This Small Condo Features a Spacious Backyard Near the Coast

A California family passes on a home with more space to give a modern makeover to a compact condo near the coast.

The Moysa family (Geoff, Bri, Greyson, 12, Emerson, 9, and dog Chopper) share a two-bedroom, one-bathroom 1,000-square-foot condo—and for good reason. "Southern California is crazy expensive, and this is what we can afford," says Bri, who is an interior stylist and creator of the blog Emerson Grey Designs. "When we decided to buy instead of rent, we had to choose: Do we move inland and get more house for our money, or do we stay close to the ocean and make it work? We opted to stay and make it work."

family neutral living room dog leather ottoman sofa
The Moysa family: Emerson, 9, Bri, Greyson, 12, Geoff, and dog Chopper. Edmund Barr

Investing in their condo was worth it because of two fabulous features: its location (just 15 minutes from Dana Point) and its outdoor space (a nice-size backyard). However, the family did have to look past dated rooms in a sea of baby blue—on carpet, vertical blinds, even the toilet seat!—to what the condo could be once clad in Bri's signature tans, grays, blacks, and whites.

modern Scandinavian-style entry hooks hats concrete floors storage
Edmund Barr

Bri is quick to credit Geoff for being an excellent teammate—the perspiration beside her inspiration— in tackling every project that came their way. Together they tore out carpet, spruced up the concrete underneath, overhauled the kitchen, installed benches and a vanity, beefed up baseboards, and crafted wood shelves for nearly every room.

Bri turned a tiny stretch of wall near her front door into an entry by pairing a console with a row of iron hooks. The hook board is the first project she and husband Geoff tackled together. It's made from a salvaged board and black iron hardware from Anthropologie.

dog slipcovered sofa light blanket ladder artwork ledges shelves
Edmund Barr

The cozy condo makes the most of every inch, and it all bears the Moysas' modern, fit-for-a-family fingerprints. "I have always said that I never wanted to buy a house that's already done," Bri says. "We wanted something we could do ourselves and make our own."

Geoff crafted a display ladder out of $9 worth of lumber to store blankets in a beautiful way in the great-room. Shallow ledges on another wall barely intrude into a pathway through the room but still showcase artwork in easy-to-rotate fashion.

neutral Scandinavian style living rom gray curtains leather ottoman
Edmund Barr

A good-size sofa, clean-lined armchairs, and a large ottoman covered in leather provide plenty of seating in the great room. Curtains hung nearly at the ceiling visually stretch the space, as do the leggy chairs that let light stream through—design tricks Bri employed to make the room seem more spacious.

Homeowner Bri Moysa

There's a pride that comes with knocking things out yourself and knowing you single-handedly made your home what it is.

— Homeowner Bri Moysa

A mix of furniture scales perfects the space. The armchairs, for example, are low-slung and not too deep so their footprints are compact. Other pieces, such as the sofa and ottoman, are larger and more functional for a family.

black white kitchen modern minimalist butcher block counter range
Edmund Barr

The old kitchen was a cave of brown tiles and heavy oak cabinets, which the Moysas lived with for years until they saved enough money to revamp properly. They tore out upper cabinets, repainted lower ones, and installed butcher-block countertops—all on their own. "It was a six-month process for us," Bri says. "Talk about a massive high five when we were done!"

Bri had always wanted a kitchen that overlooked the great-room so she didn't feel hidden away when making dinner. She got her wish with this spacious pass-through. The counter extends to the dining room area so Greyson and Emerson can pull up seats for a snack or to do homework.

One wall in the great-room defines both the kitchen and eating area with a swath of rich black paint. "That corner needed something," Bri says, "and paint is an inexpensive way to make a visual impact. It guides the eye to the kitchen, the benches pop more, the art on the wall pops more. It adds depth and interest to the space."

black white neutral l-shaped banquette oval tulip table Scandinavian style
Edmund Barr

Smart, stylish strategies saved the day in the new dining area. The oval table is long enough to fit the family but narrow enough to avoid crowding the living area. Black wishbone chairs slip under the table when not in use, and the handcrafted banquette packs surplus storage in a slim space. Banquette benches not only stash extra kitchen equipment and kids' toys, but also take up less space than chairs.

Homeowner Bri Moysa

You've got to make your home work for you. Four chairs all around a table would have intruded into the walkway of our family room, whereas an L-shape bench along two walls makes maximum use of the snug space.

— Homeowner Bri Moysa

The artwork is a snapshot of Geoff as a teenager. Bri scanned it, had it enlarged and printed for $5, and framed it. "So many people want to know where I got it," she says. "I should probably just sell the print! You'd never know it was just a family photo."

homeowner Bri Moysa entry office area desk chairs
Edmund Barr

Just inside the front door, what was once a dining room now serves as Bri's office and the paperwork hub of the house. She deliberately keeps the desktops clear, stashing bills, calendars, and school papers on the shelves and in the baskets mounted on the wall. The pendant was once a table lamp. Geoff transformed it into a hanging fixture with a kit from a home center.

minimalist bedroom striped bedding blue indigo pillows modern artwork
Edmund Barr

Bri added panache to the primary bedroom with inexpensive framed art (two copies of the same digital download) and a bedside sconce that is simply a wood base looped with a bare bulb on a cord. The hats on the wall aren't just for show: Fair-skinned, redheaded Bri grabs one almost every time she heads outside.

small bath private toilet modern ikea vanity black white floor tile
Edmund Barr

The home's one bath marries style with function. The IKEA vanity, built-in mirrored medicine cabinet, and floating shelves stash towels, toilet paper, and other necessities where they're needed. Opting for a vanity with legs helps the compact space feel more open. Bri capitalized on the expanse of floor with boldly patterned stick-on floor panels, which mimic expensive concrete tiles but without the thick profile and tricky installation. The panels cut with scissors and apply like stickers.

black front-load washer dryer laundry nook baskets wallpaper
Edmund Barr

The laundry room sits in the hallway and is visible to anyone passing by, so Bri wanted it to be pretty. She covered the walls with an adhesive drawer liner (a mere $3 a roll) that has a subtle pattern to add some visual oomph. A cute framed laundry sign hides the unsightly spot where the water lines connect to the wall.

shared neutral bedroom girl boy concrete floor striped bedding
Edmund Barr

Emerson and Greyson share what was once the primary bedroom. Bri kept the decor simple with the same bed frames (a queen with a headboard for him, a twin for her), sheets, and pillowcases. To provide a personal touch, pillows and throws are different. Greyson's accents use more blues and olive greens, and Emerson's blush with some pink.

The olive green "wallpaper" is actually a large-scale stencil. The 2x3-foot stencil makes painting faster than yesteryear's small stencils, but still requires a bit of a time commitment.

covered patio corner modern black chairs pillows rug coffee table
Edmund Barr

"Our patio is 100% an extension of the great-room," Bri says. "I tried to make it as cozy and cohesive as the inside." Armchairs, pillows, a rug, marble table, and wall hangings allow the space to function as comfortably as any interior space.

Updated by
Karen Reinecke

Karen Reinecke is a freelance writer, editor, location scout, floral designer, and interior stylist. She travels across the country searching for the best locations for well-known magazines. Her work can be seen in Magnolia Journal, Country Living Magazine, and Better Homes & Gardens.

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