Friday Roundup: Small Space Closet Solutions

One of the trickiest parts of small space living is closet space-- or lack thereof. My first piece of advice when it comes to dealing with limited clothing storage options is to simply downsize your wardrobe. The fewer pieces you have, the fewer solutions you'll need to house them all.

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Since moving our clothes from the weather-proofed garden shed back into the cottage bedroom last month, we actually reduced our articles by half.. again! But before doing so, we used a variety of solutions. Some of my favorites are included in the round-up below. (Perhaps some of them will come in handy when accommodating those ugly Christmas sweaters and various holiday gifts.)

As for hampers-- we're lucky enough to have one that's built-in. If you're struggling to find a place for yours, try some alternative designs:

  • collapsible models
  • beautiful oversized baskets that you don't mind leaving out in the open
  • hanging/over-the-door options
  • storage stool cubes
  • rolling carts
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Holiday Decorating

This is our seventh holiday season at the Cottage. In the past, we decorated small but completely-- stockings, a mini tree, pine cones, mixed garlands, snowflakes, figurines, and (of course) all the twinkle lights. But last year, after I removed our Christmas decor, I remember feeling a tremendous sense of relief-- the house felt so much less cluttered. I decided to hold on to that feeling this time around by scrapping the miscellaneous embellishmnets (which we donated), and using what we consider to be the essentials: the stockings, a live tree + garlands, and (of course) all the twinkle lights.

We made one other major change to our holiday routine as well. Instead of aiming for our cozy decor to pull us into the house, we wanted it to encourage us to step outside of our walls, in order to focus more on the people and places around us. (More experiences. Fewer things.) So we put our Christmas tree on the porch, and instead of glittering-up our garden, we decorated a bridge over a canal in our neighborhood.

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We required some different lighting in order to make these changes happen safely. For our tree, we needed an indoor/outdoor safe string of lights, and I wanted strands that could glow white OR in color. These dual color option battery-operated string lights from Lights.com did the trick. With West's safety in mind, we tethered the tree to the lattice behind it, and arranged all of our breakable ornaments up top. We used these clever flameless taper candles to adorn branches within his reach, because they look beautiful and he loves to grasp and play with them.

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For the bridge, I wanted everything to be as natural as possible. This time of year usually encourages so much more extra waste and disposability, and I really hoped to avoid that by using live plants and garlands, twig-based wreaths, and solar powered twinkle strands, and rechargeable, flameless, battery-operated lanterns. I loaded up the supplies on my bike, and met my friends Heather Tierney (of The Butcher's Daughter) and Sara Toufali (of Black & Blooms) on the canals, where we spent the whole morning chatting about life and brainstorming about business as we wound the lights and greenery around the bridge.

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We got to enjoy the gussied-up bride again over the weekend with my friends during the community's holiday boat parade. 

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For me, THIS Is what the holidays are all about. Less shopping, more connecting + creating. And (of course) all the twinkle lights.

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The lights I used for these projects were sponsored by the lovely folks at Lights.com. All opinions + words are my own.

Interior Doors for Compact Spaces

I find that one of the most common and frustrating issues in tight homes and apartments are the interior doors. Despite the unique floor plans of tiny residences, they're often outfitted with standard doors that make zero sense in the setting. But how do you fix the issue of space-consuming hardware if you rent, or if you don't have the budget for an elaborate solution, such as a pocket design?

Above: The Tiny Canal Cottage has 2 interior pocket doors.

Above: The Tiny Canal Cottage has 2 interior pocket doors.

In our compact cottage, we're lucky to have two wonderful interior pocket doors, which preserve the functionality of every inch of wall space around them. But when we acquired the neighboring house, we were confronted with three full-size interior doors (within mere feet of one another) that not only ate up usable space, but also crashed into each other (and into one exterior door) whenever one was opened.

Above: The front cottage doors before our updates. There were three interior doors-- plus an exterior door-- all within mere feet of one another. They would crash into each other when opened. (That's my father with Stanlee. I hate those doors, but I love that photo!)

Above: The front cottage doors before our updates. There were three interior doors-- plus an exterior door-- all within mere feet of one another. They would crash into each other when opened. (That's my father with Stanlee. I hate those doors, but I love that photo!)

We couldn't open one door without closing another first. After just 24 hours in the house, the issue was already completely maddening. But we are renting that unit, and didn't want to allocate funds toward constructing pocket doors. (And there is definitely no room for barn-style sliding doors, which would render nearby wall space useless.) Still, two of the doors simply had to go. 

