Rain and Our Tiny House

I have to be honest— I don’t enjoy being in our house when it rains. 

Overall, I am a big fan of the rain, as is Adam. We were both raised in Florida, so the appreciation of a good thunderstorm is pretty much engrained within us. But here in our Venice cottage it kind of, well… sucks. 

 Trying to sleep a few, precious extra minutes while West is entertained by the beginning of a springtime storm.

Trying to sleep a few, precious extra minutes while West is entertained by the beginning of a springtime storm.

When it pours, it’s not the temporary loss of our outdoor square-footage that gets to me. While we LOVE and use our outdoor spaces, we could make-do without them. Similarly, our outdoor furnishings and accessories aren't much of a hassle in the rain. Almost everything we have outside on a day-to-day basis was created for all-weather use, from the couches to the rugs, and so forth. We only have to pull a few items inside, such as the basket rack on the front stop, some toys, and a few miscellaneous decorative accents. (Of course if it’s predicted to be stormy for a stretch of time, we’ll gather all of the outdoor cushions together and toss a tarp over them.)

 I do love how the succulent barrel in our tiny garden looks every time it rains.

I do love how the succulent barrel in our tiny garden looks every time it rains.

It’s within the house that I experience a headache from the wet weather.

More often than not, there’s little to no entryway space in a tiny home or apartment. This doesn’t bother me most of the time— there are so many creative and beautiful entryway hacks, and I never, ever want more room by our front door… except when it rains.

If I lived in the countryside I wouldn’t care. At my childhood home in North Florida (where my parents live on several acres of live oak forest), the worst thing we can track in is mud. But here in a crowded city that tends to flood every single time it rains, there is so much industrial, man-made filth at our feet every time we enter the house during a storm. The entire stoop becomes a puddle and is useless. As such, we have to try our best to remove our shoes (and West’s shoes), clean the paws and bellies of both pups, and keep all the evidence of the rain confined within the 10” stretch of floor between the front door and our living room rug. That wouldn’t be so hard if it was just one person walking in empty-handed, but we are like a traveling circus most days, balancing each other as well as boxes, the camera + laptop + diaper bags, client deliveries, leashes, groceries, and so forth.  

 While most people presumably hunker down in the rain, I try to get my family OUT of our house.

While most people presumably hunker down in the rain, I try to get my family OUT of our house.

Once all feet and paws are clean and the bags are down, the rest is much easier. We simply hang damp clothes from curtain rods, and put wet shoes and umbrellas in the shower. (But it becomes a minor juggling act again when one of us wants to rinse off in there.)


There are a few handy organizational tools we could use to help us make this process a bit smoother, but we deal with the rain so infrequently here in sunny SoCal that I’ve opted to forego acquiring them. (I’ve shared some via this post’s product links in case anyone is looking for compact entryway solutions.)

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to such tiny house hiccups. And our situation is by no means applicable to most small spaces— it’s merely OUR reality, as a family of 3 people and 2 dogs living in a nearly 100 year-old mini bungalow within a major city.

Clearly none of this is a legit hardship— we’ve pretty much shrugged it off for years now. And with people all over the world struggling with REAL issues, this is all ridiculous of me to even think, let alone publish via my blog. But, as always, I’m sharing this information in case it helps anyone who is considering moving to a small space.

 A beautiful morning in the neighborhood after a long rain. 

A beautiful morning in the neighborhood after a long rain. 

Roundup: Home > Office

I really enjoy seeing the endless ways in which people create and style their small space home-offices. I've found that more often than not, the office has to play two roles-- it's the workspace AND the dining room... or entertainment area... or entryway console... or ironing board... (the list goes on). For this reason-- and to keep work items from overwhelming a tiny living space-- it can be handy to find administrative tools and accessories that look and feel less "office-y."


I've rounded up a few office items (several of which we have here at the Cottage) below that I like for their beauty, versatility and practicality. 


That One Time We Got Into A Fight Because of Our Small Space

Adam and I are routinely asked if we encounter conflicts or obstacles in our relationship that are direct results of our small living space. Like every other duo on this planet, we have our disagreements. But the honest answer is no-- I actually believe that our compact quarters have made us stronger as a unit.

We recently tried to recall any arguments we’ve had that were spurred on by the fact that we’re basically at each other’s heels (or in each other’s faces) 24 hours a day, and we could only come up with ONE memory:

In our cottage, which is under 400 sqft, the bathroom opens up to the kitchen/living room. That doorway is not even 1-foot away from the bedroom, but there’s no privacy whatsoever in that single step between the spaces. So anyone in the kitchen/office/living room will see anyone who’s moving from the bathroom to the bedroom, or vice versa.

 Living room / office / kitchen of the Cottage. The bathroom doorway is in the back-left, and the bedroom doorway sit just beside it.

Living room / office / kitchen of the Cottage. The bathroom doorway is in the back-left, and the bedroom doorway sit just beside it.

Shortly after Adam left his job and began staying home with West full-time, his family came to visit. I was in the shower when he welcomed them into the cottage, and I discovered upon exiting the bathroom in my towel that EVERYONE was sitting right there (like 5 feet away), waiting to greet me. We all laughed— after all, it’s family. But I pulled Adam aside and requested that he please entertain guests on the porch or in the garden the next time I’m about to get in or out of the shower. (And let’s be honest— once you have a kid, showers don’t happen as often as they used to, so I didn’t feel like I was asking for too much.)


