion of space. Use sparse furnishings, if possible. Use decorative shelves placed high on walls to display all your favorite things.
- Use light-colored paint and accent with darker wood furniture. Using dark paint will make rooms seem smaller. Use soft colors and attractive window treatments.
- Find one good asset of your home and design around it. For example, treat yourself to a ventless fireplace and some brass fireplace hardware and use them as the centerpiece of your livingroom.
- Create a theme, if possible, and follow it throughout all the rooms. You can also use colors or borders to tie all the rooms together, especially if you have an open floor plan.
- Highlight the positive and hide the negative aspects of your living space with plants. Plants add beauty to any corner or window, and can hide problem areas. Spider plants work well, and they add color.
- Use movable decorations to arrange or separate areas as needed. Decorative screens work great as separations or boundaries and can quickly create an atmosphere for entertaining.
- Hide an extra dresser in a closet. This idea came in handy for our son's clothing when we were short a bedroom.
- Use mirrored doors on closets or hang mirrors on the walls. This is a great way to make a room seem larger.
- Adopt a nearby storage unit to use as your "extra" room. For example, since most manager apartments have small kitchens and limited cabinet space, use the unit to store your dry-goods pantry items. You can also use it to store seasonal apparel or any other items you use only occasionally. Two of our co-workers even carpeted a 10-by-10, climate-controlled unit next to their office and creatively turned it into a playroom for their son.
Our home is our haven, and whatever we can do to make it a comfortable place affording privacy and serenity is marvelous. This is where we find rejuvenation and motivation to face the next demanding day.
If you have other ideas you have found useful in adapting your on-site apartment, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps we can share these ideas in future articles. If you have a challenging living space and would like suggestions on finding solutions, feel free to include photos. Until then, be creative. Finally, I would like to thank David Fleming, the regular writer of this bimonthly column, for allowing me to contribute this article.
Donna Potter and her husband, Jim, currently manage Premier Self Storage in Lancaster, N.Y. They have previously managed facilities for U-Haul and Sovran Self Storage and have received recognition by their employers and the media for outstanding industry achievements.
Premier Self Storage is currently seeking full-time resident managers. For more information, contact David Fleming at email@example.com.