right now

right now

Mar 2, 2011

time for change... "Living Small"!

A different project, in between seedling reports!

I have had so many people comment on the space we live in that I have been meaning to post on it for over a year now.  I have heard nice things like "I love your style", or "You make this place seem big!", to the disguised jabs of "Wow, I can't believe you can live here, it's nice..." and "This is nice, but I could never live in such a small house".  Well, our house is tiny, but when I am faced with situations that I am forced to deal with, I tend to accept and embrace them, after a mourning period, of course (hey, I'm only human!)!  I am now very proud of our tiny space, we've worked hard, and now I know that we are happy with less so someday that means we can have... a big barn!  :)  Of course, if someone offered me a big old broken down farmhouse, I'd jump at the chance, but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon...

Every so often, I hear voices.  Usually the voices can be quieted by my bi-monthly rearrangement of furniture - this time it is not so.  I am hopelessly addicted to systematically destroying and rebuilding, some would call it remodeling, I call it a sickness!

We basically gutted the place we live in and redesigned the floorplan about 7 years ago.  This new floorplan works much better than the old small, dark, full of walls house that was.  We lived in a great new open space for quite awhile until the kids started getting older, and taller!  The space is starting to feel as if it needs more than just attention paid to furniture placement, I'm thinking we need a whole house freshening.  This time however, I'm doing it all with paint and I'm going to tap into my "outside the box" mind and push it to the limits.

900 sq feet be damned, we are going to live like it's 3000 - and I'm going to take you along for the ride LOL!  I already consider myself to be quite an organized person, but at the rate that I've been accumulating new hobbies (knitting, sewing, quilting, homebrewing to name a few) along with the fact that my kids are growing and their interests are changing (smaller toys, yay!) necessitates a thorough review of just what the heck is going on in here.

"Why not move into a bigger place?", you might ask!  For starters, we can't afford it!  We purchased a duplex and live in one side and rent the other side out.  This helps keep our cost of living lower than it would be if we did otherwise.  Another huge factor is that we are only here because of the military - we do not intend to even live in this state once hubby is out of the Navy, so why lose the farm in this housing market only to move somewhere else here that we know we'll have to sell in a few years?  Yep, the old adage holds true, "it's cheaper to keep her"!  And I'm sure I don't have to tell you that having an over half-acre backyard is very unique in the city/suburbs, we try to do a lot of living outdoors in the warm season, so we aren't as affected by the tiny house that part of the year.

Here's the plan:  I'm going to try like hell to repurpose every thing I have before buying anything new (with the exception of my new sewing table, which I already bought and will post on when that area is done), I'll do it with hubby's carpentry skills, maybe a bit of paint, fabric and imagination.  I'm going to keep track of what I do here on the blog in a once-weekly update and promise to be true about my budget, post costs and hang my head in public shame if I overspend.  I'm hoping this will ensure that I  stay off the plastic!  I know there are others out there who have very little space and could benefit from just updating what they have - I have been told I have a knack for this organizing/decorating thing but I'll be honest, it comes from necessity because we're a "lower middle class" military family on one income (but so thankful for that one income!), and I think necessity breeds all kinds of ideas and creativity.  This is what I love to do anyways, so here I go again!

Background on my style:  I'm in love with mid-century modernism, Scandinavian design (duh, I'm a MN girl!), Danish Modern... hence I am in love with IKEA (only their solid wood), you can't beat the price for design and simplicity.  Sure I love all things Dwell Magazine and would love to shop at DWR and such, but come on, I can't afford it!  I can easily switch gears to whatever design is appropriate, I love old farmhouses (I grew up in a late 1800's farmhouse) and would love to go Scandinavian farmhouse or shabby chic if that's what I had, would roll with the Craftsman or Victorian style if the house dictated, but this house?  Ugh!  This house was built in 1978, has zero architectural features and no discernable style other than crappy late 70's early 80's ranchiness (is that a word? - it is now!), and thus, I pretty much do whatever I want in here LOL.

A little time machine to take you back a few years:

First, I apologize for these horrible photos, I was so eager to get ahold of the sledgehammer back in 2004 that I didn't really take any "before" photos... you have to look behind the kids in most of them!

Ignore the bib, it was a joke!  Before the walls came down, everywhere you looked there was a wall in your face, only 900 sq feet but it had 3 bedrooms and a long dark hallway... too many walls!

This shot is our rental unit, it is exactly the same as ours was, lots of hallway... we left the original floorplan over there although we redid the kitchen.  It seems most people like to have the 3 bedrooms so it stayed as is, but was brightened up with lighter paint and light flooring instead of carpet, but you get the idea, it's the same as ours was...