However, a few days later, I walked out of the bathroom in my towel (wearing my portable breast pump beneath it) to discover some of our friends lounging around the living room with Adam. I then proceeded to flip out in front of everyone. (It wasn’t my finest moment.) Adam was just trying to be a good host, but that can sometimes be tricky in a small space.

But that’s pretty much it. Solid communication is a must in a tiny home or apartment, and after nearly 7 years here, I think that part of our lives flows fairly smoothly.

So. Moving into a small space with your partner? Congratulations! It’s such a delight. (But I’d advise investing in a nice robe.)

 My robe hanging in the Cottage bedroom. Photo by Lily Glass for  SFGirlByBay

My robe hanging in the Cottage bedroom. Photo by Lily Glass for SFGirlByBay

Cloth Diapering

Now that West is well into his toddler phase, we've revised our diapering habits here at the cottage. A few things have proven crucial for us, so I'm sharing what we've learned in case it helps anyone else. (Note: We use cloth diapers for the most part. Not always-- we sometimes slip back into disposable diapers when we're on-the-go, if the laundry is pending, or when someone who is unfamiliar with reusable diapers is babysitting.)


The heroes of our simple system are as follows:

  1. BioLiners - BioLiners are amazing. They're similar in size/weight/form to a dryer sheet, and they catch solids, which makes cleaning West's cloth diapers so easy. (I won't even use a cloth diaper without the liner.) We just toss the used liners into our small diaper pail. 
  2. Musical Greeting Cards - YES. HEAR ME OUT ON THIS! West frequently flails around like a maniac when we're changing his diaper. Musical greeting cards have been the best way to keep him entertained and engaged during changing sessions without handing him an iPad or iPhone. (We're not big fans of screens here.) When he gets tired of a certain card, we just remove the music box and toss the paper into the recycling bin. (Downside: we get the worst songs stuck in our heads. The number of times I've caught Adam humming the hamster song as he cooks is ridiculous.)
  3. Gathre Mats - We use several Gathre Mats every day, one of which is reserved as West's changing surface. We use it on our bed and it works perfectly. Since there's no safety belt, we never leave our son unattended.
  4. Coconut Oil - West had a horrible diaper rash during a stretch of time when we stopped using cloth diapers. (We hadn't been using the BioLiners yet, and it was getting to be a hassle without them. Once I discovered the liners, I really regretted using disposable diapers.) Our son's doctors prescribed 3 different ointments for his skin, but none of them worked for more than a day or two. But safe and natural coconut oil (with cloth diapering) helped the rash go away-- and stay away-- within 2 or 3 days. 
  5. Wet Bags - We try to wash the worn diapers every 2 days. In the stretch of time between laundry loads, we keep used diapers in hanging wet bags.
  6. Snap-In Soaker Pads - We do use pre-fold cloths in West's diaper shells, but I prefer the snap-in soaker pads. They're less likely to bunch up or slide down when West is particularly wiggly. 

As an important side note, it's estimated that disposable diapers make up over 2% of the garbage in American landfills each year-- that's millions of tons! One of the key criticisms of cloth diapers is that they require an increase in water to wash. Parts of cloth diapers must be washed after every use, but you can reuse shells from hybrid diapers, depending on the circumstance. If you use about the same amount of water as the average American household, washing diapers could account for up to 5% of your total water use.Washing diapers is relatively efficient when you compare it to how much water is required to produce products.

Looking for more conservation tips to apply in and around your home? This wonderful graphic from Arhaus has some easy, helpful suggestions. Their philanthropy page contains links to even more info.

Women Who Inspire Me

Happy International Women's Day! Today is such an uplifting day of celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. As such, I'm posting about some of the women who've made a lasting impact on my way of life.

Chris Morris
Principal + Teacher + Champion of the Arts (and My Mama)

My mother (and father) worked tirelessly their whole lives until retirement. Even now, they both continue to work part-time in their fields of expertise. I've always been phenomenally inspired by their unrelenting work ethic, which they maintained without sacrificing their relationship with each other and their two daughters. My mom, Chris Morris, retired as professor emeritus after 33 years with the University of Florida’s College of Education. During her tenure at at P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School (a component of the University of Florida’s College of Education), my mother served as principal for 22 years and taught classes in creative writing and theater arts. My father, Stanley, earned his bachelor’s degree and juris doctor from UF, and served as a Circuit Court Judge for decades. The Chris Morris Arts Education Endowment was established in her honor for the purpose of supporting fine arts and performing arts programs through innovative teaching, research and academic support.

 With my parents and my son in the Cottage on 03/08/2018

With my parents and my son in the Cottage on 03/08/2018

Johnna Holmgren of Fox Meets Bear
Peaceful Parenting Inspiration

I find it all-too-easy to let the stresses of running a business, financially supporting a family, and overcrowded city life get to me. I struggle with ways in which to manage how I handle that stress-- particularly around my toddler. I've found the thoughts and words shared by Johnna Holmgren of Fox Meets Bear to be incredibly helpful. Johnna, a cook, artist, and mother of three little girls, reminds me to slow down, breathe deeply, put things in perspective, and create uninterrupted time with my son and husband.


Jaclyn Johnson of Create & Cultivate
CEO + Champion of Women in Business

Jaclyn is well-known as the CEO and spirit behind the explosively successful conference and website for millennial working women, Create & Cultivate. She's also a close friend and mentor. Jaclyn helped me understand the business potential behind my creative work, and has pushed, inspired and supported me throughout the most successful years of my career. She lives to empower women, and connect them with one another.  She works at a blinding pace, confronts conflict head-on, and carries a phenomenal amount of responsibility. Yet she approaches every day with positivity, and encourages and lifts her peers and audiences. 

