Jun 2012

Livin’ Large… in a small house

Big changes. Our house in Washington [pictured here] is officially on the market, and we are making our way home to San Diego. Please wish us luck in finding someone who loves this house just as much as we do.


This is from an article I wrote for a local magazine: It’s that time of year; the summer sun has returned to brighten our spirits, longer hours beckon us to home projects and our love of home entertaining is renewed as al fresco dining is back in full swing!

As I ponder my own summer projects, it brings to mind how many of us purchased homes at a time when market appreciation could be relied upon. We bought our homes knowing that as our families expanded and our needs changed, we could trade up if necessary. Cut to 2012, and it’s no longer quite so easy. So how can we make our small spaces live larger and more comfortably while suiting our current needs? How do we fall back in love with the homes we excitedly chose before the market “corrected” itself?

No matter what your individual taste and style, there are a few general tricks for maximizing visual space and enjoying more spacious living. They may seem counterintuitive, and of course, we each have varying levels of aptitude [and patience] when it comes to DIY projects… but trust me, they work!

If you plan to put your house on the market, the same rules apply to staging and will help you attract buyers.



Living Spaces

  • Paint all the living areas the same light hue – pale colors expand a space visually by making the walls recede.
  • A carpeted room can feel smaller than it actually is. Replace it with wood floors throughout and you’ll increase the amount of visual space while creating continuity between rooms and your whole house will feel bigger
  • De-clutter your home by eliminating excess tchotchkes; consider setting up a swap with friends
  • Chandeliers don’t have to be formal, they can be inexpensive and playful and come in a variety of sizes
  • Bigger is better: furnish your home with fewer pieces that are good sized rather than lots of small items
  • See-through surfaces such as a glass coffee table will carry less visual weight
  • Don’t go crazy with patterns – keep your upholstery to simple solids and neutrals relying on texture to add interest

Walls & Windows

  • Mirrors reflect light to open up a room. Choose one oversized to make a statement, or several smaller mirrors to create a grouping
  • Plantation style shutters add substance and a more stately feel to a small house while their tidy, un-fussy look keeps a sense of openness and space
  • Creating a large built-in the size of an entire wall adds focus to your room and serves as an extremely functional storage piece while drawing the eye upward
  • Make sure window treatments are unfussy. Rich fabrics like velvet will give a lush luxurious feel to your home; make sure they have simple lines by avoiding swagging and draping
  • Hang your drapes wide to show the full window width, and close to the ceiling allowing them to sweep the floor; the no high-water rule applies to curtains, not just trousers
  • Keep your windows sparkling clean to create less of a barrier between you and the outdoors
  • If you crave rich deep hues of color on your walls, keep things bright by painting the upper portion of your walls while adding crisp white wainscoting to the bottom half


  • Convert your step-up kitchen counter to one level; it opens up the room, looks less fussy more contemporary, and bar stools are now readily available in counter height
  • Short upper kitchen cabinets can be replaced with taller cabinets reaching as high as your ceiling height will allow. This adds extra storage and visual height to the room. No need to replace your lower cabinets – go for a different but complimentary look on upper cabinetry, it’s an opportunity to go more contemporary or add some whimsy
  • Eliminate visual clutter; stow as many kitchen appliances as possible and pull them out only when needed – this also leaves you more work space

Bed & Bath

  • Paint your guest room a color you’d never dare to use elsewhere. The aquatic hue we used in our own guestroom enhances the retreat-like feeling we want for our overnight guests
  • Install your bathtub or shower tile clear to the ceiling to avoid pesky paint peels and mold issues which might creep up over time and also draw the eye upward
  • Rid a small bedroom of its dresser by building one into the closet
  • Customize your bathroom by adding an over-size mirror to extend the length of the vanity and up to the ceiling – this adds drama and opens up the room

Thank you, Ryan for the pics!



{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimby June 20, 2012 at 5:09 am

Rachel, what a gorgeous, open, airy look you’ve created! I enjoyed reading your tips and agree that “less is more” visually and smaller square footage doesn’t have to mean less “space.” Best wishes in your transition to San Diego!


The Fromagette June 20, 2012 at 11:33 am

Thanks for the wishes, Kim … I am so ready to be back!!


Magdalen McCarthy June 20, 2012 at 9:46 am

Gorgeous!! Actually that doesn’t even begin to touch on the grand beauty of your home. Having frequented Chateau Riggs myself many times, you have pulled of timeless elegance while still radiating comfort and coziness. So let me know when happy hour commences and I will pull up a bar stool, indoor or out, to soak in the style and sophistication:)


The Fromagette June 20, 2012 at 11:31 am

Thanks Magdalen! It’s always a pleasure to spend an evening cooking (and cocktailing) with you!!!


Shari June 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Ahhhh, lovely photos. I am looking forward to luxuriating in the “aquatic hue” of your guest wing…It IS a wing, isn’t it? I also look forward to your decorating sense once you get back home. God knows I need some help pulling together all the bits and bobs that need doing in our small cottage home. You really should write a book on lifestyle living, you do it so well!


The Fromagette June 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Ha – you’re spoiled. No, it’s not exactly a wing. But I am excited to see you and will happily assist you with your bits and bobs!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: