Interiorssneak peeks

A Vancouver Home Shows That Good Things Come In Small Packages

by Karla Dreyer

Getting married, having babies, and growing careers can often lead people out of city life, in search of bigger spaces, larger yards and the community vibe of the suburbs. For my husband Herb and I, we felt that pull six years ago. So we sold our house in Vancouver, British Columbia and headed to — what we hoped were — greener pastures in the burbs about an hour drive from the city.

Not so much. We quickly realized we missed city-living. So, we put the house up for sale, which took almost a year to find a buyer. To top things off, we were also in the midst of a very heated Vancouver real estate market with bidding wars and multiple offers. Not giving up, the house finally sold and we found a new home in the trendy Main Street area of Vancouver. But getting back to city life didn’t come without its fair share of sacrifices: like trading our three-story 4,100-square-foot home for a small bungalow with around 900 square feet of living space on the main floor for us and two daughters, Isabella and Presley. After a major session of clearing out our stuff, garage sales, and continuous editing, we created a personal and welcoming home for our family of four.

“We both grew up in large homes and found we would escape to the basement to hide from our families while growing up,” says my husband Herb, Director at Covenant House. “What I love is that there is no escaping for our kids. We are together as a family, like it or not.”

Our long-term plan is to build a second level, but we didn’t want to wait on crafting a space we love. With a mix of items ranging from stores like IKEA and West Elm, to vintage finds and hand-me-downs from grandmothers, we now know we can function with beauty at any size. This house is a lesson in letting our personality show through our home while thinking outside of the box in functionality and small-space solutions. —Karla

Photography by Janis Nicolay

Living Room with designer Karla Dreyer from Design Sponge
To make the space feel more open, we painted with Benjamin Moore's Cloud White. It’s a warm white that opens up the space and allows for options when changing up the decor. The couch is a basic sectional from IKEA, the coffee table is from West Elm, and the rug was a special find from the Brooklyn Flea Market. I’m so in love with this rug. It’s where I got to have fun with pattern in the space.
Living Room House Tour of Karla Dreyer at Design*Sponge
This is my favorite corner of the house. This little space holds many special and memorable items. A vintage chair found at a flea market was re-covered and a modern pillow added to it for contrast. The white cabinet is a HomeGoods find. And we can’t forget about that Fiddleleaf fig tree. “It’s the only plant we’ve ever been able to keep alive, it’s like part of the family now,” chuckles Herb.
Home Tour of Karla Dreyer on Design*Sponge
These items are some of my most beloved. A Buddha Herb gave to me to represent a career change, some of my favorite design books, and a soothing Zoe Pawlak painting that our family loves. I think it's important to display items that represent you and your family. It's what gives a space soul.
Dining Room Tour of Karla Dreyer at Design*Sponge
The eating nook has a classic tulip table surrounded by four vintage cane chairs. The black of the chairs grounds the space and picks up on the hints of black throughout the home. This small area serves so many functions. It’s where we eat, play board games, and it's our favorite work spot. The chandelier has a sculptural vibe that works well for the space and still allows for open sight lines.
House tour of Karla Dreyer at Design*Sponge
With an awkward wall that houses the fridge on the other side, wallpaper was the solution. We chose a bold black-and-white print from a local big-box store and a favorite Zoe Pawlak print. It’s amazing how much impact one roll of wallpaper can have on a space. There is definitely a common element of black throughout the room, giving it definition and impact.
Living Room Tour of Karla Dreyer on Design*Sponge
I think every room needs a touch of bling. This cabinet was given to me by my mom many years ago, and it's found its place now as a way to display books and treasures. Above, I included a black-and-white print of Vancouver to represent our move back to the city and how much we love it.
House Tour of Karla Dreyer at Design*Sponge
This spot is located directly across from the kitchen. The girls love doing art, so a trip to IKEA for these sleek desks -- and some storage options from the kitchen section -- made for a cute and very functional craft space. This area allows for so much creativity, and it’s one of the best things we did in the house. “Everyone is always amazed we were able to create a craft room in our [small] bungalow,” Herb shares.
Bedroom Tour of Karla Dreyer at Design*Sponge
The master bedroom is tiny, but we really wanted a king-size bed. As with everything in life, this meant some give and take. We found this low-frame white bed that has four large drawers of storage. Above the bed we displayed a painting done by Herb’s mom to add impact. The chandelier is also a treasure as it comes from my grandmother, and I have brought it along with us to every place we have lived. Also, to fit the king bed, side tables weren’t really an option so we picked up some small shelves and wall sconces.
Bedroom Tour of Karla Dreyer on Design*Sponge
A simple little shelf for my book is perfect along with a wall sconce that almost disappears with the wall color. To hang my jewelry, I used basic hooks and they act as another art piece.
Kids Room Tour of Karla Dreyer on Design*Sponge
Our daughters share a room, and bunkbeds were the best option. The girls, who are turning 5 and 8, have grown so close sharing a space. We kept the room white and added whimsical elements such as the amazing hand crafted bird from a local craft shop called Urban Source. Each girl has a picture ledge where they can display treasures and books for easy access.
Kids Room Tour of Karla Dreyer on Design*Sponge
A tip with small spaces is to go vertical. And that’s what we did with this IKEA bookshelf. It is a great spot for books, art and of course, stuffies. There is also a small chair and beanbag in the room, giving many options for lounging and reading.
Home Tour of Karla Dreyer on Design*Sponge
Here we are on the front stairs of our bungalow. We recently changed up the basic black door to a fun yellow. “It’s easy for people to find our place now, we just say look for the yellow door,” Herb shares.

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  • You’ve made a series of wise choices. It looks great to me. I did not experience any claustrophobia viewing your home. That the test for me! Nice job.

  • Gorgeous space and I love your fiddle fig leaf. I have one just like it… But it’s dropping leaves (gulp!!!). Any tips for keeping them healthy?

  • My family of four lives in a 950 sq ft bungalow- I’m inspired!! Thank you. Where is the bunk bed from?

    • Hi! The bunkbed is from a place called Bunk Beds Canada but Ikea has ones that look similar…thank, Karla

    • Thanks so much! I painted the entire house Cloud White by Benjamin Moore…Karla xo

  • Love the print of the woman and the seagull in the 5th image. Any chance this is available anywhere?

    Thank you!

    • Thank-you! It’s a print from Zoe Pawlak – her work is amazing! Thanks, Karla xo

  • Seriously love your style! Do you know what model this sectional is? Did you add legs to it?

  • Hi there! Which desks did you use from Ikea? I’m trying to do a similar set up for my girls and would love to replicate!

  • Would love to know which desks and kitchen storage you used in the craft space! Everything looks fabulous!