How West and the Pups Interact in our Tiny Home

There’s been a notable uptick of photos featuring West and the pups on my Instagram account lately. With every passing day they’re spending more and more time side-by-side. When the dogs bark, West runs to meet them and screams by their sides. When StanLee and Sophee eat, West either stands with them, or rushes to eat as well. And our son can aaaaaalmost clip the dogs’ leashes onto their harnesses. (He even helps hold their leashes, and pretends to clean up after them on our walks.) They nap together, they play together, and they’re clearly protective of and enamored by each other. 

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They’ve always gotten along, but their bond and understanding of one another has certainly grown stronger with time. Now that West’s movements are steadier and more predictable, StanLee (11+ years old) is less likely to keep his distance. And Sophee will let West sweetly tug on her ears and neck scruff, and knows how to gently yet firmly warn him when he’s pulling too tight. 

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BEOFRE WEST WAS BORN

Training: StanLee is a senior, and is usually extremely well-behaved. But Sophee was still a puppy when West was born. We sent her to a three week training course midway through our pregnancy, so she’d be more manageable on walks, and understand and follow basic commands.

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WHEN WE INTRODUCED THEM

Hospital Blanket: The day I went into labor, we took the pups to a cage-free boarding facility they’d visited many times in the past. After West’s birth, we saved the first blanket in which he was wrapped. Adam took it over to the facility so that the dogs could smell and sleep with the blanket overnight before coming home to meet their brother.

Introduction: When the dogs returned to the Cottage after we brought home West, Adam and I let them sniff (and I’m not going to lie— even lightly lick) their little brother as he was in my arms. We had our hands lightly on the pups during every moment, petting them and speaking cheerfully. We were calm, happy, and even relaxed, which I think positively influenced the pups. 

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Special Treatment: We had new dog beds, fresh toys, and even special food ready for the dogs when they returned home to meet their brother. We wanted them to associate the baby with the joyful things in their lives. I think it helped!

THE FOLLOWING MONTHS

Activities: During West’s first months, we were extra mindful to take the dogs on long walks and to the dog park, as well as snuggle with them as much as ever. We put West in an ErgoBaby carrier or Solly wrap for the outings, so we could all be together.

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Cuddling Safety: The thing we were the most worried about was the dogs accidentally smothering West when snuggling with him during naps and at bedtime— particularly since we were bed sharing. We wanted to let them touch and be close, but we were hyper-vigilant about monitoring rollovers and preventing trapped limbs.

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We still try to give StanLee and Sophee undivided attention when West is present, but it can be tough sometimes. Luckily their joint interaction with one another ensures that most activities at home include all three of our kiddos. 

Note: Please consult professional resources and keep safety as the top priority when making decisions concerning your child and pets. I am not recommending any particular tactics. I am simply sharing our personal experience in case it helps anyone else on their journey. The ASPCA offers a comprehensive guide to managing dogs with babies and toddlers here.

Roundup: Small Space Shoe Storage

Over the six months that we rented the front cottage, West began walking. Finding a place for his shoes was not an issue-- we had tons of open storage over there. (We don't own nearly enough  to fill 800 sqft.) But now that we've given up the front house and are back to sharing under 400 sqft, I needed to find a solution for our toddler's footwear. 

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Initially we kept his footwear in a single canvas basket up on the top shelf of the closet. But West seems to enjoy picking out his own clothing and accessories, so I wanted to give him the opportunity to easily do so. I found a simple, customizable, handmade shoe storage solution for toddler shoes (and even baby shoes) via ETSY, and it works like a charm. It takes up no floor-space and no shelf-space, and we can easily relocate the strand to the closet when we prefer for it to be out-of-sight:

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Adam and I stash our shoes within the built-in cubbies under the couch. The following images are a few years old (thus the old couch cushions and overflowing throw pillows), but the concept is clear:

For those of you in need of shoe organization solutions in your small home, I've rounded up a few diverse options, below. But remember-- before you craft or buy storage, try downsizing your collection first! (Reading My Tea Leaves just posted a wonderful entry about responsible decluttering, which you can enjoy here.)

Market Friday

This week's Farmers Market Friday in photos:

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Dress by LoveShackFancy. Shoes from Seavibe Design. Market backpack via Etsy. West's luggy by Olli Ella.