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In the doorway that transitions between the living room + kitchen to the bedroom, we opted to remove the boring, typical door and install a bi-fold door with tempered panes of glass:

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We found this one on Wayfair, and it's probably my favorite update to the house thus far, because it makes a huge difference in both functionality and appearance. The glass is lightly frosted, so privacy can be maintained, but the translucent panes let light pass through, keeping the area feeling bright and airy. We painted the door white and replaced its standard door knob with something more fitting for the decor, and the end result is EXACTLY what we wanted. Now the bathroom and bedroom doors no longer hit each other, and every inch surrounding the doorway is now visible and usable. At $490, this bi-fold door is a bit of an investment (there are several inexpensive options, depending on the type of glass you choose), but it's certainly FAR easier and less costly than construction work. 

new bi-fold door with tempered glass (from Wayfair)

new bi-fold door with tempered glass (from Wayfair)

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In the bedroom, there's a (weirdly shaped) walk-in closet. It too had a full-sized door, which would crash into the exterior door leading to the porch when either was opened. There's a little window inside the closet, which creates a lovely coastal cross-breeze, but it was always snuffed out by the shut door. So, rather than installing another bi-fold, I decided to swap out the old door for a custom curtain from Luna Zorro:

This curatin adds texture, color and pattern to the small room, and it hides the closet without cutting off the airflow from the window. I love it-- it's a simple, functional, and beautiful handmade piece of art that helps make West's room feel that much more special. 

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Here's a lil' round-up of interior doors for compact spaces for diverse needs, tastes and budgets:

 

 

Tiny Tub

This post was sponsored by The Honest Co. (All opinions are 100% my own.)

When Adam and I decided to have a baby, we did so with the plan of staying in our tiny house as-is for years to come. We had no desire to move or expand any time soon. But, at 14 months old, our son suddenly has a little room and full bath of his own. (View my blog post on this unexpected tiny house expansion here.)

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Since we’re renting the “new” front cottage, we didn’t want to invest too much money into redesigning it. The bathroom is the perfect example— there are so many things that I would do differently if I could start this room over from scratch, but I decided instead to save that chunk of money for West’s future. Rather than reworking the room, I diverted my energy to carefully choosing the products we will use while in it.

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When the previous tenant moved out, he left dozens of bottles behind. As I cleaned out the cabinets in the kitchen and bath, I took time to inspect every item, in case there was something we could use, rather than wastefully tossing it out. But, in the end, I couldn’t keep a single item. I threw out THREE trash bags of partially-used cleaning and personal care products. Some of them came from brands that I know test on animals. Some had ingredients containing potentially questionable chemicals. And frankly, others simply smelled and/or looked completely awful.  

As much of a downer as it was to toss/recycle so many products, it was refreshing to stock the space 100% for our son. Now that he’s a toddler, we know what he likes and needs (versus when he was a newborn and we had to figure it out by trial-and-error). 

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For months, we’ve been using The Honest Co. products exclusively to care for our little one. They’re easy to find (we bike over to our local market to pick up some of our favorites,) and they actually work. Plus their line of products is simple yet extensive. We use everything from their baby multi-surface cleaner, to their “cheek to cheek” wipes, to their shampoo + body wash combo for West, because it’s ACTUALLY tear-free.

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One of the biggest joys of expanding in to the neighboring tiny house was that we now have a tub! (The timing couldn’t have been better— Sophee punctured a hole in West’s duck bath the same week we got the keys.) West is super into bubbles, so we’ve been using the lavender-scented hypoallergenic bubble bath. He loves the super-foaming bubbles, and is now even excited by the bottle, because he knows what’s inside. 

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On a bubble-related side note: we also started making our own non-toxic bubble solution for West’s enjoyment. (I keep it in a travel-size tube so we have it on-hand nearly everywhere.) Directions: Mix 1 cup of warm water with 1 teaspoon of white sugar. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Mix in 1 teaspoon of glycerin. Gently stir in 2 tablespoons of Honest Liquid Dish Soap. Voila!

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For me, small space living is all about being practical, mindful, and keeping things simple. This allows me to maintain focus on my family, rather than on my stuff. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more important than keeping Adam, West, the pups, and myself healthy and happy. Using easily-accessible, safe, and beautiful products helps me effortlessly achieve that goal on a daily basis. 

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Travel-Inspired Downsizing

In late November, we took a 5-day trip to the East Coast to visit our family and friends near Washington D.C. We meet there annually for Thanksgiving, and it's one of my favorite times of the year. After the persistent heat in Los Angeles lately, it was such a relief to experience traditional fall weather and colors.

