The Japanese call them “parasite singles.” It's an appropriate term for young adults who remain in their parents’ home into their ‘30s. Here in the Western hemisphere, the term “Boomerang Generation” often pops up in the media in reference to the large number of Gen Yers who leave the nest, only to make a return flight a few years later.
Almost one out of five adults aged 18 to 34 in the U.S. now lives with his or her parents. Is it a sign of these economically taxing times that more and more adult children are taking up residence with their folks? Or is it something else?
Sara Kate Eubanks is a boomerang. A real-estate broker, Eubanks purchased a sweet little mid-century modern ranch in North Asheville about five years ago, then proceeded to nest like a mad woman — hosting cocktail parties with vintage Russel Wright dishes, baking apple pies in a sunny tangerine-colored 1960s galley kitchen and adopting Sam, an adorably sad-faced beagle puppy.
She was all set to roll into her ‘30s with her own little slice of retro heaven, sporting kitten heels and an apron. But when the real-estate market turned sour, it became time for her to take a long, hard look at her lifestyle. “I was tired of stressing out about money," Eubanks states matter-of-factly. In order to get her career rolling in the way she intended, it looked like moving back home was her best option.
So she put her much-loved house up for rent, packed up her collection of kitsch and schlepped it over to her parents’ ‘20’s era showplace home in North Asheville's Grove Park neighborhood. But literally moving back into her childhood bedroom “would have been horribly depressing," she admits. Planning to keep her sanity firmly intact, she simply didn't see such regression as a viable option. So, what’s a girl to do but keep her chin up? Way up …
“The attic was just full of stuff, so I cleaned it out and came up with a workable floor plan," Eubanks says with a smirk. Design challenge? Boy howdy. Turning an attic space in the tip-top of a stately 1920s brick traditional into a single gal's mod pad was a daunting task. She hopped around on Google until she found an online floor-plan tool and dove into the project.
Though there's a bedroom in the attic, Eubanks purposely omitted it from her schematic in favor of a loft vibe. The bare space, with its original hardwood floors, charming fissures in the plaster walls, dormer nooks and wavy leaded glass arc windows, is equal parts New York studio and Paris flat, easily lending itself to an open living situation.
The room is undeniably long (think bowling alley), and Eubanks knew early in the process that she wanted to create three distinct spaces in the expansive attic area — bedroom, living room and dining room — despite the fact that there is no kitchen in the attic. No contractor was hired to install drywall and doors; Eubanks used furniture to imply rooms, giving a visual separation between the three spaces. A successful move? Most definitely.
Eubanks is one of those people with a keen sense of space and design intuition. She uses a simple and inexpensive (actually, she says “cheap”) IKEA open bookshelf to divide the bedroom from the living room, and a sleek vintage ‘60s Milo Baughman white-lacquer sideboard as a break between the living and dining rooms.
She mixes styles, materials and eras with the confidence of a seasoned interior designer: 1980s Italian white leather high-backed dining chairs paired up with a dark wood farm table? Check. A sexy little 1920s tufted chair, upholstered in yummy cabernet-hued mohair velvet? Yes. A mint condition pair of overtly wacky (pink!) ‘50s Majestic lamps with fiberglass shades? Oh, yeah.
Speaking of that hot little boudoir-esque chair, Eubanks enrolled in the upholstery class at AB-Tech (cost is currently $90, according to their website) and worked on the chair as a class project. She credits her mother, Linda Eubanks, with her love of older furniture. “She taught me that it is more sturdy and sensible," she says. "You can just keep reupholstering it.” Linda has a massive collection of early-American antiques in the rest of the home. Initially, she didn’t care for her daughter’s art-deco and mid-century mod leanings, but now she’s “just crazy about this space," her daughter effuses.
“Be flexible and not so rigid with your ideas," Eubanks advises. To that end, she created closet space by tucking old garment racks tidily into the alcoves of the attic, and displays bags, bracelets and shoes on that “cheap” IKEA bookshelf. When asked if she was blurring the line between fashion design and interior design, she admits that it all started with the simple fact that her boots wouldn’t fit into her shoe organizer.
Though she confesses that it is still strange to go downstairs for breakfast and that it took some time to adjust to living with mom and dad again, she adds, “I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to do this to support my career." After recovering from the initial blow her ego withstood upon her boomerang back to the nest, Eubanks offers a simple, heartfelt sentiment: “I feel good here."
— Kelly Gold is a collector and former purveyor of mid-century design and was recently named Development Director for HATCHfest Asheville. She also sells wine.