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Roundup: Small Space Jewelry Storage

Over my many years of small space living, I’ve tried numerous jewelry storage solutions. I don’t have excessive amounts of jewelry, but I do have enough to warrant a proper organizer. Frustratingly, I could never seem to find a piece that fit our tiny space while holding larger items (such as my collection of ascots from Late Sunday Afternoon and my boho bangles).

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A few years back, I finally found a wonderful solution. It’s not sexy, and it’s not what I’d hoped to find (vintage, natural materials, etc.), but it works, and I imagine I’ll use it for my entire life: it's a plastic hardware organizer with clear drawers. I picked a tall, shallow design, so it can fit inside our compact bathroom vanity. Behind it, we’re able to stack the linens we use infrequently, such as rain mats and guest towels. And there’s still enough room left over to store everyday supplies such as my hairdryer and brush, our first aid kit, my makeup, toiletries, and more.

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My advice to anyone struggling to accommodate a jewelry collection in little home is to seek out pieces— from ANY product category— that offer the overall dimensions and compartment styles needed, rather looking specifically for “jewelry organizers.” It's surprising how handy a picnic basket, pill box, cutlery organizer, or hardware case can be.

Don’t forget that nearly any area within a home can be turned into jewelry storage (or storage of any sort, for that matter). Hang pieces on the wall, put shallow drawers to use, suspend organizer pockets from a curtain rod, and/or add slim cabinetry to the backs of doors. (Or, as I did, use the awkward inches in front of your sink’s u-bend.) 

Below is a quick and shopable roundup of some of the diverse styles of organizational tools that can hold jewelry in homes of varying styles and sizes.

Keeping It Simple

Last November, Adam and I decided to take advantage of the unique opportunity to rent the front tiny cottage on our property. It was built in the same year as ours, and is almost exactly the same size. These twin homes sit 8' apart, divided by a narrow deck. Together, they measure under 800 square feet. 

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Real estate in Venice is exorbitantly high right now, so I didn’t know how long I could responsibly pay for us to live across both cottages. We are a single income household, and the expense of owning and operating a business in California is steep. The general cost of living, along with saving for West’s education and our retirement, is all quite staggering for us. Still, we decided to give the rental a trial run of three months. We justified the spike in our monthly spending by considering the second house to be our daycare, an office, a guest house, and a spot for production crews and their equipment. 

 Above: Stanlee and Sophee love guarding the proeprty from the windows in the front tiny house.

Above: Stanlee and Sophee love guarding the proeprty from the windows in the front tiny house.

Three months turned into six, and we were loving our second tiny house for a few key reasons. It provided West and Adam with a dedicated play space during the day, it functioned as an overnight office for me (I’m a terrible sleeper), and it was the perfect spot for my parents to stay when they visited from Florida. 

 Above/below: My parents during their most recent visit from Florida. They stayed in the front tiny cottage for 2 glorious weeks.

Above/below: My parents during their most recent visit from Florida. They stayed in the front tiny cottage for 2 glorious weeks.

We did not, however, use the second house for several of the other benefits we’d anticipated. We didn’t require the extra storage space. We only cooked in there one time. And we never really used the extra bathroom. Out of habit, we would even bypass the front door of the cottage EVERY SINGLE TIME we entered the property. We are simply so used to our long-standing routine of living in under 400 sqft feet that we almost didn’t know how to occupy more space.

So, during this monster of a tax season, we decided to let go of the front tiny cottage. It breaks my heart in a way, as Adam and I turned it into a space we loved. But more than anything, I’m relieved to now be free of that extra responsibility. I’m more focused, and I’m determined to save more for my family so that we can best prepare for our futures. 

 Sophee and West explore West's emptied room in the front cottage.

Sophee and West explore West's emptied room in the front cottage.

If I’m being honest, we would’ve preferred to hold on to both cottages, as it was relaxing to have the entire property to ourselves. With a toddler and two dogs, it really made our days feel safer and saner. But the economics were a tremendous burden for me. I felt guilty and defeated for several days before making the decision to consolidate. I didn't want to let my husband and son down, and I was angry at myself for not earning more income recently, despite working hard to do so. But life is oh so short-- I'm determined to spend my days enjoying my work and my family, and disengaging from situations that cause me unnecessary stress. Once I made my decision, Adam was so incredibly supportive of it, and of me. We've enjoyed each other's company all the more since then, because we can actually focus on each other and on West, rather than worrying about how we're going to afford life in LA.

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It’s been a few days since we’ve readjusted the houses, and I can say with complete sincerity that it feels so much better this way. Despite the consolidation, our house is even more organized and uncluttered than ever. We’ve gifted so many lightly-used baby items to our friends who are expecting, and we’ve pared our wardrobe, office supplies, kitchen goods, and bath items down to the absolute essentials. Rather than feeling limited, I feel liberated. We didn’t own much as it was, but adapting to our new situation has taken us a notch further into life with less. 

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Despite the financial impact of paying for both homes for half a year, I don’t regret our decision to temporarily rent the front house. Not only was it a fun interior project, but it helped us determine what we actually need right now at this stage of our lives— particularly when it comes to accommodating and nurturing West’s growth. 

West is now 18 months old, and is not in daycare. He’s here 7 days/week with my husband Adam. (I’m here too, but I work on the business full-time.) The main lesson we learned from our second tiny house experiment was how helpful it is to have a little playroom for West— but that (as of now,) we don’t need additional square-footage beyond that. 

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Luckily the 8’-wide deck provided us with the perfect solution. We’d already outfitted the porch with outdoor furnishings and accessories. So we added a sun cover from Wayfair that stretches from roof to roof, enabling West and Adam to use the space at any time of day during the sunny spring and summer months. We transferred all of West’s books from baskets onto a tiered cart on casters, which can roll around the property with him.  We tucked our son’s miniature, folding, outdoor worktable into a little teepee (from Fragments Identity) for an extra layer of shade and touch of privacy. And we consolidated his toys, and organized them into little bins that slide into the storage shelf to the right of our couch. Any items that can’t stay out on the deck at night can easily be toted back into the house, or be stashed in the storage benches on the porch. 

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Moving out of the front house, adjusting our back cottage, sorting all the giveaways, and setting up the porch took about 12 hours in total. (Easiest. Move. Ever.)

The front house is already back in great hands and being put to use. Most of the furnishings and accessories we got for the space are still there. Everything else is either with us in our cottage, or is already being enjoyed by friends and family in their homes nearby. 

I’ll share more about our updated routines and practices soon, as we’re still settling into them. But our 1/2-year experience across both tiny houses reassured us that we love the lifestyle we’re living and sharing, and made us confident that we’ll know without a doubt when it’s time for us to move on to our next adventure.

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Finding Space for Once-In-a-Lifetime Gifts

This blog post was sponsored by Macy's.

One issue that comes up time and time again in our compact space is how to make room for gifts. The topic is certainly not unique to the “tiny house” trend. It’s ubiquitous, applying to any couple who lives together—especially those of us in big cities. When Adam and I got married, we knew we’d have to approach our wedding registry carefully to best balance the realities of little living with everyone’s desire to give us presents as tokens of support.

Luckily there are so many ways to welcome the benefits of a once-in-a-lifetime gifting opportunity without cluttering up your small home or apartment. For example, must-haves such as nesting kitchenwares, double-duty luggage, and cleaning gear with interchangeable parts are fantastic registry finds:

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I’m so excited to be partnering with Macy’s to demonstrate ways in which couples can make their wedding registry gifts work smartly and beautifully with their limited floorplans. Wedding guests are genuinely happy to give newlyweds registry items as a gesture of support and celebration, and a mindfully curated wishlist will make the process more enjoyable and practical for everyone involved. 

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SOME OF MY TOP PICKS:

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Calphalon Premier 10-Pc. Space-Saving Cookware Set - I’m not much of a cook, but Adam is. He has never had an issue preparing meals in our small kitchen, thanks to cleverly designed cookware. This non-stick Calphalon stacking set heats food evenly, and creates the perfect foundation for preparing an unlimited menu within limited square-footage.

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Shark Cord-Free Ultra-Light Vacuum - For years, I insisted on using a hand-held vacuum, believing that no full-sized device could possibly fit in our cottage. But this cordless, convertible design can easily come apart into small components, and fits perfectly into a carry-on suitcase when not in use. It’s versatile and adaptable, while still being practical for a small space—both when in use, and when stored.

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Joseph Joseph Nest Plus 9-Pc. Set - This is one of the best nesting sets I’ve ever seen. Joseph Joseph has small space design down pat. This is an ideal registry item—it’s something you’ll keep forever, and your guest will feel good about providing you with so many kitchen essentials (such as measuring spoons, a mesh sieve, mixing bowls, and a colander/strainer), all wrapped up in one sleek design.

