Bill and Toni Woody came to a realization one day while surveying their 5,000-square-foot Fresno home. “We were living in this big house and pretty much using three rooms,” Bill Woody said.
So the empty-nesters decided to downsize — in a big way. They began drawing up plans for a 1,980 square foot residence in Morro Bay, where Toni Woody’s family has a long history.
The property that the home now sits on has been in her family since the 1920s. It was originally part of an abalone processing plant owned by her father and uncles.
Zoning regulations dictated that the home could only be 16 feet wide — the width of a standard two-car garage.
Zoning regulations dictated that the home could only be 16 feet wide — the width of a standard two-car garage. But the Woodys were undeterred. Design challenges are their specialty; their company, T. Woody Construction, designs homes and commercial projects. Their son Michael Woody, a civil engineer and owner of Struct One Engineering & Construction, contributed his expertise to their new home.
Together, the team found ways to work around the unusual dimensions of the home. Distraction — or drawing the eye away from certain features — proved to be effective. For instance, a mandated two-car tandem garage (where cars are parked end to end) created an unusually long front porch. To draw attention away from this, they added detailing to create a Craftsman look with Victorian influences. This included corbels, fish scales, a window pot shelf and multiple complementary colors of exterior paint.
In the narrow entryway of the home, they employed a similar tactic with attention-grabbing architectural details like wainscoting, crown molding, a niche and multiple windows. “Windows can be a problem solver for a small space, by creating more natural light,” Bill Woody said.
Everything has a place. When we buy something new, we have to think of what we’re going to get rid of.
The couple used a host of tricks to make the small space seem larger. For instance, the second floor, which includes a living room, dining area, kitchen and master bedroom, seems more spacious because of its open floor plan and a 12 1/2 -foot vaulted ceiling. The couple chose to locate their main living areas on the second floor to best take advantage of a view that stretches from Los Osos to Cayucos.
Toni Woody had more tricks up her sleeve when she designed the interior, including careful use of color. Whereas multiple color schemes might have made the house feel chopped up, a consistent color palette of warm neutrals “created a cohesive look that’s important in a small home,” she said.
As for furniture and accents, “there’s not enough room for clutter in a small house,” her husband said.
The first step in creating a streamlined look was offloading all of the French contemporary furniture from their previous home, which was scaled for the larger space. But they didn’t replace it with petite pieces. “We chose furniture that was medium in size,” Toni Woody said. “Small furniture adds clutter and takes away from the simple and clean lines.”
Those clean lines are part of a transitional design scheme that combines traditional elements with simple, contemporary shapes and minimal clutter. They kept furniture to a minimum, opting for built-in pieces whenever possible. They left some tabletops unadorned and kept vignettes within the same color family for a clean look.
The Woodys hung only a few, meaningful pieces on walls, many of which were purchased on their travels or inherited from family. “The items that we did choose to hang are large,” Toni Woody said. Large, impactful pieces create less visual clutter than clusters of small items.
For instance, an oversized key sculpture hangs above the tub in their master bathroom, two bread paddles adorn the wall in their dining room, and, in her office, Toni Woody displays her father’s diving helmet.
The Woodys knew keeping clutter at bay would be a constant challenge. So they incorporated storage wherever possible: built in cabinets in most rooms, specialized organizers in closets and kitchen cabinets, and a storage area under the stairs.
“Everything has a place,” said Toni Woody, who noted that the couple has a strict policy regarding shopping. “When we buy something new, we have to think of what we’re going to get rid of.”
The couple even streamlined their landscaping. Low-maintenance and water-wise, it consists mostly of cobblestones and drought-resistant plants.
They completed the home in 2002. Their simpler, scaled-down home has changed their lifestyle and their priorities. Instead of tending to their belongings, they spend more time traveling. In fact, the downsize allowed them to afford an airplane.
“We are no longer tied to a large home,” Bill Woody said. “We have a manageable home for two.”
MAKE A MATCH Eclecticism has been an interior design buzzword for many years. But In a small space, combining multiple styles, finishes and color schemes can create visual clutter and make the space seem more cramped. For a cleaner, more spacious feel, stick with a consistent color palette, keep patterns to a minimum — and it’s okay to go with the matching furniture set.
SMALL SPACE STRATEGIES In a small house, opt for medium-sized furniture in simple shapes. Less is better. For instance, replacing multiple dining chairs with bench seating creates a more streamlined look.
THE LAW OF DISTRACTION If your home has a less-than-desirable architectural feature, distraction may be the best solution. In the Woody’s entryway, the eye is drawn to features like a niche and handsome crown molding, taking attention away from the narrowness of the space.