The West Cottage: Before & After

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!

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New custom bench/sofa/queen bed by Tumbleweed & Dandelion. Pendant and bench-turned-coffee table from Wayfair. 

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We removed the build-in desk and replaced it with two cozy reading chairs and an ottoman from Wayfair.

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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.

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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

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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.

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We removed the wall cabinets, slid the sink space over to be centered with the windows. We then replaced the sink and faucet with models from Wayfair, and adjusted and replaced the countertops with Cambria via Gaillo Stone

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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.)

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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.

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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.

Other posts about The West Cottage
• Solving the small space interior door issues
• The accordion bench/bed
 

The Cottage on Cosmopolitan

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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...) 

Click here to view the feature.

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Photos by the incredible Sami Drasin, courtesy of Cosmopolitan.

Co-Sleeping in the Cottage

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?

Left: WEST In the DockATot Deluxe in the Cottage bedroom. Right: West In THE mini-crib in our tiny house nursery nook.

Left: WEST In the DockATot Deluxe in the Cottage bedroom. Right: West In THE mini-crib in our tiny house nursery nook.

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.

Months 1-12

Our Baby:
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. 

Left: In the airplane bassinet, flying to France. Right: Up from a nap in a hotel in Maui.

Left: In the airplane bassinet, flying to France. Right: Up from a nap in a hotel in Maui.

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.

Left: The mini-crib temporarily on the stoop in warmer months as West falls asleep. Right: West and Adam bed-sharing in France.

Left: The mini-crib temporarily on the stoop in warmer months as West falls asleep. Right: West and Adam bed-sharing in France.

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. 

Left: West in the DockATot in Joshua Tree. Right: Vacationing in a Santa Barbara guest house.

Left: West in the DockATot in Joshua Tree. Right: Vacationing in a Santa Barbara guest house.

Months 12-16

Our Toddler:
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.  

Travel:
When we take quick trips by car we bring the large DockATot with us for the versatile options it provides. When we travel by plane, we simply plan on West sleeping in a regular bed with us. 

Left: In the DockATot Grand in the garden. Right: Slumber party in the front cottage guest bed.

Left: In the DockATot Grand in the garden. Right: Slumber party in the front cottage guest bed.

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.

The Accordion Bench/Bed

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.

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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:

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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. 

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We keep the bed legs and guest linens within easy reach on the living room shelf, and in old wine crates.

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The seat cushion can be stored beneath the bed once it's assembled, while the seat-back cushions function as a headboard.

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The bed accordions out smoothly, and the extra legs twist on easily.

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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!

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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!

Space-Saving Toy Tents for Kids

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.

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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!)

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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:

Cottage Plants

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?

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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:

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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. 

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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.

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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.)

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Tiny Toolboxes

When I left for college, I inherited several tools from my parents. I felt sentimental about the pieces that they generously gave me, and I used those hand-me-down supplies to assemble furniture and make minor repairs in nine of the ten places I’ve lived since leaving home at 18. The last major project in which I used the tools was West’s nursery nook. 

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Over the years, the tool collection evolved and grew. I added more and more little things to it— particularly when I was set styling over recent years. Eventually I found myself with a multi-level, wheeled cart that I dragged around our cottage with me, despite the fact that I usually only used a handful of items within it when at home.

As we began working on the front tiny cottage, I realized— I only need a small, specific grouping of tools and hardware. Everything else is always brought and handled by the professionals with whom we work. So why was I struggling to store a 3’-tall toolbox in our tiny house when I didn’t have to? True small space dwellers know— there is absolutely no room for something like that in a compact home. The poor thing was was a mess inside, and it was routinely left outside for days on end, crammed onto one stoop or the other, and shoved into the back of our 2’ shed. (It was so oversized that West would even climb into the bottom 1/3 of it so we could roll him around the house. It was adorable, but ridiculous.)

