Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cottage Life - The Dining Table and Chairs Question

When Dennis and I moved into our cottage our dining set was an old table and two curbside chairs that received a makeover. We were using that set when our cottage was photographed for the Angie's List feature.

Photo courtesy of Angie's List. All rights reserved.

I liked that little set. It was cute and I thought it fit our small space really well. But the table was pretty wobbly and the chairs needed some help  (I guess you've got to expect that when they're free), and it was hard to justify spending a lot of time or money to repair them. Besides, Dennis wanted more comfortable chairs and we both wanted a table that could seat six people.

Now you have to understand something about me. I don't force my will on my husband. I've blogged about this in the past in Embracing the Green Chair. The majority of the design decisions in our cottage are made by me. Dennis is very open to my ideas and mostly lets me do what I want. There are times, however, when he expresses his desire about our home decor in a way that tells me I need to pay attention and be willing to put on my compromise hat. Replacing our dining set was one of those times. 

We spent months and months looking at tables and chairs. Finally, while we were in Pendleton, Oregon at our favorite antique shop we saw a collection of oak caboose chairs that had originally come from a library somewhere on the coast. They were in great shape, comfortable and priced right. We bought 6 of them. Then, on the way home we stopped at a consignment shop and found a table that was big enough to accommodate the 6 chairs, but not so big that it would dominate our small space. It was in pretty good condition except for one leg that had been used as a chew toy by the owner's dog. The shop owner reduced the price and we bought the table.

Fast forward to this week (13 months later) when I finally got around to painting the table. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that the table was an outdated orangey/yellowy color, just begging for a new look.

And here it is all pretty and white with the antique oak caboose chairs. 

Now here's where it gets interesting. I photographed the dining set in a typical set up -- one chair on each of the four sides. 

Dennis likes the table and chairs arranged like this. Two chairs on each of the long ends, leaving the short ends open for good traffic flow.

Which is okay until we're both trying to cook in the kitchen at the same time.

That's when things get a little dicey and we end up trying to squeeze past each other to get from one end of the kitchen to the other, or I walk all the way around the dining set to get to my destination without running into my husband.

So one day when he wasn't looking I rearranged the chairs like this.

And I didn't have to squeeze, or duck to the right, or dash around the table to avoid running into Dennis.

This is convenient. Very convenient. 

So, my question to you is: Does having one side of the table chairless and open to the kitchen this way look really weird to you and have I lost all sense of design etiquette? Please be honest -- you won't hurt my feelings. I really value the opinions of my cottage friends.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Living Large In Small Spaces - Santa Fe Casita

This week's featured small space is an historic casita in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Welcome to the 107th post in the series
"Living Large in Small Spaces".

Adobe homes are a style I've long admired. In fact, Dennis and I seriously considered purchasing an adobe in LaVeta, Colorado before we decided to move to Oregon. I don't see very many first-class adobes in the small home category, so when I came across this fetching 120 year-old casita in Santa Fe I was more than a little excited about the possibility of featuring it in my Living Large In Small Spaces series. I'm happy that Jennifer and her husband of over 30 years Kit have allowed me to share it with you.

The 1,027 sq ft casita is the former guest house of Sheldon Parsons, first director of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art in 1918. The adobe was professionally renovated in 2007. It is a retreat from Jennifer and Kit's busy east coast life and also used as a vacation rental.

Rugged stone steps lead to the adobe's entrance.

The understated entry boasts a banco (built-in plastered bench) and southwestern style wooden bench.

The interior is light and airy. Creamy plaster walls are a lovely backdrop for the eclectic furnishings with their warm desert tones. 

The kiva fireplace is pure southwestern style.

Buttressed thick walls and deep window wells are characteristic of adobe homes.

The ceiling and radiant-heated brick floors add wonderful texture to the rooms.

It's refreshing to see an adobe home with a white kitchen, and with the kitchen's openness to the living room the creamy-colored rooms flow together seamlessly. Wood stained cabinetry wouldn't work as well here. 

This small home has a roomy cook's kitchen. The island warms up the space and nicely contrasts with the light cabinets. 

The bedroom has so much character.

Mexican folk art mermaids dance above the bedroom window.

The bedroom has a beautiful en suite spa bath.

Every inch of this bathroom has been utilized to the fullest.

The little niche is so charming.

The bathroom has a large tumbled marble faced shower, as well as a jacuzzi tub.

A sheltered patio and grilling area is accessed through the kitchen door.

There's a lower patio with dining for two.

Steps lead to Jennifer and Kit's favorite spot --  the gorgeous hilltop garden.

Summer/fall roses grace the staircase to the upper gate.

