Honey, I Shrunk the House

Photography by Create + Gather

SHAVONDA GARDNER was living in a 2,300-square-foot house in Natomas with her wife, Naomi, and their two kids, Michael and Bryanna. One day, she looked around and said, “I want something different. What if we downsize?”

It was not such a crazy thought. Gardner is a well-known blogger, designer and social media influencer who specializes in compact spaces. On her blog, SG Style, she preaches small-space living with big, bold style.

Gardner had grown weary of all the wasted space in her old home. It had, among other things, two dining areas plus a large eat-in kitchen. All those rooms didn’t foster family togetherness. “We would walk in the front door and dissipate,” she says. “We wouldn’t see each other for hours.”

Then the couple fell in love with a cozy ranch house in Sacramento’s Arden neighborhood. Built in the 1940s, it measured 1,200 square feet, with just two bedrooms and one bath. But it was situated on a large lot and had hardwood floors, a working fireplace and oodles of vintage charm. “When I first walked in the house, I knew right away,” Gardner recalls.

The couple bought the house in 2014 and dove into a number of projects to update the house and make it more efficient. “Because the house is small, we had to be very intentional about how we live,” Gardner explains. They gave the kitchen a complete overhaul, adding cottagey style in the process. So the kids could have their own rooms, Gardner and her wife converted an extra room off the dining room to a master bedroom, closing off the large opening to the dining room with a sliding barn door. They also spiffed up the front porch to extend their living space outdoors.

Now, the family eats dinner together every night at a cozy round table just off the living room. Afterward, they all sprawl on a long, cushy sofa and watch movies. Their Great Dane, Callie, lounges at their feet.

Living in a small house “definitely made us closer,” says Gardner. The lesson she drew from downsizing? “Your home is not measured by square footage. It’s the love, joy and happiness you share.”

To maximize work space and storage, there’s a marble-topped movable island with stainless steel shelves underneath. A diminutive bar-size dishwasher is just big enough for the family’s daily dishes. The couple splurged on a large, stainless steel farm sink for washing up big pots and pans. The cabinets are from Ikea, but the doors are from Semihandmade, a company that makes doors for Ikea systems. Open shelves give the room a spacious feel. There’s even a built-in ironing board—original to the house—that the family uses every day. “This kitchen is small but mighty,” says Shavonda.
The family’s electronics are stashed out of sight in a rattan cabinet from Urban Outfitters. “With a family of four, you have to think of storage,” says Shavonda.
shoe cabinet entry
The house lacks a formal entry, so Shavonda placed an Ikea shoe cabinet near the front door, swapping out the old knobs for glam new ones. A small tray corrals keys and mail, and a large round mirror allows family members to check their appearance on their way out the door.
charcoal gray exterior
‘Living in a small house definitely taught us to communicate more, to be more considerate. It’s brought us closer together as a family, both figuratively and literally.’  SHAVONDA GARDNER
Charcoal-gray paint changed the home’s exterior from blah to ah. The front door, painted a jaunty shade of coral, adds to the welcome-home factor.
front porch
The family loves to hang out on the front porch with its bistro table and swinging wicker chair. “We have an open-door policy,” says Shavonda. “Friends and neighbors know they’re always welcome.”

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