...because home doesn't happen overnight.
We recently stayed at this amazing modern cabin in Lake Leelanau, Michigan. The home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms plus a powder room and is modestly sized. (If I had to guess, I’d say it’s roughly 1,800 square feet.) Immediately upon arrival, it felt airy and spacious thanks to numerous windows throughout, vaulted ceilings in the main living space and, of course, the innately uncluttered decor that typically comes with a vacation rental. Once we settled in, however, I noticed several space-saving tricks that weren’t as obvious. I thought I’d share them with you since many of the clever ideas could easily translate to a residential property. Here they are…
1. A built-in entry closet. The small entry is sandwiched between a powder room and exterior walls, leaving very little room for a legit closet. Recessed IKEA cabinet frames maximize storage space for outerwear, bags, sports equipment and other miscellaneous.
The top cabinet provides hanging space while the lower cabinet houses several drawers. Often times, the space below a hanging rod is underutilized, so I thought this setup was ingenious. In a real home, I could see the drawers being used to corral mail, parent-teacher communication and children’s homework. You could even designate a drawer for each child.
2. Loads of kitchen drawers. The kitchen occupies one wall. The owner opted for a trio of windows with lake views in lieu of upper cabinetry. (Duh.) The base cabinets open to reveal ample drawer space.
Shallow drawers are ideal for smaller items like silverware, cooking utensils, cutting boards and baking sheets. Deeper drawers are perfect for pots and pans.
A single pull-out below the sink provides hidden storage for trash and recycling bins and also houses dish soap, dishwasher detergent and extra trash bags. The lower drawer to the left of the trash is actually a drawer dishwasher hidden by a cover panel. The compact size allows for a separate drawer above which houses silverware and makes the task of unloading the dishwasher a breeze.
FYI – I mentioned my thoughts on having a trash pullout at the sink in this post, and my concerns were validated. The setup worked well for us when there was only one person in the kitchen, but we tend to clean up after meals together and prefer separate zones for trash/recycling and dishwashing. Otherwise, the person at the sink is constantly being asked to move out of the way. That’s just our preference.
Yes, this is an IKEA kitchen and, no, I didn’t know about it when I booked the place. I was so excited (and, quite honestly, surprised!) when I opened a cabinet and made the discovery. All the cabinet frames and drawers in the house are IKEA, even the bathroom vanities.
From a design standpoint, I liked the seamless look of the single panel fronts versus several individual drawer fronts. Opening one drawer to gain access to another drawer really wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. Inside and out, the cabinets are tidy. The custom fronts are furniture grade plywood outfitted with raw brass pulls. I loved the warm, natural look. I also loved the owner’s decision to repeat the cabinet design in the bathrooms. It just made the entire house feel really cohesive.
3. A freestanding pantry. With no room for a walk-in pantry, a floor-to-ceiling pantry is an effective alternative.
Not only does it provide storage for dry goods, it houses dishes, bowls, glasses, mugs, serveware – even a slim refrigerator with bottom freezer! An open space above the refrigerator acts as a minibar out of kid reach. Note: There is no microwave in the house which perplexed us at first, but the only thing we missed it for was popping bagged popcorn.
Once again, drawers, drawers and more drawers glide in and out for easy access and loads of storage. The placement of dishes and serveware near the dishwasher facilitates dishwasher unloading.
4. A kitchen table. No dining room? No problem. A large table punctuated by a pair of oversized pendants takes the place of an island and acts as buffer between the kitchen and adjacent living room.
Reclaimed wood and an X-base are reminiscent of a farmhouse table, but the waterfall edge is a modern touch. A mix of vintage chairs lends a casual vibe. I loved the juxtaposition of the rustic table and chairs against some of the sleeker elements in the space.
5. A custom, low-slung media stand. An extra low media stand allows the flatscreen to reach just below the window line, allowing for uninterrupted views of the landscape.
The simple design raises the flatscreen to a comfortable viewing height and provides space for thin electronics and books.
6. A desk behind a sofa. Bringing in a console table is the knee-jerk reaction when considering the space behind a floating sofa, but what about a drop-leaf table that doubles as a desk? It’s an instant home workspace!
In a traditional setting, I could see it being used to pay bills, check email, work from home and tackle homework. It’s conducive to adults and children alike.
7. Nightstand alternatives. In moderately sized bedrooms, nightstands can crowd the room and eat up precious floor space. Floating shelves attached to an extra wide headboard are an effective option.
