Great lessons in style and comfort from a tiny cottage, vintage trailer, bungalow, and other small homes
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Expanded cottage: Living room
Mark Egerstrom and Brian Grosdidier doubled the living space of their 600-square-foot cottage by appyling a few smart design tricks. They opened up the formerly choppy floor plan, and added a loft room, a roof deck “backyard,” and glass walls in the living room, pictured here. Transparent walls seem to bring the plants into the room itself. It’s a twist on the usual L.A. take on outdoor living: sliding doors opening onto patios. “We’re tricking the eye into feeling there’s more space than there is,” says Mark.
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Expanded cottage: Rooftop deck
When you can't expand out, go vertical. “We’ve got a backyard—it’s just on the roof,” says Mark. “It feels like a treehouse up there above it all.”
The house that Deborah and Olivier built in Venice, CA, is a monument to modern (and modernist) notions of resourcefulness. By going up, not out, the One Window House—so called because all but one of its “windows” are actually glass walls or sliding doors—makes the most of its small (680 square feet) footprint. Three stories give the house a total size of 1,500 square feet, despite its relatively small footprint. And Deborah and Olivier’s design philosophy can also be seen in how they refine rough-hewn (and economical) materials and use them in interesting new ways, extend the size of rooms by connecting them to the outdoors. For example, from the street, you can see the opaque panel that lets light into the staircase.
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One Window House: Kitchen
Olivier and Deborah see it as part of their design mission to take things—especially construction materials—out of their familiar contexts, reworking them so they can be experienced afresh. For instance, they decided to use oriented strand board, or flakeboard, for the kitchen cabinetry and a few other surfaces in the house. Flakeboard cabinetry and polished concrete flooring suit the indoor/outdoor theme running through the house.
Makoto Mizutani and Ben Luddy have turned their house into an R&D lab for living. Every piece of furniture they create for their design company, Scout Regalia, and for their 650-square-foot home (and office) is a product of necessity. In the multifunction main room, a midcentury Hans Wegner daybed does triple duty: sofa, guest bed for visitors, and “conference room” seating for business meetings.
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Live-work cottage: Bedroom
In a small home, storage space is on short supply, so Makoto and Ben employ savvy tricks to work it into their furniture design. This bed's backrest slides up to reveal storage. On the headboard, you push in on a hinged panel to access a similar space.
A couple of years ago at a fly-fishing show, Christa Johnston saw a display of vintage trailers. Taken with the idea of a wilderness vacation that wouldn’t involve a tent, Christa fell for the iconic Serro Scotty trailer—a brand once common on Western highways. She and her husband Kurt found a not-to-expensive model that wouldn't require too much remodeling and transformed it into the rolling getaway of their dreams.
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Stylish trailer: Interior
After eight weeks of work, the 100-square-foot trailer was ready for their first trip, 10 low-tech days in the Grand Tetons that proved their purchase was right for them. “We can really unplug and focus on us,” says Kurt. Christa agrees: “Being out there clears your mind, clears the clutter. When my out-of-office message says I’ll have no access to phone or email, it’s true.”
9 of 45Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
Creative country house: Dining room
Josh Heiser and Steve Burns decided to make a change from rainy Seattle and headed to Sonoma, CA. The prime getaway spot is justly famous for its enviable climate, dreamy grapevines-for-miles landscape, and notable wineries and restaurants. How, then, to keep that away-from-it-all vibe in a home that has to function as, well, a home? They remodeled a 1,100-square-footer, making the most of the space with a few clever strategies. Furniture groupings, like this casual dining setup in a windowed corner of the great room, help define discrete living spaces.
10 of 45Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
Creative country house: Bathroom
Formerly a second bedroom, this bathroom relies on space-saving strategies: antique redwood troughs in lieu of cabinets; a spa-like basket to keep towels handy.
Mariah Morrow and Ryan Lingard built their own cozy adventure outpost—just 130 square feet plus a deck—for $57,000, including the land. The cabin is the perfect jumping-off point into the wilderness near Joseph, Oregon.
12 of 45Photo by Thomas J. Story
DIY cabin retreat: Interior
What the couple may not have in square footage, they more than make up for in the spaces beyond the cabin. “There’s no need to drive to a trailhead,” says Mariah, noting that informal paths connect the cabin to mountain bike trails and Forest Service hiking trails. “In winter, we ski and snowshoe,” Ryan says. “It’s peaceful here, and spending time off the grid resets your priorities.”
Ray and Mary Johnston's 1,200-square-foot cabin near Twisp, WA is packed with ideas for small-home living. Take the open kitchen: One of the Johnstons' favorite things about it is the appliance-free island they made from a stainless steel and butcher block workspace they bought at a restaurant-supply store and covered on three sides with plywood. It was affordably made, adds much-needed storage space, and acts as a central gathering spot in the house.
14 of 45Dominique Vorillon
Washington cabin: Nook
"In a small space, the most satisfying thing is variety," Mary Johnston says of the built-in bookshelf on the wall above the staircase. The inviting alcove is both a convenient throughway and another place to hang out.
Lauren and Eric Wendlandt weren't worried about the tiny size of this San Diego bungalow when they purchased it. Using creative furnishings (this dining room table can extend to seat 10 people) allows them to maximize space.
See the living room next.
18 of 45Photo by Daniel Hennessy
San Diego bungalow: Living room
In the living room, the Wendlandts continue to take advantage of multi-purpose furniture—the window seat stores extra blankets, and the subwoofer doubles as a side table.
Landscape architect Andreas Stavropoulos lives in a remodeled 1959 Airstream trailer, which he parks behind a Berkeley, CA, co-op. The space is only 15 ft. long and 7 ft. wide, but Stavropoulos makes it work by avoiding unnecessary posessions and utilizing built-in furniture.
See inside the Airstream next.
20 of 45Photo by Mark Compton
Airstream home: Bedroom
Stavropoulos makes the most of his limited space by keeping his shirts and jackets hanging on a rail across from the cooktop. His built-in bed is topped with a thick piece of cut-to-fit Memory Foam.