Whitney Leigh Morris is a Creative Director and Lifestyle Consultant who operates with a pretty admirable mantra – simple style for small spaces + gatherings. The California girl has amassed over 36,000 followers on Instagram who hope to get a glimpse at that signature “simple style,” which is best reflected in her own home. Aptly titled #thetinycanalcottage (look it up!), the Venice Beach bungalow is one of the most inspiring places we’ve seen in awhile. Though it is little, the design is mighty – Whitney truly maximizes the efficiency of every square inch. One look and you’ll want to adopt her “less is more” lifestyle, or at the very least, be invited over for a gorgeous dinner party under the stars:
As a creative director and lifestyle consultant, you wear many hats in your work! Tell us a little bit about what you do and what your job entails.
My company specializes in simple designs for small spaces and gatherings. This usually means that I’m styling for photo shoots, homes, editorial content, gardens, and events. I also oversee graphic design projects and museum exhibition design.
Sounds like fun! How did you break into the design world? And do you have any advice for those looking to do the same?
My greatest spike in business (and happiness) occurred when I decided to truly work for myself and communicate my own creative vision, rather than follow the creative direction of others. My personal message is that we don’t need to live large to live beautifully, which has attracted amazing and diverse clients, friends, partnerships, and community support. I’d recommend that everyone stay true to their own unique message.
We couldn’t agree more! So let’s talk #thetinycanalcottage – your home in Venice, CA. It’s adorable! How long have you lived there?
The Tiny Canal Cottage has been my home and office for four years. Since the start, I’ve lived there with my fiancé Adam, and our rescue dog, Stanlee.
You don’t joke around when you call it tiny. What’s your favorite part about small space living?
Small space living can be frustrating if you have too much stuff. What I love about our home is that it reminds us to keep things simple, and requires us to routinely downsize our belongings. Since we’ve adopted this lifestyle, we’ve discovered that we have more energy and time to devote to one another, and to the other things that matter most in our lives.
We’re guessing there has to be challenges as well?
The biggest challenge that we’ve faced in our tiny home is that there’s no way to avoid waking each other up when one of us has a sleepless night. I frequently work during all hours of the evening/morning, and there’s simply no masking sounds such as the keyboard, scanner and kettle, just as there’s no real way to completely shut out the light between the 3 rooms of the cottage. But we’ve gotten used to it!
Do you have a favorite room or nook in the cottage?
Definitely the bed, which is both cozy and bright at the same time. It is cleverly surrounded by built-in windows, bookshelves, and nightstands.
What do you most admire in a room?
Natural light is so important to me. I love ample windows and doors that allow us to bring the outside in. And I admire spaces that are designed with light (or tackle the challenge of the lack-thereof) in mind.
You have a very distinct sense of style when it comes to decorating. How would you define your aesthetic?
Natural. Practical. Functional. Simple. Mindful.
When designing a space – small or large – where’s the first place you start and why?
Downsizing. In order to update or outfit a space, it’s important to first get rid of your junk and commit to no longer acquiring items that aren’t important to you.
So true! And a lesson we could definitely use in our own homes. What’s the biggest decorating mistake you see people make?
Many people tend to display (and thus cram) as many belongings on their home’s surfaces as possible: spice jars, makeup, shoes, etc. In my experience, small spaces are more beautiful and useful when most items are stowed and the countertops are clear. Some suggestions: put your packaged goods away. Organize your makeup in cleverly repurposed items (I use a spray-painted, vintage hardware organizer). Store your shoes in 6-slot wine bags in the closet. Keep your surfaces clean and available. It looks and feels better!
We have to ask, even if it’s for purely selfish reasons. What are your top 5 online shopping sources for home decor?
Maven Collective. Ilan Dei Venice. Etsy. One Kings Lane. CB2.
Do you have any favorite, go-to colors?
I prefer to work in neutral tones when it comes to the foundations of small spaces and gatherings. I add texture and color via top layers, with items such as botanicals, textiles, artwork, and food + beverage.
You’ve been in the industry for over a decade now. What’s the biggest business lesson you’ve learned in running your own company?
I am learning the importance of the word NO in business. I am finding the greatest joy and success in working strictly with companies and individuals that understand the value of creative work, and whose overarching lifestyle philosophy aligns with my own.
What do you attribute your success to?
My business has thus far thrived on authenticity and transparency, the ability to learn and adapt after each experience, supportive friends and family, and seemingly endless hours of very hard work.
We’re (obviously) inspired by you. Is there anyone that really inspires YOU in the design world?
I am completely smitten with Justina Blakeney’s interior design aesthetic. She has the unique ability to mix bold color and vibrant patterns without muddling a space. I also admire Paulina Arcklin, who I discovered via Instagram. She has a way of creating and capturing scenes that are nearly all white and neutral, yet still rich with depth and texture.
Finally, can you share with us your top 5 tips for making a small space work?
- Go vertical.
- If you can’t find a place for something, just get rid of it.
- Instead of buying bulky vases and pitchers for special occasions, wash and reuse glass bottles. Throw them in the recycling bin when you’re done entertaining.
- Baskets. Not only do they help you organize, but they reduce visual clutter, which is usually better for small spaces.
- Use plants and botanicals for decor. They are easy to switch up as your tastes evolve, they breathe life into any space, and they reduce the need for superfluous decorative objects.
Thank you so much, Whitney! We’ll be applying these savvy tips regardless of square footage!