There’s just enough space for a glass of water, a candle, eyeglasses and nighttime reading material.
They’re great in children’s rooms, too! Forgo lamps and mount wall sconces on the headboard.
In one of the bedrooms there wasn’t quite enough room for shelves, so the owner brought in folding chairs to flank the bed. Bonus: The chairs can be used for extra seating in a pinch when company visits.
8. Pocket doors. Here, a pocket door separates a powder room from the hallway. When space is tight, everyday motions like opening a door can be cumbersome. In hallways or in doorways that adjoin two rooms where the space required to accommodate a swinging door is minimal or non-existent, consider installing a pocket door.
Another pocket door separates the master bathroom from the master bedroom.
I hope these ideas inspire you to think outside the box when coming up with space-saving solutions in your own home! Admittedly, there were so many great details in the cabin that I had a hard time condensing them into a readable post. (Still, here I am at 25+ photos and 1,000+ words. Are you still awake?!) I encourage you to go back through the images and make note of more features, like the simple trimwork, the flooring materials, the mirror-less powder room, the mirror at the end of the hallway, the freestanding soaker tub, the DIY platform beds (constructed of the same plywood found in the kitchen and bathrooms), the custom cabinet bases, the artwork and ALL. THE. CORNER. WINDOWS. What catches your eye?
P.S. – See more vacation houses here and here.
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
Sarah (a graphic designer), Kalyn (a finance guy) and Finn (a peppy schnauzer) live in a small Ohio town in their 1,100 sq. ft. starter home. I’ve been following Sarah’s blog for years and our offline lives finally collided when I started renting a studio space downtown. (Sarah works part-time for an interior designer in the same warehouse.) I’ve long admired Sarah’s creativity, DIY skills and knack for styling so I was crazy excited when she welcomed me into her home for a tour. Get a peek inside and read Sarah’s thoughts on everything from buying a foreclosure to hanging wallpaper to living in a small town…
On buying a fixer-upper: It was never our intention to purchase a fixer-upper. We looked at multiple homes with our realtor and this was the only house that required a renovation. I fell in love with the original character of the home and loved the fact that it was built in the early 1900s. It had obviously been neglected and sat empty and overgrown for more than two years. The stench upon walking in the front door was enough to avert even a serious buyer. I suppose we were the
lucky crazy ones who decided to tackle this project. It just made sense for us financially (we bought it for less than the price of a brand new car) and we were capable of completing the majority of the construction ourselves. I also jumped at the opportunity to really make a house our home. Many of the properties we viewed just didn’t feel like us and were priced higher, meaning we had no additional room in the budget to make adjustments…so we settled on the foreclosure.
It was an insane amount of work and took over a year to complete but I’m so proud of what we’ve created and, more importantly, that we built this space together. Our first Thanksgiving in the home (two years ago with no heat), we skipped a warm and cozy dinner with our families, opting to stay in the house instead, reworking the plumbing and electrical. I remember setting up our camping table and chairs, eating fast food, shivering in our Carhartt overalls and laughing about our terrible Thanksgiving meal in our new home. We couldn’t envision ever having a completed or furnished dining room. I also remember my embarrassment the day Kalyn had a port john delivered, which sat in our driveway next to a dumpster during most of the renovation. Later, I was thankful to have a “restroom” while working on the home but even more grateful we didn’t live in the house during the chaos of construction and days without plumbing. Before my blog, Room for Tuesday, was up and running, I started a personal Tumblr to share with family, solely devoted to the transformation of our house. The before and after images are unrecognizable (luckily) but it’s fun to look back at where it began.
On compromising with your husband: Aside from hanging wallpaper together (which I would not recommend doing with your significant other), the living room floor plan has been our biggest challenge. Of course being the typical guy, he wants a huge TV. Normally, I would be cool with that but our living room is tiny. There is a giant fireplace and three windows, leaving only one viable wall for the TV. Long story short, we have two focal points: the TV and the fireplace. This does not sit well with me but it’s something I live with because I know that ugly eyesore of a TV makes him happy.
I will say, I am super thankful he allows me to get my way 90% of the time because he trusts my interior instincts. He’s also pretty creative himself and many fantastic ideas have manifested in his brain rather than my own (hallway wainscoting, landscaping, and bathroom expansion, to name a few).
