Recently I had the absolute pleasure of being interviewed on the Style Matters Podcast by Little Yellow Couch. We discussed several personal topics, and dissected the principles and joys behind our Small Space lifestyle here at the Cottage. I hope you enjoy it!
"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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
We absolutely love our new, living porch barrier. Thank you, Rolling Greens!
Despite the fact that I live in a small house, I'm just as fascinated by them as anyone else, so I wanted to share some of the lil' living spaces that inspire me. One of them measures under 200 sqft, while another teeters just around 1000 sqft. Some of these homes interest me with their simplicity, others stun me with their artful layers. All of them balance form and function beautifully.
I visit County Road Living’s Instagram wall and Stories daily to view an Indiana-based stylist's endless gorgeous moments from her minimalist farmhouse in the country. The passing seasons and glowing natural light provide a lovely backdrop to Angie’s visual inspiration for a more purposeful way of living.
Jungle By The Falls
Hilton Carter's lush and moody Baltimore apartment is all over the internet lately, and for excellent reasons. This expertly-styled space, which Hilton enjoys with his girlfriend Fiona and their pup, has pioneered a new class of design that includes textured walls, pops of warm lighting, dozens upon dozens of thriving plants, comfy reading nooks, and creatively-mounted living wall decor.
I feel cheered by the color, layers, and handmade touches in Chelsae Sahlman's 640 sqft apartment. I rarely "pin" inspiration for my own projects, but a photo of the reading corner within Chelsae's bedroom was one of the few images I kept returning to when seeking creative sparks for our front tiny cottage makeover.
Luckily, one of my favorite tiny houses of all time is located just down the street from our own cottage! Susan's Craftsman Mini-Me is an old carriage-house style space, located in her own back yard here in Venice. This incredible indoor-outdoor dwelling is also available to rent on Airbnb, so you can experience it for yourself! See my entire blog post about it, here. (Fun side note: Adam and I were actually staycationing at the Mini-Me when we discovered that we were pregnant with a boy! I can't believe that he's now already 16 months old...)
One of the goals of small space living is to shift emphasis away from belongings, and redirect time and energy towards experiences instead. One of the ways we practice this philosophy and further simplify our lives at the Cottage is by finding alternatives to traditional wall art.
I feel the need to preface this by sharing that I'm a fervent lover of the Arts. My mother has been a champion of arts education, and she made sure that her own children were immersed in the arts. I've worked professionally and enthusiastically with galleries, museums, and libraries for over a decade. I am an avid believer that art experiences and appreciation are vitally important for people of every age and background.
But now, with finite walls and very limited storage options in general, we have to get creative in devising places to store our essentials for daily life. As such, I no longer regard our walls as being reserved strictly for 2-d art. Luckily, hanging a basket, guitar, plate, or scarf can be beautiful, AND save storage space. Plus you can change up your look with ease by swapping out pieces, while allotting spots here and there for more traditional works of art that speak to you.
So grab a scarf off your wall and step out! Let’s go to galleries, become museum members, support street artists, and visit art fairs with the folks we love. And when you're back home, take a quick moment to consider these easy, inexpensive, and practical ways to liven up lil' walls:
USE THEM FOR STORAGE
Create functional, decorative walls by artfully hanging select everyday items. This will free up valuable space in your drawers and cabinets.
OPEN THEM UP WITH MIRRORS
No new news here-- we all know that mirrors can help make a small space feel larger. Reflect light and open up a room by using an oversized mirror, or give your walls more depth by using multiple smaller sizes.
BRING THEM TO LIFE WITH PLANTS
Plants will immediately make a home feel more inviting, while adding color and pattern, and even improving the air quality. I place most of our plants on invisible floating bookshelves. It's a quick and easy way to create a dynamic and easily updatable look at a very low cost. I don't even buy pots for the plants, and opt instead to continue using the containers in which the plants came. This makes everything even more affordable, while also ensuring that there's nothing to shatter if the plants tumble down during an earthquake.