 Left: Jaclyn at the 2017 Seattle Create & Cultivate conference. Right: Jaclyn interviewing Gloria Steinem.

Left: Jaclyn at the 2017 Seattle Create & Cultivate conference. Right: Jaclyn interviewing Gloria Steinem.

Amy Adams

“It’s important to talk about inequality. But for me, where I feel most empowered is in educating myself and being, hopefully, a mentor for younger women. That’s more important. I offer any young actress I work with my phone number. I’ll tell them on set, ‘You don’t have to do that. You can say no.’" (- Amy Adams via a NY Times interview by Manohla Dargis.) I am constantly moved by Amy's actions and words-- particularly when it comes to parenting, as well as balancing a public vs private life.

 Left: Amy for a  NY Times  story published in 2017. Right: Adam, Amy, our close friend Nell, and our sons during  our trip to Belcastel  in 2017.

Left: Amy for a NY Times story published in 2017. Right: Adam, Amy, our close friend Nell, and our sons during our trip to Belcastel in 2017.

Justina Blakeney of The Jungalow
Designer, Artist, Blogger

Justina is a total goddess, and yet still so approachable. Her creativity is boundless, as is her ability to find ways to blend art with business. She speaks up for those who are being undervalued and under-represented. She works hard, she loves big, and she goes bold. 


Thalia Henderson
Business Development Specialist of The RightWay Foundation

The RightWay Foundation works with current or emancipated foster youth to move from a point of pain and disappointment to a point of power, productivity, and self-sufficiency. I'm on the Board of this exceptional non-profit organization, and I am constantly in awe of the hard work of team member Thalia Henderson. Thalia is a graduate of University of Southern California, where she participated in numerous activities involving homelessness prevention. While a student, she was a Campus Campaign Coordinator for Teach for America, which involved creating and managing a strategic branding and marketing campaign. She also worked at USC's Joint Educational Project as the Pre-Law Project Student Director, supervising interns who were placed at public interest law firms around LA. Thalia has spent years working on homelessness issues through activities such as clothing/food distribution, a 2-year ethnography of The Midnight Mission's education program, interning for California's pioneering Shriver Project on Inner City Law Center's Homelessness Prevention team, and teaching art and math classes to homeless men.

 Left: Thalia Henderson of The RightWay Foundation. Right: Members of The RightWay team, along with foster youth who participated in a unique art program with The Jungalow.

Left: Thalia Henderson of The RightWay Foundation. Right: Members of The RightWay team, along with foster youth who participated in a unique art program with The Jungalow.

Roundup: Small Space Desks

Over the years, I've used all sorts of desks in my small apartments. I used a nightstand as a work surface in Santa Monica for 2 years, I had a vintage combination dresser / roll-top desk in Manhattan for 2 years, and I made my dining table a full-time work space in my beachside studio for over a year. I currently work from a desk with pull-out extensions on either side, which helps me convert the surface to a buffet when needed.


Below is a round-up of a diverse array of small space friendly work surfaces. (And don't forget that standing desks can be great options for compact rooms as well!)

Before + After: The Cottage Back Patio

While sifting through old digital files, I came across these "before" photos of our lil' back patio and garden. I paired them with "after" shots on the right to demonstrate just how much the trees, vines, and potted plants have grown over the past 7 years!

Update (2/28) - I received so many inquiries about the types of greenery and materials used that I've updated the text below with that information throughout the post. Thanks for the great messages, folks!✌


This spot has served many purposes for us. It's been a play space, a dining room, a nursing corner, a screening room, a lounge, an office, and even housed our wardrobe-shed for over a year. We use the back stoop for some of West's baths, story time, and more.


The overflowing, large-leafed vines are from a single, massive grapevine. These tendrils originate in our neighbor's yard beyond the wood fence, and between the months of April through September they're lush and abundant. They produce beautiful, sweet, concord grapes that our neighbor makes into jam and sorbet.


The long vines that stretch from the perimeter of the property to the top of the Cottage via the string lights are Distictis Buccinatoria, or Red Trumpet Vines. This single plant is rooted in the corner of our property, and was only about 4'-tall when we moved in. Now the trunk is thicker and about 6' tall, while the vines themselves span dozens of feet, back and forth over the garden. These vines are fast growing, resilient, quick to wrap around anything, and produce bright red flowers (with yellow backs) that attract hummingbirds, and make the perfect home for their little nests. 


The three ficus trees in the back were on the property when we moved in. We've trained them to grow up and fill inward, to provide us with more privacy and a wilder look.

By the back stoop, we added a customized shed, which once contained our wardrobe. (Now it holds a collapsible wagon and West's fold-up stroller.) An empty wine barrel sits across from it, and was once filled with dirt and dying lavender. Now, it's exploding with a variety of succulents, which my mom and I clipped from around the neighborhood and planted in fresh soil when she was visiting about 6 years ago. I've never changed the soil, and I only water the barrel infrequently. It's growing gorgeously without my interference. 

I have 2 potted ZZ Plants, which look fake because the branches are so strong and the leaves are extremely shiny. In my limited experience, they grow quickly outdoors, and can withstand times of downpour or drought. Mandevilla also works well to fill in and beautify gaps around the yard, as it produces bright blooms and grows both wide and tall, depending on the container.

