As a seasoned small-space nester, I rarely have the luxury of designating a separate room as a home office. Like most of us, I’ve had to improvise and maximize a small corner or a bookshelf as a place for the computer and office supplies.
Clear Space Savers
The secret to keeping a work corner from looking and feeling cramped is to choose furniture and accessories with a clear style profile. This six-foot glass desk doesn’t take up a lot of visual real estate in the modestly-sized living room. Thanks to the see-through glass table top, you barely notice that three inches of the desk overlaps the fire place mantel. In tiny abodes, you have to surrender perfection and make the most of what works.
Keep It Personal
An inexpensive clear plastic desk chair I picked up from Home Goods gets a personalized touch with custom GPS coordinates. You can order custom adhesive decals from the Hour Glass Design Co. on Etsy.com. I like the look of the matte white vinyl on the clear plastic. The clear back chair doesn’t add to the clutter of a cramped corner.
Embrace Open Storage
Finally, I needed a small office caddy that could tuck underneath the desk, and this inexpensive, see-thru magazine rack fit the bill. To keep it mobile, I attached clear acrylic wheels to the bottom and topped it off with an acrylic tray for desk supplies. The caddy doubles as an end table in the living room whenever I have guests.
For more small home office ideas with a clear point of view, click here.
Photo Credit: Matisse Exhibit at the MoMa
Matisse and I go way back. As a young girl, I felt his art was approachable, lively and colorful. Fast forward to my small-space design life, and I continue to channel Matisse in everything from wall coverings to DIY-printed curtains.
The taupe walls in my compact master bedroom needed an upgrade, so I decided to make removable wall decals inspired by Matisse’s paper cut-out collages.
White and taupe are one of my favorite color pairings so the cutouts are made from white-adhesive decal vinyl. The vinyl comes in a matte and a glossy finish. For this project, I chose a matte finish to feign the look of painted shapes on the wall.
Silhouette Adhesive Vinyl
I drew six different shapes measuring about 7-1/2 inches tall and 6 inches wide. Print and cut each shape from card stock. Place onto the white vinyl sheet and use a pencil to trace around each stencil-template. The adhesive vinyl was a little pricey so keep your pattern layout pretty tight to maximize every inch.
Here are some Matisse-inspired stencils you can print:
Nutshell Tip: If a small corner of your decal peels away from the wall, use a dab of double-stick tape underneath the vinyl for extra support (the roller kind works great).
Fresh off of a Decorate This, Not That book tour, I was itching to make some design tweaks to my petite, master bedroom even though it had been styled for the book. Some may call it a compulsion to add, edit and redo a finished space, but for me design is a vital form of therapy. You get into a meditative state working with your hands, and it calms the mind. With every tweak, cost is always a consideration, and whether or not I can incorporate materials already on hand. Luckily, there is a surplus of burlap on my fabric shelf. Be sure and check out more burlap DIY projects here.
In the book, Decorate This, Not That, lampshades in the bedroom were originally covered with pretty, yellow gift wrapping paper. But, I recently bought sisal-burlap trim for a bargain at a local Tuesday Morning store and decided to redo the shades in burlap to match. Tuesday Morning has become a surprisingly good source for trim, tassels and better craft supplies.
Lay the burlap out on a flat surface. Roll the lampshade over the fabric and with a pencil, mark along the top and bottom of the shade until you make a full rotation around. Cut out burlap leaving a little extra salvage at the top and bottom. You will trim the excess later.
Cover the front of the lampshade with a light layer of spray adhesive. Next, drape the burlap over the adhesive, smoothing out wrinkles as you go. The adhesive is pretty forgiving. You will have time to reposition the fabric if need be. Once the fabric covers the entire front of shade, fold under the raw edge of the side seam and use a dap of fabric glue to keep it secure.
Trim all of the raw edges of the fabric along the top and bottom of the shade. Glue the burlap fringe to the bottom of the shade (about 1/2″ above the bottom edge) and finish off the top with a narrow burlap ribbon. The trim will hide any of the uneven raw edges of the burlap and will keep it from fraying.