On living with a rambunctious puppy: A week before our shoot, Finn decided to destroy the tufted back cushions on our sofa. Kalyn walked into a house filled with fluff and I immediately began to panic. My quick fix and cost-effective solution was to buy a variety of down throw pillows to line the sofa back. It’s definitely less expensive than a new sofa but I think it’s a sign we should upgrade. Kalyn has complained about our sofa being uncomfortable since the day it arrived so maybe it’s a happy accident.
Living with a large, high-energy dog can be challenging. Our windows are never clean and always have nose prints. Our freshly painted walls are now a little scuffed up, and our newly refinished floor is scratched but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It didn’t take long to achieve that “lived in” look, ha! The one thing he has going for him: no shedding.
On creating flow: This has been one of our greatest construction challenges. The home originally was very closed in but we love open concept layouts. After determining which walls were load-bearing, we wanted to open up as much as we could. We increased the traffic area between our dining room, hallway and living room (it’s the weird center intersection you see in the photos). We also knocked out a wall between the kitchen and dining room but then rebuilt a pony wall. It made the kitchen larger, dining room smaller and helped to designate an area for the dining table and bar credenza. I like the functionality. It hides anything on the countertop so guests in the dining room aren’t looking at a mess. It also provides a bit of separation, without feeling closed off.
Floor planning and furniture just fell into place, for better or worse. Most key pieces could only fit into one configuration. That’s the trouble with small houses. For instance, the master bed had to be placed in front of a large window; it wouldn’t fit elsewhere. The guest bed had to be positioned in its current space because of an architectural built-in that hides the pitch of our basement stairs. Perhaps the living room has been the most challenging because of the TV.
On those gutsy green walls in the dining room: Green tones have always been in my comfort zone. I know many people favor navy and calming blues but it’s always been green for me. I treat it like a neutral. It was the first paint color I selected for the house. I try to sprinkle it throughout our home with houseplants and accessories so it feels cohesive and acts as a common thread of color.
To this day, the Breuer dining chairs are my best find! I can’t even believed I snagged them for so cheap. This is the before, after and tutorial on reupholstering. They’re some of my favorite vintage items in our home!
On dressing up the mundane: I recently took a seminar on millwork and the importance of scale, proportion and keeping trim historically accurate. Moulding is supposed to make you feel safe. It sounds insane but that is its purpose! It looks as though it’s helping to hold things up and in place structurally. I tried to be sensitive to keeping the base and crown accurate to the original trim, as well as adding woodwork in places that could be enhanced (wainscoting in the hallway and bi-fold closet doors in the guest room).
On splurging: My favorite splurge would definitely be the bed in our master bedroom. I custom designed the piece, from sketching the waffle tufting, scale, specifying my favorite cognac leather and even the charcoal wood tone on the tapered legs. It’s perfect and we’re so glad we upgraded to a king, even though it’s a little tight in the room.
On living with two closets: I’m not going to lie. Living with two closets is the worst. Without our basement, this house wouldn’t work for us; it’s definitely been our saving grace for storage. We’re big outdoor enthusiasts and with that comes a lot of gear. We love camping, skiing, hiking, kayaking, etc… so our equipment is divided between our basement and garage. I’ve also learned to shop smarter. We try to spend our money on quality, key pieces, rather than quantity… simply because we have limited space.
Originally, the house had three closets. We sacrificed a small linen closet in the hallway to expand the bathroom. The toilet now sits where the closet used to be. It was a tough decision but I’m confident we made the right one.
On minding the details: I’m such a detailed-oriented person! The original doors in the home had beautiful glass knobs. I tried to restore them but they were cracked, foggy and too far gone. I wanted to keep the hardware details and moulding as close to the original as possible. Kalyn sourced the glass doorknobs online and demanded to have skeleton keys (his grandpa used to collect them) so I rolled with his idea and they turned out great. Although, guests sometimes are confused and lock themselves in the bathroom :)
The kitchen cabinetry hardware is from a small, family-owned business in Connecticut. Each piece is handmade and special. I wanted a variety of hardware (knobs, handles, cup pulls, etc.) in the same finish.
On living in a small town: Our town is so small that it isn’t even considered a “town.” We live in a village and don’t have a mailman! That’s right, Finn and I walk to the post office everyday to retrieve our mail and packages. Kalyn and I both grew up on farms and, let me tell you, this is larger than where we come from. Ha! We love having a yard that backs up to a cornfield, the freedom to have campfires and enough space for a garden. Someday we’d love to be closer to the city but, for now, this location makes sense for us. It’s quaint!
Thank you for sharing your lovely home, Sarah!