There were TWO walls in our tiny kitchen!  One separating the kitchen from the living room, and another separating the eat-in area from the rest of the kitchen... you couldn't even pull a chair out and sit down.

This was the kitchen being gutted, walls down and redone - we have never hired anything out to save costs.  I designed and measured and put together all the cabinets and countertops and paint,  hubby did demo, install, plumbing and flooring, and any other strange requests that I had.

Below: egads! - We lived like this for close to 6 months!  No walls, you can see where 2 bedrooms plus a tiny living room were squeezed in this side of the house - where the crib is was a bedroom, and where you see the tan bed was another bedroom, the living room is at the front.  Finn was a baby here, we used to just push his crib wherever we weren't currently working :)

Now we're getting somewhere, but not quite...  to the left of this bed is where we cut a door to the backyard.  Before the only door was a sliding glass door in a back bedroom that was kind of strange for any normal traffic.  Even though this is still a bedroom, it's open to the living room via French doors now and thus "flows better" from the kitchen and living room to the backyard.

My kids' room has been redone 4 times - here's one of them...
(I still don't have it the way I want it!)

 Are you still with me?  Good!  Now is one last thing:  a video of the house in it's current "done" state.  The floorplan is as good as it's going to get at this point, which is great since we're broke LOL.  I basically like it the way it is but just need to freshen up and repurpose things and create more "multi-purpose" areas to allow all 4 of us and 2 dogs to keep on living here comfortably.

Now I'm going to go ahead and share my whole house with you on video instead of strategic photos :), in hopes that it will help others struggling with a small space!  I wanted to pick up of course before I shot this video today, and then I realized how stupid that would be since I'm starting to haul everything out of the rooms today and paint.  So here is my tiny house as it normally looks on any given day when company is not expected :)

 Next update will be on my paint choices and there will probably be some paint slapped on the wall and good repurposed items and by then!  I'm hoping to share this with others that love living small, and for those that are having to downsize, show you that it can be done!

I plan on my updates to not be so long and rambling, but wanted you to have a basic history of the tiny house!  My advice to any of you, take lots of before pics - I didn't and I really regret it when trying to describe how it was.

Just had another thought... hubby's at the squadron right now and probably reading this thinking he's gotta get home because "she's done lost her mind", again!


  1. You never, ever cease to amaze me with your exuberance, enthusiasm and 'just do it' attitude! As you can tell from my blog, I am not, ahem, that way.... but maybe your zeal will rub off on me! You go, girl!!! I'm looking forward to watching you transform your home, again!

  2. Fiona, I shouldn't have to get my kicks reorganizing the house every 6 months, I NEED A FARM LOL, that would teach me a lesson in staying busy!

  3. You really have your home WELL organized. I love the look of your house, but I am sure you will make it even better so I can't wait to see. I live in a very old area. While we have big newer homes in this area, most are very very small. So many 2 room log cabins housed 8-10 people and just think, they cooked everything from scratch and did everything by hand back in those old days. I think it is all a frame of mind. If it were up to me I would live in a yurt.

  4. Erin, I really love the color of that blue paint! Do you mind sharing it? I can't believe how spacious and organized your house looks - with two kids and two dogs and two adults! I don't even want to compare mine. I will be taking notes throughout this whole process - you are an inspiration!

  5. You. Are. Amazing. I thought I was organized, but I can see that I am very far from it compared to you. I don't know what to do other than increasing my caffeine intake every day to match yours. Do you think that will help?

    P.S. Do you know you could make big bucks hiring yourself out as a professional remodeler/organizer?

  6. Jane, funny - us too! Sadly, yurts aren't allowed here LOL. When we purchase our MN property, that's the first thing that's going up there, a good old fashioned yurt-raising! I would love to be in an old area, our "city" wasn't even built til the 60's!

  7. Susan, which blue? The blue in the kitchen or the blue on the rest of the walls? And thank you for the compliments!

    Mama Pea, that would be nice, but I have no design experience or degree so I don't think I'd be in much demand! I had thought briefly about "staging" homes for sale since most people have so much junk buyers can't see past the clutter, but I think it would be a lot of time involved with not much pay, and most homeowners get pi$$y anyways when you tell them what they could be doing better LOL!

  8. I think I'm as excited about this venture as you are!

    We downsized 22 years ago. I raised my kids in a lovely, 17 room, 3600 sf house. It was a split level with a finished basement, giving us four levels of living space with three bathrooms and four bedrooms (not counting the basement rooms). Now we live in a "crappy late 70's early 80's ranch". Sound familiar? Hey, where did you get my hallway? I want it back, NOW!