One of two patios in the garden, the upper patio offers hummingbird watching while relaxing to the soothing sounds of the rock fountain.

Jennifer says, "We had a vision for the backyard, which was raw earth before we installed a native garden that surprises throughout the year."

California poppies are "riotous" in June. 

Another part of the garden in August.

There are over 20 varieties of native plants, bushes and trees in the garden.

This lavender is one of five different kinds found there.

Stunning sunsets are plentiful in New Mexico. This photo was taken from the garden.

Jennifer takes a personal interest in seeing that her guests enjoy their stay. As she puts it, "I absolutely adore helping people curate a stay around their interests, especially the arts." 

Judging by the guest reviews on their web site, I'd say Jennifer and Kit have created an enchanting retreat not only for themselves, but for anyone who's lucky enough to stay in their captivating Santa Fe adobe.

For more information and reservations visit The Casita at Cerro Gordo website here.

(I received no compensation for featuring The Casita at Cerro Gordo. My only reward is sharing the joy of beautiful small spaces with you!)

Join me next Saturday for another post in the special series

 Living Large in Small Spaces

See more home tours in the 
Living Large In Small Spaces Series here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cottage Life - June Cottage Garden and a Breakfast Taco

Hi Cottage Friends,

Summer has arrived in the cottage garden. Before I show you what's blooming, I want to thank you all for the positive comments you left last week on my Backyard Project post. If you haven't seen me on your own blog this week, forgive me. I'm trying to catch up. I will get there. I promise.  

The beautiful salmon-colored Oriental poppies in the cottage garden have been replaced by seed pods, which I leave on the plant for the birds. Monday morning two Oregon Yellow Finch were balancing on the stems, pecking at the pods. Just what I was hoping for. (Unfortunately, there was no time to get my camera and take a photo.)

Here's what's blooming in the garden now.

Delphinium and Salvia in foreground. The yellow flower in back is Chilean Evening Primrose.

A closer look at the Chilean Evening Primrose. The flowers open fully in late afternoon.

The orangey-red Gallardia is starting to bloom.

I've been adding red flowers to the cottage garden to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It seems to be working. This is the first time I've seen this particular butterfly species in my garden. It could be a Swallowtail, although the ones I usually see are yellow and black. I tried to get a better shot, but it just wouldn't stay still for very long.  If you know the name of this butterfly, please share it. The flower is a Maltese Cross.

Other red flowers in my cottage garden include Geum

and Painted Daisy

I also have a red Geranium on the porch.

The Cranesbill and Spirea are in bloom.

On the back side of the west berm the Lamium (aka Dead Nettle) is loving life. 

If you're looking for an amazing ground cover for a shady area, this is it.

I don't spend all my time in the cottage garden. Sometimes, like this morning, you'll find me in the kitchen. Dennis usually makes his own breakfast because he likes to eat earlier than I do, and also he likes to eat the same thing every morning. I prefer to mix things up a bit. This morning I made myself a breakfast taco. 

A scrambled egg with chopped red pepper, minced garlic and chopped onion on a heated corn tortilla. Garnished with a few mixed greens and avocado, and topped with salsa and a dollop of plain yogurt. Not bad. I might have to make another one for breakfast tomorrow.

Hope you're having a great week wherever you are. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Living Large In Small Spaces - In Memory of Lin

This isn't the post I intended to write today. I had a little home all picked out -- photos loaded, text in process. I went to bed last night planning to get up early and complete this week's edition of Living Large In Small Spaces. 

But plans change.

An email from my dear friend Anita of Castle, Crowns and Cottages arrived today at 4:30 AM -- "Sad News" in the subject line. I'm thankful Anita braced me with those words for what was to come: our mutual friend Lin of a {tiny} cottage in the woods passed away on Wednesday. Cancer. (Oh, how I hate that word.) She was diagnosed a couple of years ago, went through treatment, and it looked like she had beat it. I remember when she discontinued blogging in 2016, writing that after having dealt with cancer she wanted to spend less time at the computer and more time living life. She opened an Instagram account to keep in touch. There she posted beautiful photos of her life in the mountains of Colorado. 

Lin was a kind, thoughtful soul who lived a gentle, creative, inspired life in a tiny home her husband and she built with their own hands. I was privileged to have her as a guest on Living Large In Small Spaces. In fact, Lin's home was the second feature in the series. She wrote a perfect piece about her home and life. 

I think it's fitting to honor her memory today by sharing her original post once again. My prayers are with her husband and family as they grieve the loss of this remarkable woman.


A {Tiny} Cottage In The Woods

It's my pleasure to welcome Lin of A {Tiny} Cottage In The Woods to A Joyful Cottage. 