I also have a few tall, potted Corynocarpus Trees from Rolling Greens, and I move those around the property whenever needed. They grow tall and produce numerous leaves, without taking up extra inches around the base, which is helpful on a stoop or in a tight garden.

As for the grass, it's unfortunately artificial. I can't wait to remove and replace it with something natural-- I don't love the idea of West playing around on these types of manufactured materials. Years ago we had real and thriving grass, but we let it die in the California Drought. After a year of debate, Adam and I installed this thick, tall, artificial grass for our wedding. It's something neither one of us ever thought we'd do, as we're both from rain-soaked Florida. Although I still have a really tough time with the concept of faux grass, I do love seeing green rather than dirt or rocks. Other than the grass, everything else is living.

 Above: Our friends gathered here for Adam's most recent birthday. We had a Cuban Food Truck pull up to the back fence to serve sandwiches, and we stationed the bar up in the front garden.

Above: Our friends gathered here for Adam's most recent birthday. We had a Cuban Food Truck pull up to the back fence to serve sandwiches, and we stationed the bar up in the front garden.

 Above: Storytime set-up for baby West.

Above: Storytime set-up for baby West.

 Above: At-home date night with Adam. 

Above: At-home date night with Adam. 

Small spaces such as this can be so versatile, and they're relatively easy to makeover or adapt, since they're so compact. I love this spot on the property, and look forward to seeing how it evolves from here! 

Parenting in a Small Space: Q & A with Adam

I operate two small businesses from our tiny Cottage. While I do so, my husband Adam is (very) busy caring for our son all day. Our schedules overlap and our responsibilities intersect, but there's no confusion as to who handles what on a day-to-day basis. As such, I thought it would be helpful for Adam to share some general information on how he handles caring for a toddler in a small space!


1. What inspired you to leave your job in advertising in order to care for West full-time?
This wasn't a difficult choice to make.  Given my work schedule and Whitney's growing business, we would have had to hire a full-time nanny to take care of West.  After researching several options, the smartest and best solution for our family was for me to leave my job.  It didn't make sense to me for us to pay someone else to raise my son, when I could easily take on that role without financially burdening our family.  


2. What have you found to be the greatest advantage of caring for a toddler in a small space?
Our home allows me to easily keep track of a very mobile toddler, as well as contain the explosion of his toys, books, etc.   Additionally, a lot of the furniture is built in, which provides greater stability during his climbing endeavors.


3. What is the most challenging aspect of caring for a toddler in a small space?
Finding a semblance of peace and quiet for his nap time can be tough.  We have two beagle rescues, who have a tendency to be bark right when I'm getting West to nap.  He's fairly used to their barking, but it can be frustrating when he's almost asleep and the dogs disrupt the process.  (Before we had the front house on the property, another challenge was trying not to distract Whitney while she worked.)

blog_adamwestottoman copy.jpg

4. What are the primary tools that enable you to teach, entertain, and tend to a toddler in compact quarters?
I think the key is to have all the books, toys, musical devices, and wipes/diapers as accessible as possible.  West is so curious and his attention span wanes quickly, so it's important to be able to mix things up with ease.  We keep most of his items in baskets and in a corner dresser with large, thatched drawers that are easily removed.  The contents are always readily accessible, and the containers are all lightweight enough that West is able to carry them around wherever he’d like.    

adam west bike copy.jpg

5. What have you experienced by caring for West full-time that you didn’t anticipate?
How fortunate I am to be able to be his full-time caregiver.  I know that stay-at-home parenting is not an option for everyone, and recognize how lucky I am that my wife's business has allowed us to be home with our son.  Within our circle of friends, I'm one of several fathers who are the full-time caregivers, while the mothers work.  I truly appreciate that we're able to challenge gender stereotypes and redefine parenthood together.

Tiny Adventures: Palm Springs + Sunset Magazine

One of the things I enjoy the most about small space living is that it inspires us to seek new experiences beyond our four walls. As such, I'm posting some of our "Tiny Adventures" here on the Cottage blog to share these lil' moments.

West, Adam and I just returned from a quick trip to Palm Springs to celebrate Modernism Week with Sunset Magazine. Luckily for us, the event venue was the Samuel A-Frame, the desert getaway of Sarah Sherman Samuel. Sarah and her husband Rupert bought the house 3 years ago and will soon be selling it, so I was excited to get the chance to explore the property before the change of ownership. I was particularly interested in this house because it's under 800 sqft and absolutely gorgeous.

Thanks to Semihandmade, Fireclay Tile, Campari, and Best Day Ever Floral Design for bringing this delightful brunch to life! I met some wonderful people there, such as Jimmy from West Perro, who had a little pop-up at the event. I ordered a custom mobile by him for the Cottage and I can't wait to hang it up in our little home. And speaking of small spaces, how perfect is this tiny guest bedroom at the A-Frame?!


We arrived at Sarah's a bit early, so we drove on a bit further to check out the other unique homes in the neighborhood and savor the incredible views. (My dress got majorly attacked by thistles while snapping these photos in the wind...)

We stayed at the ACE Hotel, thanks to HotelTonight. My friends and I began visiting the Ace when it first opened (back when we were in our 20s), and Adam and I weren't sure how it would feel returning now that we have a toddler. Turns out it was absolutely perfect.


The first-floor rooms with private courtyards provide a generous amount of space for kids to safely play and explore without getting bored. (Our hotel room and patio were actually bigger than our entire Cottage.)  

West ran around the property for hours, touching everything and clearly loving the sights, textures, and colors. We were joined by my best friend Lindsay of Casa Joshua Tree for dinner. We ordered room service which we enjoyed on our private patio (a lifesaver for dining with a toddler in public places) while West tasted a cauliflower burger for the first time.

I've basically been living in this Favorite Maxi Knit Skirt (in Peat) from Garnet Hill. It's been great for the mixed weather we've been having lately in SoCal. And West has been bolting around in a cactus jumper that makes me giggle every time he wears it-- it's just the cutest.   


It was such a nice change to visit Palm Springs during cooler weather-- we got to walk around and connect with others much more than we usually do, and it was a heartening experience in the midst of all the ongoing mayhem in the news. 


Here's to more tiny adventures that introduce us to new and extraordinary experiences. 

Tour of the Two Tiny Cottages


Our Cottages are on SF Girl by Bay today! I've long admired Victoria Smith's creativity, kindness, and blog, so I was thrilled when she and photographer Lily Glass expressed interest in shooting a photo tour of our two lil' abodes. It's our first feature showcasing BOTH structures, so I'm delighted that it's now live here(All photos in this post were taken by Lily Glass for SF Girl by Bay.)


Living with Less by Engaging More

"Tiny House" living is clearly an on-trend topic. The idea provides our culture with a pause in its usual, unrelenting communication of the message that bigger, newer and more of everything is better. While living small and simply is still a novelty for most, it draws both active and passive audiences by being an escapist concept that offers the hope of combatting the powerful tidal wave of technological and tangible consumption with a pared-down, organized, and calmer daily existence. While the prospect of living a decluttered life is what garners the most attention for the tiny house movement, another key benefit of the lifestyle is that it encourages increased engagement within a community. 

Since 2011, I’ve lived in a tiny house in Venice, California. While my home isn’t micro-sized, it’s certainly compact, measuring under 400 square feet. I live here with my husband, our son, and our two rescue beagles.


Not only is this our home, but it’s also my full-time office, where I operate a small creative firm, as well as a lifestyle consulting business.


While the house itself has earned a fair amount of attention over the years, I believe it’s the principle behind it that repeatedly speaks to audiences: you don’t have to live large to live beautifully. While this applies to how we operate within our walls, it also extends to our existence beyond them.

Tiny living has encouraged my family to be more engaged in our community. We know and treasure Venice as though it’s an old friend, and that’s because we enjoy it so thoroughly when we step away from our Cottage. 


When we first moved into our little home, we had two cars. With no real garage and with the challenges of routinely securing beach-side parking, we quickly realized that we could no longer accommodate two cars, nor did we need them both. We donated one car to KCRW, subsequently saving us some money, and cutting back on our belongings and responsibilities. We began biking and walking around town more and more often, which has improved our health, and introduced us to so many places we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

bike copy.jpg

Similarly, we don’t need the space for a full home gym— we can simply step outside when we need to exercise. From jogging down the beach to climbing the Santa Monica steps, I’ve spent countless hours traversing the Westside and enjoying the coast during my fitness routine. (I might look a little funny lunging down the sidewalks of the Venice Canals, but I’m too busy enjoying the wildlife and waterways to care.) We can even paddle-board, surf, and more without owning the oversized equipment ourselves, as there are numerous rental facilities mere minutes from our home.  

We love our community so genuinely that it even influenced us when selecting a name for our son.


West was born in 2016, and during my pregnancy— and ever since— we never once considered moving to a bigger home. 


We have everything we need right here, regardless of our square footage. There’s an adorable park and duckpond right across the canal, and we can walk to two nearby public libraries. Museums, live performance venues, farmers markets, amusement park rides, and community events are all within biking distance. And every time we go out, we meet new neighbors and we all learn new things. 


While tiny house living isn’t for everyone, there’s a mindset behind it that can bring joy to all of us. Let’s waste less time fussing over things. Instead, let’s spend our precious lives focusing on and connecting with the people and places around us. It’s healthy for our bodies, minds, and hearts.

- Whit

This post was originally written for/published by my friends Brittany & Cynthia Daniel of The Sweet Life

Roundup: Tiny Tabletops

We've designed dozens of tablescapes here at the Cottage, but when the cameras are put away, I've found that the most tried-and-true small space-friendly tabletop items are almost always a combination or selection of the following:

  • Rectangular: It's much easier to fit everything on your tiny tabletop (whether you're setting up a dining space for 2 or 6) if you use rectangular plates. Instead of adding napkins and silverware on either side, try dressing them ON TOP of the dishes.
  • Stackable: Sets of mugs, cups, and plates that sit safely on top of one another (on the table and/or within your cabinets) are great for keeping your kitchenwares compact and organized. 
  • Custom-sized: Regular placemats and tablecloths are usually comically oversized for little tables. Try using a 2-person placemat-- or simply cut a runner down to size. Drape it over the table for face-to-face dining, or simply use it as a narrow tablecloth for side-by-side counter dining.
  • Caddies: Keeping your silverware at the ready via caddies is an effortless way to save tabletop and drawer space.
  • Vertical: Select vases, candles, and pitchers that have a small footprint, and extend upward (rather than horizontally) to liven up your table without cramping your experience.

Banquette Seating + Storage

When we updated our porch earlier this month, we replaced our outdoor sofa with banquette-style seating along the back lattice wall. We'd first considered designing a built-in, but we decided instead to keep this small space flexible to best accommodate our ever-changing needs. I selected two, 4' teak storage benches from Wayfair, and worked with the delightful folks at Cushion Source to create custom outdoor cushions that transformed the storage benches into one long couch that spans the entire gap between our two tiny cottages: 

 Above: Porch storage benches from  Wayfair . Weatherproof cushions from  Cushion Source . Handmade blanket by  Luna Zorro . Outdoor ottoman/coffee table by  Fragments Identity . 