GIVE THEM TEXTURE WITH CLIPPINGS
If you don't have the patience for plants but you still want the look, try dried items or clipped greenery. There are a myriad of ways to display lightweight bundles or branches from your walls.
TURN THEM INTO A LIBRARY
Put your books on double-duty by storing them in a decorative way.
COVER THEM WITH TEXTILES
You can decorate your walls with textiles without feeling like you're tossing up a tapestry from college. Repurpose beautiful rugs, blankets and scarves by bringing them up onto your walls.
Let’s stop and chat about interior design on Social Media for a second. After scrolling through thousands upon thousands of decor-related photos over the years, I have to take a step back and remind myself that lots of us— MOST of us— don’t have the disposable income for the major overhaul projects and dream properties like the ones we see online. (And, in addition to budget constraints, what about the renters out there who want to make interior updates, but aren’t permitted to do so? What types of creative solutions are available?) It’s easy to get sucked into feeling like life will be better when we have a new home, more money, and free rein to craft our ideal house. This is where I always pump the breaks.
I don’t want to live my life waiting for the next phase. I want to be satisfied and content in the now. And, personally, I don’t want to spend my time agonizing over items and details that pull my focus away from the things that matter most in my life— family, friends, and community.
Having said that, I obviously care about how my home looks and functions. I’ve made a career of it. But my aim is for everything to be accessible, and to create beauty, function and joy in simple ways.
When the opportunity arose to rent the front cottage on our property late last year, we jumped on it. We knew it would be the perfect place for my parents to stay when they visit LA, as well as a convenient spot for the events and creative crews that regularly set up shop here. (After all, this tiny house is a twin to our own, and sits just 8’ away from ours.) But the house needed some love— certain elements were rotting away, and others were simply, well, not our style But as renters on a very tight budget, we had to pick-and-choose what to tackle, and what to accept. We took our time, weighing out everything we wanted to do, versus everything we felt like we needed to do. Here’s how it turned out.
Special thanks to: Wayfair for the perfectly diverse array of furnishings and accessories, Cambria (with Giallo Stone) for the gorgeous new countertops, and Tumbleweed & Dandelion for the ingenious, custom, convertible bench/bed, and for the beautiful, open, reclaimed kitchen shelves.
WHAT WE DID:
Just like the main room of The Tiny Canal Cottage, this room is TINY. We knew that we needed the ability to fit a queen-sized bed in here, but the solution wasn’t going to be a quick fix. Inflatable beds are fine, but I wanted to offer my parents something a bit sturdier and more suitable to their needs. A typical pull-out or fold-down sleeper couch wasn’t an option either. Besides getting lumpy and warped, they also tend to take up a lot of room on the back side, and we couldn’t spare those precious inches. Plus I did’t want to block the living room windows, yet I knew the couch would be best situated in front of them.
Our solution was a custom accordion fold-out bench by Tumbleweed & Dandelion here in Venice, CA. The bench is a perfect height for our (very) tall family when in couch-mode, and the cushions are comfortable without being too bulky to stash when the bench is extended. To adapt the piece into a queen bed, we simply fold it out and twist on its wooden legs (which we keep stashed in a a wine crate on the nearby built-in bookshelf, where the spare linens are also kept). We can use a traditional or inflatable mattress. The conversion process takes about 5 minutes. As long as we scoot the bed over by a few feet, the front door can still open completely.
I also scrapped traditional window treatments on the living room windows. When we have overnight guests, a simple tension rod is added to the top of each window, and I suspend the same curtain panels that we once used in West’s nursery nook when he was a newborn.
WHAT WE SKIPPED:
We would’ve loved to remove the front door, widen the doorframe, and create custom French doors (like the ones in our “main” cottage), but that was beyond our budget as renters.
Similarly, we would’ve liked to remove the custom plantation shutters on the door and neighboring windows. They look pretty, but they’re horribly impractical in a small space. However, the interiors of the window frames would've had to be sanded, refinished and repainted, and we chose to reallocate that amount of money into savings for our son.
