Every single item in Kim Lewis’s 560-square-foot home has a story. No, seriously: “I wish I could have you over because I could talk for hours about all the little things,” she says over the phone. “A lot of the pieces in my home are sourced from places I’ve traveled to—even something as silly as a woven hummingbird mask that’s sitting in one of the windows; that was the first gift I got for my husband, and it’s from Panama.”
Her small home reads like a museum of her life. The gorgeous green headboard: a piece she picked up in Bali for $100. The antelope busts above the desk: antiques she got while working in Africa. The jewelry case: a vintage watchmaker cabinet that she swears organizes her accessories better than anything else.
One thing in particular holds a special place in her heart: the bookshelf. Or more accurately, what’s on the bookshelf. “A couple years ago, I was in Cambodia working for a group that rescues girls from sex trafficking, and we were building them an art center,” shares Lewis. “I went into a store and found the cutest little pair of baby girl shoes. I had no children at the time and wasn’t married; I was 32, and remember thinking that by now I thought I would have had children. I picked them up and decided to buy them as a promise to myself that I would have a family… and here I am now, four months pregnant, and those shoes are still there. That’s what’s special about tiny homes: I don’t have a lot of clutter that’s meaningless.”
It might be hard to fathom that this many memories fit into less than 600 square feet, but for Lewis, who used to design on shows like Tiny House Nation and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, going small was something of a priority. She designed the architectural plans for her home to perfectly fit what she envisioned, and then moved the whole thing from Arizona to South Austin, where it currently resides.
“I’m a traveler at heart and I’ve never bought a home. I spent my money traveling the world and couldn’t wrap my head around how to get a house and also still be able to travel; the tiny home just made sense,” she says. “I think less is more. I used to design tiny homes for other couples, and it hit me that I was drawing [things] that I would actually want to live in.”
With the living room in one unit and the bedroom in the other—separated by a breezeway and surrounded by tons of outdoor space—the home feels bigger than it actually is. A lot of this has to do with smart organization and blurring the line between inside and out.
“The big doors are an absolute dream,” she says of her favorite part of the house. “I can literally lay in bed, open the doors, and it feels like I’m taking a nap outside. At night, I can lay in bed and see the stars; it’s almost like we’re camping. When we open it up, the house really feels like it’s one with nature.”
As great as the outdoor space is, the indoor is pretty wonderful too. Starting with the rainbow entry steps (which Lewis calls her “Candy Land staircase”), you can see the care that went into choosing every square inch of the home.
Reclaimed wood flooring, salvaged from a 1960s house in East Austin, adds charm to the new home. Small details, like the leather straps on the barn door handles, elevate even the most ordinary of features—a key, according to Lewis, in maximizing your tiny home. “With tiny spaces, every little detail matters because you’re [up] close and personal with everything,” she says.
Inspired by the desert landscape and a trip to Joshua Tree, Lewis set about adding in items that had been on her design wish list for years. “I fell in love with the really calm, earthy colors—I’m a color person, and was really inspired by the soft palette and using a mix of materials,” she explains. “I knew I wanted reclaimed flooring and Moroccan tiles and copper accents. For the counters, I wanted something that looked like marble without the problems of staining. And the closet tub was a total dream of mine.”
If you ever needed proof that you don’t have to compromise on style or wish list items to live in a tiny space, this home would be it. Which is why we asked Lewis to share some of her top tips for downsizing—plus, how to navigate a smaller space with a growing family.
Consider every single inch
Notice anything unique about the bathroom area (besides the enviable tub)? “We kept the ceiling lower so I can have books up there. You sometimes forget that the ceiling is a place where you can have storage, and it actually looks really pretty,” says Lewis. “Walk through the house before they close the drywall in because you’ll find nooks where you can capture extra storage.”
Invest in your kitchen
If you have an open floor plan and the kitchen needs to work double duty as an entertaining space, being smart about organizing it is key. Lewis recommends a large farmhouse sink (“I don’t have a dishwasher, and it’s our catchall for everything”) and good countertops (“I’m able to cut right on these. I’m so grateful I have those because countertop space is at a premium and I don’t have to worry about putting hot pots right on top”).
Look for storage where you least expect it
Who says decorative pieces can’t have another function? Lewis recommends finding stylish pieces that add character to a space but also serve as sneaky storage. Case (no pun intended) in point: The vintage luggage that’s scattered throughout her place. “I collect old suitcases and use them for linen storage or things like gift wrapping… stuff that you just don’t want to look at all the time,” she says.
Everything you put in a small space matters more. If possible, opt for larger furniture pieces that serve multiple purposes. For Lewis, this was the kitchen island, which she says is the feature that makes most visitors go “I wish I had this.” “It has storage, it’s on casters, and there’s a table that lifts up,” she says. “We move it around a lot to open the space up.”
Find kids’ decor that blends in
There are no brightly colored, cheap-looking plastic toys in the Lewis baby’s future. “It’s a matter of getting pieces that feel like a part of the home. I intend on doing wooden toys and things that are more tactile than plastic,” she says. “That’ll be helpful because it might be a toy, but it’ll still be beautiful.”
Make room for baby
Lewis’s number one tip for housing a growing family in 560 square feet? “It’s all about compromise. We’ll probably be moving the washer/dryer outside to a shed so the baby will have its own corner. Going back to the kitchen sink—the baby’s going to be taking baths in that.”