Above: Porch storage benches from Wayfair. Weatherproof cushions from Cushion Source. Handmade blanket by Luna Zorro. Outdoor ottoman/coffee table by Fragments Identity

We opted to order two 4' sets of cushions rather than one 8'-long set, so we could separate the benches and still use them for seating if/when needed. The results ended up being EXACTLY what we'd hoped for. The benches contain patio accessories and larger toys, while the cushions are durable, waterproof, and can easily withstand the wear-and-tear brought on daily by the pups.


Cushion Source also created custom cushions for the surface and backing of a low wooden step that sits on the right side of the porch next to West's bedroom door:


The step can't be removed, as it covers utility hardware that juts up above the surface of the porch. I was worried that West was going to fall and hit his head on the sharp corner of the wood, so we decided to convert the step into toddler-height seating. The new cushions extend just beyond the corners of the wood, making it much safer. Now all of us use this little step-chair every day.


Since the redesign of the porch, we've been using the space every chance we get. As the weather grows warmer, I'm sure we'll lounge, play, work, and even nap out here more and more with each passing day.

Tiny Adventures: Museum Day

One of the things I love most about small space living is that it encourages us to seek every day adventures outside of our home, and it reminds us to engage more with our local communities. As such, I'm starting a new series of mini posts on the blog to share these lil' moments from our lives here at the Cottage.

 Left: West stepping out of his room, ready to explore the world. Right: Sophee saying bye to us through a window in the front cottage.

Left: West stepping out of his room, ready to explore the world. Right: Sophee saying bye to us through a window in the front cottage.

This week, I decided to play hooky for a half-day and take Adam and West to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. West recently became super intersted in animal and dinosaur illustrations, so I thought it would be the perfect time to show him some creatures beyond the pages of his books.

 Left: West and Adam waiting for the train. Right: West waking up from his short nap after the train ride (whereas I'd been up since 2am).

Left: West and Adam waiting for the train. Right: West waking up from his short nap after the train ride (whereas I'd been up since 2am).

We took the Metro from West LA to the museum. (Psst-- LA folks: If you take the metro to the Museum, you get a discount on adult admission fees to the museum.)It was West's first time on a train, beyond the shuttles at airpots. He was enthralled at first... and then passed out.


When we arrived, I though our son would be so excited by the oversized sculptures at the entrance to the museum. However, the passing construction trucks nearby stole most of his attention. (Sad trombone!) Luckily he was out-of-his-mind with joy the moment we entered the exhibition halls.

 Above: Enjoying the beautiful installations at the  Natural History Museum of Los Angeles .

Above: Enjoying the beautiful installations at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

It turns out that this museum is the PERFECT place for a toddler to safely bolt around. West repeatedly ran from window to window, animal to animal, and garden to garden, soaking up all the there was to see.

It felt wonderful to step outside and show our son something new and extraordinary. And it felt equally as wonderful to return home-- satiated and exhausted-- to our little slice of the world after our tiny adventure.

Porch Makeover

Outdoor living spaces encourage us to put down our screens, take a healthy breath, and relax. That's one of the reasons why I love our little sliver of a porch so much. We recently modified the space to suit our evolving needs, and today I'm excited to share the tiny tour with you! Even though we only updated this outdoor spot a little over a week ago, we've already spent dozens of hours enjoying it with West and several of our friends. We partnered with Fragments Identity for this redesign that transitioned our open-air dining room into a lounge and play area.

(Explore additional coverage of this porch update on Lonny by clicking here. Photos by Jenna Peffley.)


This space, which connects our two tiny houses, is now outfitted primarily for use by our toddler and his friends.


I've worked with Tammy from Fragments Identity before, and she and I share a love for natural textures and neutral tones. 


Together, we came up with a design that’s safe and functional for kids, while simultaneously being comfortable for their parents. And most of the pieces are designed for outdoor use, so we only have to throw West's toys (and a few blankets or small accessories) into a market cart and wheel those in at night.

We also made some updates to the living room as well, helping the interior and exterior spaces better blend with one another.


Tammy created new seat cushions for our built-in couch (a much needed change, as we'd had the previous ones for nearly seven years!), as well as some gorgeous new pillows. 

The full story, complete with numerous beautiful images shot by the incredible Jenna Peffley, is now up on Lonny!


Front Tiny Garden

When we recently acquired the front tiny house next to ours, we also inherited its 10' wide front yard. If we weren't renting this unit, there are many things I would change about it, such as the garden floor and perimeter landscaping, as well as the exterior paneling and hardware. But we decided instead to do a quick and easy makeover of this previously unused square-footage. We simply added a few plants, a hand-me-down table, and some of our existing outdoor seating pieces to convert this sliver of space into a dining area for up to 6 people.


An indoor/outdoor dining table, weatherproof ottoman/benches from Fragments Identity, two folding patio chairs, cafe lights, and a mix of hanging and potted plants were all we needed to turn the front garden into a comfortable, practical place to dine with our family and friends. (We can even pass our food and dishes from the table up through the kitchen windows of the West Cottage, which helps make hosting delightful and effortless.)


The two oversized bamboo + leather lanterns are usually in the living room of the back cottage, but I love them so much that I tend to use them all over the property. 


Perhaps we'll tackle a full overhaul of this lil' garden once day in the future. But it functions perfectly now, and we are thoroughly enjoying it!