Isn’t this space amazing?! Obviously, I love the overall renovation but what I noticed most in person were all the little details like the crown moulding, beefy baseboards, wainscoting, trimmed out bulkhead (in the kitchen), hardware, light fixtures, carefully curated vignettes and artwork on display. Every time I spotted a vintage camera or schnauzer paraphernalia it made me smile. What caught your eye? Did you happen to spy the rose gold recessed lighting in the kitchen? Such a pretty and understated surprise!
Resources of note:
wall paint – Benjamin Moore super white
flooring – red oak, stained with Minwax’s dark walnut
curtains – Ikea
sofa – West Elm with Restoration Hardware pillows
coffee table – West Elm
armchair – West Elm
magazine holder – Crate & Barrel
ceiling fan – YLighting
horse sculpture – etsy
wall sconce – Ikea
wood candleholders – West Elm
media console – STOR New York
peony art – local artist Katie Stratton
horse photograph – F2IMAGES
cabinets – Kraftmaid
hardware – Colonial Bronze Company
sink – Kohler
faucet – Brizo
countertops – Silestone
backsplash – The Tile Shop
pendant – vintage
rug – vintage
wall color – Sherwin Williams evergreens
table – Ikea
chairs – vintage, reupholstered
pendant – CB2
art – Leftbank
sideboard – vintage
wallpaper – Hygge & West
light – DIY, Home Depot
rug – vintage
hardware – Anthropologie
brass chevron hanger – Target
bed – West Elm
nightstand – vintage
bedding – Urban Outfitters
automobile photograph – Minted
closet knobs – Anthropologie
accent wall paint – Benjamin Moore black panther
bed – custom, Lee Industries
nightstands – vintage, DIY
bedside lamps – Ralph Lauren
pendant – YLighting
vanity – Ikea
mirrors – Miles & May
wall sconces – West Elm
subway tile – The Tile Shop
hexagon floor tile – The Tile Shop
art – Lauren Stern
glass doorknobs – Look in the Attic & Co.
bench – CB2
animalia hooks – vintage, CB2, HomeGoods
engineer print & frame – DIY
pendant – Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
It’s no secret that I’m slightly obsessed with tiny houses. There’s something about fitting life into a tiny, tidy dwelling that appeals to me. I love the way it encourages creative space planning, minimal possessions, intentional choices, practical organization, financial responsibility, eco-friendly features and a reliance on community. We are a family of five living in ~1,600 square feet and I often dream of living in a smaller home. So when a long-time reader and her husband offered to share their tiny house story, I was all ears (and eyes). I’m happy to share their story with you today. I found it so inspiring and I think you will too.
LeAnne and Derek bought a foreclosed fixer-upper shortly after graduating college and getting married. The original plan was to DIY the house into a modern cabin. But after a few grueling months of renovating and living in an apartment off-site, they made a conscientious choice to turn a small, detached garage into their living space. Find out more about their 350-square-foot tiny home (affectionately named “Bunker”) below. Plenty of photos included!
What prompted you to convert your detached garage into living space?
When we purchased the foreclosed property in January 2014, we immediately started on the house which was a wreck. After a couple of months of renovating and an impending apartment lease coming to an end, we knew we needed to either resign a year lease or come up with a better option. At the time, we were living in a 550 sq. ft. studio apartment in downtown Indianapolis, so living in a garage didn’t seem too far-fetched! Before Bunker was Bunker, she was the garage that was holding all of our tools, leftover doors, windows, and anything else we thought we may want to save. I specifically remember standing in that little garage crammed full of stuff and trying to imagine all of Derek’s ideas. He really was and is the visionary behind this project.
In April 2014, we officially switched our focus from Longshot (the house) to Bunker (the garage). Our original goal was to be moved into Bunker by June, but a stop work order hanging from our door two weeks before the move kept that from happening. We ended up going through the whole inspection process and moved into Bunker October 1st, 2014.
What were your must-haves for the space?
His? Tall countertops. Mine? A closet. We actually ended up with both! Our kitchen is Ikea but we did the countertops ourselves. Ikea has a variety of legs to choose from, so adding height wasn’t a problem.
The closets are Ikea wardrobes. We put two separate units together to create a closet space and to break up the “box” feeling of Bunker. We didn’t come up with the closet idea until three weeks before moving in. I was getting a little nervous about how we were going to store things!
How did you make the utilitarian space feel cozy and livable? (i.e., How did you make the space feel less like a garage and more like a home?)