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Delsey Helium Shadow 4.0 Hardside Spinner Luggage - Everyone struggles to find storage space in their tiny homes and apartments—try repurposing something you already have to help solve this issue! Suitcases make wonderful containers (and even accent surfaces) when not in use. This sturdy yet flexible luggage set (which zips like a soft-side and can expand for no-hassle packing,) will make your travel easier when on your honeymoon, and can help you stay organized when at home.

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Rowenta Hand-Held Garment Steamer - Stop spending a fortune at the dry cleaner to steam and press your clothes. Everyone can find a spot for this compact steamer, which is basically the size of a shoe box!

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Hotel Collection 680 Thread Count Bedding Collection - Keep your spare or guest bedding tightly tucked away by folding your sheets into a pillowcase. It’s an easy way to keep essentials in order. And you can’t go wrong with a quality set of white sheets, which will support any style of decor.

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Explore my round-up of Macy's registry gifts that are perfect for small spaces here!

Then & Now: 7 Years in the Cottage!

I can’t believe it, but this month marks our 7th year anniversary of living here in our little cottage. Given all that has changed since then, it seems like we’ve been here a lifetime. And yet it also somehow feels like just the other day that Adam and I biked over and saw the house for the first time. I still laugh when I think of that morning-- we almost considered ditching our appointment to view the space because I was worn out from visiting so many properties. (Also, Adam had a massive chip missing from his front tooth and looked completely ridiculous.)

Since then, we've started a small business, adopted a second dog, gotten married, and had a child... plus so, so much more in between those mile-markers. All while (happily) living tiny. 

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I took a deep-dive into my photos from the past 7 years, and pulled some then-and-now shots, juxtaposed below. After looking back through thousands of images of our home, I can see so clearly how a thoughtful, efficient living space-- regardless of square footage-- can take so much time to create. (Years, in our case.) It was a joyful process to slowly outfit our home and garden to suit our evolving needs and tastes. 

Thank you all so much for joining us on our small space living adventure over these many years!

 Left: Our first home tour for Apartment Therapy years ago, when we were a family of 3. Photo by Monica Wang. Right: Out first portrait as a family of 5. Photo by Marisa Vitale.

Left: Our first home tour for Apartment Therapy years ago, when we were a family of 3. Photo by Monica Wang. Right: Out first portrait as a family of 5. Photo by Marisa Vitale.

 Left: Adam on the porch years ago, before his (wonderful) grays. Last year we celebrated his 40th here at the Cottage. Right: Adam introducing our son West to his first dandelion.

Left: Adam on the porch years ago, before his (wonderful) grays. Last year we celebrated his 40th here at the Cottage. Right: Adam introducing our son West to his first dandelion.

 Left: I took this photo of StanLee on his perch above the dishwasher (where he used to sit for hours while watching for squirrels) shortly after we moved in. At 11+ years old, he can STILL jump up there. Right: The same spot over the dishwasher, after our mini-makeover of the kitchen in 2017.

Left: I took this photo of StanLee on his perch above the dishwasher (where he used to sit for hours while watching for squirrels) shortly after we moved in. At 11+ years old, he can STILL jump up there. Right: The same spot over the dishwasher, after our mini-makeover of the kitchen in 2017.

 Left: The front stoop in May 2011, weeks after we moved into the Cottage. Right: The stoop in May 2016, during our wedding.

Left: The front stoop in May 2011, weeks after we moved into the Cottage. Right: The stoop in May 2016, during our wedding.

 Left: StanLee in the garden a few months after we moved in. Right: My babies in the same garden, 7 years later.

Left: StanLee in the garden a few months after we moved in. Right: My babies in the same garden, 7 years later.

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 Left: The day we brought West home from the hospital. Right: The pups and West in the same spot at Christmas.

Left: The day we brought West home from the hospital. Right: The pups and West in the same spot at Christmas.

 April 2018. Photo by Marisa Vitale.

April 2018. Photo by Marisa Vitale.

 Famiy portrait outtake, April 2018. Photo by Marisa Vitale.

Famiy portrait outtake, April 2018. Photo by Marisa Vitale.

Roundup: Managing Outgoing Items

In all the years I’ve lived in small spaces, there’s been one issue that’s tripped me up numerous times: outgoing items. Things such as gifts waiting to be given, goods that need to be returned, and donations awaiting drop-off can be surprisingly hard to accommodate in a tiny home/apartment without them standing out visually and spatially. 

