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Design Ideas
Welcome Home! How One Large Family Makes a Small Home Work for Them
Colorful accents, hidden storage and classic comforts turn this Ohio bungalow into an inviting home fit for a large family.
You can still create a unique look while following a trend if you put your own spin on it. Function or form, practical or pretty. It’s the dilemma every homeowner faces when designing a space: how to balance what’s required to create a functional home with an aesthetic that makes it feel like home. This... Keep Scrolling
Written by Kristin Dowding
Photography by Jen Mikesell

You can still create a unique look while following a trend if you put your own spin on it.

Function or form, practical or pretty. It’s the dilemma every homeowner faces when designing a space: how to balance what’s required to create a functional home with an aesthetic that makes it feel like home.

This exact challenge was on homeowner Jen Mikesell’s mind when she made plans for her bungalow in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I’ve always been into making our home welcoming and comfortable, yet practical at the same time. I see what needs must be met, and the design process follows,” she says.

Fresh flowers
One of Jen’s top priorities when decorating her home is creating a welcoming atmosphere. “Fresh flowers are always inviting,” she points out. Husband Rick made the storm door for added texture at the side entrance of the home.

With a few DIY projects, clever storage ideas and a friendly color palette, Jen was able to create a unique and inviting home that fits her family.

A mix of thrifted and new items adorns Jen’s white kitchen shelves.
A mix of thrifted and new items adorns Jen’s white kitchen shelves. “Some of it is pretty, and some of it is practical,” she says. “I use the watering can and bowls on a regular basis.” The rabbit print and yellow tulips are small, yet effective, touches that give the shelves a spring vibe

Personal Preference

 Although the home is a classic bungalow, Jen prefers not to limit herself to one style.

“I like to have the interior complement the exterior,” she points out, “but it’s more of an eclectic cottage style with some farmhouse flair and a lot of thrifted items.”

Her love of vintage and secondhand décor comes from its affordability, character, nostalgia and unique quality.

“We live in a copycat, reproductive world,” she says. “As an influencer, I want to be different and prove that you don’t have to have the best and newest all the time. It’s possible to find something old and make it look new.”

Jen’s favorite way to accomplish these transformations is to use paint. Some pieces require more work, such as her living room coffee table, which she had to strip, sand and stain. But, for the most part, a new color can transform an old piece and a home’s atmosphere.

“Color can make people feel relaxed,” says Jen. “I like good-mood colors such as yellow and teal. I feel as if teal is a neutral. It stays with us season after season.”

Rugs Upon Rugs
The layered rug look was more than just an aesthetic choice for Jen’s living room. Not only does it provide more texture, it also saves money. “Our bottom layer is a durable indoor/outdoor rug,” she says. “When I want to switch out the top rug to get a fresh look, it’s less expensive because it’s a smaller size, and I don’t have the hassle of lifting the couch.”

Updates and DIYs

 Jen and husband Rick became a family of eight; and, with six sons, they needed to make every inch of their 1,400-square-foot home meet their needs.

The first order of business was a home addition.

“We had an open-style porch right off the kitchen, but we knew the space would be of better use to us as an enclosed dining room,” Jen says.

Jen’s husband, Rick, found this secretary desk in someone’s trash and decided to repurpose it in their master bedroom. “It was already that beautiful blue,” says Jen. “All we had to do was clean it.”

Not only does this addition suit their needs, it also added square footage to the house and enlarged their kitchen. However, substantial changes can take time.

“It’s been a process over the course of 20 years,” she says. “We would add things in, such as the bay window, as we could afford them.”

Jen added corbels, board-and-batten siding, bookracks and a wood top to their DIY kitchen island to give it a unique look. “The top the island came with could be folded, and crumbs would collect in the cracks,” she explains. She and husband Rick also built a faux range hood in front of one of the upper cabinets. “The whole panel is removable, so we can still access the cabinet behind it,” she says.

The couple was able to DIY some of the smaller projects, such as custom furniture. Rather than try to find pieces that fit the space, Rick custom-built the two corner hutches in the dining room, as well as the dining table and the kitchen island.

DIY kitchen island

“We got the wood tops for the table and island from a local place called Metro Hardwoods, so Rick just had to build the legs.”

