Tiny houses have risen in popularity worldwide over the last few years. Shows like Tiny House Nation on Netflix provide inspiration for ways to downsize, while still living in a functional, aesthetically-pleasing space. According to Insider, sales and construction of tiny houses boomed during 2020 and there’s no telling how much bigger the trend will get in the next few years. In Abilene, tiny houses can be found here and there on the property of larger homes, and one house in particular may give you the elegant, French-vintage inspiration for your next project big or small.
Interior designer Marilyn (Salazar) Crockett lived with her mother on the northside of Abilene until she got married. Her mother’s property was just a few blocks from ACU and featured a tiny house at the back of the property. She rented out the 750-square-foot home to college students for several years. As Marilyn prepared to marry Seth Crockett, they decided to live in the tiny house and save money for the future.
But the outdated design, plus some serious roof issues, would have to be fixed before they could move in. They also would have to find a design style they both liked. Marilyn describes her style as “French with funky, vintage elements.” But Seth, who studied wildlife biology likes anything with nature, trees, and animals. The couple had just graduated from Abilene Christian University, got married, and would also have to learn how to share a tiny space.
“It was kind of challenging because I actually had a lot of furniture,” Marilyn said. “But when we moved in here I decided we’re just going to keep what we want and then start fresh because this is a new life for us together. And I wanted to incorporate things that he liked as well.”
Together, they set out to renovate the house by the time they married in September, 2021. With just $3,000 and a lot of creativity, they were able to create a functional, vintage-inspired space which they named “Studio Bleu.” Today they live there with their dog, Lulu.
The small kitchen featured a fridge, stove, sink and a couple of feet of counterspace on either side of the stove. A few cabinets above and below the sink provided the only storage. They purchased and installed vinyl flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. Although it was affordable, the marble pattern gives it an elegant, upscale feel.
Seth and his friend installed a tile backsplash over the stove. They also took down the cabinets, repainted them and added new hardware to spruce up the kitchen without breaking the bank. A Ninja Foodi was the perfect appliance for cooking in a small space. And with no space for a dining room table, the couple keeps dinners simple with TV trays in the living area.
Marilyn said people can do little things to spruce up a space like adding stick-on wallpaper to a fridge.
“A lot of people, when they rent, they don’t think about that stuff but it’s an easy thing to do to bring the space together,” Marilyn said.
In the living room, they had just enough space for everything a living room needs: sofa, chair, entertainment center, coffee table, and of course, a ladder with blankets. Most of the pieces came from the Studio McGgee collection at Target, Amazon or local estate sales.
“I design first with a function, not the style,” Marilyn said. “So we looked at what’s a good seating layout, how are we going position our bed to have enough walking space.”
“So we had this blank canvas, but you have to think of it like a puzzle,” Seth said. “She can make it look the best, I can make it fit really well.”
The living room was also the space where the roof needed to be repaired. That was the only part of the house they called in a contractor to do the work. Even though Marilyn had connections to contractors through working for Gibbs Design + Build, they wanted to do most of the remodel themselves.
“At one point, we were like, ‘We just want to get this done, we will pay someone to do it,’” Marilyn said. “But we knew we could do it. It would just take a little bit of time, but we like that because this is our home.”
“The backsplash took 12-14 hours over two days,” Seth said. “Stuff like that makes you love what you get even more. It has imperfections but it’s stuff that I can look at and say ‘I did that.’ And I can do it again in the future.”
In the bathroom, they didn’t have much to do but add some paint (which Marilyn said made the biggest difference), a new mirror, a new storage shelf, and flooring replaced with the same marble vinyl as the kitchen. They went for a bold, darker blue that makes the gold frames stand out.
“I’m obsessed with Anthropologie mirrors, but we couldn’t afford that,” Marilyn said. “So we found that mirror at an estate sale.”
Bedroom and Hallway
A small hallway connects the living room to the bathroom and bedroom. The couple spruced up the hallway with a bold, patterned wallpaper. In tribute to Seth’s love of nature, the wallpaper features wildflowers. And Marilyn found a large, elegant mirror on Facebook marketplace which adds some glam to the hallway. It also provides the practical element of having a floor length mirror to double-check one’s outfit.
The bedroom didn’t have a door when they first moved in, which might have been awkward when a guest came to stay the night in the living room. So they built a custom sliding door out of plywood with trim from Lowe’s and a sliding door installation kit. The handles are gold dragonflies to match the faucets and other fixtures in the house.
“Our bedroom is where his style and love of animals comes in more,” Marilyn said. “Seth has always wanted a map of the world.”
They also found a Japanese-influenced night stand decorated with birds at the My Sister’s House consignment sale. They kept the bedding simple but added a pop of funkiness with a decorative pillow.
“That was a Dillard’s buy,” Seth said. “She would not leave without it. Marilyn sees something and if she has a picture for where it’s going to and how she’s going to use it, she’s not leaving the store without it.”
Tiny House Living
Living in a tiny house as newlyweds wasn’t without it’s challenges. For Seth, he wasn’t concerned about the small space, but it was hard at first to leave his family home where he had lived for 18 years. Although he had lived in the dorms at ACU, getting married was starting a new life.
“Before we got married, I pushed off moving in, because it was hard to disconnect from home,” Seth said. “But once I understood that I wasn’t leaving home, I was creating a new home, that helped.”
For Marilyn, she had to get rid of some furniture and pair down to a more minimal collection of clothes and items. Of course, she still managed to keep most of her shoes and found storage options under the bed and through expanding the closet.
Although they’ve done a lot to improve the house, they still have more plans for the future. A space right off the kitchen will be the home of Seth’s desk and video game computer. Eventually, they may want to build another tiny house from the ground up and maybe turn “Studio Bleu” into an Air BNB.
“A designer is never finished,” Marilyn said. “I’ll always be adding things or changing things around.”
By Haley Laurence
Photos By Marilyn Crockett