Nutshell Tip: Use wooden clothespins to hold trim in place while the glue dries.
New York City here I come. It’s my next stop on the 2018 book tour of Decorate This, Not That!. I saw this as a chance to refine the book tour experience of 2012 when I released my premiere book, Living in a Nutshell… when I knew nothing. With the first book, I pulled out all of the stops and toured to five cities all on my own dime. My publisher, Harper Collins, helped schedule and ship books to the appropriate retail outlets, but as any new author knows, the marketing of the book rests on your shoulders and pocket book.
Now armed with a stronger following on the blog, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, I scheduled only two formal book signings, one in San Diego and one in New York. In February I signed books and hosted a champagne and crafts night at my childhood bookstore, Warwicks in La Jolla, California. I did some local TV appearances on the San Diego morning shows, and there was a good showing of friends and design files eager to learn more about living and designing large in small spaces.
It was important for me to make the event feel like a party, so I served Le Grand Courtage bubbly, provided by my friend, Tawnya Falkner. Replicas of the book cover created in sugar fondant topped beautiful cupcakes baked by my sister.
I am going to rely on promoting the book as a guest on national talk shows, like Pickler and Ben, and cross fingers, Hallmark’s Home and Family.
For all of you who have come to a signing, follow me on Social Media, and who have spent your hard-earned dollars on my book, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you feel supported and inspired to break the rules and to make your petite abode the home of your dreams.
This Christmas I wanted to get an early jump on holiday decorating. I couldn’t find an outdoor wreath that I liked and truly did not want to pay $30 on up for one that I would be tired of looking at after the season wraps. I love the look of a live wreath and looked around the garden for inspiration. The camellia bush was bountiful and ready to bud, and the holly bush was already red with berries. Time to use what I have. Here we go.
• Use your discount coupon for Michaels or Joann Fabrics and buy a metal wreath frame.
• Cut camellia branches with buds attached and cover the entire frame. Secure branches from the back with green twine or floral wire. Make sure the raw ends of the wire are tucked in so they will not scratch the surface of your door or wall.
• Cut holly berries and secure them between the camellia leaves.
• If hanging outside in the sun, make sure and water your wreath daily or every other day. I take the hose and give it a spritz of water from the back. So far it still looks fresh.
• If the wreath starts to fade before Christmas, it is easy enough to add more berries or swap out the browning leaves.
• It takes a lot of branches and greenery to cover a small 12″ wreath so make sure you choose a plant in the garden that is overgrown and won’t suffer from a little trim.
Photo by Gail Owens
When it comes to entertaining in tight quarters, I am a champagne glass half-full, not half-empty girl. If you are a happy and relaxed host then your guests will follow suit. But, there are some tricks of the trade that make small-space entertaining a breeze like a self-serve bubbly bar. It only takes up 12-square-inches, and it makes people smile!
Photo by Gail Owens
Set Up Self-Serve Drink Stations
Establish two self-serve drinking stations and place one in the front and one towards the back of the room. This will encourage a smooth traffic flow and the happy mingling of guests. One station can be the water and vodka bar. The second station can be a help-yourself champagne and wine bar.
Most importantly, self-serve stations for food and drink will give the hostess more time to enjoy her own party, which is always a good thing.
• Find a small flea market chair that has a seat that can be easily removed. Check underneath the seat for simple screws that will release the seat cushion. Once I removed the seat cushion of my chair, I kept the serial numbers as part of the character of the chair.
• Paint your chair to match your party theme.
• Attach champagne corks as wine glass holders.*
• Tie basket to the chair back with twine and line the basket with an insulated cooler bag cut to fit. This will hold extra bottles of chilled wine or bubbly.
• Place a plastic punch bowl onto the seat and fill with ice and bottles of bubbly.
Where to Buy the Book
* For all of the project details and many more clever space-enhancing tips and projects, check out my latest small-space design book, Decorate This, Not That!
