Our little kitchen is adorable, but has needed a makeover for YEARS. The countertops were thin slabs of black, white and grey speckled granite, the backsplash was unfinished, and the walls were patched with paint in mismatching levels of gloss. Seeing as how the Cottage is a major part of our lives and business, why on Earth would I wait so long?
Here's the thing about renovations in a tiny home: you can't just relocate to another part of the house while work is being done. In a small place, there's no where to go to escape the fumes and dust. Add a home-based business, kids, and pets to the mix and there never, ever seems to be a good time to tackle any larger-scale updates and repairs. So I just kept putting it off... and years passed, as they do.
But since West is eating solid foods, we're finding ourselves spending more and more time in the kitchen together... and I started getting actively annoyed by the countertops. I could never see if they were actually clean, and I felt like they were making the space feel darker, smaller and more cramped than it actually is. As I paid more attention to the counters, the conditions of the sink, faucet, and walls all started to stab at my eyeballs, too. I knew I couldn't put it off any longer. Our neighbor agreed to let us stay at his place for 2 days while he was out of town, so we pounced on the opporunity and started planning.
Rather than exploring other kitchens online for inspiration, I pulled materials, textures and colors that inspired me. Then I decided what parts of the kitchen needed immediate attention, as we were operating under a tight timeline, and within a strict budget. Adam and I agreed that the cabinetry and appliances could wait, and that we'd focus instead on the countertops, paint, repairs, backsplash/tiling, and sink.
I was craving bright countertops, but I also wanted something with slight texture. Nothing overly marble-y, nothing speckled, and nothing too heavy in appearance. While thick countertops are lovely and certainly on-trend, we wanted something in between-- not too thin, but not so chunky that they looked out of place in our tiny kitchen. And in order to help increase the light and visual space within the room, we wanted something slightly reflective. We found the PERFECT answer to all of these requirements via Cambria's Torquay countertops. I love the characteristics of Torquay-- it's like sand and marble made a baby together:
The planning / measuring, removal of the old counters, and the installation of the new tops were a breeze. Both visits combined took under 4 hours. I can't believe I waited 6+ years for this update. It's made a HUGE difference in our home, and we LOVE it.
Next up was the tile for the kitchen and breakfast bar counter backsplash. I knew I wanted Fireclay. I think their handmade tiles are just so gorgeous. I initially wanted to use their Picket shape, as it mirrors the fence supporting the grapevines outside. I'd also planned to go with Rosemary, which is a muted yet distinct shade of green.
At this point, I called my incredibly talented friend, former neighbor and tiny house expert Kim Lewis for her input. While I consult on tiny home decor every day, I find that it's handy to get an outside opinion when working on the Cottage, specifically. It helps me get out of my bubble and see things differently. And Kim is the best. She knows me. She knows tiny homes. And she knows design. Kim and I decided that the Picket shape was wonderful, but just too large for this project. But neither one of us wanted a particularly modern shape, and we wanted to steer clear of subway tiling. We opted instead for a 1/6 cut. It's tiny, like our home, and rectangular like all of the built-ins and shapes throughout the house. We also updated our color selection, picking French Linen, which is a light shade of pale grey with a beige undertone. It's a perfect balance between cool and warm notes, and has a semi-reflective sheen to bounce light around our small space:
We used to hang smaller kitchen tools and accessories from the backsplash walls, since there was nothing there before. Now, with the tile in place, we moved the accessories to magnetic hooks on the refrigerator, which work just as well, and make the space look more organized and simplified.
With the new backsplash tile and countertops, it seemed silly to leave our cheap old sink and faucet in place. We upgraded to a white undermount Kohler from Wayfair, measuring about 17x18". (We installed it sideways to provide us with wider access, and more counter space for the faucet and soaps. We installed a small Purist pull-out spout faucet in vibrant polished nickel, also from Wayfair. It measures under a foot tall, so it fits well in our compact kitchen.
The final step was to repaint the kitchen, and repair various damage to the walls that built up over the years. We figured that it was time to repaint the entire interior of the cottage-- including the ceilings. We moved most of our items to the laundry shed and garden for 2 days and nights while the painting was underway. (Luckily the LA weather had our backs, and nothing was damaged in the process.)