The living room fireplace, however, was a more involved project.

Built-in electric fireplace
Jen and Rick built out the wall and added faux brick and a mantel to make their own built-in electric fireplace. “The upper section is removable,” says Jen. “It hides the TV, and there are storage spaces on either side of it, so I store my candles in there. We used magnets to keep the board-and-batten section in place.” Jen thrifted the armchairs, but she wasn’t a fan of their original brown color. So, she spray-painted and reupholstered them to fit her aesthetic.

“None of that fireplace was existing,” says Jen. “We built the wall out with faux brick and added the board-and-batten at the top.” (The board and batten panel hides their TV, giving them the custom look they want with the bonus of hiding an eyesore.)

Secret Storage

 The key to organizing a smaller home is having a place to hide the things you don’t want on display. Typical storage options include shelving, hutches, cabinets, closets and baskets, but Jen created several resourceful storage areas that serve a dual purpose.

Her sofa, for example, opens to reveal storage underneath the seats, where she keeps her off-season pillowcases. The custom faux fireplace in their living room has extra storage behind the board-and-batten panel. Jen stores her candles on either side of the hidden TV. And, instead of trading out one of their upper kitchen cabinets to install a range hood, they built a faux range hood panel that can be removed to access the cabinet behind it.

Having enough storage can be a challenge in a smaller house, but Jen chose a sofa from Home Reserve that has built-in storage under the cushions. “I store all my seasonal pillowcases in it,” says Jen. “The sofa, itself, is versatile too. It used to be a couch and loveseat, but I ordered a corner piece and turned it into a sectional.” To give the room a pop of color, Jen stripped and painted the coffee table she found on Craigslist in her favorite teal.
The Mikesell family takes advantage of all its spaces, including the backyard. Jen and Rick installed a patio a couple of years ago to create an outdoor hangout space. The patio table transforms into a ping-pong table for family fun, and the potting shed stores all of Jen’s plant supplies.

These creative solutions gave Jen the ability to design her home to fit her individual needs and satisfy her preferred aesthetic.

“Homes need to be both beautiful and livable. They are a safe haven for our families, and they should also be a peaceful place to find rest and comfort,” Jen points out.


Five Tips for Making a Small Home Work for a Big Family

By Jen Mikesell

  1. Be purposeful. Be intentional about everything—with purchases, furniture choices and how you treat each other. Make decisions that will add character to your home and serve each person dwelling in it.
  2. Prioritize function. Make sure every room has a function and serves a purpose. Be mindful of accommodating the needs of each family member while maintaining order in your home so that others will be blessed by it when you share it with them.
  3. Make a plan. Plan ahead before designing a space so the process isn’t too overwhelming. It helps knowing that you’re working toward an end goal. In addition, always include ample storage, whether it’s hidden in an ottoman or on display with shelving.
  4. Personalize it. Your spaces need to work for you, whether that consists of tiny cubbies or multipurpose furniture (such a sofa with hidden storage). What works for one family might not work for yours.
  5. Don’t waste space. Every nook and cranny matters in a smaller home. Even so, don’t just fill them with meaningless things. If you’re low on space, utilize your walls, as well as tall furniture and shelving.


For more about Jen, follow her on Instagram

Bedding: Zulily; (877) 779-5615 or

Dining room chandelier: Feiss Lighting on Amazon;

Flower plates and bowls: Walmart;

Kitchen island foundation: JCPenney; (800) 322-1189 or

Living room arched mirrors: Overstock; (800) 843-2446 or

Living room diamond rug: Marshalls;

Living room bottom rug, kitchen pendant lights: Wayfair; (877) 929-3247 or

Nightstands: Lowe’s; (800) 445-6937 or

Paint, coffee table: “Peacock Plume” by Sherwin Williams; (800) 474-3794 or

Paint, exterior: “Atlantic Shoreline” by Behr; (800) 854 0133 or

Sofa: Home Reserve; (800) 482-2712 or

Spring sign: WildbriarDesign;

Vintage wall basket/bowl: Suzy Q’s Redos;

Wood top for dining table: Metro Hardwoods; (216) 651-2345 or

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