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Little Slice of Paradise: Meet Venice Designer Whitney Leigh Morris of 'The Tiny Canal Cottage'

Little Slice of Paradise: Meet Venice Designer Whitney Leigh Morris of 'The Tiny Canal Cottage'

Whitney Leigh Morris may not have the tiniest of tiny houses, but she’s certainly in the running for the most stylish and livable with The Tiny Canal Cottage in Venice—which she shares with her husband, two dogs, and a new baby.


She also shares the 362 square feet in a converted 1920s bungalow with a sizeable, devoted Instagram audience of more than 100,000, plus plenty of blog devotees.

What’s amazing is that when Morris and then boyfriend (now husband) Adam Winkleman found their pad five and a half years ago—after a lot of pavement pounding and Craigslist searching—the two didn’t have a mission of living small at all. They were simply looking for an affordable place they liked in the neighborhood.

“A lot of microspaces are ingeniously designed. They’re kind of novelty spaces. So I like to think of our space as a practical application [of tiny living]” Morris says. “We’re a working, functioning family living in LA with pets and now a child and running a business.”

Spying on this gorgeous @showmeyourmumu photoshoot in the backyard yesterday with @wanderlust_la_nyc & @bungalowandbreakfast 🌿🚣

A photo posted by The Tiny Canal Cottage™ (@whitneyleighmorris) on

The business side for Morris is her work as founder of WLM Creative Co. Under that umbrella she provides creative direction, content for social platforms, environment and product styling for shoots, hospitality and travel promotional photography, decor and design for gatherings and storefronts, and—naturally—small space consulting.

Despite the cottage’s small size, it’s open and inviting, with plenty of natural light streaming in through windows and the often opened doors (their 400-square-foot outside dining and lounging space serves as an extension of what’s inside). The space’s versatile, flexible layout and her sharp eye for balanced design has allowed her to host gatherings of up to 70 people, including her own wedding earlier this year.

A neutral color scheme gives a simple, clean look, and also allows for just the right amount of personal touches—many made out of natural fibers and materials—that make it feel both lived-in and magazine-ready.

Every item has a purpose and place, but there’s still room for fun and experimentation -- unbreakable coconut shell tea light holders were added in anticipation of baby West’s arrival, for instance. And furniture shifts based on need too. Morris had to rethink the space to make room for West, transforming a closet into one pretty ace baby space (she has plans to morph it as he grows).

“I think people are really interested in how to downsize realistically and how to live in a space that’s curated, pretty and practical,” she says.

To get just the right balance, Morris draws on her experience in graphic design and museum exhibition design, which informs “how the eye navigates the space,” she says—a key when there’s not a lot of space to take in.

She’s willing to make the sacrifice in part because it feels like all of Venice is her living room. A playground, marina, beach and library are within walking distance. Then there’s the variety of local shops, restaurants and artists that goes into making Venice unique, everything from The Butcher’s Daughter (Morris runs the restaurant’s PR and online presence) to Gjusta, which has become a “go-to.”

“I love the diversity of Venice. The houses aren’t cookie-cutter,” she says. “There are people making a living selling their art off the street and people who direct movies … so many artists, so many muralists -- I love that mix.”

She’s also a frequent shopper at local spots H. Bleu Antiques, Venice Vintage Paradise, The Mart Collective and Ilan Dei Venice. Lest you imagine that Morris is buying for herself, these trips are usually for work -- hunting down just the right accessory for a client or a photo shoot. After the pain of the initial purge, she says found a lot of comfort in her “You don’t have to ‘live large’ to live beautifully” motto.

“The key is finding things that I’m not going to get over. I feel satisfied and happy that I’m not always looking for the next thing.”

All photos provided by Whitney Leigh Morris

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