We adjusted our wall color ever-so-slightly, and picked a slightly warmer, earthier hue than the previous yellow-tinted version. We used "Muscat Blanc" Everest paint by Dunn Edwards. We selected the Velvet finish, which is easier to clean than Flat-- an essential, given the baby and the pups. We used Flat White on the ceilings, and Semi-Gloss White for the moldings.
We are so happy with our tiny kitchen's new appearance. I'm looking forward to sitting here with my little family for years to come.
A couple years after moving into the Cottage, Adam and I realized that we didn't have to confine our downsizing efforts to just our home. At the time, we had two cars-- a compact 4-door, and an SUV. We decided to donate the SUV to our local NPR station, KCRW. The goal was to rely more on our bikes, and on public transportation. Years have passed, and we've never regretted this decision.
Shortly after West was born, we started looking for cargo tricycles. There are so many wonderful designs out there, but we fell in love with one in particular-- the Virtue Schoolbus+ from Virtue Cycles in San Diego. Not only does it have enough space for #StubsandSoph, but it also has seat belts for up to four children, and can fit West's car seat. (And coincidentally, it even matches our house.) We call it our "company car," and even added a "Tiny Canal Cottage" decal to one side of the cart.
We ride it all over the west side of Los Angeles. (We've even passed a few others at the farmers market and by the beach!) For those who are interested, here is my honest, bullet-point experience with this bike:
- It is a wonderful size if you're regularly hauling children, pets, shopping, and/or plants.
- It's beautiful, from it's leather accents, to its muted green hardware, to the wooden cargo hold.
- The ride is smooth, sturdy, and steady.
- The electric assist (an option) is EXTREMELY helpful when starting the bike, and when going up inclines.
- The steering takes some getting used to, but after an hour or so of test-drives, Adam and I both got it down.
- You can't stand up on the pedals while turning, nor should you take sharp turns at a high speed, as the cargo hold can actually tip.
- It's initially intimidating to maneuver the bike around tight, winding and/or urban spaces. Again, give it an hour or two of practice, and it's easy to master with confidence.
- I regularly switch between my standard bike and this cargo tricycle. It's an easy transition between the two-- I never feel as though I have to relearn one or the other.
We enjoy this bike daily-- especially now that Adam works full-time at the Cottage, too. We're absolutely in love with how it has improved our lifestyle. It keeps us moving, outdoors and healthy, allows us to leave our shared car at home, and encourages us to experience new adventures with our little family here in Venice and throughout West LA.
(Browse all of our bike photos via the #wlmbike series on Instagram.)
We're delighted to be part of Domino's round-up of small space living accounts to follow on Instagram. There are so many inspirational and beautiful feeds featured-- thanks for including us among them, Domino!
This post was sponsored by Baileys.
From the first moment we discussed the possibility of having children together, I knew my husband Adam would be a wonderful father. He has a calm and carefree way about him that encourages everyone around him to be at ease. His presence reminds me to relax and breathe— it’s a rare and valuable trait that’s so helpful in the context of becoming a parent, and raising a child in a busy world.
For Adam’s first Father’s Day as a dad, we agreed to celebrate simply. No presents— we have everything we need already, and tiny homes function better with fewer items anyway. Instead, we’ve opted for a quiet night in Venice.
We have lavender in our garden here at home, plus there were buckets of it at our local Farmer’s Market as well, so we decided to use it in a celebratory Baileys cocktail shake.
We rode around town on our bikes gathering up the other groceries we needed. (West has grown up enough now that we can secure his car seat into the cargo bike, which has been amazing.)
Adam came up with a quick and easy concoction that we threw into the Vitamix after dinner:
• 2oz Baileys
• 2oz Bulleit Whiskey
• 2 Cups Ice
• 1 Cup Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
• Topped with Lavender Sprigs
Earlier this weekend, Adam installed a little shelf on our Dutch Door, which is the handiest little add-on for our tiny kitchen. We put it to good use while making our drinks, and while enjoying the porch after West fell asleep for the night.