WHAT WE DID:
There was a giant built-in desk in the living room. I found it to be depressing (it faced the wall, and was partially enclosed on the sides), and outdated— it included a keyboard pull-out tray, which prevented many types of office chairs from being able to slide under the desk. I decided that with all the other surfaces available on the property, we didn’t need another work surface. So I ripped out the desk and replaced it with two high-backed chairs, which instantly enlarged the room, and made it into the perfect spot for reading, chatting, and relaxing.
We also removed the standard interior door that divided the office from the bedroom, and replaced it with a space-saving bifold door from Wayfair. We painted it white and finished it with a custom knob, and it's one of the best changed we made to the house. The accordion design saves so much room when the door is left open, and the frosted, tempered glass provides ample privacy, while still permitting soft light to flow through.
WHAT WE SKIPPED:
I was also interested in removing the built-in bookshelves, as we didn’t need all that extra storage space. A big mirror in its place would’ve opened up the room, and reflected the bougainvillea, sunlight, and cafe lights from the windows on the opposite wall. But the bookshelves are in great condition, and proved to be useful when paired with book baskets and wine crates that hold the spare linens, so we kept them.
WHAT WE DID:
Our biggest investment was the kitchen… which is a bit ridiculous because (between both of our tiny houses,) we now have TWO kitchens in under 800 square feet. But we knew that these relatively small adjustments would completely transform the tiny house, which they did.
We removed the builder-grade wall cabinets, swapping them out for two open shelves, handmade from reclaimed wood. We also removed the 30” range hood, which hung over a 24” range and overpowered the space. We replaced the oven with one from Wayfair that actually fit the space allocated for it. In doing so, we eliminated the sliver of space where the narrow trash can stood, so we decided to build a pull-out can into the base cabinets.
The base cabinets and counter had an unnecessary 90-degree corner at the end, which partially-enclosed the kitchen, and made it feel cramped. Because of that corner, the sink wasn’t aligned with the windows above it. (The sink was horrible anyway— you could pop it out with a pencil.) We removed the 90-degree corner, and installed the pull-out trash and recycling in its place. We upgraded the sink to a larger Kohler, and added a pull-out Purist pull-out faucet. Then we repurposed and modified the old wall cabinet hardware and doors on the newly modified base cabinets. We topped everything off with a beautiful, milky matte slab of Weybourne from Cambria, which made the space feel polished and clean, without appearing too sterile.
We updated the lighting, and swapped out the butcher-block pub table and standard stools for a console table made from upcycled floor boards, which we found on Wayfair. We added two high-backed counter stools with an open-weave design, which keeps the space feeling airy and uncluttered. Lastly, we unified and defined the kitchen by adding a multi-color vintage runner rug from New England Loom
WHAT WE SKIPPED:
I would’ve very much liked to replace the base cabinets and the white subway tiles in the kitchen to give the room more personality. But both are in fine condition and function as needed, so we opted to save the money and headache and accept the kitchen without those upgrades. Despite the standard tiles and cabinets, we now love the room, which has so much more texture and depth than it did before.
WHAT WE DID:
We turned the bedroom of the front cottage into West’s play space. We mainly made repairs in here, focusing on keeping it clean and safe for our toddler. We repaired the windows that were in horrible condition, and we patched and painted the walls, which were cracked, chipped and full of holes (some tiny, some several inches wide) after years of neglect.
We did make one hugely helpful design change: the doors. In this small room, which measures about 8’ x 10’, there were FOUR DOORS. (Why?!) The porch and closet doors would crash into each other when opened, much like the bathroom and living room doors did on the opposite side. One door from each corner was going to have to go.
We found a wonderful wood and frosted, tempered glass bi-fold door on Wayfair for the doorway between the bedroom and living room. Then we removed the closet door entirely and commissioned a gorgeous hand-made curtain from Luna Zorro to suspend in the frame. We couldn’t have used sliding barn doors, as we didn’t have the available wall space for those. And pocket doors require construction and are thus far more expensive. The bi-fold door and curtain were simple, fast, and affordable solutions that instantly made a huge difference in the appearance and functionality of the entire house.
