How to make a small space look bigger—from an interior designer + mama

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Because my family and I live in a tiny house off wheels, I've learned how to live large in a small space, maximizing the use of our small space with beautiful interior aesthetics and good function.

To me, interior design is about creating spaces with good intentions that encourage family and visitors to stay talking and laughing a little while longer. The design shouldn't be dictated by the size of the space, but rather by its primary use, which is to gather, love and grow, all while appreciating the things and people that surround us.

If you are considering downsizing, or are currently living in a small home and struggling with the challenges small spaces may bring as you grow your family, let me encourage you to live large in a small space.

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My 950-square-foot home creates a communal feeling. This was an essential factor for me when I began to transform my house into a home, and as we grew into a family of four. My boys roam the house as they please, so creating a child-friendly home where they felt welcomed to play anywhere was important for them and us.

As an interior designer, here's how to make a small space look bigger in eight steps.

1. Declutter.

The first step to tackle before bringing in new space-saving, stylish and child-friendly ideas is to declutter entirely. This creates the extra space needed to grow as a family while only keeping the necessary and essential things in life.

2. Get stuff off the floor.

A great way to declutter is to raise stuff up off the floor. For example, bookshelves and wall units can be styled with essential daily items like books, toys, educational objects, kitchenware, bathroom essentials and house plants.

3. Choose fewer and bigger items for your home.

When choosing furniture, art and home décor items, opt for a few large scale pieces rather than several small pieces. This will create a sense of harmony throughout the space as well as visual interest.

Psst: Mirrors give a great illusion of space, so add a few to your walls!

4. Think like a minimalist.

A minimalist approach works well in small spaces. Minimalism is about identifying what is important to you and making sure that the unimportant things aren't occupying your space. This will free your mind from distractions and allow the essentials and beauty to rest in its space.

5. Don't be too cohesive.

When choosing a style or color scheme, don't be afraid to incorporate variety—just because you love one color, it doesn't mean it should be everywhere throughout the home. Your home can still work together without being monotone. You are full of charm and personality—it's okay to let your home reflect that!

6. Put corners to work.

Sectional sofas, cornered breakfast nooks, and pretty accent chairs to fill an underused corner can create some extra useful space that otherwise will be empty and lacking purpose. Try utilizing a corner with a wall sconces hovering over a big, comfortable and pretty accent chair that can be used for reading and snuggling with your little ones.

7. Incorporate nature and natural light.

Inviting nature and natural light into your space is therapeutic, and research has proven that it does improve your overall well-being— it decreases stress, lowers blood pressure and can improve your immune system. So bring home a pet, a plant or other organic elements to improve your well-being and the environment of your home.

8. Declutter again.

Approximately once every three months, do another decluttering sweep of your home. Stuff just accumulates, especially with kids. Continuing to remove unwanted items from your home will help it to feel light, and donating these items will help to teach your children about the importance of giving back to the community.

I can tell you without a single doubt, we have all the space we will ever need, and that having more or bigger space would simply justify wanting more stuff. Living in a small space has improved my family's relationships—we share most or all the spaces, which encourages healthy interaction and communication. Many times we gravitate towards each other because its what we are used to, and we find comfort in knowing we are always close. No matter where I am in my home, I can always hear their twinkle toes—as well as the meltdowns. But I wouldn't want it any other way.

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Babies come with a lot of stuff. And when you're out and about, a roomy, comfy diaper bag is the place for everything you need to be prepared for whatever the day throws your way. But is a cute, trendy diaper bag that doesn't scream, well... DIAPER BAG, too much to ask? It's not, mamas.

We've rounded up our favorite diaper bags that don't actually look like diaper bags, but instead like the cute, super stylish bags you might have carried before the days of finding crushed up puffs at the bottom of your purse.

These bags prove you can get the job done, mama—and look darn good while doing it.

Freshly Picked City Pack

Freshly Picked City Pack

This simple, modern backpack can easily take you from a day at work to dinner with the kiddos. We love the hardware details, the lightweight design, and the hidden back pocket.

$150

Vogshow Waterproof Bag

Vogshow Waterproof Diaper Bag

A sleek look, plus a padded laptop compartment, anti-theft and insulated pockets and magnetic buttons instead of zippers. 🙌

$34.99

Skip Hop Travel Bag

Skip Hop Travel Bag

With a large zippered main compartment, there's plenty of room to keep all of the things. We love the adjustable straps—you can wear as a backpack, cross-body, messenger bag, or attach to the stroller.