The ingredients smelled so good that we couldn’t get Sophee to leave them alone while we were preparing the shakes. (In the end, she only knocked over one glass. Given her track record, it could’ve been worse. )
This was a laid-back and delightful way to observe a special occasion together. We wondered: why scream over each other at a restaurant, or go out and contend with LA traffic while a babysitter watches our son? For us, being in our little home with our little family is the perfect way to connect, celebrate and surround ourselves with love.
When we first created baby West's nursery bay (full post here), one of the things I struggled with the most was lighting. We definitely needed a light source, but it had to be very specific for the space. Most nursery table lamps would take up too much surface space on the tiny chest of drawers, and most overhead lighting was either too bulky or would've glowed too hot in the little closet nook. I eventually found a combination of accent lighting we loved, and that can be easily moved and adjusted for safety as West grows.
The design I use most frequently is a strand of warm-hued battery-operated twinkle lights, dropped into a rattan backpack. It hangs on the wall or from a curtain rod like a lamp, and can be toted around the cottage like a glittering flashlight.
Here are some of my favorite items and/or makers, in case you too are struggling to find soothing, practical lighting for your small space.
As always, please keep safety in mind when decorating your home. Take particular care to avoid choking, strangulation, shock, and fire hazards when it comes to nursery lighting.
The following post was sponsored by Bissell.
I receive numerous questions on Instagram about how we manage the dirt and hair left behind by our pups, Stanlee and Sophee. How do we deal with it all in our white home? How do we keep the place so clean? Has our patience for it changed since having baby West?
My first answer is always that there is dog hair and dirt everywhere. (While Sophee sheds very little, Stanlee sheds so much that it's a wonder he has a coat left at all.) Then my follow-up reply is that we simply have to vacuum daily, keep removable cushion covers on the couch, and wash our bed quilt constantly. While we'd figured out how to clean up the daily dirt, we'd yet to prevent it from occurring so intensely in the first place.
Frankly, we should bathe Stanlee and Sophee far more often than we do-- especially since we regularly take them to the beach and the dog park. But the last time we had the pups groomed here in LA it cost us around $120, and mildly traumatized them. Now that Adam and I are trying to save more of our income for West (and for some exciting plans here at the Cottage in the near future), we are searching for any way to cut back on spending. And since we're now both here at the Cottage all day long, it seems ridiculous to hire someone else to tackle a job that we could accomplish ourselves. While searching for a solution, BISSELL reached out to us with a product they suggested we try-- their BarkBath:
Overview: This is a self-contained, mess-free system, so you can use it inside if you don't have an outdoor space. Compared to bathing the pups in our stand-up shower (which always results in scratches all over my body and a killer backache) or washing them with the garden hose, this is extremely easy and FAR less messy. And it effectively reduces the dirt regularly entering our home in the first place.
Usage: At first, Sophee was skeptical of the nozzle attached to the bath. So I put a treat on the head and presented it to her, and she quickly got over her fear. Stanlee, on the other hand, didn't mind the nozzle, but he jumped at the hum of the machine itself. Luckily there's a long hose attached to the bath, and once I put some distance between him and the device, he was fine with it all and loved the feeling of the nozzle on his coat. The bath and the de-shedding brush worked perfectly, and they cost nearly same price as one trip for two dogs to the groomer. Over time, this will save us money, along with the hassle of transporting the pups, and time spent cleaning more dirt from the cottage.
Storage: As always, we are cautious about bring any product we don't absolutely need into our tiny Cottage. But this bath fits easily alongside our suitcases and slippers under our bed. Given the hassle and money this will save us in the future, we're so glad we tried it, and that we now have it at the ready.
This post is sponsored by Progressive Home Insurance
This Spring marks the 6th anniversary of Adam, Stanlee and I living at the Cottage. When I look back at what our lives were like shortly before we moved in compared to what they are now, it’s astounding how much we’ve grown together (in just 362 square-feet!). Other than the years I spent in my childhood home, I’ve never lived in one house nearly this long.