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I got to thinking about the individual items within my collection. The ones I used regularly could be condensed into a multi-tool, and most of the other products I could do without entirely. (And, surprisingly, I was missing a tool or two that would’ve been extremely helpful to have here on a regular basis.) 

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I realized that a toolbox makeover was in order. I had to separate the sentiment behind select items and part ways with them. Plus, I needed to come up with out-of-the-ordinary ways to store the necessities.  I played around with a few ideas, testing out what ACTUALLY worked (not just for photos), and what was easily accessible, without standing out in our tiny house or consuming space needed for other uses. I combined few methods of storage, and thus far, this mix has been practical and hassle-free:

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1. Small Tool Roll (Rather than Box)

A tool roll has proven much easier to store than a box of any size. It’s portable, it can easily be kept out of West’s reach, and it’s neat and organized even when left out in the open. I use these waxed canvas pockets to store the handle of our new Husky 16-in-1 interchangeable screwdriver set from The Home Depot, our new Husky pick + probe set, our hammer, touch-up paintbrushes, and a miscellaneous multi-tool that I use on our bikes. (The Pick & Probe set was one of the items I realized I needed but was missing. Our cottages are from the 1920s and have a lot of imperfections, and West somehow finds them all, and then gets all sorts of stuff trapped in the smallest slivers of space. The picks help Adam and me reach and clear those spots.) 

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2. Hardware Notebook

It’s easier to make room on our bookshelf than anywhere else in our home, because books can live countless lives by being re-gifted onward to friends and family for their enjoyment. I couldn’t find a hardware organizer that worked well on our built-in bookshelf, so I upcycled a 3-ring binder for the job. I used a combination of basic plastic bags and binder pouches to hold a mix of hardware, along with the various heads for our screwdriver and drill.

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3. Large Tool Hanging Bag

After giving away anything I no longer needed, then outfitting the tool roll and notebook, I was left with a few compact yet larger items that were scattered around the house: a 30’ tape measure our Ryobi multi-tool base (which I use to build our suspended shelves and to cut/sand wood), our Hex Key sets, and extra water-resistant gloves. It got obnoxious to have all these items separated, so I gathered them together and dropped them into a washable garden bag that I can hang on the wall. Not only is the bag easy to tote around, but it hangs mere inches away from the notebook, and can also contain the tool roll. 

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No longer having to track down and lug our nomadic, oversized toolbox has saved time me and frustration. I now have everything organized side-by-side in a way that really works for our funny little space. As we finally wrap up months of repairs to the front cottage this week, I realize that I now have delightful new memories associated with our updated tools. 

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My advice to anyone in a small space who's looking to get a fresh start on their tool/hardware/craft collection is to carefully select multi-tools, and to think beyond the usual toolbox when it comes to how to store them. Find means of organization that work well for the spaces you have available, keeping size, shape, accessibility, and aesthetic in mind.

Select tools from this post were gifted to me by The Home Depot. All words/opinions are my own.

Roundup: Compact Speakers

One of the first realities I had to accept when we moved into our little home was that several forms of non-digital media simply had to go. I donated hundreds of books, keeping in mind that I could always download a copy of anything on my iPad if need be. I stopped receiving printed magazines and the Sunday newspaper, and opted instead for online subscriptions. I also got rid of any old DVDs and CDs, which was fine by me-- I can't remember the last time I had a computer with a disc slot anyway. The hardest decision was parting with our record player. However, we only brought it out for special occasions-- such as our home wedding (below), and over long weekends. So, ultimately, we gave the player to a friend. (It would've been tough to use with Sophee and West anyway-- I'm sure they would've toyed with the turning records constantly.)

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We have three compact speakers on the property: an older Big Jambox (in white) over the kitchen cabinets in our cottage, a Bose SoundLink behind a plant on the exposed kitchen shelves in the front tiny house, and a tiny portable speaker that we use on the bikes, stroller, and/or while working out in the garden. I like them all, and have discovered that it makes a huge difference in sound quality if we place them in particular spots around the houses where the sound bounces and better fills the rooms.

For those who are in the process of downsizing their audio system, I've rounded up a diverse group of small or portable speakers, including the ones we have here. (I'd love to try that beautiful Stockholm Speaker, but it's on the pricier end of the spectrum. One day!)

Reusable Bags

Reusable shopping bags are everywhere these days. You're given polypropylene totes in checkout lines, you receive canvas slings for swag at events, and many makers and retailers use drawstring sacks when wrapping their online orders. While it's wonderful that we're no longer requiring and disposing of endless plastic bags, it can be a bit tricky for those of us living in a small space to find a practical place to keep the bulkier, reusable totes. Since these items come into play nearly every day, I thought the topic warranted a post. Here's how I deal with reusable bags and food wraps at the Cottage. Below, I've provided information on the styles I love, were I store them, and how I go about giving some away.

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I have three groupings of reusable bags at the cottage, and I organize each category differently, based on their sizes and how I use them:

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  • Market Baskets - I use these for the bulky or heavier duty items-- laundry detergent, beverage cans, oversized branches, beach towels, weekender bags, etc. These stay on display via a coatrack, either inside or on the stoop, depending on the weather. I also hang them on the walls as functional decor from time to time.
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  • Canvas / String Shopping Bags - I have these in multiple sizes, and I use them for everyday groceries and errands. Canvas Shopping Bags - I keep these folded up in a wire, wall-mounted bin. Another bundle of bags stays in the car, and we keep a few in the base West's stroller. 
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  • Reusable Bee's Wrap + Sacks - I use these as often as possible in lieu of plastic wrap. They're ideal for sandwiches, baguettes, loaves of bread, and for preserving the freshness of almost anything other than meats. I roll these up when they're not in use and place them in a wire mesh vertical file/folder basket mounted magnetically to the side of the fridge. (Such baskets work well affixed to the inside of kitchen cabinet doors, too.)
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  • EXISTING PLASTIC BAGS - Organizing existing plastic bags in easy-to-reach spots requires minimal time and cost if you simply repurpose select household items. For example, you can always recycle a used tissue box or canning jar to keep shopping or pet bags at the ready:
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When (and How) to Give Reusable Bags Away - First off, I love the 4 or 6-compartment wine bags from the grocery store. As my mom pointed out, they're a handy way to safely store (and tote) sandals and flats. For this reason, they are usually the only "freebie" bags that I keep.

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The SWAG and retail totes never stay in the Cottage for long. The minute they're empty, I challenge myself to load them up with donations, or I use them as gift wrap for outgoing presents. This can be an effortless way to keep track of how much you're bringing into your home, vs how much you're clearing out.

Date Nights at Home

Since West was born, Adam and I have orchestrated date nights at home more often. It eliminates the cost of hiring a babysitter, it allows us to eat a bit healthier (and have a drink without breaking the bank), and encuorages us to continue to connect as couple without being separated from our son and the pups.

Left: Movie night with Adam in the back garden. Right: A little family time in the yard (with flameless lanterns and a folding toddler-sized table and chairs) before West goes to bed.

Left: Movie night with Adam in the back garden. Right: A little family time in the yard (with flameless lanterns and a folding toddler-sized table and chairs) before West goes to bed.

While out little home inspires us to get out and involved in our community during the day, we never want it to feel limiting. For date nights, we take a few extra minutes to set up something out of the ordinary, such as a projector in the garden, or a pop-up dining table in the multi-purpose room (which functions as the living room / guest room / office / dining room).

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The winter here in LA has thus far been fairly mild, so we can leave the doors cracked open and enjoy a modified version of our usual indoor/outdoor set up. And since West was born into our tiny home (and is always surrounded by barking beagles), he is used to noise and doesn't wake up when we cook, laugh, or watch a movie.

