Bright(er) Lil' Kitchen

This post was sponsored by The Home Depot. All opinions and images are my own. All photos including our son and/or the pups were taken as they happily interacted in their own, natural ways. 

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Clearly I love our tiny home. Very rarely do I long for material items or major changes— I’m usually extremely content with what we have, and aim for our belongings to last us a lifetime. One glaring exception to this has, for YEARS, been our major kitchen appliances. 

Our refrigerator, range and dishwasher fit our space quite well, but they weren’t the right fit for our style and needs. The fridge had a massive back-coil that consumed several inches of its counter-depth design, rendering the interior smaller than one would expect by looking at it from the outside. And the exterior was black on both sides, which stood in stark contrast to the rest of our airy lil’ home. 

Immediately next to the fridge is the dishwasher, which sits about 6’ or so from my desk, and it was so loud that I never wanted to run it. Plus I disliked that the stainless steel cover and large front-panel of buttons were the first details I noticed every time I entered through our front doors. 

But the stove was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The electric panel kept dropping out of its frame, and the design wasn’t particularly safe for West. Of course young children should always be supervised in the kitchen, but the compact nature of our space means that our 22 month-old West is constantly passing by the stove. We added safety knob covers on the dials, but our son’s proximity to the flames was an issue— particularly with his unruly curls brushing up against everything. Plus we don’t have a vent in our kitchen. Our ample windows and doors move the air constantly, but our burners were always covered in spatter and stray dog hairs. 

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So, in our 7th summer here, we finally swapped out all three appliances. (Hallelujah!) Usually it takes me a while to get used to notable changes in our home— at least a week or so. But I was instantaneously overjoyed with our newest residents: a white GE top control dishwasher, a GE slide-in electric range and self-cleaning convection oven, and a ever-so-slightly deeper but enormously more spacious white GE refrigerator, all from The Home Depot

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The Home Depot delivered and installed the new appliances, and removed the old ones. The entire swap took about an hour, as they had to adjust a few external elements within the kitchen to accommodate the product changes. 

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The GE refrigerator has the most impact on the space. To have an all-white front and sides changes the look and feel of our entire home, since you can basically see the fridge from almost every point in our miniature home. It’s technically not counter depth, so it sticks out about an inch further than our previous model. But It has far more usable space within it, thanks to the fact that there’s no coil in the back eating up precious inches.  

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It’s still very compact, allowing us to store dishes in wire mesh baskets up top. (And, thankfully, the baskets no longer rattle, as they did with our old fridge. They sit tight thanks to the steady and quiet nature of this ENERGY STAR appliance.)

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The GE top control dishwasher is by far superior to our old one. When I first turned it on, I thought it was broken because it was so quiet. I prefer everything about this machine— from it’s cleanly designed exterior to it’s three user-friendly racks inside. Plus it has wash zones, so we can now wash just a half-load when needed.   

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Due to the positioning of the dishwasher, it’s visible immediately when you walk in the house, and the white really brightens up (and thus visually enlarges) our space— even at night.

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Lastly, the range. We are thrilled with it. I know people get really intense about the gas vs electric debate, and I get it. But our new slide-in electric range and self-cleaning convection oven is designed in such a way that it is significantly safer for West to pass by it in our tiny cottage. (Sophee is another matter—she somehow manages to get onto e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.)

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It is SO MUCH EASIER to clean, and there’s no clunky back panel. Folks can continue to grumble over the gas vs electric issue— meanwhile, we’ll be here making eggs on (and clinking glasses by) our cleaner, safer, lighter, and happier lil’ kitchen!

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Then & Now: 7 Years in the Cottage!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 2018. Photo by Marisa Vitale.

April 2018. Photo by Marisa Vitale.

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

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

Before + After: The Cottage Back Patio

While sifting through old digital files, I came across these "before" photos of our lil' back patio and garden. I paired them with "after" shots on the right to demonstrate just how much the trees, vines, and potted plants have grown over the past 7 years!

Update (2/28) - I received so many inquiries about the types of greenery and materials used that I've updated the text below with that information throughout the post. Thanks for the great messages, folks!✌

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This spot has served many purposes for us. It's been a play space, a dining room, a nursing corner, a screening room, a lounge, an office, and even housed our wardrobe-shed for over a year. We use the back stoop for some of West's baths, story time, and more.