My parents’ house— where I spent the majority of my childhood— sits on the fringes of a gorgeous wildlife sanctuary in North-Central Florida. My mom and dad directed so much of their energy towards cultivating safe and unique experiences for my sister and me on the land. While they never wasted much time on the “stuff” inside our home, the house itself innately held tremendous importance, as it was the encapsulation of our lives with one another. I remember marveling at how my parents, who worked tirelessly every day of their professional careers, would happily choose to spend their precious weekends tending to the house and land (as opposed to resting on the couch or going out with their friends). My dad spent Saturdays mowing the yard on the tractor he shared with our neighbors, while my mom hauled plants and soil around the garden with the dogs trotting along faithfully behind at her heels. Year after year, my friends and I watched them passing back and forth as we played in the pool.
Decades have since passed. It wasn’t until we moved into the Cottage that my I felt my priorities beginning to shift into an oddly familiar direction…
In the 6 years we’ve been here, my husband and I have transitioned hugely in our careers, adopted a second dog, and welcomed our first child into the world. And we now find ourselves happily choosing to spend our precious weekends tending to the Cottage and its garden.
So. It’s happening. I’m officially turning into my parents. “Parentamorphosis.” (Is that a word? It is now.)
It’s a somewhat awkward time in life, when you jump with both feet into domestic life after existing like a post-graduate nomad, and then suddenly divert your time and energy towards making your living space into a true home.
Adam and I once spent our Friday and Saturday nights biking around Venice, stopping into bars and wasting time by the beach. Now, we find ourselves keeping busy around the garden, and sitting in our little dining room / living room / office / playroom reading to baby West and picking out tiles for our upcoming kitchen makeover.
Obviously we’ve always cared about the state of our house, but since West arrived, it’s like a switch was flipped. I feel the value of making our home a clean, comfortable and safe haven for our family. Adam and I have traded regular bar-hopping for crafting the occasional lavendar cocktail at home, clipping garnishing herbs from our tiny garden, and playing with West and the pups throughout our indoor/outdoor set-up.
While the landscape is different, life sure looks a lot like it did when I was a kid. We travel, we work hard, we have diverse adventures, and we still go out of our way to enjoy and be active within our community. But the breathtaking magic almost always happens right here at home. As such, I’m finding myself more invested than ever in making our tiny cottage a unifying and joyful place for our little family.
Whether you’re experiencing a similar “Parentamorphosis” or simply seeking information on how to buy a new house or how to turn that new house into a home, Life Lanes (by Progressive) provides helpful input and resources for this (nervy / exciting / magical) moment in life.
I acknowledge that I am partnering with Progressive in sponsorship for this post. All expressed opinions, photos and experiences on this post are my own, and are written in my own words.
This post is sponsored by The White Company
Spring is my favorite season here at the Cottage. The garden grows rapidly, looking lush and bright, and we can fully benefit from our tiny indoor-outdoor setup. As it's our first spring here with baby West, we've been exploring new ways to modify the Cottage to suit our evolving needs. We've found that it's the little changes that have been the most practical. Tiny details have enabled us to enjoy our space more and more. I partnered up with The White Company to share some of my favorite updates for happy, easy small space living.
Now that West is nearly able to crawl, we were having a tough time relaxing in the garden with him, as the pavers that are scattered throughout most of the property were too dangerous for him to sit on. We tried a couple of children's play mats, but the materials were synthetic and too thin to protect the baby from hitting his head against the rough stone. Luckily I discovered the Aubrey Outdoor Mattress. Not only is the outside fabric composed entirely of linen and cotton, but the mat is thick and large enough for us all to lounge on comfortably and safely. Suddenly our entire yard became available to us again in our new lives with our son. Regardless of how long this lasts, it is bringing us immense happiness and satisfaction during the prime outdoor months. We've even started using the mat inside, protecting West from bumping into the hardwood floors during tummy time. The mattress rolls easily into a carrying case made of the same materials, and fits perfectly under my side of the bed.
Adam and I have also started purging and selecting belongings with childproofing in mind. For example, we're slowly swapping out our porcelain kitchenwares for wooden plates and bowls. We saw the benefits of this on day one, as West has already begun sweeping his hands across every surface possible, sending our things crashing to the ground. Since switching to mango dishes, we've been able to laugh and enjoy the moment, rather than scramble to clean up broken pieces before the dogs step on them. I pretty much love everything from their new outdoor collection, and from their organizational products. Patio accessories are usually more durable, which helps around pets and kids.
