Small Space Decorating Ideas from a California Cabin
600 Square Feet of Thrifty Style
Plenty of folks comb Craigslist in search of lawn mowers and coffee tables—but a whole house? That's how Brooke and Ian Hanson discovered their tiny Northern California rental, built in the 1970s and bearing all the telltale signs of the era. Instead of shying away from the cabin's retro wood paneling, Ian, a photographer, and Brooke, an art director for Restoration Hardware, saw potential in the knotty planks—envisioning a rustic hideaway for two. "It felt like a cozy little treehouse in a dreamy, woodsy setting," Brooke recalls.
Lighting, $29.99: Ikea's aluminum pendant costs less than dinner for two. (ikea.com)
Curtains, $36.99/yard: Curtains stitched from Thomas Paul's dragonfly fabric complement the sylvan views. (calicocorners.com)
Seats, $99 each: The Hansons purchased these chairs at West Elm. (westelm.com)
The couple's first step: stripping back all the dated elements that cast those walls in a bad light. They jettisoned the sad mini-blinds in favor of breezy linen panels that don't impede their views of the acacia trees, then swapped the dusty, globe-shaped fixtures for sleek, $20 pendants from Ikea. The landlord paid to replace the shag carpet with faux-wood flooring (that Ian deems "somewhat convincing"). He also gave the pair permission to paint the kitchen's dingy laminate counters red. Desperate times, the Hansons realized, demand bold color—in small doses, anyway. Everywhere else, they agreed on a palette of soft neutrals, to avoid cluttering the pint-size place with visual noise.
Feathers, $0: Brooke simply thumbtacked feathers to the wall.
Artwork, $5 each: The Hansons hunt for frames at garage sales, then fill them with ferns and flowers from the woods.
Couch, $1,800: Crate & Barrel's streamlined yet comfortable sofa represents a worth-every-penny splurge. (crateandbarrel.com)
Ian has fashioned custom spice and pot racks for the kitchen, as well as an Oscar-worthy home theater system involving a retractable screen that unfurls from the living room ceiling. "So many projects are intuitive, if you keep things simple," he says.
Rack, $35: Ian built a custom pot rack and spice shelf from affordable, pre-planed maple—no sanding required! The eye hooks and heavy gauge wire (top), as well as the brackets (bottom), added another $27. (doitbest.com)
Counters, $8.09/quart: Krylon's latex enamel in Banner Red revived the kitchen's laminate countertops.(sears.com)
One Tiny Splurge
Liquor, $39.97: One place the couple doesn't scrimp? Top-shelf tequila, "where quality counts," says Ian.
Screen, $241: More discreet (and dramatic) than a plasma TV, this 10-foot screen, paired with a $1,000 Panasonic projector, creates a killer setup. (screen and projector; bhphotovideo.com)
Drapes, $5.99: A cheap curtain wire kit—not brackets and drapery rods—supports these panels. (ikea.com)
Cushions, $249 each: Chevron West Elm poufs double as movie-night seating. "There's no shame in shopping the usual suspects—Ikea, West Elm, CB2," says Brooke. "Good design is good design, no matter where you find it." (westelm.com)
Vignette of Found Objects
Nearly free acquisitions—vintage glass bottles, old clocks and cameras, and architectural brackets—populate this bookcase. Though an appreciation for flea-market finds often leads to a jumble of treasures, the couple exercise a very rare quality for bargain hunters: stone-cold restraint. "We take $150 out of the ATM before we start browsing, and that's the budget—no exceptions," swears Brooke. "And once a shelf is full, we move on to the next thing."
Bottles, $3-$5 each: The couple grab little glass vases and bottles at tag sales whenever the price is right.
Book covers, $9.80/20 sheets: White vellum covers books, maintaining the monochromatic vibe of the living room shelves. (samflaxny.com)
Pitchers, $12.99: Yep, that's the going rate for Ikea's larger enamelware pitcher; the smaller one rings up at $7.99. (ikea.com)
Artwork, $19.99: An Ikea frame holds a photo Ian shot in Big Sky, Montana. (ikea.com)
Found friend, $8: A squirrel nutcracker from the Alameda Point Antiques Faire cheers up the windowsill. (alamedapointantiquesfaire.com)
Pillow, $40: Brooke came across this homespun crocheted pillow while trolling the crafts on Etsy. "Our minimalist style ends up saving us money," says Ian. "For example, we didn't shell out for a headboard."
Display, $55: Harvest Home's wire photo rack shows off an ever-changing array of Ian's images. (harvesthomestores.com)
Display of Collections
Bottle Opener, $8.50: A display of bottle openers—including this iron mermaid from Pottery Barn—keeps a potentially drawer-clogging collection in full view. (potterybarn.com)
DIY VW Van
Based on the triumph of their home, the Hansons returned to Craigslist for a car: a 1977 Volkswagen bus whose only mechanical issue was a heating vent clogged with flowers by the previous hippie owner. Ian, who shoots the occasional wedding, wanted to turn the vehicle into a mobile photo booth for guests. So he and his wife upholstered the interior in gleaming white vinyl, and replaced the dark wood veneer with a blonde Anigre bought online for $4 a square foot. Ian even stitched together window treatments, calling on the needlework skills he'd learned in 4-H as a kid. "I had no idea he could do that," marvels Brooke. "I am already lining up more sewing projects for him!"
Van, $4,800: Ian and Brooke Hanson, with McLovin (left) and Tank,found their 1977 Volkswagen on Craigslist.