Living Large in a Smaller Home

March 21, 2012

I discover new blogs in all sorts of ways and recently a reader left a very kind comment so I hopped over to visit her blog.  I was delighted to discover Jen of Migonis Home who together with her husband AJ and young son Drew, is renovating a Cape Cod style cottage in Massachusetts. 

I loved her whole approach to the transformation of their home, and the fact they’re renovating it slowly while along the way making due with what they have.  Jen and AJ are making changes to their new abode to make the home suit their lifestyle.  I invited Jen to share her story and offer a few tips for living large in small space. 

Please welcome Jen!

Jen and Drew 1Hi! I’m Jen Migonis from Migonis Home and I am thrilled to be joining you here today!  My husband and I bought a 75 year old Cape Cod in the seaside town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts two years ago and boy, did it need a lot of work! There was about four layers of wallpaper on every wall and zero insulation under that (not a big deal if you live in California but if you live in Massachusetts and you can see your breath in your bedroom in the winter then it’s a different story).

Our house is tiny, so when we found out we had a baby on the way four months after we moved in we realized we need to make this house work hard for us.  Our house is far from perfect, and we are working on a project in almost every room, so bear with our “in progress” photos. 

When Kate asked me to be her guest I knew almost immediately what I wanted to talk about: living large in a small space. Today I’m going to focus on four ways to maximize your space in a small home.

mignonis home
Let it Flow.  House flow is essential for entertaining so when we renovated we knocked down the wall between the kitchen and dining room; if you are looking at the photo the location of the wall was on the left side of the hutch. Fellow Cape dwellers have mentioned to us how large our downstairs appears because it’s so open.

jen kitchen 2

Now, we have a circular flow to our entire downstairs and if you are standing at either the front or the back door you can now see the opposite corners of our house. My son loved this when he was in his walker and sprinting around non-stop.

jen kitchen dining


Let There Be Light.   We’ve learned that when you live in a small space it is essential to let in as much light as possible… the more you can see the outside, the larger and cheerier it makes the house feel.

Take our tiny entryway as an example, we opened up the wall where you see the stairway and inserted a large supporting beam. My goal is to replace our front door with something similar to the glass screen door you see in the photo to keep aiding in the “let more light in” goal.

jen dining room


Look Up. Since additions are pricey we have decided for the time being to work with our home’s footprint.  We haven’t let the small amount of square footage stop us from making our space look larger.  About a month after being in our home I got a call from AJ while I was on a business trip and he informed me he was doing some demolition.  Only he wouldn’t tell me what.  How’s that for making your wife calm when she’s 2000 miles away?  Once I got home I only had to look up when climbing the stairs to see the huge improvement he’d made.

Our stairway was sort of reminiscent of those in the Catacombs, it was uber skinny and you had to duck your head (if you were AJ, or anyone else taller than my 5’4 self) to make your way up the stairs. That space was simply drywalled and unused. Everything you see painted white above the molding, was formerly wasted space; now it’s just waiting for some fabulous framed photographs, a new railing and some additional paint.

jen upstairs hallway


My demo loving hubby AJ did the same for the master bedroom. He expanded right into our attic space because it was too tiny to use it for anything besides small storage. Our master now feels much more spacious with the addition of at least four additional feet in a vaulted ceiling.

jen master bedroom

Obviously it’s not perfect yet, picture the beams framed in thick white wood.… things just take longer when you are trying to do it yourself, but I’m sure you know all about that!

jen bedroom 2


Unexpected Storage.  Our guest bathroom is ridiculously small. Until we get some spare cash for a complete gut job (our toilet is gradually falling through the floor, and I mean this very literally) we are making do. Do you notice the mirror and the painting? Behind each of those is a large hole in the drywall. We have made a makeshift medicine cabinet between the studs. It saved us space while utilizing what we had within the wall.

jen guest bathroom
You know what else works well when storage is non-existent in a bathroom? Use a picnic basket to hide all your toiletries. The one we have beneath the sink is filled with my hair dryer, straightener and AJ’s deodorant.

In an effort to continue the trend to use the unexpected areas we decided to reclaim some other lost space. We have four areas under the eves in our bedrooms where the builder just put up drywall.  In our master bedroom we ripped off the existing drywall to expose two closet sized spaces (where you see the door in the photo was previously just drywall).

jen linen closet

After putting in new insulation, drywall and closet doors we have plenty of room for the linen closet that was missing in our house and an additional closet for AJ’s clothes.

I’ll close with this quote from Leonardo Da Vinci that I just love, and need to remember when I wish for a house that is double in size!  “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind…” And isn’t that so true?  It forces us to think about how we can simplify our lives and belongings and makes us more creative with the space we have!

Feel free to pop in over at Migonis Home and see how we are living large in our small space, I’d love to hear from you!  Kate, thank you for this fun opportunity to share some tips with your readers.

Thank you Jen for your insight today! You can see more images of Jen’s home tour here.  What are your tips for living large in a small space?  Have you thought of clever or unexpected way to store things in your home?

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Would you like to share the tale of your renovation too?  I’m happy to consider it for a future post!  No need to have a blog, just a bunch of before and after pictures and a story of your sweat equity!  Send your pictures and description with the subject RENOVATION SUBMISSION to my email here.

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And speaking of guest posts, I’m over at Satori Design for Living today, take a peek at my alfresco entertaining par-tay patio I designed – the one I would love to install in my own yard if money grew on trees.  Thanks for having me Shauna! satori design blog banner

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The Spring Craft Link Party posts tomorrow at 6 a.m. PST – bring your spring crafty goodness, I have a fun project to share too.

Here’s the handy button.

spring fling party button kate

See you then!



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