Another small nursery-related change we've made was giving up our changing table / bath combo. We loved it, and it was completely perfect for our son's first 7 months, but he was becoming too active to keep using it safely. We gave it to a family with a newborn, providing West with more room to scoot around in the house. This extra space in the bedroom means we have a bit more room for the functional decor we love so much. I've been able to replace our homemade swing shelf, and top it off with a various relaxing candles. All of our other candleholders now hold flameless light for safety, but it's been a simple pleasure to burn one remaining, beautifully-scented candle.
In the delightful rush of new parenting and running my businesses, I realized that Adam and I weren't making much time to take care of ourselves. Updating a few little things-- such as our bathrobes and towels-- made a surprisingly notable and positive difference in how we feel while going about our everyday routine.
I've also been trying to be more mindful of the fabrics I wear daily. I've learned that materials such as raffia and linen make me feel better, and that natural fibers don't irritate West's skin when he's pressed up against me.
We've always been fans of paying attention to the tiny details and moments, but now that we're a family of 5 every detail and every moment seem to hold more weight than ever. Here's to celebrating the everyday with the ones you love, in the places that bring you joy.
The White Company is opening their first store in the U.S. on June 15th in NYC-- check out some more info on The White Company store opening.
I acknowledge that I am partnering with The White Company in sponsorship for this post. All expressed opinions, photos and experiences on this post are my own, and are written in my own words.
Last weekend, we took a mini trip to Maui for a Create & Cultivate pop-up. At the conference, I spoke on a panel called, "Climbing Higher: The New Multi-Hustle Business Woman." I’ve participated in Create & Cultivate events in the past, but this was a particularly refreshing opportunity-- and not just because of the location. I feel like I've evolved immensely (both personally and professionally) this past year, and it was s true joy to discuss that growth and to learn from the other speakers and attendees.
We spoke and stayed at the Wailea Beach Resort, which was recently renovated. It was an incredible indoor/outdoor hotel. Even the lobby was located outdoors. Swoon.
Adam and baby West made the trip with me. We ended up staying an extra night, because poor West came down with an ear infection and a head-to-toe rash. The hotel staff and the nearby urgent care facility were extremely helpful and supportive, and by the last day of our visit, my son was back to his cheerful self.
Thank you Create & Cultivate for this wonderful opportunity. And thank you, Maui-- we cannot wait to return.
Gallery photos: Baby West at sunrise / Sunset at the hotel / Monday's workspace by the infinity pool / West on the beach / Create & Cultivate panel speakers / Poolside view / West and Adam in the hotel room / New travel gear essential for trip: "Sitting Pretty" case from This is Ground
This post is sponsored by Pottery Barn.
The uncharacteristically intense winter rains have finally died down here in LA, and I'm spending increasing amounts of time outside with the baby-- particularly in the afternoons and evenings. At 6 months old, West is now eating solid foods, so he's joining Adam and me at the table for meals. As such, I needed to upgrade our tiny two-seater garden bistro set to something that could accommodate all three of us. Much like our indoor space, our outdoor space is also small, so I needed to select something compact and collapsible. I teamed up with Pottery Barn to find the best possible solution for our little garden, which ended up being their wonderful and eco-friendly Indio Folding Bistro Table and corresponding Folding Side Chairs:
The Indio series is far more comfortable and roomy than any compact patio set I've ever owned. I've only had the pieces out for about a week, but I've already logged several office hours and meals out here, and I love it.
I'd always felt as though the wall on the right (behind the table) was too empty, but I wanted to find something specific to install there-- a piece that was practical, space-saving and beautiful. Components of the Gabrielle Garden Shed set satisfied those criteria, and ended up being absolutely perfect for the space:
The part that I've enjoyed and used the most is the Hanging Basket Tray. It is the ideal size for a wall like this one, and it functions as a potting surface, a way to display plants, and a storage container all in one handy little design. The pocket organizers, which I positioned just above the tray, are great for holding garden markers, gloves, tools, wire, and more:
I'm so thrilled with how everything turned out. This space was nearly unused before, and now it's the coziest and most comfortable open-air office space and dining area for our little family.
