Custom wardrobes provide extra living space inside a tiny home, while a double yard allows for stretching | Home & Garden
Living big in a tiny house can be a challenge, but Michelle Mize Walpole and her family – husband Jeremy and daughter Ellender – make it easy. That’s because their 1,100 square foot home has been planned down to the last detail.
âI’m a real estate agent, yes, but I’m also a licensed interior designer,â Walpole said. “That fact, and a great cabinet maker, means we can comfortably live in a small space without it being messy all the time.”
Of course, it helps that they bought the double gun house next door about 10 years ago, planning to use half for Jeremy Walpole’s insurance business and rent the other half. But they eventually took the other half back and are now using it for the guests.
Doubling their outdoor space has made a huge difference in the livability of the house, said Walpole. âWe have a yard right behind our house, plus room for a shed, exercise station, and outdoor shower.â
As Ellender, 10, grew up, his parents realized that a full-fledged renovation of the house was needed to ensure everyone’s privacy and maintain sanity. Storage space was essential.
âThe house had been renovated when Jeremy Walpole bought it in 2009, but a few years ago we did our own renovation,â said Michelle Walpole. âThe smartest thing I did was work with Wilmer Ramirez, a really great cabinet maker. When everything is integrated, it means everything has its place and is out of sight.
Kitchen cabinets are a testament to the wisdom of the approach. On the left wall, the bottom cabinets contain dozens of drawers, each for a specific use. The wall cabinets are glazed and reach up to the ceiling (original bead panel) and display glassware, pottery, and other treasures. On the right wall, the cabinets have solid facades to conceal what’s behind the doors, as well as a bar and built-in wine rack.
The same concept applies to Elender’s bedroom, where his mattress is high off the ground and placed over drawers that, among other uses, keep his sewing machine, sewing table, and fabrics out of sight.
âI knew almost exactly what I wanted, but Wilmer and I collaborated on delicate details, like how the cabinets meet the ceiling,â Walpole said. âHe was good at solving problems that arose. “
During the renovation, the couple thought they would fix the floors, but learned fairly quickly that they would need to replace them.
As it turned out, the floors were not all the same wood and the stain was mixed with the sealer rather than applied to the wood, she said. This meant they had to replace all floors for a cohesive look.
Michelle dWalpole chose engineered white oak both for its pale color and for its durability. One reason: The Doberman family, whose claws would scratch most floors but not this one, she said.
Overall, the interior design relies on light, neutral colors to help the house feel bigger than it is. Another feature that contributes to the appearance of space is the pair of glass doors the couple installed in the back of the kitchen. They not only offer a view of the attractive outdoor dining area in the back garden, but create an indoor-outdoor continuum when open in good weather.
The design sensibility of the house – like its color palette – is light. There is plenty of artwork, including works by local artists Mario Villa, Amanda Talley, Jere Allen, and a major piece by Alabama folk artist Jimmie Lee Sudduth. Small pieces of outsider art – a yellow school bus, for example – mingle with a self-portrait by Elender and watercolors by Michelle Walpole to create a cheerful and playful vibe. An extensive collection of McCarty pottery from Merigold, Mississippi (Michelle’s home state) is stored in an art deco cabinet in the living room.
For all the sophisticated design of the house, there is one object in the living room that perfectly expresses the approach to life of its owners: a multi-mirror mirror ball suspended from the ceiling.
âPersonally, I don’t know why there isn’t a disco ball in everyone’s house,â said Michelle Walpole. âIt suits our personalities – awesome and unexpected with a bit of a twist. I turn it on every afternoon when the mirrors catch the afternoon sun and watch the spotlights dance around the room – it makes me happy.
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