16 smart strategies for small-home décor In a small space, being creative with color, materials, and layout yields big payoffs—and savings Before getting creative 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 we’d seen.” 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.” Pinterest Strategies: Pair contrasting colors for pop 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. Mix high and low 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). Update secondhand furnishings A $10 framed mirror from Goodwill reads “high class” with a couple of coats of high-gloss red paint. Find treasures at thrift stores This large oil painting was just $2 from Second Use (seconduse.com). Add fancy touches in small doses 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). Create multi-purpose areas 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. Repurpose furniture An old candy making table serves as a mobile kitchen island. Create attractive storage space A tray atop a narrow storage cabinet between the living area and the kitchen (really one continuous room) holds ingredients for cocktails. Mix art 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. Use wallpaper as artwork In 2-year-old Romy’s bedroom, playful wallpaper graces a single wall—a nice technique for a small space. Be bold with color Five-year-old Piper’s bedroom is a cheerful orange—a happy hue on Seattle’s rainy days. Shop salvage The windows and door of the garage-turned-guesthouse came from Second Use (seconduse.com), one of Leah’s favorite local secondhand shops. Reinvent materials Split concrete from the former backyard parking strip becomes pavers. Showcase artful reuse The side yard gate was built from salvaged metal. Recycle materials—and resources A discarded syrup barrel becomes a rain water harvester. More clever reimagining Plumbing pipe from Pacific Industrial Supply (pacificindustrial.com) becomes a garden gate.