In a small space, being creative with color, materials, and layout yields big payoffs—and savings
At the height of Seattle’s real estate market in 2003, when Leah and Chad Steen bought their first home, the property was
far from picture perfect. “There was no landscaping; the previous owners even left us a note about the sad-looking Charlie
Brown tree in the front yard,” says Leah, who owns Revival Home & Garden (revivalhomeandgarden.com), a shop in Capitol Hill. “But the house had tons of character, and there weren’t holes in the ceiling, like other places
The early-1900s house’s footprint (1,300 square feet) is small, and the high sticker price left little cash for decorating. But limits only bred creativity. “Designing a small space means you can be discriminating, and vibrant decor updates don’t have to be pricey, just imaginative,” says Leah. Besides, “when I met Chad, he was living part-time in a VW bus, so this was definitely a step up for him.”
The front yard—once patchy grass and a parking strip—is now defined by bright boxwood, complementing the house’s purple paint. Chad built the side gate from salvaged metal.
Inexpensive furniture mingles with high-end touches in the living room: Ikea curtains hang on plumbing pipe behind a $1,200
chandelier from Leah’s shop; custom pillows sit atop a bargain (at $579) settee from Urban Outfitters; a hand-painted chinoiserie coffee table rests on an old Pakistani rug ($85 on eBay).
A $10 framed mirror from Goodwill reads “high class” with a couple of coats of high-gloss red paint.
This large oil painting was just $2 from Second Use (seconduse.com).
The back of a $40 thrift store couch was updated with just a few yards of Leah’s favorite fabric (Chiang Mai Dragon in Alabaster by Schumacher; $206/yard; fschumacher.com).
With no proper dining room, the breakfast nook functions as such—and doubles as an art table for the Steens’ two daughters. Thankfully, the vinyl cushions are specially treated to resist ink “and basically everything known to man,” says Leah. The benches provide storage space under their hinged lids. Bold wallpaper (Chinatown Toile by Flavor Paper; $150/15-ft.roll; flavorleague.com) accents a single wall. “In a small house, sometimes touches have to be small, like with patterned wallpaper and fabric,” Leah says.
An old candy making table serves as a mobile kitchen island.
A tray atop a narrow storage cabinet between the living area and the kitchen (really one continuous room) holds ingredients for cocktails.
A mix of inexpensive art—from eBay, Goodwill, and 5-year-old Piper—hangs above an old (and well-washed) fire hydrant that serves as a sculpture.
In 2-year-old Romy’s bedroom, playful wallpaper graces a single wall—a nice technique for a small space.
Five-year-old Piper’s bedroom is a cheerful orange—a happy hue on Seattle’s rainy days.
The windows and door of the garage-turned-guesthouse came from Second Use (seconduse.com), one of Leah’s favorite local secondhand shops.
Split concrete from the former backyard parking strip becomes pavers.
The side yard gate was built from salvaged metal.
A discarded syrup barrel becomes a rain water harvester.
Plumbing pipe from Pacific Industrial Supply (pacificindustrial.com) becomes a garden gate.