Our son still co-sleeps with us at night, but he now naps, reads, and snuggles with the pups in his amazing new convertible crib / toddler bed / daybed from Wayfair. (The items on the shelf above are anchored with earthquake putty.)
WHAT WE SKIPPED:
West has a tiny bathroom and (an empty) closet off his room that function perfectly well, but aren’t beautiful or interesting. As renters, we decided to skip construction, but freshen up the bath as best we could. A vintage rug, a linen shower curtain, hanging baskets, and cascading plants livened up the room without impacting our wallets.
Disclaimer: I received select products of my selection in exchange for inclusion in the front cottage makeover and subsequent coverage. All words and opinions are my own.
Our "new" front house, The West Cottage, is on Domino today! This lil' craftsman home stands just 8' west of #TheTinyCanalCottage. The two units are so small and closely situated that they share a porch, garden, and washer + dryer.
Thank you, Domino!
Before posting all of the sources and story behind the front tiny house renovation and makeover via a Home Tour (coming soon), I want to share some clear before and after photos of the space. We outfitted this second cottage to suit our evolving business and personal needs, and we hope it demonstrates to renters of small spaces (and folks working on a budget) how some relatively little changes can make a large impact.
On a side note, we hosted our first overnight guest (my life-long friend, Lindsay of Casa Joshua Tree) just days after completing the front house project, and she gave us the best housewarming gift ever-- a name for it! She suggested The West Cottage, because it's is situated on the West side of our "main" home, and it's primary use is oriented around our son, West. Simple and sweet. I love it.
So here it is-- "before-s" on the left, "after-s" on the right!
The bookshelf now stores books AND guest linens. Everything is contained in the overhead baskets or upcycled wine creates. Having West's books in the easy-to-carry jute baskets helps us stay organized. The new interior French door from Wayfair saves space and lets light pass through, while still providing privacy between the main room and the bedroom.
The view from the front door. The most eye-catching difference is the absence of the oversized range-hood, and the wall cabinets. We replaced the hood with a ceiling vent, and the swapped the cupboards for exposed shelving by Tumbleweed & Dandelion.
We removed the 90-degree counter turn in the kitchen, opening up the space dramatically. We added a pull-out trash drawer, a new sink and faucet from Wayfair, and new countertops from Cambria, installed by Giallo Stone. We recycled and adjusted the old wall cabinets doors for the updated base cabinets. An upcycled console table, counter stools, and vintage rug from New England Loom round off the kitchen.
We converted the only bedroom into a playroom for West. We replaced the overhead light fixture, refinished the walls and windows, and added elements such as a convertible crib/toddler bed from Wayfair, crib bedding from Parachute, a floor cushion from our neighbors at The Wolf Nest, a vintage reading chair, and a corner cabinet from Wayfair. Some fun touches include an oversized woven cactus, a sea turtle floor basket, and letters above his bed that are reminiscent of Venice's famous street sign. (All items above the bed are secured with earthquake putty.)
West's closet and porch doors used to crash open into one another, so we swapped the closet door out for a custom, handmade curtain from Luna Zorro. We added rattan mirrors on the little wall between the closet and the bathroom to reflect sunlight, and we set up a little diaper changing storage station via a low, windowed hutch from Wayfair.
We opted to save money and leave the bathroom as-is, other than updating the paint color from blue to Muscat Blanc by Dunn Edwards. We modified the accents within the tiny bath, adding a vintage rug from New England Loom, a linen shower curtain, a small accent table, and hanging baskets and plants.
Our lil' home is on Cosmopolitan today. It's such a joy to see these photos from last summer, when West was still so small. The feature explains how Adam and I stumbled into tiny house living, and explains how we converted the closet into the nursery, and a shed into our closet. (Oh, I miss that little baby's bay already...)
Note: Please consult professional sources and keep safety as the top priority when making sleep decisions with and for your child. I am neither advocating for or against bed-sharing via this blog post. I am simply sharing our personal experience in case it helps anyone else on their journey.
We receive lots of questions about how we manage the family’s sleep situation in our tiny home. Where does West sleep? What about the pups? How do we handle noise and keep from disturbing one another? What are our plans for the future? Would we recommend bed-sharing to other new parents living in small spaces?