I was introduced to Lin when she left a comment on one of my posts, and I've been reading her blog ever since. The creative, gracious life she and her husband live in their Colorado cottage epitomizes what it means to live large in a small space.  I know you'll enjoy what Lin shares with us today.


When Nancy invited me to write a guest post for her series, "Living Large in Small Spaces", I decided to not only share a little about the house and our building experience, but to also answer the question ~ what is it really like living in such a small home?

The Life We Imagined

In designing and building our 375-square-foot cottage, we had the opportunity to redefine The American Dream. Our dream was to live in a comfortable home without a mortgage. To live without credit cards or debt of any kind. We wanted to live surrounded by nature enjoying the days and seasons, and we wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, to be more self-sufficient, and to live life at a slower pace ~ enjoying each day to the fullest.

Building Our Dream 

We both had worked in software development and didn't have any construction design/building experience, but when the opportunity presented itself, we decided to take a leap of faith and just go for it. Building a house is like learning how to do anything else ~ it's just one sequential step after another. The first step was to draw up the plans, get the necessary soils, foundation, and truss reports, and obtain a building permit. Then it was research, research, research, purchase and load the supplies for the current task into the pickup, build, pass the inspection, and repeat until done.

~ building the house ~

The entire house would fit into the same square footage as our former McMansion master bedroom/bath. We built with many green options including an off-the-grid solar/wind electrical system, and it all fits within a small footprint on the side of a mountain, keeping the land that surrounds us wild and untouched.

Our house is open like a loft with an enclosed 5'x8' bathroom. The open floor plan and cathedral ceilings are visually uplifting, and when people visit for the first time, they're always surprised at how large it seems when they step inside.

The sofa can face the wood stove in winter or the French doors that open to the view, providing a place to relax, talk, read or watch DVDs. Furniture is arranged to suit the two of us, but can quickly be moved to accommodate six for dinner, or a larger get-together outdoors on the patio.

~view from the kitchen window ~

The kitchen is L-shaped and has an RV oven, 12-volt yacht refrigerator, and deep bar sink. No worries with the smaller appliances. I cook most of our meals at home and have made Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings in this little kitchen. The farm table multi-tasks as a desk and art & crafts worktable, as well as a place to prepare food and enjoy meals together. Often my husband is at his computer at one end of the table, and I'm crafting or drawing at the other end.

~ our eat-in kitchen ~

We decided on wall sconces for lighting to free up floor space from lamps and cords, and installed separate switches for each one to conserve electricity. The house is wired for both 12v and 120v, and we use the little 12v automotive light bulbs in the sconces. Windows all around provide natural light and passive solar, and blur the line between outdoors and in.

Just before moving in, we built a simple queen-size platform bed that lifts up to reveal queen-size storage underneath.

 ~ photo of the platform bed reflected in a mirror ~

We've talked about building wall-to-wall cabinetry with a murphy bed along the south wall, but after living a simpler lifestyle, perhaps the more elegant (simple and beautiful) solution would be to purchase a prettier bed befitting a tiny cottage in the woods and keep the armoire. We're still thinking about this one.

~ clothes and art supply storage ~

There are no rules when it comes to furnishing a small home. It does not mean that you have to live with just the basic essentials or go with a minimalist look (unless that's what you want). It means having enough. Enough of what you need to be comfortable as well as having the kinds of things that make your house a home. I love French cottage/farmhouse style with a mix of handmade and gently used items and a little touch of whimsy for fun. We still have some finishing/decorating work to do, but to me, that's the fun part!

A Gentler Lifestyle

My husband and I drive to town once a week to run all of our errands together, and then usually spend the rest of the week quietly at home.

 ~ I love to draw, paint, and craft ~

People joke and ask how can we stand to be together all the time in such a tiny house, and that question always surprises me. We've been married for 33 years and enjoy each other's company, so there isn't a need for separate rooms/spaces ~ just a respect for what the other person is doing. After living here, I find myself looking back and wishing that we'd raised our children in a smaller home.

True for Thoreau in1854, and Still True in 2014

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote ~
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
We couldn't agree more. Living simply in a small home opens up the opportunity to live a larger life ~ to have the time and financial freedom to be with and do what matters most.

Thoreau stayed at Walden Pond for 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days. As of this writing (September 26, 2014), we've lived in our tiny cottage in the woods for 5 years, 9 months, and 6 days, and hope to stay here for the rest of our lives. This is home.


Thank you, Nancy, for inviting me to share our story. I look forward to reading about all the homes in this series, as well as following the progress of yours!


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Although Lin removed her blog from the internet, you can see photos of her creative work, her home, life and darling grandbaby Otto on her Instagram account: