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.
Let’s talk gifting. I'm big on mindful presents and cards that don't require storage in your small space while they're waiting to be given. I’m usually as much of a minimalist when it comes to gifting as I am when it comes to decorating. My holiday go-to is almost always a recycled berry basket with farm eggs, rosemary and freshly baked bread. But this past season, after having West and expanding my business, the berry baskets went completely unused— they’re still waiting patiently in our kitchen cabinets. Not only did I not give out holiday presents, but I haven’t even gotten around to our basic thank you notes for our wedding back in May. (FAIL.) As such, I feel like I have some making-up to do.
I’m still only interested in giving practical, usable items to each recipient. I refuse to gift something that’s just going to turn into clutter down the road.But I the reality of having an infant (with no day-to-day help), running two businesses, and having a partner who works full-time as well, suggests that the chances of me getting around to this sort of thing are seriously slim. I was grumbling to myself about this when I got an email from a new company called Gift in Time. The name sparked my interest, so I sat down and had a look at the services they were offering: thoughtful, dedicated, effortless gifting. (Clearly they are mind readers.)
The team at Gift in Time invited me experience their service, which is something that bloggers and Instagrammers are often offered. I usually politely decline (we don’t need more “stuff” here), but I was genuinely curious and decided to give it a go.
They sent me four custom-selected gifts and two hand-written cards to demonstrate what their company has to offer. The items included:
- The softest handmade leather mocs and a matching pacifier clip by Posh Panda (in Lethbridge, AB) for baby West. They matched the nursery flawlessly.
- A compact, pop-out coloring puzzle by Petit Collage (in California) for baby West to enjoy later down the road. They selected the theme of a castle, as they know that I regularly spend my summers at the Chateau de Belcastel in France. (We’re taking West there for the first time in July!)
- A compact skincare set by Helena Lane (in Brackendale, BC) for post-natal pampering— something I very much appreciated. Immediate post-pregnancy hormones are no joke.
- A perfectly neutral-toned, durable dog toy by Mr. Dog (in NYC) for #StubsandSoph. They both love it. Stanlee likes to sleep with it, whereas Sophee likes to drag it around the garden.
Everything they sent matches our home and needs. We’ve since used each item daily, except for the puzzle, which we’ll save for West when he is a bit older. (Click here to read / see where we're storing his toys.) And the two hand-written cards in the boxes made the experience feel that much more personal. You can even have the cards printed in your own handwriting, if you so choose. And to top it all off, the gift boxes in which everything arrived are simple and beautiful, without being wasteful. (I reused the boxes as shoe + sock storage beneath our couch.)
I'm also a fan of this method of giving because it doesn't require us to store the presents in our home until it's time to give them away. Every object in our home has a purpose and a place, but any "extra" items just sit around in the open until we have the chance to send them on their way.
In case you are struggling to juggle it all, and want to be mindful to not overlook your loved ones’ special occasions while doing so, a few steps on your iPhone can provide them with an experience like the one I had. I’ll FINALLY be sending my wedding thank you cards via their greeting service now. (I hear you have a year to send those, right? Looks like they’ll arrive in time after all.)
I acknowledge that Gift in Time is partnering with me to participate in this custom-gifting project. All expressed opinions and experiences on this blog are my own, and are written in my own words, regardless of collaboration compensation. My post complies with the WOMMA Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.
In the past 4 months, Adam and I have given away about 1/3 of our belongings. It feels so wonderful to create more room for our new lifestyle with baby West! Here are a few little modifications that we made that really helped us free up floor space, and eliminate clutter:
1. Built-in Pet Toy Storage
For the past 5+ years, these four drawers on my side of the bed were filled with my socks, underwear and swimsuits. I'd placed an open basket at the foot of the drawers, and that's where we stored the dogs' toys. But the basket got in the way a lot-- mainly when I was trying to access the storage under our bed, or when I'd groggily wake up in the middle of the night to pump. I realized that I could easily get rid of one drawer of accessories, and then keep the puppies' goodies in the bottom bin. Now I can easily tuck the toys and container away:
2. Extendable Nightstand
We have wonderful little built-in nightstands on the sides of our bed. But lately I've been wanting a bit more surface space at night so I can keep West's books and toys at the ready (we're currently co-sleeping). Rather than buying a new piece of mobile furniture to wheel in during the evenings, I opted to make a cover that I can slide over one of the open drawers at night:
Luckily the removable lid to the basket located one cubby up worked PERFECTLY for this project. But had it not, I would've simply had a lightweight piece of plywood custom-cut at the hardware store that I could use in the same manner. During the day, I would've stored it on the shelf alongside the books. In this case, I just replace the basket top during the day. This little extra table-top space is so helpful!