Adam and I never had a sleep plan in place for our life with the baby. We decided to go with what felt natural for us, day by day. The short story is that we’ve co-slept for the past 16 months. The longer version involves many more layers, including a DockATot, mini-crib, and convertible toddler bed.
For the first year with West, we had a mini-crib. When our son was a newborn, he would take his naps there, or in his MamaRoo or the small DockATot. He would also begin his nights in the crib.
I worked full-time throughout my entire pregnancy and after our son was born, and I simply felt too tired to get in and out of bed for each feeding. As such, we would bring West into bed with us after his mid-night wakeups. At that point, he slept safely and snugly between Adam and me in the center of our bed in the DockATot.
West fit perfectly in the mini-crib until around 7 months, when he began to flail around a bit too much to sleep in there for more than a couple of hours at a time. We kept the mini-crib for for an additional 3 months for his naps. Sometimes we rolled the crib into other areas of the house and the garden, just to get him used to other views and environments.
Co-sleeping in the same bed has been made life easier when we travel. West will fall asleep anywhere when his natural bedtime rolls around.
Our Dogs + The Noise:
Sophee sleeps at our feet in the bed, and Stanlee like to curl up on the floor in the tiny space between my side of the bed and the wall. They have THE LOUDEST beagle barks, but they rarely wake up West. I think it’s because West has been listening to those barks since the moment he could hear in the womb. I even remember him physically reacting to being startled by the barks when he was still just a bump in my belly. By his earliest days in the Cottage, he was very used to the sound. West doesn’t even wake up when Adam and I watch movies on the laptop in bed next to him. And, due to the skylights and numerous curtainless windows in the cottage, the light has never phased him either. We lucked out.
West still sleeps with us in bed at night, but we no longer use the DockATot. We believe he's big enough now to sleep safely by our sides without it. He also uses his new convertible crib / toddler bed / daybed in the front cottage for naps, and at night when my parents or a sitter are with him.
The Bottom Line:
Personally, I love sharing our bed. Since I work for most of the day, the nights are a wonderful way for me to be close to my son. It can’t last forever, I know, but it’s still enjoyable for us right now. Yes, he kicks and pivots and smacks us in the eyeballs. Yes, we are tired. But what parent isn’t? And the magic of it all far outweighs the disruptions. We plan to wean ourselves slowly off of co-sleeping at some point this year, when it feels right for all of us.
I've yet to share the full house tour of the front tiny cottage-- we only just wrapped repairs and renovations on it earlier this week. But we're already welcoming our first overnight visitor this weekend, so I wanted to share how we adapt the space to accomodate guests!
Much like our Tiny Canal Cottage, this little house is under 400 square-feet and only has three rooms: the bedroom (with a narrow sliver of a closet), the bathroom, and the main room (which includes the kitchen). So the issue was this: how would we create a playroom for West in the bedroom, while ensuring that we also have a comfortable place for my parents to sleep when they visit for long stretches of time? We knew we'd need some sort of Queen-sized sleeper-sofa option, but every style we explored either had a cushion that folded (which would eventually get lumpy), or chunky backs and/or bases, which would've taken up more inches than we could spare (and obscured too much of the window). We could've opted for an extra-high air mattress, but having a bed in addition to a couch would've overcrowded the room to a degree that would've made it impossible to navigate. We decided instead to have something tailor-made for our situation.
I contacted my friend Lizzie from Tumbleweed & Dandelion here in Venice to discuss the design and creation of a custom couch. Lizzie dazzles me with her wit, talent, positivity, and endless energy. I explained to her what we wanted, and what we didn't want. As we brainstormed, she drew up the perfect plan-- an accordion-style bench that folds out easily into a Queen bed platform:
Lizzie and her team brought the design to life, and the results are perfect for our needs. Keep scrolling to view the bench-to-bed set-up process, which takes us about 5-10 minutes.
We keep the bed legs and guest linens within easy reach on the living room shelf, and in old wine crates.
