House Tours: Small But Mighty Cottage Home

A 400-square-foot cottage in Fairfax, California, lives large with smart storage and a punchy color palette.


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Outside small cottage home
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Picture Perfect

    Bigger isn't always better. City code kept this couple confined to a 320-square-foot footprint, so they used their design experience to eke out the most of every inch. To keep this new building true to the style of the surrounding neighborhood, the small house referenced the 1920s.

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Thoughtful Layout

    Clever space design enabled the couple to fit two beds, a sofa, a kitchen, stacking washer and dryer, and a dining nook into 400 square feet.

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Living Space

    Small-scale furniture and appliances and an efficient floor plan maximize this home's miniscule footprint. From wall art -- letter-theme pieces from salvage materials create the piece above the sofa -- to savvy hidden storage, the clever cottage holds lots of lessons in smart living.

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Coffee Table Collectables

    Stacked books in bright colors that match the color palette create a pedestal for beautiful spring flowers and other home accessories.

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Delicate Dining

    The table for two expands to accommodate a cozy foursome in a pinch. Drop leafs are a great way to give an option of being able to entertain without taking up all the space all the time. Turquoise is cheery and cool in this cottage.

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Quintessential Kitchen

    The kitchen condenses the amenities of a full-size home by using apartment-size appliances. A traditional staircase to the bedroom would take up too much space, so a library ladder on rails that run along the living room gives great access to the sleeping loft.

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Lovely Loft

    Natural light bounces off the white walls. A skylight opens the sloping ceiling in the loft. The two stained-glass windows were added for a personalized touch. Accessories found their place on pegs nailed into a salvaged door. (Check with your local building codes to determine if you need to attach a railing to lofted spaces or not.)

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Match Up

    Built-ins offer the most storage in the smallest amount of space. Scour salvage shops for cabinets and wardrobes for storage solutions. Don't disregard pieces that are slightly beat up or even mismatched storage compartments. Often, all it takes are minor tweaks and a coat of paint to unify disparate pieces.

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Secret Storage

    For the ultimate space-saver, a vintage Murphy bed is installed and swivels in and out of the wall for a welcoming guest bed. A mirror outside of the door covers the bed so the space can serve as a dressing area when the bed is stowed.

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Dress It Up

    A pretty patterned sheet, tablecloth, or fabric hung behind the bed makes an instant, laid-back wall accent. This tapestry softens the look and heightens the effect of the headboard.

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