3. Trundle Storage for West's Toys
As West's toy collection grows and evolves, we'll need a big, easy bin in which to put everything. However, there is no room for an additional large catch-all basket or box in our house. So I decided to donate all of the clothes I kept stashed in the trundle-drawer on my side of the bed. (The neighboring bin is for laundry.) Now every bit of clothing I own is stored in our garden wardrobe.
My hope is that this easily accessible, oversized drawer will be a handy tool in the future, when West is able to pick out and play with his toys on his own.
To anyone in a standard size home, the topic of compact drying solutions might seem absurd. But small-space dwellers will know what I mean when I say that finding room to dry dishes, plastic bags, linens, etc. in tight quarters can be a struggle. How do you do it without making your home look like it's in a constant state of soggy chaos?
Between the baby bottles, reusable diapers, reusable cleaning rags, etc., the gross wet stuff piles up quickly here at the Cottage. For a while, Adam and I tried hanging loose items around the house. But since our space is so small, this meant that basically everywhere I looked I was reminded of housework-- plus it was an ugly sight. So I decided to find some quick and simple solutions to the problem.
IN THE KITCHEN
Drying Bottles, Plastic Bags, etc.
After having baby West, we realized why so many people use those Boon Grass drying racks. We don't have enough counter space for a traditional square version, but there are narrow options on the market as well. However, since there's so little spare space by the sink, we were always knocking into items and sending them tumbling over, where they'd get dirty once more. It took a month or so, but we finally found a mix of solutions that work well for us, and help us dry West's bottles and accessories, my pumping supplies, reusable plastic bags, glassware, towels, etc. We have a combination of the following:
- Retractable Wooden Drying Rack (for clean bottles, etc.)
- Narrow Glass Drainer / Tray (for the dirty bottles, etc.)
- Paper Towel Holder Magnet (for the dish towels we use specifically on baby stuff)
- Retractable Over-the-Sink Drying Rack (for food processor parts & larger clean items)
- Wall Mounted Baskets (for the miscellaneous little, clean items, such as bottle caps)
- Faucet Sponge Caddy
- Driftwood Accessories Hanger (to help keep baby / vase / cookware (etc) brushes organized and clean)
This might seem like a lot, but we use each of these items multiple times per day here in our little home/office. The great thing is, the racks fold or roll up and easily when not in use, and can be stowed out of sight.
IN THE NURSERY
Drying Burp Cloths, Used Onesies, etc.
Our entire house looked like a clothing line during the weeks after West's birth. His garments, our clothes, and all of the other linens that got wet and needed a place to dry before being thrown into the hamper for the next round of laundry were draped over every surface possible.
To tame this mess, I simply attached a mesh multi-pocket caddy to the side of the baby's combination changer/bathtub table, and the problem was solved. Now the fabrics can stay in the open air until heading to the washer, without cluttering up our house.
IN THE BATHROOM
Drying Reusable Diapers & Cleaning Rags
We were warned by numerous people that there was no way we could make reusable diapers work in such a small space. But we've had no problem with it! We have a wonderful reusable diapering system by Grovia here at the Cottage. But here was the challenge: in such a small space, where would we place the dirty diapers while we were still actively changing the baby? And then where could we put the diapers after we'd rinsed them off, but before they got properly cleaned?
According to the Grovia website, "the surest way to ruin a diaper is to leave it soiled in a closed, dark, warm pail for several days before washing it. This environment is prime breeding ground for fungi and bacteria. Treat your diapers as you would your own clothing. Soiled diapers should be washed every 2 or 3 days according to manufacturer’s instructions."
The system that we came up is certainly not glamorous, but it's effective, keeps our surfaces clear, allows the fabrics to breathe while awaiting a full cleaning, and doesn't take up any valuable space. First we use an S-hook to attach a pail to the changing table (see the above photo). That pail holds the dirty diapers while we tend to West. After the baby's diaper is changed and he is safely relocated, we take the bucket to the bathroom and wash the soaker pad off. The rinsed, wet diaper then goes in a second bucket that is suspended from our narrow shower rod (see photo below), and from there it gets fully cleaned.