$99.99

Companion Quilted Backpack

companion quilted backpack diaper bag

Are you off to sit on the beach for a few hours, or taking your toddlers to the zoo? No one will be the wiser, mamas. We love the quilted look, padded straps, and roomy interior.

$178

Mommore Diaper Backpack

Mommore Diaper Backpack

With a water resistant exterior, wet clothes pocket and a main compartment that completely opens up, you'll love having this to tote around.

$34.99

JJ Cole Brookmont

JJ Cole Cognac Diaper Bag

As stunning as it is functional. It has 15 pockets and a removable liner on the inside so you can easily clean up messes in no time.

$99.99

Little Unicorn Boardwalk Tote

If you're looking to keep things simple + stylish, mamas, this is the bag for you. It's versatile, functional, and will get tons of use well past the diaper days.

$69.95

Presidio Vegan Leather Diaper Tote

Presidio Vegan Leather Diaper Tote

This stunning tote would make the perfect on-the-go bag. It comes with a changing page and a couple pockets on the inside to keep everything organized. Don't forget to personalize it!

$99

Ticent Tote

Ticent Diaper Bag

With nearly 500 reviews, this one has incredible ratings. It offers multiple pockets, including an insulated one for snacks or bottles. The waterproof cotton material is ideal for those inevitable spills.

$30.99

Fawn Design Original

Stylish and versatile, this bag can be worn as a cross body or as a backpack. It's roomy without being bulky, and has a total of 10 pockets for awesome storage.

$159.99

Skip Hop Greenwich Backpack

No one would ever know this bag is packed full of baby's items. 😉

$69.99

Rosie Pope Highbury Hill

Highbury Hill Diaper Backpack

If you're looking to up your style, this chic backpack will help you get there. Lots of inner pockets and zippered compartments make it simple to organize your stuff, and the top flap and wide opening make for quick + easy accessibility.

$159.99

Babymel Robyn

Babymel Robyn Diaper Backpack

We love everything about this effortlessly stylish faux leather backpack. It's easy to wipe down, converts to a cross body bag, and even comes with a changing pad and drawstring bottle holder.

$90

Petunia Pickle Bottom Pathway

Petunia Pickle Bottom Diaper Tote

This two-tone canvas bag could not be prettier. We love that it easily stands upright when set down, and that it's super functional as a diaper bag yet super stylish as an everyday purse.

$159

Skip Hop Duo

Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag

The timeless stripes on this 11-pocket bag means it will never go out of style, and the durable cotton canvas means it will stand up to years of use.

$70

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Frustrations and emotions were at an all time high for both us. I was worried that my lack of patience would get the best of me, leaving her feeling let down and frustrated with me on her new journey of becoming a “big girl." And selfishly, I was tired of washing wet underwear. For her part, my daughter was tired of being asked for the hundredth time if she needed to use the potty.

We both were feeling a little defeated in this new adventure.

I have found too often as a mother that I expect my child to respond new things, like to potty training, as fast and as close to the last blog post, book or opinion I heard or read. What I have learned is that no two children are alike and the moment I release my expectations for where mine should or should not be, we are both brought back to peace and patience.

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So maybe a break was all we needed to start fresh the next day. We headed to our favorite spot by the lake and had a picnic. My daughter munched on popcorn and chatted away about the weather and pinecones, and listened for the sounds of helicopters—which you hear quite often living on an aviation military base.

Sometimes in the daily struggles of motherhood I have noticed that I can forget who I am and the strength we possess as mothers. It may not come easily at first, but I grow with each new day. Even potty training—this mundane human activity that is emotional and (quite literally) messy, teaches me much about the meaning and purpose of motherhood.

Potty training has taught me a huge lesson on patience. Patience to be present, to pay attention to what is right in front of me. To be encouraging, to not rush the process, to not place expectations on timing or play the comparison game we often play as mothers.

Patience is needed in every area of parenting and potty training is just one way where we can see as parents where our patience is wearing thin.

I have found that it's when I come from a place of patience and presence that I can then glean wisdom from those messy, mundane, time-consuming tasks of potty training, and find that the waiting, sitting and hours of time spent in the bathroom gives me an opportunity to be present in my child's world.

