Tiny but Mighty

Renovating a pint-size kitchen inside of a 100-year old "tiny house" called for clever planning and massive amounts of creativity.

By Jamie Siebrase

Photography by Alise O'Brien Photography


It would have been easier to start from scratch, and some professionals might have recommended tearing down this 1,000-square-foot home in historic Webster Groves. But designer Joni Spear and her clients —  a young couple with a two-year-old – share a common zeal for ecological living. “They make their own kombucha, and they care about reducing their carbon footprint — and they desperately needed a functional kitchen,” Spear explains. 

But smaller isn’t always simpler. Spear created a blank canvas by gutting the original kitchen and its bump-out, taking everything down to the floor joints and studs. Preserving the old home’s structural integrity got a little complicated. “We ended up needing an engineer and an architect,” Spear says, to secure footings on the foundation, join two ceilings, re-size windows and add French doors. 

When it was time for the fun part, Spear heated things up with modern farmhouse elements and environmentally friendly touches, including a trash rollout with compartments for recycling and compost. Speaking of functional, Spear custom-designed the muted green cabinetry, using “every inch,” she says, to accommodate an abundance of gadgets, from a Vitamix blender down to tea infusers and reusable water bottles. 

When she learned that the homeowners enjoy cooking together, Spear promptly proposed the “Galley,” a hard-working, 5-foot-long sink where the homeowners prep, cook, serve and clean — all in one place. With his-and-her faucets, one spouse can easily cook while the other one cleans. 

The homeowners picked out their ASKO dishwasher; the rest of the major appliances are KitchenAid products finished in black stainless, to defy toddler smudges. As a visual bonus, the refrigerator pops against white subway tile embellished, over the cooktop, with a herringbone backsplash. In lieu of marble or granite, Spear recommended concrete for its adventurous, more youthful look. Cork flooring is another green option providing practical elements, too — comfort mainly, as well as durability.  

All that was left to do was incorporate modern, farmhouse touches: one-of-a-kind pendants purchased directly from the designer on Etsy, and secondhand chairs found at Miriam Switching Post in Brentwood. A co-worker of one of the homeowners salvaged the 1920s barn wood used in the kitchen table and bench, and a sliding barn door covers the panty, completing the look rather perfectly.