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The overflowing, large-leafed vines are from a single, massive grapevine. These tendrils originate in our neighbor's yard beyond the wood fence, and between the months of April through September they're lush and abundant. They produce beautiful, sweet, concord grapes that our neighbor makes into jam and sorbet.

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The long vines that stretch from the perimeter of the property to the top of the Cottage via the string lights are Distictis Buccinatoria, or Red Trumpet Vines. This single plant is rooted in the corner of our property, and was only about 4'-tall when we moved in. Now the trunk is thicker and about 6' tall, while the vines themselves span dozens of feet, back and forth over the garden. These vines are fast growing, resilient, quick to wrap around anything, and produce bright red flowers (with yellow backs) that attract hummingbirds, and make the perfect home for their little nests. 

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The three ficus trees in the back were on the property when we moved in. We've trained them to grow up and fill inward, to provide us with more privacy and a wilder look.

By the back stoop, we added a customized shed, which once contained our wardrobe. (Now it holds a collapsible wagon and West's fold-up stroller.) An empty wine barrel sits across from it, and was once filled with dirt and dying lavender. Now, it's exploding with a variety of succulents, which my mom and I clipped from around the neighborhood and planted in fresh soil when she was visiting about 6 years ago. I've never changed the soil, and I only water the barrel infrequently. It's growing gorgeously without my interference. 

I have 2 potted ZZ Plants, which look fake because the branches are so strong and the leaves are extremely shiny. In my limited experience, they grow quickly outdoors, and can withstand times of downpour or drought. Mandevilla also works well to fill in and beautify gaps around the yard, as it produces bright blooms and grows both wide and tall, depending on the container.

I also have a few tall, potted Corynocarpus Trees from Rolling Greens, and I move those around the property whenever needed. They grow tall and produce numerous leaves, without taking up extra inches around the base, which is helpful on a stoop or in a tight garden.

As for the grass, it's unfortunately artificial. I can't wait to remove and replace it with something natural-- I don't love the idea of West playing around on these types of manufactured materials. Years ago we had real and thriving grass, but we let it die in the California Drought. After a year of debate, Adam and I installed this thick, tall, artificial grass for our wedding. It's something neither one of us ever thought we'd do, as we're both from rain-soaked Florida. Although I still have a really tough time with the concept of faux grass, I do love seeing green rather than dirt or rocks. Other than the grass, everything else is living.

Above: Our friends gathered here for Adam's most recent birthday. We had a Cuban Food Truck pull up to the back fence to serve sandwiches, and we stationed the bar up in the front garden.

Above: Our friends gathered here for Adam's most recent birthday. We had a Cuban Food Truck pull up to the back fence to serve sandwiches, and we stationed the bar up in the front garden.

Above: Storytime set-up for baby West.

Above: Storytime set-up for baby West.

Above: At-home date night with Adam. 

Above: At-home date night with Adam. 

Small spaces such as this can be so versatile, and they're relatively easy to makeover or adapt, since they're so compact. I love this spot on the property, and look forward to seeing how it evolves from here! 

Creating a Divider with Greenery

When we acquired the front tiny house, we knew we needed to modify our porch to suit our updated living situation. The porch, which is 8’ wide and nestled between the two craftsman cottages, was formerly outfitted with an outdoor couch and a folding dining set. We loved it, but we found ourselves using the pieces less and less.

"BEFORE" - The porch between the cottages shortly after we moved in.

"BEFORE" - The porch between the cottages shortly after we moved in.

"AFTER" - The porch between the cottages. We had it set up this way for years in order to accommodate dinner guests or host happy hours.

"AFTER" - The porch between the cottages. We had it set up this way for years in order to accommodate dinner guests or host happy hours.

"AFTER" ... again! The porch updated for West and his friends, as well as all the parents.

"AFTER" ... again! The porch updated for West and his friends, as well as all the parents.

We host guests for meals very infrequently these days, whereas we spend more and more time here with West in lieu of sending him to daycare. Additionally, a fair number of our friends had children around the same year we had West, so our social gatherings now involve bringing several children (about 5-8 toddlers per event) together at once. So Adam and I decided that it was time to turn the couch into dual-purpose storage / lounge seating, collapse the dining table, and convert the resulting square footage into a play space. 

A full blog post on the transformation is coming soon, but I wanted to tune in to one particular obstacle with which we needed to deal during the conversion. How would we keep the end of the porch (which drops about 1’ down to the stone garden pavers below) safe for the newly-toddling kiddos? 

We borrowed a plastic baby gate from a friend to test out, but it was too flimsy for West. We then tried a temporary, metal garden gate. Unfortunately it was pretty ugly, and it felt like a barricade. We didn’t want to discourage the kids from entering the garden— we just didn’t want them falling dangerously backwards into it on accident.

I found three perfectly-shaped, compact, outdoor planters at Ikea (there were some great runners-up at CB2, too,) and I asked the skilled team at Rolling Greens to help me find friendly, space-dividing plants to add height, weight, beauty, and life to the troughs. 

I love any excuse to visit Rolling Greens in Culver City.

I love any excuse to visit Rolling Greens in Culver City.

Rolling Greens lined the planter boxes with plastic to keep the soil from falling out the slats, and then surrounded that wrap with moss to beautify the exposed segments. They then filled the boxes with little Olive Tree plants. They added a pop of color on the parameters with a touch of secondary greenery, then topped it all off with bark, and voila! 

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Now we have low space-dividers to trim the edge of the porch. The boxes are too heavy for the kids to push over, but light enough for us to shuffle around when needed. Adults and the pups can step between the planters, but now the kids won't go tumbling or bolting off the side of the porch!

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We absolutely love our new, living porch barrier. Thank you, Rolling Greens!

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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 Mini-Kitchen's Mini-Makeover

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.

(View Domino's post on our mini-kitchen's mini-makeover here.)

Spring Updates to the Tiny Garden

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 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 added a few galvanized accessories to help me tote items between the house and garden. I selected this functional Metal Flatware Caddy, along with a pair of Metal Chargers that we use as trays and in lieu of placemats:

I also opted for a storage ottoman, where I now keep outdoor throw pillows and blankets. (I love these Honeycomb Indoor/Outdoor lumbar pillows and the matching chair cushions.)

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.

Above: 🐶 🐶 Stubs and Soph frolicking around our updated lil' garden.

Above: 🐶 🐶 Stubs and Soph frolicking around our updated lil' garden.

Tiny Updates

With the Cottage nursery finally set up (see previous posts), I wanted to make a few minor updates around the house to allow the spaces blend together a bit more seamlessly. My main resource for the updates was Couleur Locale. I love the neutral, Earthy tones and textures of their products: 

New grass fringe lampshade, as we thought the bare-bulb would be a bit too bright for the baby.

New coconut tea light holders (for real and faux candles, depending on context) and bowls. This way we won't have to worry about glass or porcelain holders breaking once the baby begins to grab things.

New rattan wicker baskets for decor and market goods:

New handmade bedspread from World By Hand:

New Anthropologie anchor hooks for the bedroom, to match the subtle, nautical theme in the closet nursery:

New stools with backs-- we want to feel more secure and supported when holding the baby during our meals at the breakfast counter:

And a few more little accessories, here and there:

 

 

Tiny House Nursery - The Baby’s Bay

When selecting a dedicated area for our son’s nursery, we did what many small-space dwellers do and opted to convert our closet into his little room. I didn’t intend to have a “theme” for the space, but it happened on its own over time. The colors, textures and prints I selected were sandy and neutral, and the artwork I loved most reminded us of our lives here along the ocean. Before I knew it, we had a subdued coastal vibe going on. As such, I started referring to the little alcove as "The Baby’s Bay."

There were some basic updates that needed to happen before we could safely and practically convert the closet into the Bay. Thankfully they were all simple:

1. Deconstruct the built-in shoe rack, and fill in the gaps left behind after its removal. We hired a local handyman to do this. He ripped out the built-in shoe shelf, and then used a mix of old and new materials to fill in the gap in the floor where the shelf previously stood. Meanwhile, I visited The Home Depot to pick a trim that matched the rest of the closet, and had it cut to fill in the gap in the molding left over from the shoe rack removal:

2. Remove the internet cable cord, which was fastened to the molding on the perimeter of the closet. Our internet provider sent a technician to help us with this process. He removed the ugly cords that sat inside for years, and relocated them to the crawl space under the cottage. 

3. Cover the breaker panel, while still leaving it accessible: There’s a standard grey electrical panel on one side of the closet. We need to maintain easy access to the door, but I wanted to cover it up for the nursery. I used a magnetic sheeting overlay to mask the hardware, and painted it to match the color of the wall:

4. Remove the heater control panel box, closet dowels, and miscellaneous hardware. We had an electrician help us with all necessary wiring modifications. Beyond that, it was a simple matter of applying spackle and wood-filler where necessary before repainting everything.

5. Leave the remaining built-ins (a high, closet-wide horizontal shelf and vertical divider) in place to help protect the baby from items that could displace during an earthquake, but better-blend those walls into the overall space. We always planned to leave the remaining built-ins within the closet for safety, and aimed to work with them when outfitting the space. But the dark wood lines drew attention to the dividers, and made the alcove feel even smaller than it is. So we chose a paint color that’s a few shades lighter than our bedroom walls to brighten up the previously shadowy Bay. I selected “Polished Marble” by Behr.  I love how it appears to blend with the rest of the room, even though it’s actually quite a bit whiter:

Once we had this new, blank canvas, I could finally visualize the nursery. I found a little white garden stool from The Home Depot’s décor brand, Home Decorator’s Collection. I placed it by the crib, and I sat there rearranging and restyling the room in my mind for hours. The space then came together easily, despite its size.

Before we updated the closet, I used to obsessively close our curtains to avoid seeing the overflowing contents behind them. Now the closet is a bright, airy, and happy component of the Cottage. It feels as though it should’ve always been outfitted this way. 

You don’t need to start from scratch to transform your existing square-footage into a space that better suits your evolving needs. With a bit of creativity and paint, you can turn a box into a Bay. You don't need to live large to live beautifully!

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in this nursery makeover project. As a part of the project, I am receiving compensation in the form of products for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences on this blog are my own, and are written in my own words. My post complies with the WOMMA Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Tiny House Nursery - The Garden Wardrobe

When Adam and I decided to have a child, we knew we wanted to stay here in our tiny home. As we already share the space with our two dogs and my small business, we knew it would be a challenge to add a nursery to the mix, but we were so excited to make it work. Given our budget, we basically had two choices when tackling the nursery project in our tiny house:

  1. Leave nearly everything as-is, downsize our belongings in existing storage spaces to make room for baby care necessities, and rely solely on mobile/rolling nursery components.
  2. Create a dedicated nursery within an existing space by downsizing and relocating our other belongings from that area.

We went with option two, because thanks to the sunny, dry SoCal climate, we knew we could get creative with indoor/outdoor lifestyle and storage solutions. (If we lived somewhere that gets a a fair amount of rain or any snow, we would've stuck with option one.) We decided to convert our bedroom closet into the nursery, by downsizing and relocating part of our wardrobe to a 2'x4' cedar garden shed from The Home Depot.

It's important to note that it VERY RARELY rains in Los Angeles, and the weather usually hovers somewhere around the 50°s to the 70°s. As such, our patio furniture stays outside and uncovered year-round, while select garden decor and accessories come indoors in the unusual event of rain. We've been using our outdoor spaces in this manner for over 5 years now, which gave us the confidence that we could pull off an unusual outdoor closet solution. Here’s how we did it.

DOWNSIZING
While storage solutions are obviously important in homes of all sizes, the clearest path to living simply is to not own too many things. While we extended our usable storage space at the Cottage via our new 2x4’ shed, Adam and I were able to make the wardrobe relocation project work by getting rid of nearly 1/2 of our clothing. Giving away belongings is second nature to us now, but it definitely took some practice at the beginning. For those of you struggling to let go with your unnecessary belongings, I recommend exploring The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. (Try reading the digital version rather than the print edition and VOILA! You’re already on the path to reducing your physical possessions!)

We removed everything from our shared closet, and created four piles:

  1. The Giveaway Stack - I keep a folding bin from The Home Depot’s décor brand, Home Decorator’s Collection, in the laundry unit we share with our neighbor. Adam and I place our donation items in the bin weekly, and then drop its contents off at Goodwill and/or our local community housing organization about twice a month. We filled this bin (along with several other bags,) when cleaning out our closet for the nursery. I found that the start of my third trimester was the ideal time to tackle this undertaking. I hadn’t been able to wear my “regular” clothes for months due to the baby bump. It was therefore fairly easy to assess what I missed and needed, vs what I did not.
  2. Infrequently Used but Useful Clothing - We put our winter/travel coats, scarves and other such infrequently used but handy clothing in two plastic, lidded storage bins. (The bins are now stowed at the bottom of the shed, beneath our hanging clothes.)
  3. Weekly Wear to Hang - I had about 18”w of hanging clothes (dresses, tunics, etc) that needed to remain on hangers. We suspended those in a cedar wardrobe from Home Decorator’s Collection within the new shed, alongside Adam’s work shirts and sweaters. (Photo below.)
  4.  Daily Wear to Fold - I eliminated everything I didn’t need, and fit all of my daily casual dresses, tops and pants into one of the two trundle-drawers built into our bed. (Photo below.) The neighboring trundle was, and still is, our hamper. Adam bested me by downsizing his clothes even further— he managed to find a home of the rest of his pieces in the drawers that are part of the bed frame, beneath the bookshelves on his side of the bed. 