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Our son has been on numerous planes, but his most recent flight was a while ago (the return from our France trip back in July), so this was our first time flying with our son since he became a toddler. I asked all of our friends for their top tips for making the journey as enjoyable and calamity-free as possible, and they gave us some WONDERFUL advice, for which I'm so grateful. Some of the highlights included:

  • Wrapping up the child's toys and books in recycled paper and Wash Tape so there's an extra, time-consuming layer of activity involved. (Thanks, Amy!) 
  • Packing small "Thank You" gifts for the flight crew and passengers in the neighboring seats. (Thanks, Marcia!)
  • Keeping MANY light-colored, no-mess teething wafers and snacks easily accessible. (Thanks, Andrew!)
  • Bringing a small number of new books and little learning sets that the child has not yet seen before. (Thanks, Claudia!)
A mix of our go-to travel pieces from The Fawn + Cub, Steamline, Away, This is Ground, and Ona. We packed small-batch chocolates by Nohmad and "Thank You" cards from the Cottage for particularly helpful and patient folks on the flights. 

A mix of our go-to travel pieces from The Fawn + Cub, Steamline, Away, This is Ground, and Ona. We packed small-batch chocolates by Nohmad and "Thank You" cards from the Cottage for particularly helpful and patient folks on the flights. 

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When packing for myself, I stuck to the absolute essentials. My favorite and most-used items all ended up being from Garnet Hill: Comfy tall zip boots, a gorgeous olive wool coat, an oversized yet warm and light-weight turtleneck cashmere sweater, and THE best slippers I've ever owned. Even then, I still overpacked. I decided to donate every item from my suitcase that I didn't wear while on the trip. If I didn't need it while traveling, then I certainly don't need it at home, either.

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Not only did I decide to get rid of the unnecessary items in my bags, but I also considered dozens of other items back at home that were going unused, and planned to round those up for donation as well once we returned. Even as we expand into the neighboring tiny cottage, I'm determined to own fewer items than we did when we first moved into our home.

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Perspective is such a wonderful perk of traveling. And, in the case of small space living, it's always handy to be reminded how few items we actually require in order to live a happy, comfortable and practical existence. 

Overdue Addition to the Bedroom

This post was sponsored by tulo

Today I’m focusing on my favorite 60” x 80” of the Cottage: the bed. I’ve always loved so many things about it— its tall height, its headboard windows, its built-in bookshelves and drawers, and its nightstand cut-outs. The one thing I’ve not loved about it (until now) is the actual sleeping surface itself. And that’s because of our old mattress.

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When Adam, Stanlee and I moved into the Cottage nearly 7 years ago, it was our first home all together. At the time, I had a Full-sized mattress from my previous apartment, and Adam had a King from his house. Naturally, the Cottage bedroom accommodates the size in between the two— a Queen. I adamantly refused to buy a third mattress. It seemed wasteful when we already had two on-hand, so I insisted on making one work somehow. First, we tried the Full. Obviously, it was too small for the frame, and constantly slid away from us when we climbed in and out of bed. At some point, my mom visited and noticed that I’d stuffed random linens into the gaps between the mattress and the bed to make it work. She kindly told me that I was being ridiculous, and that I should just cut Adam’s basic memory-foam King down to size. To my surprise, it worked with a simple bread knife. But it certainly wasn’t a clean cut. For years, foam flew everywhere whenever we changed the mattress cover.

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I’m genuinely embarrassed to admit that, until this month, we STILL had that jagged, hand-cut slab of ugly foam on our bed… 

We waited THIS LONG to replace our mattress because, frankly, the process always kind of seemed like a time-consuming pain. (Going to a store and trying out models, paying to have one schlepped to our place, hauling it into our tiny house, and then hoping that it felt juuuuust riiiiight in our bedroom, night after night.) But now that we’re co-sleeping with our 1 year-old son (plus our two year-old beagle, Sophee, insists on sleeping at our feet at night), we simply need a proper mattress. 

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 I was a bit overwhelmed by the numerous “bed in a box” mattress options out there. I knew I wanted to try one, but I also wanted the option of selecting the level of mattress firmness that best suits our sleep style. I also wanted someone drop it off at the Cottage, AND pick it up for exchange if need be. 

We decided to try out a tulo, mainly because we could choose between soft, medium or firm mattress models. (We went with medium.) We could’ve visited a Mattress Firm store, but the process of selecting a delivery date and time was so easy that I couldn’t resist just having the mattress dropped of on our doorstep. 


Also, their delivery boxes are less wasteful by being mysteriously small for what they contain. Despite knowing that the tulo box was smaller than one would expect, I still cleared a path from the gate to our bedroom for the delivery team. When they arrived and unloaded a single, compact box from their enormous delivery truck full of massive mattresses, I legitimately laughed out-loud and asked them where the rest of our bed was. They pointed to the pink box and claimed it was all right in there. 

I struggled to figure out how on earth a Queen-sized mattress was crammed in there. (Turns out it wasn’t crammed at all— apparently tulo uses a unique compression and folding process that doesn’t damage the foam in order to efficiently transport their mattresses.)

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It took about 5 painless minutes to get the mattress set up— from unboxing, to unrolling, to cutting off the air-sealed bag around it. It was wild to see such a strong and durable mattress slowly rise from the pancake it was when in its packaging.

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The first night we slept on it, I knew we wouldn’t have to exchange it. Our son was sick and had been sleepless and sweating for several nights in a row, but the first night with the tulo he stayed cool (as did we), and caught up on sleep by our side for 12 hours, with only one typical mid-night wakeup. And a happy baby meant a happy mom and dad— we slept better than we had in months.

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So, tulo: thank you for this wonderful mattress, and thank you for the decadent level of sleep it has provided us. As new parents and small business owners, we really, really needed this.

For those who are interested in trying a tulo, visit a Mattress Firm store or order online at: www.tulo.com. (You have 120 days to decide whether or not you love it. Hopefully you’ll have the same experience as we did, and fall in love with it immediately.)

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Small Space Holiday Tablescape

We've always loved hosting dinners at the Cottage, but now with our new expansion, we're planning on hosting more than ever this holiday season. I wanted to try something a little different this year by designing an all-clear tablescape with pieces from my long-time friends at CB2. I love this glittering, delicate, and uncluttered look, which is perfect for compact spaces. Plus the glass reflects candlelight in such a magical and festive way. ✨

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Our collapsible indoor/outdoor table (which we use constantly) measures about 23” deep , which allows it to fit into our tiny living space, or into the sliver or an outdoor dining area between the two cottages. We usually use a mix of CB2’s rectangular Cuatro Platters, which fit well on such a narrow tabletop, without visually weighing down the surface. But I wanted to make everything feel a bit more festive for the winter months, without going overboard and without feeling too formal.

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I decided to design the tabletop around the Bari Glass Dinnerware, because its crystal-clear appearance takes up almost no visual space. I paired the plates with the Sophia Optic Wine Glass, the Winter White Luster Ornaments, Paz Clear Glass Trees in staggered heights, the Bolt Linen Napkins, and this two-toned flatware set. I added a mix of winter greenery between the Bari Dinner Plate and the Bari Salad Plate in order to add texture, color, and contrast.

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For those of you in LA: Visit the CB2 in West Hollywood now through 11/29 to enter to win the same pieces (for a table of 8) used in my tablescape design. (Just ask an associate for details.) If you stop by the store on Wednesday 11/29 from 5-8 PM, you can also enjoy flash sales, giveaways, gift wrapping, and in-store assistance from CB2’s personal shoppers.

This content was created in partnership with CB2. All images and opinions are my own.

Toys (+ Toy Storage) for Tiny Homes

While we aren't minimalists, our overarching goal at the Cottage is to minimize our possessions without sacrificing comfort, style or experiences. When it comes to our son's book and toy collection, we've stayed in this mindset and only acquired items that he seems to genuinely enjoy, and that we believe to be beneficial to his development-- and, of course, we try to find pieces that we actually enjoy seeing scattered all over the floor, whenever possible.

In our small space, it's been helpful to find the following types of toys and containers: 

  • Collapsible
  • Travel-Sized
  •  Self-Contained
  • Scalable (for longevity)
  • Woven, wood, leather, or hanging baskets/boxes (to suit the style of our home)

As long as everything West enjoys regularly has a dedicated space that's easily accessible (and can be contained in a way that makes our home still feel uncluttered and organized), it works for us. Here are some visual examples of our everyday, ever-evolving storage methods:

A Handmade hanging basket on A magnetic hook Holds west's magnetic letters and numbers on the fridge or dishwasher

A Handmade hanging basket on A magnetic hook Holds west's magnetic letters and numbers on the fridge or dishwasher

Wire mesh hanging baskets hold small toys high up in the nursery

Wire mesh hanging baskets hold small toys high up in the nursery

An oversized Knotted string hamper basket contains miscellaneous toys that west enjoys daily

