Interiorssneak peeks

A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul

by Garrett Fleming

Oftentimes we’re led to believe the bigger the home, the better. Grand staircases, chef-worthy kitchens and walk-in closets are what we’re all supposed to long for, right? I’ll admit I’ve occasionally fallen victim to this “keeping up with the Joneses” virtue of more, but I have to say it’s absolutely exhausting. So much so, I’ve begun to prioritize something totally different. Lately, I long for a house I can craft into my very own and a space that feels safe — no matter the size.

Like me, Shavonda Gardner is one homeowner who isn’t afraid to trade in a sizable home for one she can inject with some soul. Two years ago she convinced her wife Naomi to cut their square footage in half in order for them to snag a new house with more character, a cozy vibe and projects she could sink her teeth into. Luckily, right before closing on a house they admittedly weren’t crazy about, a 40s-era bungalow in Sacramento, CA that needed the perfect amount of love popped onto the market. They snagged it real quick.

Soon after moving in they kicked off the rehab, totally gutting the kitchen and updating the den. Black-and-white tile, new butcher block countertops and shiny new fixtures sit pretty in the cottage-inspired space now. Open shelving even shows off some colorful accessories, and a unique stair-step tile backsplash gives anyone cooking something eye-catching to gaze upon. Like the kitchen, the home’s outdated den was also given a new look. With little use for a second living area and in desperate need of more bedrooms, Shavonda and Naomi claimed it for themselves. It now serves as their owners’ suite and features a global mix of colorful, thrifted finds including stellar drapery and rich textiles.

As you’ll see, their bedroom isn’t the only space to be peppered with eclectic, patterned goods. Every other room in the quaint home — from the living, dining and even the back porch — is adorned with something unique. At the end of the day, the couple tells us that decorating and layering with these little additions has made an undeniable difference in how at home they and their two children feel in their new house. It’s been so successful, in fact, the couple works every day to find new ways to beautifully fit double the square footage, twice the number of bedrooms and three times the number of bathrooms worth of style into their new Golden State abode. Click through to take a peek and enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Shavonda Gardner

A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Oftentimes we'll come across smaller homes that are kept sparse so they appear larger and are more functional, but not in this case. "I wanted a small house, but we aren't minimalist so making sure we layer in texture and color into each space is always at the forefront as we make our design decisions," Shavonda says. This Eames chair is her prized possession, and better yet, it was bought off Craigslist for under $200.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Shavonda and her wife Naomi searched high and low for a bungalow in an area where they could know their neighbors, that had a yard for their children and one that let Shavonda whet her appetite for renovation. While in the process of closing on another home they came across this one online, and upon taking a tour knew it was for them.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Glidden "Orange Tiger Lily" paired with Behr "Evening Hush" give this little bungalow some major curb appeal. Light fixture by Rejuvenation.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Downsizing from a true foyer meant Naomi and Shavonda had to get creative with their new space. A bench for people to drop their bags onto and help the family take their shoes on and off was a must. Pairing it with this large mirror and IKEA piece also helps the "foyer" seem larger and distinguishes it from the rest of the living room.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Off the shelf, the functionality and look of this IKEA dresser are undeniable, but swapping its hardware for pieces from Anthropologie dresses it up in a one-of-a-kind way that can't be beat.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
The living room's layered look came together through patience and some thrifting. Shavonda was even able to find this mint-condition Restoration Hardware sofa for half off on Craigslist.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
"This is the living room, and it's my favorite room in the house. It’s the heart of our home and it's where we spend most of our time. Our last home had both a family room and a formal living room, and we never stepped foot in the formal space. I love that we use every single inch of this house," Shavonda says.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
The dining room was pretty challenging to adjust to when the family downsized. In their previous home they had a formal dining room and a dine-in kitchen, so the space constraints are tough to handle nowadays. It's also in a bit of a weird spot -- between Shavonda and Namoi's bedroom and the main living room -- so things can get a bit difficult when it's time to entertain. That didn't mean the space would be neglected decorating wise, though. An IKEA chandelier, World Market table and Rugs USA zebra hide are all it took to infuse a global vibe into the room.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Shavonda -- the lover of all things renovation -- got to really sink her teeth into the bungalow's kitchen. While most people would want a bigger and better kitchen when renovating, she and Naomi opted to keep the square footage the same and even downsized their dishwasher to make it work for their family. They did, however, demolish nearly everything and installed new IKEA countertops, Sears appliances and lighting by Lucent Lightshop to give the space an airy look with a cottage slant.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
This part of the house was originally a den, but with only two true bedrooms to its name the home needed a space for Shavonda and Naomi to rest their heads. That being said, they claimed the room and added sliding barn doors to separate it from the combined living and dining room. The window treatment was thrifted.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Layers of color and pattern spice up Shavonda and Naomi's Wayfair bed.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Bryanna's room gets fantastic light, which is only amplified by the sky-blue ceiling color she chose. Her bed is from West Elm.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
Clearly Shavonda is one homeowner who loves putting time into crafting a space. She gave the back porch a bohemian vibe by hand decorating the floor using a stencil from The Home Depot in a hue matching the moody exterior walls. "People always think they are tiled, and it's gratifying to say it was just good-old sweat equity," she gushes. Baskets from Target and seating from Craigslist pull together the relaxing oasis.
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
"The thing I love most about my home is sharing it with family and friends." -- Shavonda Gardner
A California Family Sacrifices Square Footage for Soul, Design*Sponge
The 1940s-era bungalow's floor plan. The home's lot will allow the family to add major square footage in the years to come -- something that helped sell Naomi and Shavonda on the property.