We now keep all of our shoes in the built-in cubbies beneath the couch. (Photo below.) Socks, swimwear and underwear fit into the drawers that are part of the bed frame, beneath the bookshelves on my side of the bed

The fun (yet tricky) part of this project was finding a shed that was juuuuuust riiiiight for our little garden. We didn’t want to build on to the house— we just needed a simple shelter that was about 2’ deep by 4’ wide by 6’ high. Luckily we found this shed from The Home Depot, which was the perfect size for our needs:

We carefully weather-proofed the shed’s seams, and painted the exterior to match the Cottage with contrasting Behr Paint colors on the panels and trim. Next, we installed a custom-cut dowel rod for our hangers, and selected this cedar wardrobe in which to stash our hanging “weekly wear.”  Lastly, we secured the shed to the side of the house for safety, in case of earthquakes. 

The entire process took about a day, from unpacking the shed at the start, to hanging up our belts and hats at the finish. We added some accessories— such as this outdoor rug— to make this part of the garden feel more like a room, and to tie it into the nursery’s outdoor lounge area

The shed is only five steps from the bedroom closet, so it’s no inconvenience. Adam and I joke that our clothes are probably actually better protected now that they’re living outside in a sealed shed and garment bag, seeing as how we keep our house wide open 10 months out of the year. Our clothes have pretty much been living an indoor/outdoor lifestyle for 5 years anyway! 

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in this nursery makeover project. As a part of the project, I am receiving compensation in the form of products for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences on this blog are my own, and are written in my own words. My post complies with the WOMMA Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Tiny House Nursery - The Heater Cover

We moved into the Cottage over five years ago, and every day since then our vertical wall heater (located in the bedroom) has driven me insane. Not only is it a total eyesore, but it collects dust and dog hair, and needs to be cleaned off regularly. We rarely need a heater in our home, as “winter” in Los Angeles doesn’t really exist. In the past when we’ve used the wall unit, it only seemed to blast hot air to the top of our bedroom, frying our bookshelf, drying out our plants, and leaving the temperature in the rest of the house seemingly unchanged. 

When redoing our bedroom to accommodate the nursery, we didn’t want to remove the unit completely— we’re legally required to have a heating source built into the house anyway. But since the grate is only about a foot from the nursery, I wanted to update the facade so it wouldn’t continue to stab at my eyeballs. Plus the ugly temperature gauge stuck out into the closet, preventing the crib from rolling in and out of its dedicated space, so the little control box had to go. We opted to create a custom heater cover with basic materials that we found and and customized at The Home Depot, which is just down the road from our home next to Adam’s office.

Of course we were very careful to make sure that the heater was completely off and disconnected from the gas before covering it. And we had an electrician visit the house to safely manage the wires beneath the heater and behind the control panel before we sealed everything up.

In order to create the custom cover (which basically acts like a shoebox top over the heater), we really only needed the following items, all of which we got at The Home Depot:

  1. Three custom-cut plywood panels to cover the sides and front of the heater
  2. Decorative and functional molding to join the seams of the panels
  3. Paint (and corresponding paint supplies) for the panels and molding (we chose to match the bedroom walls and trim with Behr paints)
  4. The drill and screws to hold it all together

The whole process of covering, painting and decorating the heater took about three hours. You can see nearly all the steps required via the images above. I can’t believe I waited YEARS to it.

The end result is a simple, smooth surface from which I can now hang wall decor, linens, plants, artwork, and/or lightweight storage pockets. Until the baby starts walking and grabbing things, I’ve opted to hang 2 lightweight mirrors, which help bounce light off the wall and make the room feel more spacious. I also added a 1-pouch magazine rack, where I’ll keep the baby’s daily health log during his first months:

The heater now blends perfectly and purposefully into the nursery, and I love it. During the brief, mild LA winters, we’ll use a modern, compact, energy-efficient space heater instead of the wall unit to better keep our family of 5 comfortable. Win-win! 