Whether it be the grocery line, a traffic jam, or cleaning up wet bedding, I learn the art and joy in the small and big moments in motherhood. Giving our children space to fail and try it again as many times as it takes encourages them that they too can cultivate the gift of patience in there own tiny lives.

My daughter speaks to me everyday, inviting growth that sometimes feels really hard and frustrating, she provokes patience to be felt and sensed through every minute of the day. And for this I am grateful. Because to truly live and be present in my child's world means “I learn from her, and she learns from me." Even in potty training.

Our children have so much to offer to who we are as individuals and they have so much to teach us. In fact, I have come to live for these exhausting, beautiful, and downright messy moments in time. When I push myself to embrace them, rather than just find them frustrating, I stretch and grow and evolve. I become the mother I hope to be.

And to you mama, whether in the midst of sleepless newborn nights or toddler tornados or the midst of potty training, may you find strength as a mother, as a wife, and as a person to let go of any expectations or judgements you place upon yourself.

May love and gratitude fill our hearts and peace be with all of us on the journey that motherhood is.

Life

A good kid's winter coat needs to do a few basic things really well: be incredibly warm, water-resistant, easy to clean and a classic style so it can look good bundled over any other clothing they're wearing. For this reason, I usually avoid coats with heavy branding or patterns so that any winter outfit I put my son in "goes" with his jacket.

Primary is always one of my go-to brands for their super simple classic styling, so I was happy to see that Primary is currently having a sale on their solid-colored and high-quality winter gear. This kid's winter puffer coat caught my eye because it's on a steep discount (more than 50% off!), fits all my criteria above and even has a few bonus features I didn't know I needed but now totally love.

Kid’s winter puffer coat

I'm loving this jacket because it's fleece-lined, has thumbholes (so helpful in making sure my toddler doesn't lose his gloves) and comes with an "I belong to" ID label so that his coat won't get mixed up in the sea of other winter jackets at pre-school. Plus, it comes in six great colors and has a five-star rating.

As one reviewer put it, "This coat prompted my first review because it's perfect! Warm enough without being restrictive, easy zipper for my 5-year-old to manage himself and easy to clean! He loves the thumb holes!"

Originally $68.00

$29.50
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Mamas expecting babies this month are a special bunch—and not just because it's statistically unique to have a birthday during the shortest month of the year.

Science shows babies born in February already have advantages with everything from physical growth to creativity to even presidential elections. (It's no coincidence that President's Day is this month!)

Here are six reasons why February birthdays are so special:

1. They may be bound for the NBA

According to a 2006 study from Harvard researchers that examined data from 21,000 children around the world (including the southern hemisphere), those born in February were taller and weighed more at the age of 7 than their friends who were born during other times of the year. (Further proof: Michael Jordan celebrates his birthday on February 17.)

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2. Or on their way to a doctorate

The same study also showed winter-born babies performed best in a series of intelligence tests. As the researchers concluded, “The overall pattern of findings is that winter/spring babies are both 'bigger' on the anthropometric variables and 'smarter' on the selected neurocognitive variables."

3. They also have artsy sides

February babies are either born under the Aquarius or Pisces star signs—which are linked to the traits of originality and creativity. But even if you aren't one for astrology, a study complied from the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics found that people born in February are more likely to be artists.

4. Which may set them up for stardom

Speaking of the zodiac, one study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found a disproportionate number of celebrities claim the Aquarius star sign. That includes everyone from Bob Marley to Jennifer Aniston to Shakira. It's also one of the most popular star signs for American presidents—including Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Ronald Reagan (February 6).

5. Or, at least, satisfying careers

But don't feel bad for babies born in the latter half of the month: A survey from CareerBuilder.com found Pisces adults were among the “most satisfied" with their jobs. (They also have legs up on the competition if they ever find their way into a presidential election.)

6. They may have the rarest birthday of all

Babies on their way this year are out of luck. But, come 2020, a special group of newborns will have the distinction of being born on Leap Day, February 29. Sure, they won't get to mark their birthday for another four years, but they do get a prime pick of perks when that day does roll back around!

Snuggle up with that newborn while you can, mama. Once your February baby gets going, they'll be hard to stop.

[Originally published February 2, 2018]

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