Roundup: Double-Duty Accents & Inspiration

Furnishings aren't the only items in a small home that can pull double-duty to save space-- accessories should function in multiple ways as well. From mirrors that act as jewelry organizers, to everyday countertops that transform into work or dining surfaces with the help of a stool, to vertical decorative accents that save surface inches below, there's no end to the clever ways in which you can maximize the capabilities of your tiny space.

I'll forever be inspired by functional decor, such as under-the-shelf hooks and bins, to table-top risers that create instant storage. I've rounded up a selection of imagery (below) that demonstrates some simple, beautiful ways to get the most use out of select household accents. One of my favorite features from the visuals below is the last one, by Margo Hupert. Margo runs her art studio from her home, and her flat files, shipping tubes, and administrative accessories are always carefully curated and artfully organized, making her company's "warehouse" into a gorgeous, uncluttered, live-work gallery.

But before you go about trying to organize everything, be sure to get rid of a thing or two... or twelve. Remember: "When you have cleared all of your clutter, you can be of greater service to those around you." - M.B. Kitson

Postpartum Body: 1 Year Later

This is an out-of-the-ordinary post for me, but I wanted to share some physical changes I’ve experienced since my pregnancy. I’m doing this because I feel like women in America are subtly taught to be ashamed of certain aspects of themselves, such as their age, their weight, their skin, their hair (too much! too little!), and so forth. These topics all come into play (and several change drastically) during and after pregnancy. I respect everyone’s right to keep their personal details private, but for women seeking real stories about the postpartum aspect of “advanced maternal age” pregnancies, here’s mine.

 Left: The day West was born. Right: 8 months later. 

Left: The day West was born. Right: 8 months later. 

Weight Changes & Exercise
First off, I’m 5’11” tall, and 36 years old. Before getting pregnant, I weighed about 150. The day I went into labor, I was 190. Now, at 16 months postpartum, I weigh about 140 lbs.

I did Reformer Pilates during my pregnancy, but less and less as it progressed. I did, however, bike and walk A LOT. We’re a 1-car family, and when I was pregnant Adam was still working at his old job full-time and used the car daily. I walked the dogs and strolled to my meetings every day, and I rode my bike with relative ease until the 9th month. 

 Above: Towards the end of my pregnancy. (Image on right © One Kings Lane.)

Above: Towards the end of my pregnancy. (Image on right © One Kings Lane.)

After giving birth, there was no way I was getting on the bike or doing Pilates for about 10 weeks. I had a natural birth, which was wonderful, but I definitely needed time to recover. I worked full-time, as there’s no maternity leave when you run your own *very* small company, and I didn’t have any help with West at home until he was about 7 months old, so exercise was back-burnered. I’ve probably only done Pilates 5 times since West was born. (And I used to do it 5 days/week prior to my pregnancy.) I miss it, and am eager to resume that routine. 

Nursing was great during the first day in the hospital, then horribly painful for the next 4-5 days after we returned home. Once my body adjusted (and thanks to the help of a 1-on-1 lactation consultation with a specialist at The Pump Station), it was easy from there on out. I did, however, get 2 mild infections, but they were both due to the fact that I accidentally missed several feeding/pump sessions in a row due to poor planning, and packing incompletely while traveling. 


Speaking of pumping: I used three pumps over that first year. The first was a rental from the hospital, the second was a freebie from a medical provider, and the third machine was one I selected and purchased myself. I highly recommend this option, which was very compact and easily portable— perfect for our tiny home and for hands-free pumping when used with a pump bra. It was a bit pricier, but after spending SO MUCH TIME with it, I think it was worth every single penny.

I basically nursed West on demand for the entirety of his first year, since he and I are always within mere feet of one another. I am guessing that all the breastfeeding caused me to lose more weight than I anticipated.  I ate healthy meals, but I also ate a TON overall. My appetite while nursing was substantial. 

Now that my son is 16 months old, I only nurse him before he goes to sleep at night, and in the early hours of the morning. We bed-share, and breastfeeding is such a precious ritual that I’ve not had the heart to give up because he still asks for it via ASL. Since reducing his feedings, I’ve noticed that I’m creeping back into the direction of my pre-pregnancy weight. I don’t have feelings on that one way or another as of right now— it simply is the way it is. 

I’m guessing genetics have a lot to do with this, but man, my skin changes in the past two years have been wild. For almost my entire pregnancy, my skin was better than it had ever been. It stayed fine until around the time West turned 1. But once I started weaning, my skin went haywire.

no makeup.jpg

I've finally found a small mix of tiny products that work, and keep me looking awake and polished without being overly made-up. I threw out all of my old cleansers and makeup brushes and products, and started over with this handful of simple necessities, lead by this daily hero. I now use True Botanicals for cleaning and hydrating, and I never leave the house without putting on Boy Brow, as well as this Lip Tint (which I wish I’d known about years ago). 

 My new daily essentials, 1+ year postpartum. ( Cheek balm  +  brow product  +  lip tint  +  spot concealer  +  hydrating oil , and more, stashed in my compact  This Is Ground Plug Pack .)

My new daily essentials, 1+ year postpartum. (Cheek balm + brow product + lip tint + spot concealer + hydrating oil, and more, stashed in my compact This Is Ground Plug Pack.)