So that's how we make it work. I know it's not the most pin-worthy topic, but it's these sort of day-to-day hacks that make small-space living doable with a family!
You know how my photos are always bright white and a tad bit over-exposed? Well that wasn't an artistic decision at the start-- it was a necessity. I had one dog at the time, Stanlee, and he sheds INSANE amounts of hair. When I first started sharing photos of the Cottage online, I spent hours photoshopping out the numerous, massive tumbleweeds of Stanlee's hair that are constantly gliding across our floor. I should've just left them in there (real life and all), but I didn't want to discourage anyone from adopting a dog. (Stanlee is a rescue, which I talk about often, as I'm big into the Adopt-Don't-Shop concept.) I quickly realized that if I just brightened up my photos a bit-- VOILA!-- the hair would almost completely disappear from the photos.
So many people write to me and ask if my dogs (#StubsandSoph) shed, and if so, how I handle it. For years I used a handheld vacuum. It was the only thing that fit easily into our home, and it's not hard to vacuum an entire tiny house with a mini-vac. That being said, it's definitely a pain to have to plug/unplug the machine in every section of the cottage, and all the hunching over kills your back. And of course I couldn't reach our vaulted ceilings with the handheld, so I would use paper towels on a long stick to reach cobwebs. CLASSY.
Adam kept saying we should get a Dyson cordless machine he'd seen somewhere, but I kept on insisting that there was no way a full-sized vacuum would fit in our house.
Then came baby West. Immediately the dog hair started getting all over West's clothes and toys (which all inevitably end up in his mouth). I finally gave into Adam's suggestion and got Dyson V8 Absolute. I have to say, I am a complete idiot for not getting it sooner. It's amazing. Here's why:
- It breaks down into small components so I can stash it away in the living room. (Photos below.)
- It's so quiet that West sleeps through it.
- It's cordless, which makes it crazy easy to use. I vacuum several times a day now because it's such a breeze.
- It can reach the vaulted ceilings, so I no longer have to use my classy Gandalf stick.
- It really removes the hair, rather than just dragging it around in the nozzle, or scattering it about the floor via exhaust fans. (My handheld did both of those things, which was annoying.)
I genuinely recommend the V8 to anyone who lives in a small space and/or is battling with the drama of dog hair. (Now I just overexpose my photos so I don't have to clean my windows.😜)
I'm a big fan of babywearing. It's not only great bonding time with West, but it's also one of the only ways in which I can get anything done here at our lil' home/office. I have two Solly Baby Wraps that I love and use daily. They're beautiful, and they fold up so small that they can fit anywhere when not in use-- from the diaper bag, to the baskets in the baby's bay.
I'm sharing some small space nursery tips over on Solly Baby Wrap's blog-- click here to view.
December was a beautiful daze at the Cottage. The weeks rushed by, and West grew so much that Adam and I can hardly believe our eyes. I posted most of my content from the month on Instagram Stories, which allowed me to share moments from the Cottage without requiring me to spend additional hours at the computer away from West. My goal this holiday season was to spend less time fussing over presents, and to spend more time focused on my family. It was wonderful, and some of our highlights are below. Happy, happy holidays to you and yours! Thank you for making our entire 2016 so very merry & bright.
I recently hosted a little dinner for four incredible Businesswomen / Mamas here at the Cottage. We chatted about some of the ways in which going small can enable us to live fuller lives— something that I know to be true after enjoying this tiny house with Adam and Stanlee for these past 5½ years. (And since then we've even grow by two residents: puppy Sophee and baby West!)
The story, which includes a video from the evening, is now up on Refinery29: Two People, Two Dogs & A Baby Live In This 362-Square-Foot Cottage
Story sponsored by Ford.
Had the privilege of being a guest at @whitneyleighmorris' beautiful cottage for a #GoSmallLiveBig dinner hosted by @Ford. Twinkly lights, wonderful food and insightful conversation with other self employed/small business ladies. I am always inspired by talking with women who are paving their own way. @Refinery29 #ad
It is always so inspiring to me to sit down with small businesses owners and creatives, especially those that are women, who are thriving, loving what they do, growing their families and making a big impact on those around them. I sat down with a few of my favorites for an amazing, intimate dinner that @Ford put on for us. Seeing others live their passions, grow from their once small ideas, and really make it happen just makes me realize it's all possible and that hard work definitely pays off. #GoSmallLiveBig #EcoSport