    We turned one of our three bedrooms into a "family room", and I use that term loosely. It's actually a Mr. Granny room, and I hate to go in there...it smells like man, and is embarrassingly messy. I am determined to find time to do some painting and a bit of updating this year. It will be fun following your adventure!

  9. Oh Gran! I hope I didn't offend anyone in the 70-80's ranch! I only meant that it lacks any defining architecture (that IS the truth) and is fair game to do whatever style floats our boats! :) Unfortunately that lack of a true "era" leaves us with no good place to start sometimes and we have to make one :)

    But wow, your old place sounds amazing - were your gardens as nice as the one you have now? It's hard to imagine a more functional garden than what you have going on, and I would love a "Mr. Hubby" room, maybe with a lock on the outside?!

  10. Your house is beautiful! I wish my husband was a handy guy cause we could make our house much better but after our last renovation I doubt we'll be doing too much more.

    Our hallway is so narrow you can't fit two people down it and one has to either back out or go in the bathroom to wait. LOL! Our washer and dryer is also in the hallway. I'd love to get a stacking smaller washer and dryer but that's not in the budget.

    You've really made the most of your small space and storage. It looks clean and neat and the colors are fresh and calming. Love it!

    I can't wait to see what you change.

  11. Oh, no offense taken! I'm begrudging the fact that I'm stuck with the 70s-80s Harvest Gold kitchen and bathrooms! I'm the only one who seems to be bothered by it, everyone else thinks they're just fine. I hate them! I really don't mind the rest of my house, it wouldn't take much to change a color here and there, and new flooring or carpets are in my near future.

    My garden at the "big house" was awesome. Did you not see my oldest daughter standing in the corn patch? The garden was probably about 1/2 acre, if not larger.


  12. Erin, wow, I thought I had a idea how your house was laid out and I was soooo wrong! I thought the new craft shelves were in an odd corner, not the hall, and I thought from your pictures that the kitchen was much larger. If I ever said I can't believe you live in such a small house, it was so true admiration because I'm such a hoarder I wouldn't fit. I wish that I could learn to live with less, in small spaces. Unfortunately, my husband is not in on that plan. The house we are renting is testimony to that. Although we will be learning very soon. Anyway, thank you for the video, it was so interesting and inspiring to me. Your house really is amazing as is you and your family! I can't even imagine where to start and you and your husband redid the whole house by yourself.

  13. I'm looking forward to what you come up with. You are so creative and organized, I'm sure it's going to be amazing. BTW, this is a great website for inspiring home decorating ideas. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/

  14. I love your style! And your bedroom is so clean...how do you do it?lol

  15. Your house is beautiful and so well organized. You guys did a great job renovating it!

  16. You've done such a terrific job with your home.....you know I've always admired what you do.
    We have a much larger home than we used to and I don't care for all the space. We tend to live in just 2 rooms. I miss my old 1000 sq ft home. You've done a fantastic job of making a home for your family. Another advantage to staying in a smaller home later when you move---cheaper utilities....especially if you like a colder climate.

  17. yay! I can't wait to watch you in action girl. I love your style. It is very different than mine, but I always admire it just the same. We are re-doing our half bath....well, we were until we were struck down by a nasty virus. Posting about it and the seedlings is on my to-do list. :)

    (I have the same disease by the way, the need to re-arranging and paiting etc all the time. Are you a gemini by chance? I guess we are just 'visual' people,lol. Our poor husbands.)

  18. Kelly, that's too funny - I AM a Gemini! Well, technically I was born on the "cusp" so I'm a Gemini & a Cancer!

  19. Y'all are too kind! I'm excited just to freshen things up, but I always regret these big projects as they always take longer than I expect!

    The author, LOL... it is definitely SMALL here :) It's hard to get an idea of one's space just from random photos, you probably thought I had some huge kitchen when all I ever post is photos of veggies on a counter!

    Dani, that "wall o'sin" as I call the big closet behind the curtain lets me hide everything! What's interesting is that we have no garage, either... if I could get rid of all the camping and backpacking stuff out of that closet I would feel like I had a whole 'nuther room LOL

    meems, I LOVE Apt Therapy! I've been visiting the website for years and I even have a book they compiled of photographs. We got an IKEA hack that hubby did on there a few years ago :)

    Susan, the light color paint is BEHR satin "Nordic Blue", but I'm not sure about the darker blue that's in the kitchen.

  20. Ahhhh, a fellow Gemini. We are a crazy bunch. Are most of your best friends geminis too? Mine are, and it makes me giggle. I think I can only truly relate to my own kind. (Grin.)