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  • I’m deeply in love with the front door color. Also inspired to see all the affordable furniture sources used in fresh ways in this home.

  • So beaitiful–love the color theme throughout! What is the element above the fireplace??? It seems related to their bedroom one too (which looks like feathers maybe???), but different materials…..i Love it and just want to touch it!

    • Hi there!! Thank you so much! You’re correct…they are feathers!! It’s called a juju hat and they are handmade in Cameroon, Africa. I sell them in my online shop actually:)

      • Love this gorgeous, colorful non-minimalist home! Where is your online shop? I didn’t see it on your blog.

  • i love shavonda’s eclectic style and gorgeous home which radiates personality. she’s just as fabulous and warm in person, too!

  • My style is much more minimal leaning than this home’s decor, but I would live here in a heartbeat! It is so beautifully done and full of love, color and texture. Great job to this family on creating such a cozy and amazing home.

  • Beautiful! You’ve managed to make it look “done” while still giving me the feeling that I could walk in and hang out right now. Love it!

  • Gorgeous, so personal and welcoming! Thank you for sharing this beautiful space! We also have a just-right-sized 1920s house with a concrete patio, and now I’m inspired to try stenciling it. Any chance Shavonda would share a tutorial?

  • So much lovely here, from the front door to the back porch, (especially that sky blue-ceilinged bedroom and the gorgeous corner sink/butcher block combo in the kitchen), but nothing is more lovely than the picture of a loving family in their happy place. Beautiful!

  • I second Marie’s comments, any chance of a Porch stencilling tutorial or how-to tips?

  • Love you, your home and family Shavonda! The photos and your home look amazing! You are so talented my friend!

  • Please excuse me if this question is intrusive – but if there are only two bedrooms, where does your son sleep? I understand if you don’t want to answer my question.

    • PS. You have a beautiful home. I enjoyed “looking” through your home as I want to downsize to a smaller home as well.

      • Hi there! Of course Ill answer! No intrusion at all! Our children each took the 2 true bedrooms we have in the house. My wife and I turned the room the previous owners used as a den into our “bedroom” by bringing in custom PAX closets and adding a barn door for privacy. Its not super ideal but it definitely works until we can afford to build on a true master bedroom suite addition. I hope this gives you a better idea of how things are laid out. So if you look in the floorplan you’ll see the bedrooms and then the “bonus room”. The bonus room is what we use as the master for now.

    • Thank you so much Nina! Its definitely one of my most favorite DIYs in our home. I really really wanted patterned tile floors but couldnt afford the expense so this was the perfect solution:) I love it!

  • May I offer a quote from Quentin Crisp?