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Spending more non work-related time together as a couple was a goal that Adam and I set forth for ourselves in 2018. In order to be the best parents, business partners, and friends possible, I think it's important for us to take some time and quietly catch up with each other-- even right here, in the same wonderful <400 sqft we share every day.

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Roundup: My Top 12 Small Space Essentials

I'm commonly asked about my small space living essentials-- what would I recommend to others who are about to downsize, and what can I simply not live without?

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The answer, of course, depends on the context. My life with West (our toddler) is so different than it was with just Stanlee and Sophee (our pups). And my life with all three of them is almost unrecognizable to what it was when Adam, Stanlee and I moved into the Cottage years ago. (Similarly, my office and business needs have evolved enormously as well.)

In other words, there's no easy answer. It all depends on what you love, who is sharing your space, and the ways in which you need your home to function. But, for what it's worth, here are my go-to, must-haves, across all categories:

WHAT: DockATot
FOR: Life with a baby
WHY: The DockATot is a portable, affordable, overnight bassinet, changing table, and tummy-time / play mat all rolled into one. 

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WHAT: Gathre Mats
FOR: Life with a baby, toddler, pets, outdoor adventuring, etc.
WHY: These clever mats are versatile, affordable, and adaptable. (And they only require as much room to store as a blanket.) They come in numerous sizes and colors. For babies, you can toss a small mat over your Dock-a-Tot or changing table, making it easy to clean. For toddlers, you can slide a medium-sized version beneath their high chair. For pets, you can wrap a larger mat around your sofa cushions to keep them clean and wipeable. For picnics, playrooms, and furniture assembly, they are useful temporary ground coverings.

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WHAT: This Is Ground (organizational accessories)
FOR: Home-office needs
WHY: Travel accessories are great for everyday use in a small space, and This Is Ground makes my favorite leather gear for folks on-the-go. Swap out a standard workstation for a beautiful, organized, mobile office via these types of brilliantly designed tech accessories.

WHAT: Collapsible Vacuum Cleaner
FOR: Everyone
WHY: You can make room for a full-sized, cordless vacuum in the smallest of homes, as long as the model breaks apart into components. (View the full post on the cottage vacuum cleaner / storage solution here.)

WHAT: Compact Scanner
FOR: Home office needs + everyday decluttering
WHY: Use this portable scanner to keep your business and personal records digitally organized and accessible while eliminating your paper piles and file boxes. (Read more about the scanner here.)

WHAT: Compact air filter with heating and cooling features included
FOR: Everyone
WHY: Clear your home of air pollutants while also heating/cooling multiple rooms via a compact, all-in-one air filter. If you're in a small home or apartment, this handy little unit will most likely service the entire place. The heating and cooling functions might save you from having to buy (and store) fans, space heaters, and even an AC unit. (We got this one when West was born-- we love it, and regret not buying it sooner.)

WHAT: iPad (I know, I know, but hear me out...)
FOR: Everyone
WHY: Most of us have a love/hate relationship with our gadgets. Whether we like it or not, they now hold our record collections, libraries, maps, photo albums, televisions, cameras, address ledgers, games, and so much more. Consider opting for digital versions of items you used to buy or collect in tangible form, when possible. 

WHAT: Single-Cup Automatic Coffee Maker
FOR: Everyone
WHY: As romantic and beautiful as pour-over and French press coffee methods are, many people just want a modern, automatic coffee maker. Try a model that requires no pods and no filters, like this single-cup brewer, which is small, uncomplicated, and easy to clean

WHAT: Over-the-burner cutting board
FOR: Everyone
WHY: All small-space dwellers could use a bit of spare counter space. Provide yourself with a few extra surface inches by using an over-the-burner cutting board in your kitchen. (As always, please keep safety in mind.)

