23 Jan This Woman Made Her Closet a Tiny Room For Her Baby, and it’s Gorgeous
Tiny (adj.) Wardrobes (n.): The collection of clothing owned by people who live in tiny homes.
Whitney Leigh Morris was living in a giant apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her then-boyfriend when she realized she needed a change. "My relationship was falling apart, we were buying tons of stuff — and we grew more and more distant as the house filled up with things," says the 36-year-old.
So in 2008, after 10 years together, she broke up with him and moved clear across the country to a tiny studio by the beach in Venice, California."Literally, I kept my work files in the oven — with the oven disconnected, of course," says Morris, a graphic designer who still works for the small, self-titled creative firm she founded then. "It was the best year of my life. I thought, ‘Wait, if I’m this happy in this tiny, little nook, what was I even doing before?’ "
Soon after her cross-country move, Morris met her now-husband, Adam Winkleman, 40. After seven months of dating, the pair started looking for a place to live, eventually buying a cozy cottage by a canal not far from Morris’ studio.
The three-room, 362-square-foot "Tiny Canal Cottage," as Morris calls it, along with the creative firm, now make up her living. She talks all things home design and tiny living on her blog and her Instagram account, which has 119,000 followers. The house features the couples’ bedroom, a bathroom, and a "living-kitchen-office-play room" — oh, and a standard hall closet that’s recently been converted into an itsy-bitsy nursery for their 1-year-old son, West.
Morris and her husband didn’t necessarily plan to live a "tiny lifestyle" when they bought their Venice home. "We just loved the house, garden, and neighborhood and jumped at the opportunity to live here," she says. "Before we even saw the whole thing, we turned around and said, ‘We’ll take it!’"
"We weren’t on a minimizing mission, per se," Morris adds of their early days at the house — she says they were so in love with the location that it was easy for both her and Winkleman to de-clutter and to donate clothing they weren’t using. "We feel like we’ve adopted that lifestyle now," she says. "We’ve definitely drank the tiny-living Kool Aid."
In addition to their baby boy, Morris and her husband live with an older dog and a 2-year-old rescue puppy. Although animals don’t necessarily need a separate space to call their own, Morris knew she needed to find a creative solution for her infant son.
With just one bedroom in the house and no "extra" space to carve out another room, the couple decided to convert their bedroom closet into a tiny baby nursery. It wasn’t a walk-in, but it had just enough room for a custom crib, a changing station, and all the clothes the little guy would need. "His whole wardrobe, with the exception of a couple of bigger pieces — one big sleep sack and one coat — fits in one drawer," Morris says. "Since he was born, up through about nine months, it worked to just have these little bodysuits. That’s what he’s in 99 percent of the time — a cotton one-piece. They fold up so small that they all fit in that single drawer in his closet-wardrobe-bedroom. We have another drawer for him that is just empty right now."
A baby in the closet meant there was no room for Morris and Winkleman’s clothing inside the house, so the pair did the next logical thing: They built a shed to store their respective wardrobes in the backyard, just outside their bedroom’s sliding doors.
"We live in L.A., and the weather is amazing and relatively dry, so we have a very climate-specific, garden wardrobe. We keep our clothes in two plastic zip-up garment bags that hold 18 inches of hangers at a time. Our shoes are stored in divided wine crates we keep beneath our couch. Somewhere like Florida, this situation would never work, because of the rain," Morris says. "That being said, right after we built the outdoor closet, it successfully withstood an uncharacteristically rainy winter. I’ve never worried about it since, and nothing inside the wardrobe has ever been ruined. In fact, thanks to the plastic garment bags, it’s probably more protected in the shed than the closet we were using before, as we leave our windows and doors open almost year-round."
Morris doesn’t necessarily play by capsule wardrobe rules, but she has gone from having a 300-piece wardrobe to one that’s fewer than 150 items. Her husband got rid of more than 100 pieces of clothing, including a sizable portion of shoes. "It was easy — and honestly enjoyable — for both of us to downsize," she says. "Adam and I are more sentimental about people and experiences than goods."
Their golden rule now? "If we get something new, we must donate something old," Morris says. "We take monthly trips to various donation centers for the stuff we don’t need." Sometimes that includes more than two tall trash bags full of clothing and homewares.
Having a closet outside has helped the couple pare down their wardrobe even more. "We’ve gotten rid of three times as much as we used to. If you have a closet with curtains, they can billow out when you over-stuff, but our doors need to close," she says. "If you open the closet door, and it is filled to the brim, things will tumble down and fall out — if that happens to us, it would fall onto the ground, into the garden."
Wearing linen is Morris’ best tiny wardrobe hack. "Linen only gets softer and more beautiful with time and washing," she says. "If you have a tiny closet, things are going to get wrinkled, because everything is cramped inside a small space. Linen can be wrinkled and still look OK. You have to get pieces that will wear well and work with your lifestyle."
She also stopped buying tons of white clothing. "It gets dirty," she says, "and I don’t have room for four white tops that will get destroyed by life."
And although being an influencer helps pay Morris’ bills — she has partnerships with Home Goods and The Home Depot, among others — she says it can be at odds with her tiny lifestyle. "We sometimes have more boxes of things than our tiny house can handle," she says. "We actually had to put up a little plastic shed in the backyard to house all the influencer crap, because I do need to sort through it."
As Morris’ son grows older, she recognizes the family’s spacial needs will change. "We aren’t worried [about our current setup] until he’s 3 years old and wants more privacy," she says.
Luckily, the couple has a nice expansion plan in the works: The owners of a tiny cottage next door have offered to let the family rent, meaning they could use that new space as a home office and convert the old office in their current home into their son’s bedroom.
"Do we need the extra space? Truthfully, no. Not right now," Morris said in a recent post about the new square footage on her blog, adding that it will be nice to have an "external" office. "[But] we decided that [it is worth] the adventure."
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