    “Never try and keep up with the Jones’ –
    drag them down to your level”

  • Beautiful home. Beautiful family. So important in these times that Design Sponge continues to show that families come in all shapes and sizes x

  • Usually, I would have steered away from black walls in such a small space but it actually looks amazing. I think this could be due to the fact that it’s matte. Even though the home does have a lot going on it really works, making it so that every piece has a place makes the home come together. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Charlotte!! Yes, most people would never dare to paint the main rooms in their home black….especially not in a small home, but I’m a bit of a rebel! I like to be daring when I design and I always end up loving it:) The finish of the paint is actually eggshell, but it does read matte, right! I like to have a little bit of wipeability with black walls bc in such an active household we are constantly bumping up against them. Flat paint leaves a grey, ashy looking mark when you rub up against them. Thank you so much for your kind words:)

  • Well this is now obviously one of my favourite home tours evvver. As a renter I could never do such a dark wall (weeps), but I’d love to know the colour anyway! Your living room is what my deams look like!

      • Hi Melissa!! I’m so so glad you enjoyed the tour! Renting can definitely present its challenges…especially if your landlord restricts color choices:( Our black walls are Francesca by Martha Stewart. We color matched it to Behr Marquee formula. :)

  • I am so in love with the porch stenciling that I am now on a mission to do this on a balcony we have. I read your home depot blog and have a couple of questions:

    1. How hard would it be to do the stenciling for someone who is a total novice? You mention you have a lot of experience.

    2. Do you think stenciling would work on a stucco-like (think bumpy) ground? Wondering if the edges might turn out weird.

    Anyway, beautiful home – and so lovely to hear about people making smaller spaces work. We have been debating whether or not to upgrade to something a bit bigger now that we are expecting a second child, but I agree completing that a smaller and special home is worth more than square footage along.

    • Hi Becca!! Ok so first off yes, if you’re a total beginner you can absolutely stencil! It’s so so easy. It just takes patience. This was the second floor I’ve stenciled, and have also done a wall. Floors are waaaay easier bc gravity is on your side with floors.

      Second…I wouldn’t suggest stenciling on a bumpy surface. It will be difficult to keep the stencil in place, plus, i would worry that the pattern wouldn’t actually come out as you’d expect. It’s not impossible, but I highly recommend keeping with smoother surfaces.

      And thank you so much! Congratulations on your new addition. Small homes are so special and can be the perfect canvas for creating close families.

  • Wow, this is one of my favorite homes ever. Beautiful! I love the colors, and this is coming from a color commitment-phobe…

  • I follow you on Instagram, and I always love when I see your home pop up!!! I love your vibe and the home you’ve made for your family! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • This home is stunning! I look at home tours quite regularly but this one had me at first photo. I sort of wish we were neighbors so I could possible see it in person. :-) Beautiful home, beautiful family.

  • I love what you did with your kitchen and porch. I like the butcher block counters and the creativity that went into the faux tile in your outdoor space. There’s so much to be said for a small cozy home with soul over a huge sparse house that leaves you cold. Good job!

  • This is gorgeous! Would you mind sharing where the night tables in your bedroom are from? Thank you!

    • Hi Robin!

      Im sorry Im just seeing this and I hope you get the response…the inlay nightstand you see in the photos is from Ross!! I wasnt even looking or anything and I walked in one day and there it was!!

  • Really gorgeous home. There’s so much attention to detail!!! The stencil on the patio makes my back hurt just thinking about how much work went into it. Just amazing!!

  • Beautiful home! My favorite photo is the living room. I swooned when I saw that orange/coral front door against the black living room walls and the furniture! Gorgeous!

  • Dear Shavonda and Naomi, you’ve achieved an absolutely drop-dead-gorgeous home for your absolutely drop-dead-gorgeous family! I especially love the living room, it is so cosy and has loads of personality; I’ve just purchased a house myself and we were totally stuck when it came to choosing a color for the walls of the living room, I gotta say I might steal your idea on that one ;)

    • Hi Melo!

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment and kind words! Congratulations on purchasing your new home!! Definitely steal away friend! Im literally obsessed with our wall color even after all this time and I know I always will be. Good Luck on your homemaking journey!!

  • I love your copper colored mailbox shown in the vey first photo for the website.
    Would you be willing to part with the source?

    Thank you either way.