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Keia Mastrianni accentuates the downsizing dilemma 

Moving is never easy, but for Keia Mastrianni it was harder than normal. Mastrianni and her fiancé downgraded in space to a small, 1,050-square-foot house, with virtually no space to spare.

"When we first got here, it was a very difficult transition for me. The space is really unique and we didn't know what to do," Mastrianni says.

Mastrianni gave up working at a small communications firm last October and has since been pursuing her passion to write. She currently has her own blog (www.the-sunnysideup.com) and contributes to CLT Blog and Speak Up Magazine, as well as volunteers as a counselor at the Urban Ministry Center since moving to N.C. nearly two years ago from Sarasota, Fla.

The aesthetic of her 1950s-esque home leans contemporary, though she enjoys mixing old with new. Hanging on the wall above a tan micro suede couch in the living room is an autographed poster of Meow Meow, a cabaret show the couple saw in Sarasota. Across from the sofa is a modern Danish replica table from Urban Outfitters. A white shaggy rug lines the hardwood floor — a recent find from Goodwill.

By far, the real gem of this room hangs from the ceiling in the far corner. The massive chandelier made of capiz shells was purchased in Hawaii and has been in Mastrianni's family since the 1970s. Given to Mastrianni after her father passed away, the striking piece is a much-appreciated family heirloom. "It has traveled with me to college, through ex-boyfriends' homes, breakup wars and all that stuff," says Mastrianni. "And it's still mine."

Though Mastrianni seemed to have no trouble in sprucing up this lounging parlor, the nearby vestibule — a sort of nucleus connecting all the rooms of the house — perplexed her in the beginning. "This room, when we first moved in, was kind of like the 'What is this?' room. We had no idea. I called it the 'no purpose room,'" says Mastrianni. It now serves as a place for the couple to eat, with a small table from Ikea nestled in the corner. The art etched on the wall, a tribal geometric pattern, is hers.

"A friend of mine introduced me to chalkboard paint," she says. "One time when I was feeling particularly low, she brought me some. I would always scribble positive things and quotes on it. Then, last week we had family coming and I've had this project in my head for a while — wanting to do a pattern on the wall."

Mastrianni's office space is illuminated with more colorful accents, though they aren't so chalky. She's especially proud of a recently purchased vintage turquoise chair from Gibson Mill. A framed picture of butterflies hangs on the wall nearby. "I used to really associate myself with butterflies, with the whole metamorphosis and transformations," she says.

Other cultural treasures from around the globe include ceramic bookends from Italy, featuring white owls with bright gleaming orange eyes, and a tribal mask, accented with painted flowers, which she picked up as a souvenir on a Jamaican cruise.

"I like to choose a few 'wow' design pieces and surround them with finds from my travels and antiquing adventures. I want to create a personal space that reads like a timeline of our lives. We can revisit certain memories because of the things in our home," Mastrianni says. "Above all, I want it to be a comfortable sanctuary that is also an expression of our personalities."

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