The Art of Living in Small Spaces

How to make the most of a house that isn't huge.


Thibaut wallpaper and a rattan bench create a welcoming foyer. A circular wall mirror makes the vestibule feel larger than it really is. Photo by Barry Harley.

Cape Cod Charm

2,600 square feet

Regan and Bill Davis bought their Falls Church City home in 2003 after they got engaged. Three kids later, the tiny footprint of the 1942 Cape Cod no longer worked for them. They wanted a bigger house, but not a giant one.

“As our family grew, so did our ties to the community. For us the idea of moving to a different neighborhood was never a possibility,” Regan says. So in 2016, they took the plunge and renovated.


Peale was careful not to overstuff the small parlor with too much furniture. A new area rug complements a small-scaled sofa and a pair of rattan-backed chairs. Photos by Barry Harley.


Architect Scott Williams and remodeler Rob Lancaster (Oyster Builders) put a 1,500-square-foot addition on the existing 1,100-square-foot  house and reconfigured the main level.

“Our goal was to move the bedrooms upstairs—we had two down and one up—away from our main living space,” Regan says, “and then increase the size of our kitchen and family room, where we spend most of our time.”


The makeover didn’t require all new furniture. The family’s existing sectional sofa now serves as a neutral anchor for patterned elements such as ikat-print Duralee drapes and a Momeni rug with a geometric design. Photos by Barry Harley.


A custom window seat has storage drawers underneath. The niche is accented with “Magic Ginkgo” wallpaper from WallsNeedLove and throw pillows in the same color scheme. Photo by Barry Harley.

In 2018, the couple hired architect Charles Moore to further define the new layout with details such as decorative beams and moldings. Then they brought in designer Erica Peale to give the interiors more character and vibrancy through soft furnishings.

“Regan and Bill love color and pattern,” Peale says. “Most people think that’s overwhelming in a smaller home, but color and pattern can actually complement a small space and make it warm and cozy.”

In this case, bold patterns in varying sizes and shapes—in elements ranging from window treatments and rugs to wallpaper and accent pillows—make even modest little spaces feel like precious vignettes.






Project Credit: Erica Peale Design, Arlington,; Moore Architects, Falls Church,; Oyster Builders, Oakton,; Williams Design Group, Clifton,


Charlotte Safavi, a writer and stylist, lives in Alexandria with her husband and son.


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