Blanca & Cody’s Oaxaca-Inspired Compact Cottage

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Name: Blanca Martinez and Cody Perez
Location: Seattle, Washington
Size: 1160 square feet (560 sq ft cottage with a 600 sq ft basement)
Years lived in: 2 years; Rented

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When Blanca Martinez and Cody Perez moved into their small, one-bedroom cottage in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, they immediately saw the potential for more usable living space in the concrete basement—all it needed was a good bit of TLC. Upon moving in, the ambitious renters began converting the downstairs level into a guest suite.

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

They took the project on in big chunks over the course of eighteen months, first painting the drab basement bright white from floor to ceiling. They then added a den and living area to the space, along with a guest bed, and finally replaced the old utility sink with a neat and tidy counter/sink combo from Ballard Reuse, a salvage store close to their Magnolia neighborhood.

When it came to furnishing the rest of the home, the couple, who definitely consider themselves collectors, have assembled each room over time, combing estate sales and thrift stores in the evenings and on weekends. The result is their own collaborative brand of eclectic, drawing inspiration not only from a handful of their favorite eras, but also from different parts of the world to which they have traveled. Most notably, the couple cite Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico, as one of their strongest aesthetic influences. The faint grey green half-wall painted in the dining area was a design choice inspired by a little mom-and-pop taqueria in the colorful region.

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Our little house feels like a kid’s clubhouse from the 1960s with a girl vs. boy rivalry! Our style is a mix of Mid-century modern and rustic cabin vibes, softened by West Coast colors and textiles from far-off places.

Inspiration: Blanca’s collections are inspired by the old movies she was raised on, her favorite music, Oaxaca, Mexico, where she lived for a few months, and all the places she’s traveled with Cody. As a skateboarder since junior high, Cody finds inspiration in original people and objects. He loves the laid-back communal spaces of hostels and guest houses, full of eclectic collections from world explorers.

Favorite Element: We have three top pieces that we’re happy to own. We love our comfy gold corduroy ’70s couch we got for free that fits all our friends. We were lucky to find our beautiful vintage wood-framed rustic mirror at an estate sale for seven bucks. And lastly, our cast iron Mid-century butterfly chair (five bucks!) was brought back to life with a new leather cover handmade by our friends Dane and Bonnie, owners of Ferdinand USA.

Biggest Challenge: The tiny kitchen. When we first toured our house, we cringed at the kitchen. The location of the appliances and the size of the large original refrigerator wasted valuable space. We also needed more counter space and extra storage. Once we switched out the appliances and swapped their locations, we were on our way to fill the gaps with storage. It was a challenge to find storage cabinets that both matched our kitchen and fit into those tight spaces, but we got lucky. To finish it off, we painted everything white, added new hardware to the cabinets, spray painted the knobs on our range, and added a contact paper backsplash. Although still tiny, we feel we’ve appointed the space well, and made it pretty cute, too.

What Friends Say:
Our friends are inspired by our house and how we can turn run-down rentals into cool hangouts. Our little house surprisingly accommodates a crowd so we host a lot. We gather for barbecues in our big backyard and in the basement den on game day.

Biggest Embarrassment: The Seattle weather from October to May can be a little temperamental, so keeping our yard straight during this time of year is tough. This spring we plan on tackling the landscaping and exterior to add some curb appeal.

Proudest DIY: The entire basement den! It was just a crumbly basement full of possibilities when we first moved in. We got right to work and painted the entire thing bright white. We switched out the old dirty utility sink with a sink/counter unit we found at Second Use (now called Ballard Reuse), a local salvage store. We saved square footage by replacing our large old washer and dryer with compact, stacking, energy-efficient ones we found on Craigslist. To top it off, our landlords came across the pellet stove and had it installed for us. We were hesitant at first to have a big black monolith in the center of the room, but the heat it provides is worth it. Lastly we added a sliding door, and equipped the room with a huge sectional couch, big TV, full-size guest bed, and bar to complete our kitchenette. It’s the best place to host friends and it doubles as a comfy overnight guest suite full of amenities!

Biggest Indulgence: Our living room gray sectional. Aside from the occasional IKEA purchases, it’s the first time we bought a new piece of furniture for real bucks. We bought it for our previous rental so we were super lucky it was able to come with us when we moved.

Best Advice: “Stay in Seattle.” We’ve considered moving out of state from time to time to change things up. But after moving into this house we finally feel at home. We’re close to our friends and our jobs, and our large backyard and extra space in the basement work well for hosting friends and spreading out when working on projects.

Dream Sources: Blanca would love to head to the general store with Anne of Green Green Gables, and Cody wouldn’t mind checking out David Bowie’s estate sale.

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • Walls: Valspar Ultra Pure White
  • Living room accent wall: Valspar greenish color from as-is section
  • Bathroom: Dutch Boy Snow
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • Sofa: Dania Furniture
  • Vintage Westnofa rocker: Fremont Vintage Mall
  • Vintage butterfly chair frame: estate sale
  • Butterfly handmade leather cover: Ferdinand USA
  • Green shop bench desk: Craigslist free stuff
  • Desk chair: Ross
  • Wall shelving unit: Goodwill
  • Record player: Urban Outfitters
  • End table: Goodwill
  • Sheepskin rug: estate sale
  • Rattan table: estate sale
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • Dining table: IKEA
  • Vintage Eames-style dining chairs: Goodwill
  • Vintage mirror: estate sale
  • Vintage copper light fixture: estate sale
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • Kitchen island: IKEA
  • Electric range: Craigslist
  • Apartment-sized fridge: hand-me-down
  • Vintage metal cabinet: estate sale
  • Narrow pantry shelf: hand-me-down
  • Marble contact paper backsplash: Amazon
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • Bed frame: IKEA
  • Headboad: DIY made from material found at an estate sale
  • Tall dressers: IKEA
  • Curtains: hand-me-down
  • Galvanized clothing rack: DIY made with parts from Lowe’s, instructions from A Beautiful Mess
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • ’70s gold corduroy sectional: Craigslist
  • Mid-century TV stand: Goodwill
  • Vintage rope rocker: Craigslist
  • Mid-century modern-style orange love seat: Craigslist
  • Coffee tables: estate sales
  • White open shelving with drawers: IKEA
  • Bed frame: older IKEA model via Craigslist
  • Mattress: IKEA
  • White storage unit with doors: repurposed storage unit that was found in the house
  • Bar table: hand-me-down IKEA
  • Stacking washer and dryer: Craigslist
  • Sink cabinet: Second Use Seattle (now called Ballard Reuse)
  • Sliding door: Second Use Seattle (now called Ballard Reuse)
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • Crates: Goodwill
  • Shower curtain: estate sale
  • Storage containers: Goodwill, estate sales
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • Smoker: Ranch and Home in Kennewick
  • Printed vinyl armchair: Goodwill
  • White bench: handmade by friend Megan Bingham
  • Mid-century iron patio chairs: estate sale
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A view of the living room from the dining area (Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

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Thanks, Blanca & Cody!