I’d like to say that I’m a total minimalist and simply place all of these miscellaneous outgoing items in a tote and hang them from a hook by the door. But that's too pell-mell for my liking (and for my pseudo-OCD).

I recently found a few adaptable and portable storage pieces that work well for our outgoing items and with our home decor:

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To the Car
There are endless car organizers out there, but they all seem to be those basic vinyl designs that can admittedly be fun to outfit, but then just sit there looking hideous and gathering junk. Recently I've been needing something to help me keep West’s bottles and books sorted for car rides. It had to be just the right size and height for the necessities, while remaining stable when we drive. I also wanted it to blend well with the Cottage, functioning as a pretty organizational tool between drives. I finally found this handwoven water hyacinth this basket and it's perfect. (I even strap it down into the cargo bike when we go on family rides.) It has smaller compartments that are just the right size for kids' cups, snacks, my Nalgene, and more. The larger slot securely holds small toys and several books of varying sizes.

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To the Bike
My friend Emily gifted me this handwoven Guatemalan tote (made from recycled plastic)  by Palorosa Project, and it's the ideal size for a standard bike basket. It doesn't snag on the bike hardware, and it stays upright and contains everything safely on bumpy rides down our poorly-paved Venice roads. It's a gorgeous yet heavy-duty (and waterproof) shopping tote that I've already used dozens of times to haul greenery and groceries around town, and in/out of the Cottage. When it's in our tiny house, I hang it from a door knob and toss outgoing mail and returns in it as well.

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To the Donation Center
Collapsible paper bags are excellent temporary small space storage solutions. These oversized sacks are tall, narrow and durable. They work well for so many purposes, my favorite of which is containing the items that we gather from around the Cottage to drop off for donation every week. I've also used these bags in the past for dry cleaning, toys, and event supplies. They consume so little room when folded up that they're great to have on-hand for a bit of this-and-that around your small space.

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Market Friday

I can't believe March is already coming to a close. Today, our little West turns a year and a half old. (Time is a beast.)

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I took a heavy portion of this week off of work to spend some time with my family, and to discuss some fairly major decisions and life changes we have coming up later this year.The mounting pile of emails nagged at the back of my mind, but not enough to make me rush to the computer. I know that I will never regret taking these moments to be present with my husband, our son, and the pups.

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In the Cottage, we've been decluttering more than ever (which is saying something). I'll update the blog with news on WHY and HOW in the near future, but in the meantime, I can say that it feels soothing to lighten the load of our belongings yet again.

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Beyond market goods and work deliveries, almost nothing new is coming through our doors... with the exception of children's books, which we're still rapidly acquiring. Soon West will be capable of physically handling books with a bit more care, so we'll be able to visit our local libraries regularly. For now, I'm not bothered by the swell of titles. (His current favorite is Over and Under the Pond.)

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My goal for the weekend is to-- gasp-- read a book myself! (It's been WAY too long.) I've always loved working at a breakneck pace, but I'm suddenly feeling very over the rat race. I'm loving this new, slower pace more than I'd anticipated. Life is oh so short-- here's to enjoying every happy moment whenever we can. Happy weekend, friends!

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Tiny Adventures: My Kind of Spa Day

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 "Tiny Adventures" here on the Cottage blog to share these lil' moments.

I took the afternoon off to treat myself to my kind of "spa day," which entailed a visit to my other favorite tiny house in Venice: the Craftsman Mini-Me by @shophbleu:

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While I love the entire home (which is available to rent on Airbnb), I mainly visited for the outdoor shower. It's the most gorgeous little place to relax and breathe:

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Is it a rule that every parent of a young child HAS to look exhausted and have insanely dry skin at all times? I’ve been trying to work on both of these things, which is one of the reasons I stole some quiet time to catch my breath at the Mini-Me.

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I brought my favorite Almond Body Balm and Shower Oil by L'Occitane with me-- they both smell and feel incredible. Little luxuries can go a loooong way.

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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.)

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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."

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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. 

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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.)

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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.)

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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. 
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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.
 

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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
Actress

“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. 

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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.

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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!✌

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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.  

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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.

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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.)

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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.    

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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?!

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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.

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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.   

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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. 

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

Tour of the Two Tiny Cottages

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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.)

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