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in this nursery makeover project. As a part of the project, I am receiving compensation in the form of products for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences on this blog are my own, and are written in my own words. My post complies with the WOMMA Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Updating the Cottage Garden with Rolling Greens

Our tiny wedding at the Cottage took place this past weekend! Everything went exactly as we'd hoped, and we couldn't be more grateful. (Wedding photos coming soon!)

In preparing our home and garden for the festivities, I decided I wanted to decorate with live greenery in lieu of traditional floral arrangements as much as possible, so I partnered with Rolling Greens in LA to make it happen:

Above: The stoop and side garden, where we said our vows.

Above: The stoop and side garden, where we said our vows.

ABOVE: THE STOOP WHERE WE SAID OUR VOWS, and the lil' porch between our cottage and the neighboring house.

ABOVE: THE STOOP WHERE WE SAID OUR VOWS, and the lil' porch between our cottage and the neighboring house.

Above: The front garden, where we set up our small-yet-mighty bar from the recent Joss & Main daily sale, inspired by The Tiny Canal Cottage. Exceptional bartending services provided by  Task Rabbit .

Above: The front garden, where we set up our small-yet-mighty bar from the recent Joss & Main daily sale, inspired by The Tiny Canal Cottage. Exceptional bartending services provided by Task Rabbit.

Above: The Cottage porch (and #StanleeStubs). Plants from Rolling Greens. Couch from CB2. Pillows by Show Me Your Mumu. Rug from Wayfair. Blanket by BEAM textiles.

Above: The Cottage porch (and #StanleeStubs). Plants from Rolling Greens. Couch from CB2. Pillows by Show Me Your Mumu. Rug from Wayfair. Blanket by BEAM textiles.

We added three potted trees to the property (which made a HUGE difference on the more barren outside walls), along with about 10 medium house plants (the Silver Philodendron are my current favorites), and about 20 small plants including tropical varieties and herbs.

Above: Bougainvillea surrounding the Cottage garden.

Above: Bougainvillea surrounding the Cottage garden.

I love wandering around Rolling Greens-- it's completely gorgeous, and feels like a hidden escape in LA. I live closer to the Culver City location, so that's the one I frequent, but there's another on Beverly Boulevard, too. The staff helped me select drought-tolerant greenery, and advised me on how to care for my existing plants as well. They delivered everything to the Cottage on the same day as my visit (which was extremely helpful, as Adam and I share one tiny car). They even provided me with a few tips on what to place where, depending on the varying levels of sunlight throughout our yard. I can't wait to share the rest of the photos with you soon!

Below: Images from my wedding-prep trip to Rolling Greens. (Click on thumbnails to enlarge.)

Cottage Fence Makeover with TaskRabbit

A few months ago, we replaced our low fence at the cottage with a higher design. We didn't want to get rid of the old set-up, but the pups kept leaping over the gate, which became problematic for numerous reasons. We opted for a higher design to help keep  #StubsandSoph safe.

Before:
(We loved this lil' old gate and bougainvillea, but they unfortunately had to be removed for safety reasons.)

After:
(Our new, taller fence. Finished & painted by TaskRabbit, primer & paint by Dunn Edwards.)

The fence was unfinished for months. I got pregnant around the same time I'd planned to paint, and my doctor advised against me tackling the task myself. But with the cottage wedding drawing nearer (we're only three weeks away), it needed to get done.

Sophee REALLY loved the brushes, but we had a feeling she'd make a lousy painter, so we hired a professional named Andrew from TaskRabbit.

It took Andrew about four hours to complete the job. First he had to sand down the rough and splintered sections of the fence, and then apply the primer. After the primer dried, he added the paint, and then replaced the hardware on the fence and gate. He was even mindful to avoid the grape leaves and budding concord clusters, which I really appreciated:

I chose "Play on Gray" paint from Dunn Edwards because I wanted a hue that worked with the cottages, without being SO white that it clashed against the old wooden fence beneath the grapevine. Andrew really did a wonderful job, and we're thrilled with how everything turned out. It's amazing what a difference the fence color makes for the overall appearance and feel of the garden.

I'm looking forward to using TaskRabbit again soon, as they're helping me do some extensive prep-work and day-of jobs for the cottage wedding... but more on that later! For now, it's time to relax in the improved garden with Adam and the pups.