Tiny home living is clearly an on-trend topic. The idea provides our culture with a pause in its usual, unrelenting communication of the message that bigger, newer and more of everything is better. While living small and simply is still a novelty for most, it draws both active and passive audiences by being an escapist concept that offers the hope of combatting the powerful tidal wave of technological and tangible consumption with a pared-down, organized, and calmer daily existence. While the prospect of living a decluttered life is what garners the most attention for the tiny house movement, another key benefit of the lifestyle is that it encourages increased engagement within a community.
Since 2011, I’ve lived in a tiny house in Venice, California. While my home isn’t micro-sized, it’s certainly compact, measuring under 400 square feet. I live here with my husband, our son, and our two rescue beagles. Not only is this our home, but it’s also my full-time office, where I operate a small creative firm, as well as a lifestyle consulting business. While the house itself has earned a fair amount of attention over the years, I believe it’s the principle behind it that repeatedly speaks to audiences: you don’t have to live large to live beautifully. While this applies to how we operate within our walls, it also extends to our existence beyond them.
Tiny living has encouraged my family to be more engaged in our community. We know and treasure Venice as though it’s an old friend, and that’s because we enjoy it so thoroughly when we step away from our Cottage. When we first moved into our little home, we had two cars. With no real garage and with the challenges of routinely securing beach-side parking, we quickly realized that we could no longer accommodate two cars, nor did we need them both. We donated one car to KCRW, subsequently saving us some money, and cutting back on our belongings and responsibilities. We began biking and walking around town more and more often, which has improved our health, and introduced us to so many places we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
Similarly, we don’t need the space for a full home gym— we can simply step outside when we need to exercise. From jogging down the beach to climbing the Santa Monica steps, I’ve spent countless hours traversing the Westside and enjoying the coast during my fitness routine. (I might look a little funny lunging down the sidewalks of the Venice Canals, but I’m too busy enjoying the wildlife and waterways to care.) We can even paddleboard, surf, and more without owning the oversized equipment ourselves, as there are numerous rental facilities mere minutes from our home.
We love our community so genuinely that it even influenced us when selecting a name for our son. West was born this past fall, and during my pregnancy— and ever since— we never once considered moving to a bigger home. We have everything we need right here, regardless of our square footage. There’s an adorable park and duckpond right across the canal, and we can walk to two nearby public libraries. Museums, live performance venues, farmers markets, amusement park rides, and community events are all within biking distance. And every time we go out, we meet new neighbors and we all learn new things.
While tiny house living isn’t for everyone, there’s a mindset behind it that can bring joy to all of us. Let’s waste less time fussing over things. Instead, let’s spend our precious lives focusing on and connecting with the people and places around us. It’s healthy for our bodies, minds and hearts.
The Sweet Life By Brittany + Cynthia Daniel
About Whitney Leigh Morris & The Tiny Canal Cottage™
Whitney Leigh Morris believes that we don't need to "live large" to live beautifully. Since 2011, The Tiny Canal Cottage™ has served as her home, office, and small-space consulting studio. It is also the main subject of her blog, (TinyCanalCottage.com), and Instagram, @whitneyleighmorris. Other residents of the Cottage include Morris’ husband and colleague, Adam Winkleman, their son West, and their two rescue beagles, Stanlee and Sophee.
Morris also owns and operates a boutique creative firm, which specializes in alternative marketing solutions and content creation.
She has designed for world-wide arts organizations, individuals, small events, and businesses since 2004. She began her career in advertising and graphic design, then expanded her business to include museum exhibition design and interior decor. Her work now encompasses a wide spectrum of design roles, from creative consulting, to styling photoshoots and gatherings, to creative directing for events, print publications and digital content.
Whitney is on the Board of The Rightway Foundation, and was named a Wall Street Journal Woman of Note. She is engaged in the Venice community as a member of the Venice Chamber of Commerce and the Venice Canals Association, and she plays an active role in the Abbot Kinney Merchants Association and other local events and non-profits.