I work from home. My husband, Caleb, works here too. As two independent creative professionals (he’s an artist and animator, I’m a writer and content strategist), we want to live and work in a place that inspires us.
We also believe that it’s important for clients who visit our home to have an experience similar to what we provide in our work. And did I mention the house is very small? The main floor is only 750 square feet: a front room, two offices, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Our bedroom is in the basement.
We’re asking a lot out of our space. With so many demands on such a tiny house, we knew our needs were beyond our own capabilities; so we commissioned an interior designer to help. While working with Jessica McKay of Birdhouse Interior Design, I noticed that her process of interior design included many of the same ideas that I try to push my own clients toward every day, like being intentional and slowing down and being yourself. These same concepts transfer easily to a rich and meaningful life (not just a well-styled one).
Before starting out, Caleb and I financially committed to the project with a deposit (I ask my clients to pay a deposit, too. Something about paying takes you to “all-in” status.) We wanted to create a functional, beautiful, and welcoming place to invite clients and friends — and we wanted it to feel like us.
We shared references of things we love and hate; we spilled our quirks; we explored how we relax and work. Jessica thought about it and after some time created a vibeboard for our input.
The thought and planning that we all did before anything actually “happened” led to us being thrilled with the design direction and the end result. To me, this experience mirrors real life in just about every way. I always feel most fulfilled in both my career and in my personal life when I articulate my intention before I start and immediately do something that shows my commitment to that intention.
Hug your challenge
We decided to give some love to the front room because it was our biggest challenge: It’s everyone’s first experience when they walk through the door. Embracing the challenge meant struggling through several dead ends. And it led to a clever solution that we might not have thought of at first.
Try as we may, this space did not want to be a living room. The house was built without an entry room, which means you stumble through the door into the middle of the main room. And with three entrances into the room, it is a well-trafficked space.
Accepting the fact that the room shouldn’t be a living room with a couch and coffee table made it possible for us to create a multi-functional waiting area, conference room, and dining space. A communal antique table allows us to host meetings with clients and dinner parties with friends.
Once we decided to use the space in a new way, the room became obviously more functional. And surprisingly, it also felt a lot more cozy and relaxing than it had as a living room.
Thoughtful design sometimes includes slowing down. This project isn’t “done” yet, and we’re okay with that. We are still waiting to find and afford the perfect vintage Milo Baughman chairs. In the meantime, we’re living with a set of chairs we already had. We want to love whatever we own, and we’re not buying stuff just to fill a space.
I’m also happiest when my life isn’t cluttered with superfluous events and to-dos. When I allow some spaciousness, I can really engage and appreciate the things I choose to do. But when I’m busting at the seams with cheap filler or thoughtless busy-ness, I’m never satisfied.
You can’t throw every thought in. Some stuff just doesn’t make the cut. We had to move a sculpture we absolutely love because it just didn’t fit. If it doesn’t benefit your space or your life, let it go (yep, I’m also talking about working within your scope — oh, and also that client you need to fire).
Push through the nerves
When we started out, this room was completely colorless: white curtains, white walls, gray sofa, and some wood. Jessica breezed in and basically said, “We need some color in here — you have too much personality for no color.”
At that same meeting, Caleb and I absolutely agreed on only one thing: NO VELVET. So we were feeling way outside of our comfort zone when Jessica suggested the velvet drapes for texture. We decided to trust her expertise and we’re so glad we did! The outcome is so much better because we were willing to take some risks.
Your feelings matter
Has something ever bothered you, but you don’t know exactly why? You don’t need to know why to acknowledge that it is. Through this process I’ve become very aware of the principle of balance and how I’ve always felt it in my body.
From now on I’ll always be careful to not weigh down a space by placing all the heavy furniture on one side of the room. An intentional design process taught me the name for that concept is balance — but just because I didn’t know what to call it before doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. Trust your feelings: get curious, listen to them, try to gain new insights about yourself and others from them.
The mural that Caleb painted on our statement wall makes this room feel most like us. It’s is an expression of who we are — from our mutual love of nature to Caleb’s recognizable sketch-based style to the hidden words he peppered throughout the wall for me. And the brightly painted sticks by local artist Teal Gardner might not be for everyone, but it’s totally our jam.
Jessica calls us weirdos, and we 100 percent accept that title. Let your inner weirdo shine! When I meet you, I want to be introduced to the weirdo side, that part that’s quirky and special and different than anyone else. By being yourself, you make everyone who encounters you immediately feel comfortable in your presence. By showing up as you, you are encouraging others to show up as themselves. That’s how I want to live and that’s who I want to be around — always, everywhere.
Because my business is so closely tied to my personal space, the thoughtfulness we’ve put into our interiors has affected multiple areas of life — in the best way. Clients and partners are happy to come have meetings in our studio because it’s such a welcoming space. We’re always ready for a dinner party or a random drop in. And we’re inspired by the space where we spend most of our days. It didn’t turn out exactly how we thought it would — and I’m so glad! It turned out exactly how we wanted and needed it to be.