My Designated Cave Space

It was April or May of 2013. Les and I had just moved into a studio loft in downtown LA. It had enormous windows, outstanding stone floors, and plenty of open space—to build!

Paul & Les working on the lofted bed in the LA studio
Paul & Les at work on the lofted bed in the LA studio

One of my favorite qualities about Les is not just his propensity to dream, but his ability to execute. I have a box of napkins filled with Les’ handwriting. Most came while eating lunch somewhere and dreaming about bike tours, tiny houses, small businesses, faith, being a writer, pastor, and timeless friend. Les is famous for his rigid eye-contact while reaching cooly into his bag for a ballpoint Bic, and then reaching across the table for a napkin. Many of my wildest dreams have come out of me spitting ideas and him recording them on napkins.

When we’d finished unloading our belongings, I recall sitting cross-legged in the middle of the space, windows open, the area filling with LA wind and noise, and Les drawing out everything we wanted to do with our brand new home. We saw tiny rooms with rooftop lounges, cat-walks in between, suspended bookshelves, floating bookshelves, and my personal favorite, designated cave spaces.

I’m not sure if there’s a real term for rooms that one can retreat into while barely fitting. To us, though, the idea was that the space would be small, cozy, and wrought with the potential to help welcome creativity. Les and I were hung up on what to call it until he said, “well, it’s designated for creating,” and I said, “and it’s basically a cave.” Boom: Designated Cave Space.

Me looking inspired in the first stages of the Loft Designated Cave Space
Me looking inspired in the first stages of the LA Designated Cave Space

Maybe you’re the type who thrives at your work in big, open warehouses. Or maybe bustling, coffee-shop spaces are your jam. Or even unexciting, bordering-on-boring spaces, like one of my literary inspirations Annie Dillard prefers.

Not me. I need a cave. I need space to build shelves, lay a piece of wood for a desk, pile up the boxes, get a tiny pull-string light and pull up a compact chair. Without realizing it until recently, I look for ways to designate cave spaces in every apartment I’ve moved into. Having a cave space must be the pressure therapy my creativity needs to excel. Maybe I get too distracted with too much square feet to look at, or maybe my imagination can’t emerge until my senses are hampered from sensing.

Whichever it is, this is my newest Designated Cave Space. It’s a 9×7 office in the SE industrial district in Portland.

Carl in the Des Cave Space
Carl in the Designated Cave Space

For now, as you can see, I’m using it for storage and as a place for Carl and I to work. It was unfinished and dirty upon move in, but I didn’t mind. Everything minus the walls and floor are my addition. And there’s still plenty more cave space decor to come.