I’ve always had Hermione hair. It’s thick, wavy, frizzy, and crazy. I love it now, but I was not such a big fan of it all in my teens and twenties. It grew slightly thicker during the pregnancy, and then it began shedding heavily around 4-6 months postpartum. The abnormal shedding has since stopped, and other than a few extra curls here and there, it’s pretty much back to normal… plus a few grays. (I use this shampoo and this conditioner, and sometimes a bit of Mermaid Oil to smooth it all out.)

 11 months postpartum. Natural hair. (Photo by  Marisa Vitale .)

11 months postpartum. Natural hair. (Photo by Marisa Vitale.)

 Above: On a shoot 5 months postpartum. Hair straightened & styled. (Photos © Ergobaby.)

Above: On a shoot 5 months postpartum. Hair straightened & styled. (Photos © Ergobaby.)

Shoe Size
The thing I was probably most unprepared for was the change in my shoe size. I try not to buy too many things, but I had to get several pairs of new shoes during and after the pregnancy, because I grew permanently from an 8.5 to a 9. It’s such a bizarre side effect of growing a baby! (P.S. Pons shoes were lifesavers during my pregnancy, and I've loved them ever since.)

Immediately after giving birth, I appeared to be 5 months pregnant for about 2 days. Then my belly stayed swollen for roughly two weeks after West’s birth. (Beyond that, it was just general swelling, which decreased daily during the following month.)

 Left: Belly at 1 week postpartum. Right: 10 months postpartum. (Photo ©  Sebastian Artz  for  Late Sunday Afternoon .)

Left: Belly at 1 week postpartum. Right: 10 months postpartum. (Photo © Sebastian Artz for Late Sunday Afternoon.)

I’ve alway hated my belly. Even in my skinniest days (about 125 lbs), and even in my most confident days. Now my waistline is pretty much back to the way it was, except there are times when I’m lying on my side or standing in the sun and I can see little wrinkles and light marks that didn’t exist before the pregnancy. But now, with my son being a toddler, I have less time to give a damn about my measurements, which is a good thing. Life is too short. I’m over the belly complex. (For now, at least.)

9 months post.jpg

Mood Swings
The thing I braced the hardest for were the mood swings… but they never came. I expected to feel up, down, and everywhere in between due to hormonal changes. Yet I haven’t felt anything drastic— I’m simply a bit more irritable when I’m stressed. Still, I think that’s just life and the reality of financially supporting my family (which is terrifying more often than not). I am so grateful that I’ve been able to experience the new and boundless love for my son without any interference from mood fluctuations that are beyond my control. Having said that, I know many women who have not been quite so lucky in this department. To anyone feeling like unlike themselves, you are definitely not alone. Don't hestitate to talk to your doctor. 

So. That's been my experience thus far. To me, it's not about "bouncing back." It's about evolving, and growing in ways that keep me healthy and happy for myself, and for my lil' family.

whit west kanapaha.jpg

Creating a Divider with Greenery

When we acquired the front tiny house, we knew we needed to modify our porch to suit our updated living situation. The porch, which is 8’ wide and nestled between the two craftsman cottages, was formerly outfitted with an outdoor couch and a folding dining set. We loved it, but we found ourselves using the pieces less and less.

 "BEFORE" - The porch between the cottages shortly after we moved in.

"BEFORE" - The porch between the cottages shortly after we moved in.

 "AFTER" - The porch between the cottages. We had it set up this way for years in order to accommodate dinner guests or host happy hours.

"AFTER" - The porch between the cottages. We had it set up this way for years in order to accommodate dinner guests or host happy hours.

 "AFTER" ... again! The porch updated for West and his friends, as well as all the parents.

"AFTER" ... again! The porch updated for West and his friends, as well as all the parents.

We host guests for meals very infrequently these days, whereas we spend more and more time here with West in lieu of sending him to daycare. Additionally, a fair number of our friends had children around the same year we had West, so our social gatherings now involve bringing several children (about 5-8 toddlers per event) together at once. So Adam and I decided that it was time to turn the couch into dual-purpose storage / lounge seating, collapse the dining table, and convert the resulting square footage into a play space. 

A full blog post on the transformation is coming soon, but I wanted to tune in to one particular obstacle with which we needed to deal during the conversion. How would we keep the end of the porch (which drops about 1’ down to the stone garden pavers below) safe for the newly-toddling kiddos? 

We borrowed a plastic baby gate from a friend to test out, but it was too flimsy for West. We then tried a temporary, metal garden gate. Unfortunately it was pretty ugly, and it felt like a barricade. We didn’t want to discourage the kids from entering the garden— we just didn’t want them falling dangerously backwards into it on accident.

I found three perfectly-shaped, compact, outdoor planters at Ikea (there were some great runners-up at CB2, too,) and I asked the skilled team at Rolling Greens to help me find friendly, space-dividing plants to add height, weight, beauty, and life to the troughs. 

 I love any excuse to visit Rolling Greens in Culver City.

I love any excuse to visit Rolling Greens in Culver City.

Rolling Greens lined the planter boxes with plastic to keep the soil from falling out the slats, and then surrounded that wrap with moss to beautify the exposed segments. They then filled the boxes with little Olive Tree plants. They added a pop of color on the parameters with a touch of secondary greenery, then topped it all off with bark, and voila! 


Now we have low space-dividers to trim the edge of the porch. The boxes are too heavy for the kids to push over, but light enough for us to shuffle around when needed. Adults and the pups can step between the planters, but now the kids won't go tumbling or bolting off the side of the porch!

porch planters sunset.jpg
porch plants side.jpg

We absolutely love our new, living porch barrier. Thank you, Rolling Greens!

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