Home & Garden

Living in a small home? You don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort

The small home trend seems to be here to stay, and with it the desire to simplify.

But downsizing doesn’t mean feeling cramped — or cramping one’s style. Creating a comfortable and comely living space in less square footage simply requires more planning and attention to detail.

Here are four local homeowners who have made the most of their small spaces. They offer us advice on how to maximize every square inch, no matter what size the home.

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The dining room serves as a hub for the Paso Robles ranch home owned by Michael Bonner and Lizz Kluger. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

An updated ranch home

Michael Bonner and Lizz Kluger bought their ranch-style home in Paso Robles knowing it would need some serious work to jibe with their contemporary tastes.

Bonner is a landscape architect and Kluger an interior designer, so they collaborated to transform their 1,200-square-foot residence, built in 1991.

A new floorplan both volumized and modernized the home.

As with many homes of its era, every room was walled off and bedrooms were connected by a space-wasting hallway.

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Michael Bonner and Lizz Kluger installed open shelving in the kitchen of their Paso Robles ranch home to make the most of the small space. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The new floorplan uses the dining room as a hub with other rooms radiating off it. The main living areas are one open space, making the house feel larger, brighter and up-to-date.

The couple put other tricks into play to make the most of space. They chose open shelving, knowing that cabinet doors can make a small kitchen feel closed-in.

They also replaced a hodgepodge of wall colors with one clean, light-reflective hue — Benjamin Moore’s Dove White, a warm white that suits the contemporary yet rustic decorating scheme of this modern wine-country home.

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A four-poster bed adds romance to the sleeping space of the Peacock’s Nest, a luxury guest suite in San Lusi Obispo. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A peacock-themed guest suite

The Abdul Cader family saw the tiny space above the garage of their San Luis Obispo home as more than a potential guest room – they viewed it as a challenge. Their mission: to fit a sleeping area, sitting area, kitchen, bathroom, laundry and dining area in a mere 336 square feet.

The guest suite feels larger because if its 9-foot-tall ceilings, tall windows and French doors. Reflective materials such as glass tile, stainless steel appliances and copper-like ceiling tiles add to the effect.

Rushdi and Nisha Abdul Cader chose every piece of furniture carefully to maximize space without sacrificing style.

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A built-in eating area saves space in the Peacock’s Nest, a San Luis Obispo guest suite. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

While it may seem counterintuitive to put a four-poster bed in a tiny bedroom, they made it possible with posts that angle slightly inward to allow for more shoulder space around its perimeter.

In the kitchen, a console table and bar stools create a dining area in a mere sliver of space.

The Abdul Caders boldly infused the space with peacock blue. Repeating this one hue in accents throughout the guest suite keeps the eye moving and doesn’t add visual clutter, said Rushdi Abdul Cader said.

Instead, it brought personality to a petite space that the family fondly refers to as “The Peacock’s Nest.”

David and Lauren Bowin downsized to a home in San Luis Obispo that better suits their lifestyle. Dennis Swanson

A bungalow with built-in storage

When David and Lauren Bowin downsized to a 1,250-square-foot bungalow in San Luis Obispo, they wanted less of everything – less house to maintain, and “less stuff,” David Bowin said.

A remodel added 600 square feet to the 1940s-era home and gave the space into a “warm mid-century modern” style that is clean and minimalist, he said.

Storage is a large part of maintaining that uncluttered look. The couple opted for built-in storage whenever possible — such as small built-in wardrobes that take up less space than the common closet-dresser combination.

David and Lauren Bowin’s San Luis Obispo front yard has seating areas and a firepit to foster neighborhood interaction. Dennis Swanson

“Ninety-nine percent of our furniture is dual purpose,” Lauren Bowin said.

Nightstands, sofa tables and end tables all have drawers or shelves, which help to keep tabletops clutter-free.

The couple enjoys entertaining, so they focused on expanding their living spaces to the outdoors. The covered back patio has the feel of an open-air room.

Even the often-overlooked front porch came into play. With comfortable seating areas and a fire pit, the Bowins can now welcome neighbors over, or enjoy a quiet cup of coffee outdoors in the morning.

Folding glass doors at Michelle Borrero’s San Luis Obispo loft open to a patio that offers sweeping views of the mountains and the city. garcia architecture + design

A modern loft

Michelle Borrero’s San Luis Obispo condominium is modern to its core, with an open floor plan, mid-century modern furniture and enormous folding glass doors that open to a 500-square-foot patio – all features that make the most of the loft’s 1,400 square feet.

To keep the space from feeling sterile and cold, Borrero combined sleek materials with warmer, traditional elements. She chose ebonized oak cabinets in a modern, flat-panel door style.

A live-edge dining table adds an organic counterpoint to the mostly mid-century-style furniture. Borrero surrounded the table with modern Saarinen Executive chairs.

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Michelle Borrero’s San Luis Obispo loft has an open floor plan, with each room flowing into the next. garcia architecture + design

The entire space was given a warm foundation with walnut floors in a distressed finish. Wood simply feels warmer and more yielding underfoot than stone or concrete, she said.

Wool rugs collected from around the world add subtle color to the mostly gray, black and white palette.

“I want to be comfortable when I’m here,” Borrero said.

JUMP 2 Abdul Cader home peacock sofa
Peacock blue accents such as this sofa were the inspiration behind the name for the Abdul Cader family’s guest suite in San Luis Obispo, The Peacock’s Nest. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com


White is a great choice for wall color in a small space. Designer Lizz Kluger advises to considering your furnishings when selecting a hue. If you have lots of wood and warm colors in your home, choose a warmer white. Blue, green and silver hues call for a cool white. And if you have a lot of art, opt for a true white for a gallery look.

Don’t ignore your front yard. A few pavers can be enough to create a comfortable seating area, while a fire pit, water feature, or potted plants can make the front patio more inviting.

Enlarge the kitchen. Keep open shelving stocked with items that won’t add visual clutter, such as glassware or monochromatic tableware. Store kitchen clutter, including smaller appliances such as mixers and food processors, out of sight.

Go ahead and splurge. High-end materials such as fancy designer tiles are more affordable when used in a small space. For an even budget-friendlier approach, use super high-end pieces as accents.