An oversized Knotted string hamper basket contains miscellaneous toys that west enjoys daily

a mix of Toys contained via similarly-toned boxes and suitcases

a mix of Toys contained via similarly-toned boxes and suitcases

the large Built-in trundle storage bin beneath our bed

the large Built-in trundle storage bin beneath our bed

Here are some of our favorite types of toys at West's current stage, along with the reasons why we love them:

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The above sampling of West's toys demonstrates the types of items that work well in our small home. Our son uses all of these regularly, and we can store them easily. The small train breaks down into segments for simple clean up. The leaf puzzle slides onto the bookshelf at night.  The wooden book is pocket-sized, and travels everywhere with us. The alphabet books entertain West endlessly, and are self-contained in a small box. The geometric star is pliable and can fit almost anywhere. The handmade magnetic fishing set has small (yet safe) parts that we quickly stash away in a drawstring linen bag.

I want my son to have access to a diverse array of colors, shapes, materials, and activities that make him happy and stimulate his growth. I look forward to seeing how his preferences and styles differ from my own. Having said that, I take joy in analyzing everything we bring into our home, and if we can make select items work for all of us (at this stage), then why not. Everyone wins!

Year 1 as a Family of 5

It's been a full year since we first brought baby West home to the Cottage. We celebrated our son by hosting a cozy little gathering at the house.

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(I deliberately kept my camera and phone tucked away as much as possible, focusing on the moment more than the documentation of the moment. But I'm glad I caught this photo. We decorated minimally, with faux vines instead of traditional birthday bunting. We topped the cake table with light-up letters, which remind us of the famous Venice Sign not far from our home.)

Our families visited for the happy occasion. Rather than packing our weekend together with events and to-dos, we decided to relax. We strolled the canals and visited the farmers market with West, and in the evening we sat outside and chatted for hours. We lit a sparkler candle and sang happy birthday to our boy in the main room of the cottage, then watched as he happily destroyed a sliver of carrot cake AND a helping of chocolate cake (both from Gjusta) on the porch.

We gave West his first bike-- a Venice necessity-- and he's aaaaalmost tall enough to start using it comfortably. (He already wants to climb on it constantly, but his toes are still a few centimeters from the floor when he's on the seat.) I selected a Wishbone Design Bike, because it can transform as the months go by. It starts as a baby walker, and can then be adapted into a toddler trike, and then later into a balance bike until West is ready for pedals.

We also got a collapsible wagon-- admittedly as much for us as for West. At 12 months old, he wants to explore EVERYTHING around him, and the wagon allows him to see and move around more than the stroller as we walk through the neighborhood. It also provides ample space for his blanket, a few books, and our market groceries. I looooove the wagon, as does West. The model we selected has an optional sun canopy, and cup/bottle holders. And to make it workable for small space living, it folds up easily under its cover, and tucks up tightly against our stoop. (Although in my mind, I pretend it looks more like this.)

Wearing the SANCHEZ LONG OPEN WEAVE COTTON PONCHO from Monserat De Lucca 

Wearing the SANCHEZ LONG OPEN WEAVE COTTON PONCHO from Monserat De Lucca 

West's birthday weekend went exactly as we'd hoped. Everything was simple, sweet, and close to home. And most importantly, our son was surrounded by family, and oh so much love.

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Tiny Nursery Evolution - An Unexpected Change

West’s first birthday is just around the corner, which means we’ve had our tiny house nursery (adapted from our bedroom closet) for well over a year now. It has been my favorite part of the cottage that entire time. The space is practical. It’s functional. It’s adorable. And it brings me joy when it’s sparkling clean AND when it’s disastrously messy. Our son enjoys the items we’d hoped he would, along with several others we’d never anticipated him even noticing. The pups play and pace protectively around it. And it’s the first thing Adam and I see when we wake up every morning.

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A couple months ago, I was almost ready to post our plans for adapting the nursery to accommodate West’s growth and needs. 

We’d planned on collapsing the mini-crib and stowing it in the built-in storage space beneath our bed. In it’s place, we were going to build a very low, folding platform. When closed, it would resemble a child-sized built-in tabletop. When unfolded, it would extend a couple of feet into the bedroom (over the area rug), and serve as West’s bed. Initially, we would’ve used the Dock-a-Tot Grand as his mattress. Then, as West grew into being a toddler, we’d either upsize to a custom-cut memory foam mattress, or add temporary, removable rails to our built-in couch as his next bed.

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And then, the same week we started to cut the materials for the built-in table/bed, we were presented with an unexpected opportunity.

Our wonderful neighbor, who has the front tiny cottage on our shared property, offered Adam and me the chance to take over his house as renters. (Some of you might recall that we discussed this possibility with our neighbor a few years ago, too, but we couldn’t quite work out the timing of the arrangement back then, so we scrapped the plan.)

