This Small Bungalow Makes the Most of Its Little Layout

This updated bungalow has no space to spare, but a consistent palette and luxury surfaces (in small amounts) make the most of every inch.

This 1905 bungalow in Palo Alto, California didn't require much of an overhaul. When the homeowners found it in 2015, the house had been mostly modernized, and the 880-square-foot basement had been finished, nearly doubling the livable space. They hired a designer to give the house a layered neutral palette, space-conscious furniture, and eye-catching finishes.

In the front yard, a rot-resistant ipe wood fence adds a rustic accent to the facade. The homeowners, employed in the tech industry, were eager to add smart home features, such as a programmable lock system. The front door unlocks when they approach with their phones, and they can program access for friends and dog walkers. 

Warm Grays

The designer chose a calming color scheme of shades of gray with warm brown and purple undertones. The 120-square-foot living room called for petite furnishings, like the sculptural, low-slung leather club chairs. A gray marble fireplace adds texture to solid walls.

Wall Color Collingwood (859), Benjamin Moore

Antique Chic

The designer snagged vintage metal lawn chairs from Big Daddy's Antiques in San Francisco and revived them with Rust-Oleum spray-on epoxy paint in gloss black. Open frames don't block sight lines, a small-space bonus.

The base of the custom Parsons-style table was painted Black Beauty (Benjamin Moore 2128-10) to complement the industrial-chic chairs. The top's stain matches the dark floor.

How to Paint Metal Chairs

Set in Stone

Because it's visible from the front door, the kitchen needed a little drama. That comes courtesy of counter-to-ceiling tiles (Raj by New Ravenna) and a black-framed picture window, which makes the space appear larger. Statuario marble countertops have bold veining like Calacatta marble, but at a fraction of the cost. V-groove paneling on the ceiling adds subtle texture.

High Contrast

The neutral palette from the living and dining areas flows into the kitchen where white upper cabinets brighten gray-stained lowers. Deep cubbies keep favorite serving bowls, utensils, and cookbooks in reach. Gray and white marble is a key player in uniting the rooms of this bungalow.

Cabinet Color Snowfall White (OC-118), Benjamin Moore

Tandem Desk

The designer outfitted an empty corner in the basement with an L-shape desk for two. A mix of open shelving and cabinetry provides pretty and practical storage against charcoal gray walls. Mixing gold and silver metal accents gives a modern industrial vibe.

Wall Color Kendall Charcoal (HC-166), Benjamin Moore

Classically Clean

The homeowners can stash bulk supplies and extra sheets and towels in the packed-with-storage laundry room. Clever pullout drawers serve as labeled hampers for sorting lights, darks, towels, and delicates. Quartz counters stand up to stains and scratches.

Master Suite

Hexagonal shower tiles contrast with the veining of the Calacatta marble that covers one wall, the countertop, and floor in the master bath. The other luxury in this bathroom: natural light, thanks to the clerestory window over the mirror. More eye-catching than plain paint or a brown wood finish, cool gray stain makes another appearance in this space.


  1. Owners live in California which receives much more sunshine than the rest of the country. California homes work well with a gray color scheme. I live in Los Angeles and would love to have this palette in my own home!

  2. I have to agree with pretty much all the previous comments..."unbelievably tiny?" I live in a 584 sq ft 1-bedroom house and still would not insult *real* tiny house owners by calling my house "tiny", and yet the author thinks 1600 sq ft is? A little out of touch with reality, methinks.
    As for the color palette, it does seem a bit drab even though I like gray. I would think perhaps a unifying grey theme in the house with signature pops of color in each room might add a little more pep.

  3. Obviously they don't live in Northern New England. You could not survive the winter without some color in your house. I am sick of seeing every room painted gray. How boring and depressing.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Moved to our retirement “lake house” two years ago and followed the gray trend when repainting the living area. Looking at color choices now and planning the redo for 2019. Gray is boring and depressing especially here in New England. I am glad to read the comments to see that people are coming to their senses and finding their way back to color.

    2. AGREED! I am so over the obsession with grey; it is - just - bearable on a sunny day, but downright depressing any other time. Dull, dull, DULL!

    3. I agree Jfl1893. Gray is boring. I would need some warm colors to keep from getting depressed.


    5. I so agree!!! It is so depressing to see all the gray. I have even seen people fixing baby rooms up in gray. Atleast add lots of pops of color. Looks like a hospital.

  4. I don't think 1600 sq feet is 'tiny' in any respect...I live in a 1056 sq ft with 2 beds/1 bath and would kill if I had the extra feet for an office since mine exists in the bedroom (explain that to the wifi fixit man). Gray....not my choice! But I live with antiques and they bring their own color and charm. Loved the article....not sure of the candor.

  5. I live in a 3 bedroom, 867 sf house. No basement. 1600 sf is not tiny.

  6. Not so TINY! We have a 1000 sq.footage townhouse with an unfinished storage/ laundry basement. With 2 teenagers.I too have the GRAY livingroom but with pops of red. But thats the only gray area. Too much like prison to me. Love the desk area.

  7. The design is very calming and lovely. However, I can't help but laugh at your idea of "unbelievably tiny" as was the title of the click bait email. With the addition of 880 s.f. this makes this house at least 1500 s.f. if the term "nearly doubling" is correct. That is a NORMAL sized house for many people, who often squeeze in three bedrooms. I live in a 700 s.f. one bedroom one bath home. THAT is TINY!

    1. I live in a 750 square foot home; one bath; and a cement slab. No basement. I loved my little house with a roommate and two dogs. We made it work. No attic; either. And every one style is different; but I love the design of a bungalow and not a fan of modern design. But that has always been me.

    2. Agree!

  8. My house is a 576 foot one bedroom. Compared to actual tiny houses (which are generally under 300 square feet) my home is a mansion.
    The bungalow in the article is adorable and enviably gorgeous, but it is NOT unbelievably tiny. I'd be able to live HUGE in that amount of space!

  9. How does a bungalow with an 880 sq ft finished basement qualify as "tiny?" I mean, it's smaller, sure. But bigger than an apartment. My house has 670 sq ft total - and it is larger than what most people consider a "tiny home."

    1. I agree. That isn't tiny by any means. I live in a 360sq ft that's tiny !! It does make good use of small spaces but kind of bland and boring to me

  10. So...with the finished basement there's over 1600 square feet. How is that "unbelievably tiny"? Also, I'm not a fan of the cold modern interior in a bungalow. Disappointing article.

    1. Amen. I got 1100 sq ft...guess there’s no hope for me.

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