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).
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.
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.
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.
Make the Most of Vertical Garden Space
My petite beach cottage is blessed with a compact outdoor garden. With not many green square inches to work with, I managed to turn a vintage bike into a slim standing planter, and now it’s time to take advantage of the little porch. Summer is winding down, and it was the perfect opportunity to grow up and maximize the vertical green space. A solid wood lattice railing borders the porch, which inspired my first try at an espalier climbing vine.
Yay! Espalier Basics
Espalier is an old-world method of pruning and tying live plant branches flat to a wall or lattice to create a pattern. I decided to plant confederate jasmine for my espalier design since it grows pretty quickly in partial shade, and the fragrance is oh, so sweet.
Thread galvanized wire through eye screws (Everbilt #210) and install a crisscross patterned frame for the jasmine to cling to. I planted the jasmine two days ago so it will take a little time to prune and guide the vines into full shape. But the basic steps for creating an espalier are relatively easy, inexpensive and a lot of fun. So far, no casualties. If space is limited in your neck of the woods, give espalier a try.
This vine training video boosted my confidence and made me feel like the basic espalier techniques could be mastered without too much risk or frustration.
I’ll be updating its progress on instagram: living_in_a_nutshell.
Once the espalier frame is fully covered, it can camouflage an ugly fence and give you a little extra privacy where needed.
Chalk Paint to the Rescue
The move to sunny California ignited a complete design overhaul of my dark, heavy NYC furniture and accessories. The new sunny zip code also heralded the creation of chic, budget-conscious ways to transition my shack into a cozy beach cottage. I knew chalk paint by Annie Sloan was going to be the key to this transformation since my chalk-painted leather chairs turned out smashingly well.
Gray Chalk-Painted Leather Chairs
Most of the transformation has to be kept under wraps for now until the release of my new book, Decorate This, Not That! in spring 2018. But I can share the recent style refresh of the dark, espresso-colored TV armoire that used to be an eyesore in the living room.
Bye-Bye Black Armoire
First on the makeover To-Dos: add some architectural oomph to this plain Jane armoire with inexpensive O’verlays in a double Greek Key pattern. The overlays are very easy to cut and glue (E6000 did the trick), and they give a style nod to the Hollywood Regency era that I love so much. The overlays shipped in two days and totally fit the slim décor budget.
Before ordering overlays sight unseen from the internet, use white chalk and measure out and draw the exact proportions of the molding directly onto your furniture.
Citrus yellow (on the green, chartreuse side) along with Kelly green and black accents make up the overall color palette in this room. I had half a can of Annie Sloan’s English Yellow chalk paint left over from another project, and I thought it would brighten up the armoire nicely. The color treatment just needed a little twist in texture and finish so the room didn’t look too matchy. It took two layers of yellow paint and two top layers of Annie Sloan Old White (watered down by 30%) to get the coverage I needed.
The white layers were sanded down to reveal the yellow underneath, giving the overall piece a vintage, unique distressed pattern. Once dried, clear wax enriched the color and protects the paint.
The armoire was not designed with hardware pulls. Instead it opened and closed with a spring loaded latch which left annoying fingerprints with every press. Adding these gorgeous Harvey Handle brass pulls from Anthropologie was like finding the perfect earrings for an outfit.
Don’t be afraid of repainting a large piece of furniture. It does take some sweat equity, but in the end you’ll have a custom piece that is unique to your petite abode.
Who, What, Where
Mark your calendars! I’ve been asked by Dwell on Design to be one of their design blog ambassadors in Los Angeles, June 23-25, 2017. Dwell on Design is the largest modern design fair on the west coast presented in partnership with Dwell Magazine, which brings together the brightest people, latest design materials, furniture, technology, garden and accessories under one roof.
You don’t have to be in the biz to enjoy the many design fair lectures, tours and shops. Here are some of the events I am putting on my must-see list:
Kim Lewis Tiny Homes, the former Lead Designer behind ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Kim Lewis, is launching her own line of Tiny Homes at Dwell on Design. She’ll be there in person to give us a tour and to share her tips on maximizing space and style.
The Home Tours allow design-seekers to fully immerse themselves in “Dwell-like” domestic spaces. These unique homes located all over Los Angeles are specially selected by Dwell to reflect the rich diversity of livable, innovative modern architecture and design found in the city.
A Little One-On-One Design Time
One-On-One Consultations are back by demand at Dwell on Design. Now is your chance to talk to real, live architects, designers, and tile experts in a series of free, no-commitment consultations. Make an appointment online via the link for your free, private design session.
Hope to see you there June 23-25 at #DODLA17! Grab your passes at dwellondesign.com/register and use promo code NUTSHELL to save on your pass.
DIY Cement Planters For Less
Cement planters give any petite garden or terrace a touch of cool modern, but the $100 and up price tag motivated me to take design matters into my own hands.
On a recent visit to my favorite Japanese dollar store, Daiso, I bought a plastic planter urn. I drilled a few extra drainage holes to prevent soggy plant roots later on. Now, for the fun part!
This Just In: Mold-able Concrete
I had a little bit of Shapecrete left over from a previous project, which is a mold-able concrete mix that works like clay. You just add water. It comes in a large 20-lb size, but you will be surprised how many projects you can create with it. Make sure and use gloves. I do not have allergy-sensitive skin, but working with this clay with my bare hands made them feel itchy for a few hours. Check out Shapecrete’s how-to video here.
Drape and shape the clay over the outside of the urn and just over the top lip, leaving the inside of the urn uncovered.
According to Shapecrete’s website, their product will alter the pH of the soil which may or may not affect some plants. Being a card-carrying brown thumb gardener, I didn’t want to risk it. Instead, I lined the inside with a coco liner and added the soil on top.
Living in sunny California, succulents have truly become my friend. They’re drought-friendly and so easy to grow in almost any container even an old postal box. My succulents look happy and are thriving in their new home. Be sure not to overwater.