Our style has morphed into comfortably modern with an industrial cabin twist. Is that a style?! Every piece or detail in Bunker has been chosen just for her. Decorating a small space has been great because it forces me to be very intentional with what I buy. If I don’t have a quiet squeal moment in the store, I won’t buy it. My favorite pieces that add to the cozy factor is our DIY painted (blue!) refrigerator, our orange Ikea couch (which is also a full sleeper), and the cedar accents throughout the house.
What is the hardest thing about living in 350 sq ft? The easiest?
The hardest part is keeping it clean. The easiest part also happens to be keeping it clean. With such a small area, when mail is sitting on the kitchen table, the whole place looks cluttered! The good news is that cleaning up takes barely any time at all. I try to straighten it up every morning before I leave for work. Then when I get home, I can swing open the double doors and don’t have to worry about it looking like a disaster. I would not describe myself as a clean freak, so our home has forced me to be more organized.
What is your favorite Bunker project to date? Least favorite?
My favorite is the cedar siding wall we created to cover up the backs of the closets. It was a Sunday afternoon and I had mentioned that I would LOVE to get something to cover up the closets and shoes. We headed to Home Depot and strolled through the aisles. We came across packs of cedar siding and I quietly squealed. The project was so simple. The cedar planks were already the exact length of our closets. We just lined them up and screwed them in! Within an hour, we had a great accent wall for under $50.
My least favorite would have to be the DIY steel & wire railing in the loft. I absolutely love the way it turned out in the end but it took a while to dream up, assemble and finish. In the meantime, I was sleeping in a loft with no railing to keep me from falling. The railing was Derek’s baby. We bounced around a lot of ideas. (We went months without any railing.) Eventually, we settled on steel frames with a single wire roped through a pulley system. The black portion of the railing is leftover metal roofing material, trimmed out in leftover cedar. My husband completely geeked out during this project and I love the way it came together.
Are you motivated to start work on the house now that you’ve conquered Bunker? Or are you content living in Bunker for a while?
This is a constant topic of discussion between the two of us. At this point, we are planning on being in Bunker for a few more years. We really enjoy what we have made, the convenience, and how much money we’re saving. (Our mortgage is 85% less than what we were paying in rent.) Longshot is currently being used as a workshop. We aren’t necessarily committed to any one thing and are keeping our options open.
What is your next project?
As you can see from some of the pictures, we are still working on finishing touches. Most of the trim has yet to be completed. I have been avoiding some painting projects, and we would like to work on the outdoor patio area and landscaping.
I have never been a flower girl since I prefer to eat plants instead of smell them. Therefore, we opted to do edible landscaping this year. We tilled up some beds around the house and grew kale, cabbage, tomatoes, onions and lots of herbs. We also had our first ever garden which keeps me on my toes! Next year, I would like to trim out the beds and mulch. One thing at a time. As with most homes, there are ALWAYS projects!
Are there any other tangent stories or details you’d like to share?
We like to keep it real in the Lavender household so you must know that living in a tiny home isn’t always glamorous. When we first moved in, we were essentially taking over the space from spiders, mice and, the worst creatures of all, crickets. There was a point where we were literally up several nights in a row at 3:00 a.m. desperately trying to find the crickets that were chatting with each other. One of my favorite memories is my husband standing on the kitchen countertop sporting a head lamp with shop-vac in hand, trying to vacuum up a cricket when it would peek out of a crack in the concrete. There were many sleepless nights…which made us realize we are NOT ready for children ;)
On a final note, Bunker was a complete DIY project except for the electrical work (which Derek did do, but when we got busted by the county, they made us tear it out and hire an electrician) and the water line.
Thank you, LeAnne and Derek, for sharing a big peek at your tiny life!
You can see more of LeAnne and Derek’s tiny house on their blog. I have to say, I’m so envious of the couple’s mindfulness at such a young age. We could all stand to learn a thing or two from them: living within your means, choosing patience over instant gratification, making the most of what you have, being resourceful with DIY and having the courage to resist the (expensive!) norm. As for Bunker, she’s quite the cutie. I love the mix of homey accents (warm wood tones, sputnik chandelier, greenery, etc.) and practical elements (concrete floors, freestanding wardrobes, double screen doors, etc.).
Would you ever consider living in a tiny house? What would be on your must-have list? I don’t think I could live happily without a washer + dryer.
If you’re interested in reading more about tiny houses, I’d highly recommend Tiny House Living and The Big Tiny. And I really enjoy seeing how one growing family is making their tiny house work for them.
images: LeAnne Lavender