Big Style in a Smaller Space

9 ways to pack a design punch when you're limited on square footage

Small Space Tips

Photographer Corey Villicana in her kitchen.

When Corey and Anthony Villicana—and their two boys Sebastian, 15, and Brooklyn, 11—moved into the San Marcos property Corey’s mom and stepdad had owned for nearly 20 years, they knew they didn’t want to do a gut remodel, but they definitely wanted to put their stamp on the residence. The couple worked with the existing footprint but made drastic changes. First, it should be noted that Anthony is a contractor by trade so things like ripping out the kitchen, installing his own custom cabinetry and pouring concrete countertops were all in his wheelhouse. But Corey, a photographer, found very creative ways (without doing any demo) to make the most out of their 1,200-square-foot home. The three-bedroom, two-bath house feels cozy, not cramped. Here, Corey shares her tips for making the most out of your small space:

Paint walls white.

White walls are trendy, but they also make rooms feel larger, more open.

small space tips

A buffalo plaid pattern is repeated throughout the home, and balanced with white walls to open up the space.

Define areas.

The breakfast nook sits at the end of the kitchen, and Corey wanted it to feel like its own separate space. To designate the spot for eating, she wallpapered the wall behind her table and chairs in a black-and-white buffalo plaid and hung a giant chalkboard. Anthony made it and its frame using reclaimed wood.

“The chalkboard makes it so easy to swap out seasonal artwork; you simply change the saying,” Corey says of the pretty calligraphic phrases Loren James (@fourthingspaper) pens for her. “Or [the chalkboard is] a blank canvas for a wall hanging, wreath or a countdown for the first or last day of school.”

Make furnishings multifunctional.

Corey had the oversize sectional in the living room custom made. “We’re everyone-pile-on-the-couch-and-hang-out kind of people,” she explains.

Rather than take up valuable real estate with a side table, Anthony created a built-in table by adding a wooden surface right over the arm of the sofa.

Utilize corners.

“The bar plays homage to my grandparents,” Corey explains. “They had this fabulous house in Laguna Nigel when I was growing up, and it was definitely a house where everyone gathered.”

Corey tucked her bar, a vintage drop-leaf table outfitted with booze, glassware and accessories, into the corner of her living room. She made the niche appear larger by hanging a big mirror next to the bar.

Shop intentionally.

Corey keeps a wishlist of items she wants or needs saved on her phone, complete with measurements. It makes it easier to shop estate sales and stores when you can rule something out based on size or shape.

small space tips homemade furniture upcycle recycled reclaimed wood

Anthony made the headboard and nightstands in the master bedroom out of a playset a neighbor was tossing out.

Buy classic.

Corey finds pieces that she’ll have forever and that can easily work in any room. Some of her favorite finds came from second-hand sources, such as her pedestal dining table, the giant mirror next to the bar and the white dresser in her room.

Use all available wall space.

“I feel like I can’t even call the space from my front door to the bedrooms a hallway,” Corey jokes. “I wanted to make the tiny space into something better.”

She hung peel-and-stick wallpaper to make it more graphic and fun. She drew inspiration from old Martha Stewart magazines (she’s saved all of them) and eclectic gallery walls. She printed photos she’d taken of her boys and images others had taken of her family in different sizes on various mediums, then framed some of them and left others bare. She also collected artwork and poetry her boys had created. Then she threw the hang-everything-at-eye-level rule out the window, and maximized the wall space. Art, photos and more hang from floor to ceiling on nearly every wall (except those she wallpapered). “As people walk into our home, they get an immediate sense of the people who live here,” she says.

small space tips: gallery wall

Sebastian’s room features a gallery wall of art, photos and treasures.

Assess views.

From the hallway, every bedroom is visible as well as the main living and dining spaces. “In smaller homes, when rooms aren’t hidden upstairs and down a hallway, you have to ensure that there’s a nice flow.” Pick complementing colors and stick to some basic design ideas. Corey used earthy neutrals throughout, created mini gallery walls in each of her boys’ rooms and repeated favorite design elements like the buffalo plaid, which shows up in pillows and bedding in Brooklyn’s room, and the shiplap in the living room and hall bathroom.

small space tips: gallery wall kid room art wolves

Corey incorporated Brooklyn’s love of wolves into his decor using modern artwork and accessories.

small spaces tips : outdoor livingExpand the living space outdoors.

“It’s important to look beyond four walls when you have a smaller living space,” she says. “We keep the French doors to the patio open year-round, so I wanted to mimic the look of my interiors out there.”

She stenciled the terra-cotta tiles to give the illusion of an outdoor rug, suspended a hanging chair from the pergola and added wood tables, ceramic stools and sculptural lanterns.





small spaces

It’s Small Spaces Week! We’ll be sharing our best stories, tips, tricks and ideas for making the most out of small spaces, and we want to see yours! Whether it’s your kitchen storage or a tiny house, we want to hear all about it. We’ll feature some of our favorites. Tag us on instagram and use our #SDsmallspaces hashtag!

Categories: Home Design