Our cottage on the left, the "new" neighboring tiny cottage on the right.

Our cottage on the left, the "new" neighboring tiny cottage on the right.

Adam and I debated, weighing out the pros and cons:

Do we need the extra space? 
- Truthfully, no. Not right now.

Would it be nice to have an “external” office nearby, along with a place for West’s grandparents to stay when they visit from Florida, and other needs?
- Yes, absolutely.  

Is it worth the money?
- We still aren’t quite sure...

Is it worth the adventure?
- We decided that yes, it is. 
(At least for now.)

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So we pumped the breaks on the nursery adaptation plan. Because, in November, our home/office will grow from under 400 sqft to just under 800 sqft. We'll re-approach West's nursery expansion according to this new development. (More on that soon.)

Overall, I’m looking forward to this change. We’ve lived at the Cottage for over 6.5 years, and the idea of outfitting the entire property for our little family excites me. (Note: Other than the nursery, our existing home will remain the same.)

But here’s the thing that bothers me: I don’t want people who have looked to the Cottage as inspiration for small space living with a baby to believe that it can’t be done. I’m being completely honest when I say that we don’t need the extra space right now. But, at our age, and with our lives being where and what they are, Adam and I don’t love the idea of sharing the property with a new neighbor, when we could instead secure the front house for our families, and for special events. So that is actually the main reason why we’re expanding.

The front stoop of our home. "New" neighoring cottage in background.

The front stoop of our home. "New" neighoring cottage in background.

So, a month from now, our lives will shift to include TWO tiny houses! 🏡 🏡  I look forward to sharing our plans and evolving experience with you very soon.

Small Space Living Feature & Video on Disney's Babble

We're so happy that the cottage was featured on Babble today! Click here to read the story, browse the photos, and play the video

Image courtesy of Babble © Disney

Image courtesy of Babble © Disney

Excerpt: “We’ve loved this first year with West in the cottage so very much,” Morris tells Babble. “It’s tough to articulate, but somehow our proximity makes every moment feel that much more special and intimate." Additionally, Morris believes their tiny canal cottage has improved her relationship. “We function in tandem with one another — as parents, as a couple, and as co-workers,” Morris describes to Babble.  “I believe I’m a better and more considerate partner now, thanks to our experiences in our little home.”

Image courtesy of Babble © Disney

Image courtesy of Babble © Disney

Exerpt: Now, as a master of optimizing space, Morris recommends this to anyone living small: “Go vertical. Get rid of excess. And, whenever possible, select multi-functional pieces that serve more than one purpose.” (Something we could all afford to do, actually, regardless of square footage.) - Click here to read the full story.  Thank you, Babble + Disney!

Shopping Handmade

I'm not much of a shopper. I'm not sure whether it's because we live in a tiny home and thus don't need (or want) much stuff, or because it's just not in my nature. Either way, I rarely look forward to searching for and buying goods online or in brick-and-mortars. Having said that, I LOVE shopping handmade and vintage items via Etsy. (Loooooove.)

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Etsy has obviously been around for years, and yet so many people tell me that they don't know "how to shop" the site. They're overwhelmed by the diverse array of offerings, both in the vintage and handmade categories. But for me, Etsy is not only easy, it's fun. As such, I figured I'd share a few of my Etsy shopping habits here on the blog, since so many of the items from our Cottage were discovered via Etsy vendors and makers. (Please note that this isn't a step-by-step of how to use the site-- there are plenty of those online already. This is simply an overview of how I use the site to help make the Cottage look and feel the way it does.)

To visually demonstrate how I integrate vintage and handmade goods into our home, here are some miscellaneous items I found on Etsy that appear regularly in my Instagram feed and on my blog photos:

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First off, I only shop for pieces that I need. I don't just browse aimlessly, or on impulse. For me, the key is to search for the general function I need an item to serve, rather than search by a item's name directly. For example, when I need linens that can serve as towels, tablecloths, couch covers, and shoulder wraps, I just search for "linen throw" and explore the results from there, selecting a piece that appeals to my aesthetic, our home, and can serve these multiple functions at once. I don't search for and buy each of these items individually-- that would take four times as long, cost four times as much, and require four times the storage space in our home.

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Similarly, when I wanted to find an alternative to traditional, modern file boxes, I searched by function and material, rather than specifically for a "file box." By searching for "vintage" + "rattan" + "box", I realized that small picnic baskets could be upcycled into beautiful file storage solutions.

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I even found my wedding dress on Etsy. And because it was made for my measurements, it fit flawlessly upon arrival. (Even at 25 weeks pregnant!) Rather than going down the internet rabbit hole by searching for a "wedding dress," I browsed instead for "handmade" + "custom" + "white" + "dress". I found my dress within 1 hour, and never looked back. It was perfect for me.

By searching for items via detail and function, I discover creative and unique homewares, clothes, and toys that serve the purposes my family needs, in formats I might not have previously considered. This is one of the traits that makes our lil' home so personal and special to us!

Create & Cultivate Seattle

Adam and I took a quick trip to Seattle this past weekend to participate in the latest Create & Cultivate conference at the Microsoft Headquarters. It was a joy to speak on the panel: Detail Oriented: An Inside Look at the Business of Design.

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I was honored to be part of such an incredible group of women. The panel included Kate Arends (of Wit and Delight), Anne Sage (of Light Lab), Christina Martinez (of New Darlings), Anne Alo (of  Creative House Int'l), Amanda Manna (of Lowes Innovation Labs), and was moderated by Jessica Anderson (of Elle Decor).

Photo © New Darlings: newdarlings.com

Photo © New Darlings: newdarlings.com

Adam and I stayed at the Thompson Hotel, which is beautifully designed and perfectly situated in the city. Since it was our first time in Seattle, we did the touristy things, like visit Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. We also spent hours in the MoPOP. We enjoyed many of their installations, but we went specifically for the Jim Henson Exhibition, organized by the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. I loved the Henson collection so much that Adam practically had to drag me away from it...

I deliberately left my camera in my purse the majority of the time, focusing instead on meeting the participants and attendees of the conference. But I snapped a few iPhone photos for Instagram Stories, below:

Thank you, Jaclyn R. Johnson and Create & Cultivate for including me in such an epic, informative and inspiring event.

Santa Monica Staycation

Recently, while a TV show was being shot at the Cottage for a few days, we decided to relocate to Santa Monica for a lil' working staycation:

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We stayed at the Palihouse, and absolutely loved it. Our suite was probably around 600 sqft-- compared to our tiny cottage, we basically felt like we were in a palace. West scooted all over the place, and it was the perfect spot for keeping him safely entertained while I worked. 

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With the full kitchen in our room, along with the incredibly comfortable and cozy work/lounge areas in the lobby and gardens, we felt like we were staying in a friends gorgeous, sprawling home.

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I loved how intimate the Palihouse felt. It's not quite a typical hotel, and we liked that about it.

We held a few meetings, caught up with some friends, watched the GOT season finale (which was fun-- we don't have a TV at the cottage), and strolled along the beach. It felt good to be there, and, of course, it felt wonderful to return home afterwards.

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Unfortunately we discovered a lot of damage to the cottage when we got back. (That'll happen when you have a production crew of 40 people in under 400 sqft for three days straight, I guess.) But the great thing about a tiny house is that we got it all back under control within a few hours. (And hurricane Harvey put things into perspective for us.)

Now on to September!

Guesthouse Getaway in Santa Barbara

Last week, Adam and I felt the overwhelming need to be with our family, and to surround baby West with love. We decided to take a quick getaway to Adam's brother and sister-in-law's home in Santa Barbara. We stayed in their guest unit, which is the dreamiest and most comfortable little house. (Even though it's a small studio-style home, it's still probably about 3x the size of our cottage!)

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I hadn't intended on taking many photos during our visit-- I wanted to my eyes focused on my family, not my phone. But I couldn't keep myself from snapping a few images here and there, as the interiors and grounds were just too gorgeous to resist. (Alas, it's not an Airbnb, folks. Sigh!) 

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I hope you enjoy a glimpse of the details from this incredible property, which is one of my main design and decor inspirations.

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At 10+ months old, West zoomed all over this cozy casita. He even picked and ate oranges from the garden. We took him on a few visits into town and to the beach, and relished the immense beauty of the California coast at the end of summer. 

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Click the images below to see what we packed, what we saw, and why we are counting down the days until our next visit.

For the Pups

Many of you wrote us to inquire about the indoor/outdoor dog beds we added to the cottage recently. Here are some more views, along with some of our other favorite pet gear:

Small Space Highchairs

Baby West is now ten (TEN!) months old. As such, he's at a point where he's feeding himself, and drinking from sippy cups and glass bottles. This means that mealtimes are a complete and total mess-- but they're also (honestly) a complete and total joy. A few items have proven themselves to be extremely practical for feeding our son in our tiny home, and on-the-go.

This is ridiculous, but we actually have TWO highchairs here at the Cottage-- the reason being that they were gifted to us, and we decided to hold on to both for an upcoming project we're working on (and excited to share in the near future). We like each chair for different reasons. Perhaps one might be right for you, depending on your particular needs and space.

We have: The folding NANO highchair from Bloom. We like it because it folds up, and sits slenderly against our Dutch Door when not in use. It also comes with everything needed (safety harness, removable, machine-washable tray, seat cover, and foot rest), so it's nearly ready-to-go out of the box. The downside is that it's a bit tricky to deep-clean in certain spots, but we still use it daily. It's the perfect counter-height, so we pull it up to our breakfast bar and enjoy meals there alongside our son. I recommend it to anyone living in a standard small space.

We also have: The Stokke Steps Chair, which we use less frequently, but really love. It's a clever and streamlined system. We like it because it will grow with West, so we won't have to buy different dining chairs for him as he gets older. It's also very easy to clean, and beautifully designed. We use it when we convert the living space into a dining space for entertaining. The add-on tray is the perfect place for West's meal, or for his books and suction-cup toys. The downside is that it doesn't fold up, so we ran into it constantly when we used it full-time. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a design-savvy, adaptable highchair that they can use for years to come.

We've also used and recommend: The Lobster Portable Highchair, and the Space-Saver High Chair. These are two products we've tried elsewhere, and believe they would work particularly well for micro-space dwellers, and/or for the grandparents' house.

Another small space lifesaver is the Gathre Mat. These mats come in a variety of colors and sizes, including one design that's intended for use beneath a highchair. We ALWAYS use one under West's chair if he's eating. It prevents his food mess from getting all over the floor. They're stylish, easy to store, and only take a moment to wipe clean.

Our other favorite baby-feeding tools aren't necessarily small-space specific, but since they are always visible (whether on the drying rack or in their standard storage places when not in use), we selected them for both their look and how they function:

From Cottage to Castle

In late July, we journeyed from our tiny house in Venice to a tiny village in France for a two week vacation in Belcastel. This little medieval town is nestled in the Aveyron Valley, and has been my home-away-from-home for a decade. The Château de Belcastel, which sits atop the village, is a striking and stunning historic monument, owned by my dear friend Heidi Leigh. I usually stay in her castle during my visits, but this year I was joined by more friends and family members than ever before, so I rented us all a gîte instead. It was the best of both worlds-- we were nestled in the heart of the village, and we were also fortunate enough to have access to the gorgeous castle. (When I could find wifi, I documented the stay on Instagram via Stories, and via #FromCottageToCastle.)

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This year's trip was particularly magical for a few reasons: it was our first time in Belcastel with Baby West, it was the first time my sister visited the village, and we all got to see and celebrate an original mural that two of my close friends from LA-- Chandler Wood and Darren Le Gallo-- painted for one of the art galleries within the castle. It was extraordinary to be in one of my favorite places with so many of my favorite people:

One of the things I love most about Belcastel in summer is its Friday night market series. Artisans, bakers, wineries and more set up booths along the river and offer their specialty items to residents and visitors:

Both the village and the castle are spectacular. Adam and I are seriously considering finding a little cottage in the area... 

As for how Adam and I packed for ourselves and baby West, we took:

  • 2 carry-on pieces by AWAY - link
  • 1 leather backpack / camera bag from ONA - link
  • 1 diaper bag / changing mat backpack from FAWN + CUB - link

I wore an outfit that was super practical for traveling-- particularly with a baby who I'm still nursing. I selected a button-down one-piece from Tysa, flats by Mohinders, an ascot (so West can yank on it) from Late Sunday Afternoon, and a teething necklace from Etsy. We requested a bassinet seat from Air France, and were thrilled with the results (even though our 10-month-old West is almost too big for it). We dressed him in a one-piece from Primary, which was extremely easy to manage on board. 

Oh, Belcastel-- we all love you so much. We cannot wait to return next summer.

Coverage of our trip to Belcastel is also up on Domino! Click here to view.

The Cottage on Lonny

The Cottage is on Lonny today! Read the piece and view the images here. Thanks, Lonny!

Excerpt: Have you ever wondered what it would take to transform your personal passion into a full-time hustle? While it may seem impossible to launch a business out of your home, we chatted with two incredible women who did just that. Whitney Leigh Morris of The Tiny Canal Cottage and Erin Hiemstra of Apartment34 both started successful personal brands out of their love for design and their desire to share it with the world. So you can see what it takes to create your own hustle, we had each of these bossladies share the experiences that led to their unique careers. From making investments to achieving that elusive work/life balance, click ahead to learn their secrets. - By Shelby Wax