The seat cushion can be stored beneath the bed once it's assembled, while the seat-back cushions function as a headboard.
The bed accordions out smoothly, and the extra legs twist on easily.
We had planned to use an air mattress on the platform for an ideal space-saving solution. But then Wayfair surprised us with this cozy new Nora mattress to try for the guest bed! Since West's narrow closet is almost completely empty, we slide the mattress upright in there for storage when it's not in use. Obviously most smalls pace dwellers don't have an empty closet available (ours is empty since this house is used mainly for my parents, West's playroom, and visiting camera crews), so for those folks seeking a compact solution and would prefer to try something other than an inflatable mattress, there are roll-up and folding designs out there. Or Tumbleweed & Dandelion can make a version with the folding cushion included!
The entire set-up worked out better than I'd hoped. The bed is a comfortable and sturdy sleeping surface for my parents or our other guests, and there's still plenty of space to navigate the room. We don't normally need curtains on these windows, but two white tension rods wait at the ready in the window frames, so I just attach the curtains from West's old nursery nook to give our visitors some privacy. Lastly, we slide everything over a couple feet so the front door can open fully. Voila!
We all know how much children enjoy tents and forts. But in a small home, a store-bought toddler tent can easily eat up an entire room (if it even fits at all), and a DIY fort can quickly eliminate the limited space required for your daily routine.
Tablecloth tents could be a handy solution for your little one(s) in your little home. Folding card-table sizes are available, and custom-sized options are easy to commission via resources such as ETSY. Throw one over your dining table or desk to encourage a child's creativity while also working within the realities of your square-footage. (And if you can't fit a tablecloth tent, not to worry-- use a doorway or hallway hanging playhouse instead!)
Update: Many of you loved West's beagle pants, so I thought I should share the details on those! They're handmade by an Etsy artist-- some of my favorites from her shop are below:
I receive a lot of questions about the plants we have at the cottage-- are they real? Are they toxic? How long do they take to grow? How much care do they require?
I am by no means a plant expert-- faaar from it. I look to Hilton Carter if I need help with my houseplants, and I am inspired by the creative ways that my friend Justina Blakeney of The Jungalow decorates with her plants. But I can certainly share what has worked for us here in our tiny home-office. While we have a wide variety of indoor and outdoor greenery, we routinely decorate with these three particular plants:
Algerian Ivy - I love this variegated vine, which drapes beautifully in hanging pots/baskets, and can also be used for ground cover. The mid-toned green and pale yellow help show off the texture and shape of the leaves, while the brown/red stalks contrast beautifully with the rest of the plant. Algerian Ivy can tolerate a decent amount of sun, but continues to thrive in times of lower light exposure. I usually display this ivy on shelves because it takes up a fair amount of space, allowing me to fill a room with warmth without cluttering it up with miscellaneous tchotchkes.
Silver Philodendron - Silver Philodendron is one of my favorite plants. In fact, it was one of the main visual inspirations for our home-wedding. This house plant grows rapidly, and has interestingly speckled grey-green leaves. In my experience, the vines will get sparse up top if the soil isn’t healthy and if the pot doesn’t drain well, so don’t forget to give these plants a bit of tending-to each week. My favorite spot to place these plants is on hidden/floating bookshelves on our living room walls. It is toxic to pets and people when ingested, so we simply keep ours high up out of the reach of all our little ones.
Vinca Vine - Vinca is one of my absolute favorites, because it grows incredibly long, and yet it barely sheds. This plant is simple and understated without being boring. It cascades and frames beautifully, adding depth and color wherever needed. My favorite place to hang them is near windows and outdoor corners, where the greenery livens up several feet of bare walls or moldings without consuming space. I’ve found that Vinca Vines require a touch of extra care in the winter, so I personally don’t leave them out in the cold. (Even here in SoCal they prefer to be indoors during the cooler months.) In the warmer season, they enjoy a few hours of sun, or regular dappled light-- nothing too harsh Cutting the vines back around Spring is a great way to spark new, healthy growth. (And don’t worry— they grow back in a blink.)