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WHAT: Roll-up Drying Rack
FOR: Everyone + Life with a baby
WHY: Regardless of whether or not you have a dishwasher, we all need a place to dry kitchen items. Keep your counters uncluttered by using an over-the-sink drying rack that can roll up when not in use. This item is particularly handy when it comes to drying baby bottles and breast pump parts, but it's also ideal for drying standard dishes and plastic bags.

WHAT: S-Hooks
FOR: Everyone
WHY: I can't tell you the number of times a basic S-hook has saved the day in our tiny cottage. Apply an S-hook to turn any grommet, railing, hooked ledge, or dowel into a makeshift spot for drying clothes, hanging accessories, stashing reusable shopping bag, keeping items out of the jaws of pets or hands of kids, and so forth.

WHAT: Hardware Organizer
FOR: Everyone
WHY: Create a straightforward spot for items such as jewelry, makeup, plugs, batteries, craft materials, and miscellaneous “junk drawer” items via a standard hardware organizer. (Pick a tall, shallow design that consumes less space, and can tuck out of sight in a closet or cupboard.)

RUNNER UP: Flexi Bath or Inflatable Baths
FOR: Life with a baby / toddler

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RUNNER UP: Vertical shoe rack
FOR: Everyone

RUNNER UP: Lightweight hanging mirrors with built-in shelves
FOR: Everyone
WHY: You'd be amazed at what tacking one of these up on any wall can do to brighten and enlarge your space.

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Roundup: Ideas for Tiny Corners

Struggling to find a way to make your small space function for all your daily needs? Don't overlook your corners! When outfitted wisely, corners can become highly practical (and beautiful!) spots within your home or office.

An old tv shelf above the cottage bedroom pocket door holds books, plants, tethered musical instruments, and a hanging sculpture. 

An old tv shelf above the cottage bedroom pocket door holds books, plants, tethered musical instruments, and a hanging sculpture. 

Your corners can easily become any of the following:

  • Shoe / coat / bag drop
  • Source of light (just make sure your lamp shade has a small circumference)
  • Collapsable (or permanent) table or desk
  • Changing table
  • Bassinet or reading nook
  • Plant collection 
  • Instrument storage + display
  • Misc. storage hutch
  • Hanging levels for decor and accessories
  • Mirrors
  • Decorative / blanket ladder or valet
  • Cat perch
  • Wardrobe Alternative
  • Bookshelves

Scroll the thumbnails below to browse and shop a roundup of some products we love for small space corners!

Christmas at the Cottage

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Happy holidays from our (tiny) home to yours! Thank you so much for all your enthusiasm and support in 2017-- we can't wait to show you what we have in store for 2018. In the meantime, we wish you a wonderful, cozy and safe holiday season.

Venice Shoot with "Late Sunday Afternoon"

(UPDATE: 01/08/18 - Interview with Late Sunday Afternoon about Tiny Home living and blogging here.)

Looking back at 2017, one of the experiences we loved the most was a collaboration with our incredible friends at Late Sunday Afternoon here in Venice. 

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I first fell in love with this unique shop the moment I stepped through its gorgeous doors here in Venice. But after meeting its founder, Matthew, I discovered the wonderful depth of LSA.

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The team, products and give-back mission behind LSA all made me eager to collaborate. (Read more about everything here.) So we were thrilled when they approached us about a brand ambassador photo + video shoot. 

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The scarves we have from LSA have traveled thousands and thousands of miles with us, and West's blankie was made by them as well. We also have hats and books from their shop, all of which we enjoy often.

LSA sells original and small-batch items from their beautiful indoor/outdoor store and gathering space in Venice. They also hand-create and donate comfort blankies to young children in the foster care system, and they use their excess fabric scraps to produce dog beds that they then donate to local animal shelters.

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Late Sunday Afternoon is an Instagram dream. But it also operates with a tangible sense of community and responsibility, and for that, we admire and adore them.

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We're featured in Chapter 2 of the video below (starting at 1:19), but we recommend watching the entire thing-- it's completely delightful!

Canal photos © Sebastian Artz, with selects by Thomas Brodahl. Video by Chance Foreman. Ambassador shoot content courtesy of Late Sunday Afternoon.  (Thank you for the dreamy day of canoeing, biking, and strolling the canals with friends, LSA crew!)

Roundup: 5 small ways to start decluttering

Feeling the need to declutter amidst all the holiday layers and gifts? It's easy to get overwhlemed quickly, so start small, tackling one compartmentalized topic/area at a time. Here are five easy ways to get going:

Sewing Kit
Unless you sew on a regular basis, there's probably no need for an entire box of spare buttons, thread, and so forth. A simple jar or pocket-sized tin can most likely contain the basics that most folks need on-hand to repair slight tears and loose hardware.

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Hangers
While it clearly helps to reduce the number of items in your wardrobe, don't forget to take a fresh look at the closet itself. Cleverly designed, slender, no-slip hangers can help your clothing last longer, while also freeing up much-needed space on the dowel. (Just round up all those old wire and plastic hangers and recycle them at your local dry cleaner.) If you have children's clothing that needs to be suspended as well, opt for recyclable cardboard hangers, which you can drop in the blue bin once your kids outgrow them.

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Receipts
This project takes a bit longer, but it's an easy task to plow through while you chat on the phone, listen to podcasts, or watch a movie. For those of us who don't need to keep physical paper receipts and can use digital copies for our business and personal record-keeping purposes and taxes, a slim, speedy scanner can eliminate binders (or even boxes upon boxes) of old paperwork, freeing up surprising amounts of storage space in the home. 

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Desk Drawer
It bugs me that most pens and pencils-- along with other miscellaneous office supplies-- are sold in multiples. Why buy (and store) a dozen duplicates of something when you only need two or three? Consider donating your excess office items to a public school, and just rely on the small number of high-quality, beautiful, practical items that you actually need. Eliminate duplicate charging cords if possible as well, and check your local resources to find tech waste recycling options. Try keeping everything easily accessible and well organized via zipper pouches, or in kits primarily designed for travel use.

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Cabinet Beneath the Sink
For years I've intended to make my own cleaning supplies in order to save space. But I have to admit that I just never get around to it. I do, however, make sure to manage our bottle build-up, keeping only what we need regularly on-hand. I don't buy in bulk, and I always make sure that we have no more than what can fit into our small upcycled cleaning crate or repurposed garden caddy. This ensures that we actually go through all the products in our home, rather than losing track of what we have and buying duplicates while older bottles expire and go to waste. Go through your cleaning and beauty items and get rid of anything out-of-date or unhealthy. You'll most likely find that you'll be more mindful of your future purchases once you've taken the time to organize your products back at home.

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These are small steps, but in a tiny home or apartment they'll make a difference. And just remember to go easy on yourself-- it's the holiday season! Let's spend less time worrying about our stuff, and more time with our families, friends and/or communities.

Simple Holiday Gifting

As I look back at 2017, I'm eager to show gratitude and appreciation to my friends, family, and collaborators for their incredible love and support throughout this year of explosive growth and change. But I find myself more reluctant than ever to gift "things" to my loved ones-- especially since so many of them have expressed the desire to downsize (and the holidays are the primary time of year when decluttering can feel borderline impossible).

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My family and I agreed-- no gifts, except a few for West. He's receiving a beautiful handmade set of toys, a bike basket, and some wonderful books in his present sack.

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I'll be giving our friends and neighbors freshly baked bread wrapped in reusable linen cloths. In my mind, it's the perfect holiday present: simple, delicious, beautiful, and clutter-free.

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I feel as though this year rushed by at a breakneck pace. For me, there's nothing I want more than to lounge around with my husband, son, parents, and pups, enjoying good food and swapping stories instead of presents.

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However and whatever you're celebrating this season, Adam and I wish you and yours all the best from our tiny home!

Roundup: Small Space Closet Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interior Doors for Compact Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tiny Tub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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