In a recent blog post, I provided tips on how to curb your daily paper clutter by regularly using a mini-scanner and organizing your files digitally. However, I didn't address one key issue: the leftovers. When living in a tiny space, what do you do with the paper files you cannot scan and HAVE TO keep? How do you maintain an uncluttered, beautiful, and yet practical home-office? The solution is simple-- repurposed picnic baskets:
There are so many ways to get clever with necessary storage containers. In this case, think beyond the file box. In a small multi-use space where everything is visible, nothing will stab at your eyeballs like a plastic or metal file box that is not only ugly, but also a constant reminder of work. I chose picnic baskets because they're almost always large enough to house A4 paper and US-size folders, and because they're usually a similar color, so they're great to mix and match:
Both of these are vintage. I found the larger basket at The Mart Collective in Venice, and the other at Tower 20 in Santa Monica. Two of my favorite online shopping resources for vintage cases like this are ETSY and Maven Collective.
I love that I can leave these file boxes open and in use for the entire workday without making the house feel like a traditional office. You'll be amazed at what a difference little details like this can make in your little home.
Storing your baskets on the floor? Make sure to select pieces that are stackable. Stowing yours up high in a closet? Pick a format that's slender enough to slide out easily when you need it. There's a never-ending and diverse array of designs out there-- enjoy finding what works for YOUR small space!
Our lil' garden is on the homepage of Architectural Digest today:
"You don’t need an inexhaustible amount of acreage to achieve the home garden you’ve always dreamed of. Limited as their square footage may be, compact outdoor areas can be every bit as aesthetically pleasing as their sprawling counterparts. They also benefit from a creative use of space. After all, they can sprout up anywhere—on a stoop, in a narrow passage between buildings, in a seemingly nonexistent backyard—and often employ an unexpected use of materials and plantings. The trick is to impart lushness with an abundance of flowering blooms and a thicket of greenery. Here, we round up eight small gardens, from a minimalist rooftop gathering spot to a verdant alley, to admire—or inspire—your next outdoor project. They certainly prove that what petite plots lack in size they can more than make up for in style." - JENNIFER FERNANDEZ
Here's my tiny office early on this Monday morning. (I removed my 10,000 other mugs and glasses that were on the desk, but otherwise this is basically what it looks like most of the time.)
Everyone asks how I manage to keep the space so clean. The single handiest tool for curbing the paper clutter is this little device:
Compact-Space Color Mobile Scanner
This little gizmo is one of the best purchases I've ever made. I scan all of our financial records, medical documents, pet paperwork, cards and notes. It saves me from accumulating piles of paper around the cottage, and helps my business run more efficiently. It measures 11.5" x 2" x 1.5" inches-- basically the size of a thick ruler.
It lives on the back of my iMac via a "backpack" that I really love.
More small-space office tips can be found here on one of my older blog posts. I hope it helps!
We have a new lil' addition in the bedroom-- this simple, slim, wall-mounted bookshelf from Anthropologie:
I'm such a fan of functional decor. I love how this mini-library shelf enables us to display our publications as art, without making the wall feel too cluttered. It brings me so much happiness to see baby West's book collection growing and spreading throughout the Cottage!
You guys. Even though our home is under 400 sqft, I rolled West's mini-crib into my office (aka our living room) this morning because I couldn't stand to be apart from him.
Oh dear. I've got it bad. 💕
For West's first slumber party outside of the Cottage, we decided to take him to visit Casa Joshua Tree. This wonderful, peaceful home in the desert was also the first place I visited after discovering I was pregnant, so it felt fitting to return with our newest family member as soon as we felt comfortable travelling!
Note regarding this post's photography: I took most of these shots on my iPhone for Instagram Stories, so they're formatted accordingly.
I love the beautiful simplicity of Casa Joshua Tree. While there's no clutter here, every corner is an Instagram dream. It's a clean, open and inspiring space that sparks creativity in comfort.