Diminutive Dimensions Belie This Guest House’s Immense Style

Decorating, Decorating Inspiration, Inspiration and tagged , , , | | | 8 Replies

By any stretch of the imagination, 700 square feet is a small space. So, when interior designer Elizabeth Martin of Elizabeth Martin Design was tasked to create a welcoming, stylish guest house that favored those dimensions, she made very deliberate choices when it came to furnishings, art and layout of the home.

The cottage, which is located on the property of a larger home in Northern California’s Atherton area, now boasts interiors and exteriors that would encourage even the most reluctant of small space dwellers to contemplate an extended stay.

Today, we catch up with Elizabeth to ask her how she created this chic space, as well as share her tips for creating a chic guest room or guest house design of your own.

Can you tell us a little about this space? 

“The space is essentially a one-room cottage with a center pony wall separating the living area from the sleeping area with a bathroom on the sleeping side. The space has arched windows on either end that run the height of the open beamed ceilings. On the living room side, French doors open out onto an attached loggia porch that has its own fireplace with views of a swimming pool.

In designing this cottage, I wanted the feeling to be light and bright, yet unfussy and collected over time. The color palette is taken from the outdoors with more neutrals than serious color. All the materials, from the limestone stone floors to the cotton and linen fabrics are meant to punctuate the casual feeling.”


What are you favorite things about this space?

“I love the simplicity… and that nothing is too precious. The slipcovered utilitarian sofa with the 18th century wooden horse behind. These sorts of juxtapositions in design are what I love. A litmus test for me when designing a space is asking …could I live here?…and the answer is a resounding yes.  I could move in here tomorrow and be perfectly content.”


How is it used?

“This was intended for visiting parents, guests . . . and on occasion a busy mom that may take refuge from an extremely active life. The cottage is contained with its own entrance, bathroom, kitchenette and television. Therefore guests intentionally are not beholden to their hosts for the small things. What’s the expression . . . ‘Fish and houseguests may go bad after three days’ . . . Whereas,  in this instance, this guest cottage affords that visitors may stay long after their potential expiration date.”

What were your biggest challenges on this project?

“The biggest challenge of this project was to create the illusion that the cottage is actually larger than it is. So economy was everything. As an example of this, the headboard was made to fit into the notched wall and climbs to its height at over eight feet. The eye is actually drawn up to the open ceiling and thus the perception of more space.”

What were your other considerations when designing the bedroom area?

“I wanted to create a sleeping area that was inviting so that guests might feel they were in the better version of their own bedroom. To do this we used a hand-blocked print for the headboard fabric then amplified the tufting so that it was extra deep and soft. You can’t quite see this, though on the floor there is a antique Moroccan rug that is extra shaggy so that when getting in and out of the bed one steps onto something extra soft.”

How did you layer and style the bed?

“I love contrasts and so I wanted to place the newness of crisp white bed linens (at 700 thread count) against the antique ikat at the foot of the bed and top it with a vintage Balinese printed center pillow.”

The outdoor space is fantastic. How did you go about designing it?

“For me this outdoor space is the definition of California living — connecting the outdoors to the indoors and seamlessly being able to live and enjoy both. My intention here was to make everything in the outdoor space flow into the indoor areas. I also wanted all the outdoor furniture to disappear and feel a part of the landscape. It is more about the lack of color out here with textures and form than anything. (We do bring in the unexpected striped floor pillows as an accent that is repeated with the rug in the bathroom mat.)

From a utilitarian perspective we had to consider the elements so all the furniture except the collapsible stool lives outdoors. (The stool however travels indoors when needed.) And all the fabrics are solution died so they can withstand sun.”


What artists are featured in the guest house?

“The abstract painting on the back wall is by Sherie Franssen, a California artist. The black and white is by Doug Glovaski and the small oil painting at the kitchen area is by Terry St. John.”

What advice do you have for readers who want to design or redecorate a guest room or guesthouse?

“Number one rule; do not over decorate! Guest rooms are about creating the space for your guests to relax. When there is too much stuff or the room is overly ‘done,” the room can feel imposing and therefore loses its ease.

A goal when decorating a room for others is to make it functional first then add art and objects to make it more interesting and personal. (Though remember, no family photos.) When I say personal I do not mean in the literal sense. Good spaces intended for guests leave ‘room’ for the guest to feel as though it is their home even though it very well might be your home.”
Source: Photos by David Duncan Livingston

8 thoughts on “Diminutive Dimensions Belie This Guest House’s Immense Style

  1. Debbie Gonzalez

    I love the neutral pallet…it’s has a very calming feeling. Then you can
    get color by your accessories and always change it up if you want. I especially loved the outdoor room, beautiful!


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