Welcome to the Dana Cottage!

When I first saw this house pop up on Zillow back in November, I immediately knew she was the one.

Adorable brick pathways, a charming facade and perched on a hill in Dana Point, it was the diamond in the rough we’d been looking for for months.

In our past home remodel, we’d done everything ourselves. But with things a little more complicated in California, we’re working with a contractor help us through the permit process and keep things moving. I’m actually quite looking forward to not having to general contractor this project all the way through like last time!

Anyway, let’s get to the part you want to hear about: our renovation plans! I’ll take you through the before photos and share a little bit of our inspiration for each space.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll go more in depth into each room and our actual selections!


Meet our Little Beach Cottage

At 1700 square feet, the Dana Cottage is easily the smallest house we’ve ever lived in, but definitely not our first challenging project in making a space work for us.

Our first step in opening up the house will be to remove the unnecessary hallway with pony wall, as well as extending the existing living room wall back an additional 7 feet. These two changes alone will give us an extra 150 square feet in the living room and help it feel so much more open!


Next, we will be removing the part of the wall to the right of the fireplace that the previous owners had closed up for their kitchen remodel. While we can’t get rid of the fireplace completely for a full open concept (it’s solid brick that goes to the roof!), it will actually be nice to keep to help define the living and kitchen spaces. And opening up both sides of the fireplace will still help the rooms flow and feel more accessible.

With the central living area more open, we can then use the former den space an a spacious semi-formal dining room. We’ll replace both walls facing the backyard with LaCantina bi-fold doors to create even more indoor/outdoor living space (the part of the remodel I’m most excited about!)

Maximizing the Space

In order to make the small space work for our family of four, creative storage solutions will be a must.

Unlike past remodels, we will definitely be investing in a trim carpenter to help build out custom closets in each room. For the girls, this means their closets will not only be set up for clothes and shoe storage, but toys as well!

The same will go for the front coat closet which will be transformed into a coat/shoe/utility closet, as well as a second hall closet which will house more overflow storage like household essentials, toys, and games.


Lastly, if feasible, we would love to raise the kitchen and living room ceilings to not only help the space feel more open and airy, but also increase possible kitchen cabinet space. We did this in our last remodel, and my, what a different an extra 1-2 feet of cabinet space can make!

Now, whether or not we’re actually able to do that will largely depend on the cost, as it would require major rerouting of all electrical, plumbing and HVAC lines. So the jury’s still out on whether that change will fit in our budget.

Source: Maison Blonde

The Kitchen

The next space I am so so excited about transforming is the kitchen. While the square footage is pretty decent, we don’t quite have enough space for a kitchen island with seating (bummer!). 

Instead, we will relocate our water heater to the garage, which will create space for a small peninsula seating area. We may also end up adding an island “table” for extra prep space.

As far as finishes, I’m really leaning into the cottage vibes with creamy white cabinetry, a sloped plaster hood, aged brass hardware, and simple pendants.

Source: Heirloom and Ivy

Source: Mindy Gayer Design


The Girls’ Bedrooms and Bath

One space I never really “finished” in our previous home was the girls’ rooms, so I’m ready to go all out this time around!

I’d love to add some millwork, wallpaper, wall sconces and other special details to really give them a subtle girly girl vibe. For Sophie's room in particular, I'm eyeing Kirstin Sadlier for a pretty painted surf board to hang in Sophie’s room.

For the hall bath, we’ll carry through the cottage look, with a bit of a beachy twist. I’m absolutely in love with this reeded cabinetry Mindy Gayer Design used in one of her homes and hope to replicate the look with custom cabinetry. We’ll also be replacing the stand up shower with a tub/shower in the bath cove. My plan is to use brass plumbing and pretty Zellige tile to help it feel extra zen.


The Primary Bedroom Suite

The most challenging part of this remodel is definitely going to be our primary suite. With a rather small footprint, we’re still toying with different ideas for how to arrange a primary bath, dual closets and bedroom big enough for a King size bed all in one small space. 

The great part is that we’ll still have the large slider along the back wall to open up to the seating area in the backyard, so although we won’t have much room in the primary bedroom for lounging, we’ll be able to spill out into outdoor living space quite easily.



The Garage

With a small house comes creative solutions and our plan for the garage is definitely one of them! Since we don’t have space for a mud room or laundry room, we’ll be cleaning up our currently disheveled garage to serve this purpose. The great news is since it’s all cosmetic, we can get started on this part now!

We’ll be tearing out all the existing storage shelves, insulating and re-drywalling the walls, and adding epoxy flooring to help the space feel cleaner and fresher. From there, we’ll create a cozy laundry space, along with drop zone lockers to keep the kids coats, shoes and backpacks organized.

While I’ve done a pretty good job decluttering our storage, we do still have a fair bit of seasonal decor, travel gear, and outdoor equipment needing a home, so we'll line one (or both) walls with hanging cabinets to keep the garage looking clean while also staying practical.


The Backyard

Our last major project, and one that probably won’t start for at least a year, is the backyard renovation! The view is what really sold this house for us, and we can’t wait to really show off its potential with a totally reimagined space!

We’re currently working with Yardzen, an online landscape design company, to come up with a design for this space which will include a small plunge pool, grill area and lounge seating. We actually just got our first draft back and I can’t wait to share more of those details with you very soon!

The Timeline

That’s it for the full tour!

Unfortunately with California having so much red tape, it’ll be awhile before we can actually get started. UGH. We’ve been given varying timelines of 2-4 months of plans and permit approval, so we’ll be patiently waiting over here! In the meantime we’ll be making all of our selections now so when the approval comes through we can go go go.

We do still have our rental house for a few more months, thank goodness, so we don’t have to live through full-on construction. Our hope is that we can get framing, drywall and floors done before move-in, and then we can survive living through the rest.

In the coming weeks, I'll share more about each room individually with design boards and sources, so stay tuned for more!

January 19, 2023