To reduce water condensation from the ice bowl, double up on bowls. Place two plastic punch bowls on top of each other with a white cloth napkin in between.
“Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of white wash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all the gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit.”
—The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
White Wash Quickie
Just like my friend, Tom, I dreaded having to paint a large, plain wood fence in the back alley of my cottage. The fence was extended and repaired to include a privacy gate. Old sections that became dinner for termites (a big problem by the coast) were swapped out, leaving an unsightly hodgepodge of new and old planks of wood. But unlike Tom, white washing turned out to be an easy fix, and I didn’t have to trick anyone into helping me paint.
Old Fence Before
I had Minwax white wash pickling stain left over from a previous project. And I knew it looked clean and fresh on unfinished pine wood. Another advantage: no priming necessary!
• Although the stain is not recommended for outdoor use, it is actually quite durable in a mild climate like Southern California. Instead of brushing on the stain and then immediately wiping it off with a cloth (as per the can’s directions), brush on a thin layer, don’t wipe and let dry. The unfinished wood will absorb the stain unevenly and that adds to the charm of a white-washed fence.
• Use a brush not a roller. You want to see some of those brush strokes. Occasionally paint against the grain of the wood here and there to enhance the shabby yet chic look of a white-washed cottage fence.
• You can stain a fence in half the time it takes to paint it. The stain also helps to protect the wood over time.
Here’s a bonus tip on how to hang a unique planter on a garden fence.
Decorate This, Not That! Coming January 2018
Over one year in the making, thanks to my dream editor-publisher, Marta Hallett, Glitterati Inc. and G Arts, I happily announce the arrival of my second small-space design book, Decorate This, Not That! It will be available wherever books are sold in January, 2018.
Small-Space Tips For Every Room
I transformed a rundown two-bedroom, petite beach house (all 614-sq.feet of it) from shack to cozy cottage, room by room to garden. Since this house will not be a forever home, I set up stringent design goals for this renovation:
•Keep decor accessible and easily done with my own two hands, paint brush, power drill with only an occasional call for help to my contractor friend, Joe.
•Keep decor portable and flexible, without permanently hurting walls, windows or floors so that it can travel with me.
•Experiment with surprising materials, storage ideas, unique colors and patterns to maximize every inch of a home.
•Throughout the making of this book, I fully embraced by maximalist ways. You will discover my love of color and the mixture of patterns, vintage with modern, high-end and low.
Petite Cottage Sneak Peek
Here is a preview of a some of my favorite book moments. Photographs for the book were shot by the talented, Gail Owens. Take a look:
The Shimmer of Gold Leaf Enlarges the Look of a Small Space
Metallic finishes are a tiny home’s secret weapon, and the shimmer of gold leaf on furniture feet adds shimmer to a cramped spot. Gold accents reflect light around the room, and the glow makes a space feel bigger. A few weeks ago I revamped my old, ebony black armoire into a cheery yellow, chalk-painted and waxed wonder. Admittedly, I ran out of steam and left the feet as is until now. Sometimes I like to give myself a moment, live with a newly painted piece, and figure out what design direction to take next.
Before Gold Leaf
Hollywood Regency Theme
Gold-brass hardware added a touch of Hollywood Regency glamour to the armoire, and the idea of adding gold leaf to the feet was a match made in design heaven. I opted for the deeper shine of gold leaf rather than gold paint. All you need are gold foil sheets and gilding adhesive to get the look.
Gold Leaf Basics
Brush on a thin layer of gilding adhesive and let it dry until it starts to feel tacky (about a 45-minute wait). If the layer is too thick, the uneven texture will reveal itself under the gold foil. When the surface is sticky to the touch, carefully place a sheet of foil over the feet and gently rub. Each gold leaf sheet will come with a piece of tissue paper that will allow you to guide the foil into place.
Use a soft brush and cotton balls to wipe off the excess gold foil and burnish the surface so it really shines. Give it a whirl!
Protect the gold leaf feet with a layer of clear acrylic sealer.