Podcast, Bonus Boston Episode #2 w/ architect Katie Hutchison

Bonus Boston podcast episode with author and architect Katie Hutchinson

We’re opening a new store outside of Boston at Natick Mall, and to celebrate, we wanted to talk to some local design talents. You may remember me mentioning Katie Hutchison’s book The New Small House on our episode with Annette Joseph. We ended up connecting with Katie and were thrilled when she agreed to join us for a live podcast episode from the floor of our brand new store! Since we’re live, you’ll notice lots of background noise (we apologize in advance), but we loved picking Katie’s brain about living in a small house, designing a small house, and takeaways even those of us not in small houses can utilize in our own spaces!

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • The background story of Katie book and how it came to be
  • We talk about Katie’s own house which we briefly talks about in the book
  • The ‘keys’ Katie discusses in the book which each of the small houses have in common and which we can all utilize, like ‘pockets for privacy’
  • Taryn and I both talk about our experiences seeing the ‘pockets of privacy’ at work
  • The variety of styles illustrated in the book
  • We talk about the glass, kit house featured in the book
  • How long it took the write and shoot the book
  • How she found all of the houses for the book
  • Ways those of us who aren’t planning a large renovation can maximize the space we have
  • We talk about the tiny house movement and how a tiny house differs from the houses in her book
  • We talk about built-ins and how important they are for making small spaces super functional
  • We talk about Katie’s outdoor spaces and the many outdoor rooms in the book
  • Katie tells us about her gardening mishaps, like transplanting weeds
  • We talk about the strange things we’ve all found in our yard from previous owners
  • We ask Katie about her favorite style of architect
  • Common mistakes people make when they’re designing a new home
  • Why the answer to your home woes may not necessarily mean adding more space but reworking the space you already have
  • Why the location of private and public spaces are so important for the way you live in your home

Decorating Dilemmas:

Hi there!

I’m in the process of renovating our kitchen and I think I have a transitional style. We’re going for a more classic look vs a trendy look as I want it to last for a good 10 years. Using white cabinets on the perimeter and debating about having the new island a stained brown nutmeg wood color or a dark brown with a gray glaze (it looks mostly dark gray -called slate- but then sometimes looks a little more brown in the light). Do you think that if we go with the brown with gray glaze it will be out of style in a couple of years? I know you had one guest on or read something that said that gray is out now.

Also, I’m considering putting open shelves around the cathedral window (main focal point in our kitchen) vs cabinets. Do you think that open shelves are trendy or will stand the test of time? I’m thinking about putting a cabinet with rain glass doors on one side and then the open shelves on the other side just because one side lines up to other cabinets and the other side ends at a door. But I’m not sure if this is something that I will hate in a couple of years because it’s out of style.

Please help with any advice or guidance! I will write in again later as I have an office that I want to redecorate and need some ideas. It is already furnished with a Ballard desk and credenza, but I want to send you some measurements for placement ideas and I also need a new rug, lighting and chair or 2. I’m just out of town right now, so can’t include the room/desk measurements right now.

Thank you for any help/insight!

Keep up the good job on the podcasts and if you can please reply to my email directly vs on a podcast, I would really appreciate it.


Cindy, gray isn’t going anywhere! We all agree that either sound great, and don’t worry about it going out of style. If you like gray best, then trust your instinct. Since it won’t be a huge application of this finish, go for it! Worse case scenario, if you do get tired of the finish after a few years, then you can always repaint the island later.

We also love open shelves and agree that you should incorporate them into your kitchen. They’re so functional and have been around for centuries. They’re a classic look that like the gray finish on your island won’t go out of style. The most important thing to consider is what works for you.


I would love some ideas for decorating a basement so that it’s kid-friendly, stylish, and doesn’t look too dark like some basements. -Amy

Lighting, lighting, lighting! Make sure you have plenty in your basement. You’ll want plenty of overhead lighting, but also lots of ambient lighting like floor lamps, table lamps, and sconces. Sconces would be great because your kids couldn’t tip them over since they’re mounted on the wall.

Consider some indoor outdoor rugs so you don’t have to worry about cleaning our moisture issues, like our Saylor Rug. We also love the idea of a wood grain tile on the floor, which again is great for basements which tend to have moisture issues.



I have a tiny decorating question for my tiny dining room in my tiny apartment. I think the wall behind my table should have a big focal point,
and I’m trying to figure out how to make something work with the random chair rail on the wall. I actually hate this chair rail but I’m in a rental and I can’t take it down. I was thinking of maybe doing a fun wallpaper on the top? What do you guys think? I attached pictures (I just moved in so please don’t judge me based on the mess ?).

I’m still working on my personal “style,” (this is my first apartment out of college, yay!) so I don’t really know how to describe what I’m looking for but I love everything Ballard so I trust any advice you have!

Thank you!!!


Danielle, my suggestion is not to do a wallpaper but instead find a big piece of art that you love. You wouldn’t be able to take wallpaper with you since your apartment is a rental, so instead put your money into something you can have forever. Personally, I think a big abstract piece would be fantastic here (like our Flying Colors Art or Swept Art). Find something at least 2/3 the width of your wall, and focus on either a square or horizontal piece rather than something vertical.

Katie suggests a large mirror, and Taryn suggests doing lots of shelves on that wall so that you create a focal point but also add some extra storage to your tiny apartment.

Mentioned in This Episode:

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.