Joe & Kara's Hidden Cottage

Joe & Kara's Hidden Cottage

Sarah Rainwater
Jul 6, 2010

Name: Joe & Kara
Location: Bristol, Rhode Island
Size: 690 square feet
Years lived in: rented 6 months

Much like the seaside town of Bristol, Rhode Island, located about halfway between Newport and Providence, Joe & Kara's first floor rental is small, understated, charming and composed of an easy mix of the traditional and modern.


Quiet as it is much of the year, the historic town's streets were brimming with crowds and festivities for the oldest 4th of July parade in the country, and also like their locale, the couple doesn't shy from making a few bold statements to add a hint of excitement to their space.

We were first introduced to Joe & Kara's apartment when it was submitted to the Small Cool contest, where it impressed us with its sense of airy spaciousness despite its modest size — a testament to the two architects' ability to decorate with a careful eye to scale. Set back from the street and accessible by way of a small, shady path, the two-family home resembles an idyllic summer cottage — and the interior incorporates plenty of rustic New England charm, but contemporary art and furnishings keep it feeling far from cliché. A comment by creative license on their Small Cool entry says it best: "You know what's cool? That these people decorated the hell out of a 690 sf space. It's stylish, uncluttered, organized, cohesive."

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our style: A mix of mid-century and contemporary styles

Favorite Element: All of the windows make the small apartment feel bigger and brighter

Biggest Challenge: Our kitchen layout is very odd with the sink and cabinets in a small pantry space and the oven and refrigerator are in a big empty room — and there are no counters! The island from IKEA definitely helped to provide a counter, a place to store pots & pans, and a place to sit.

Biggest Embarrassment: Our home office which is completely chaotic, but suits our all-day-into-the-night design stints

Proudest DIY: The coat hanger made of driftwood and metal hooks — a combination of Kara's idea and Joe's craftsmanship. Also, Joe completely refurbished the pair of mid-century Kofod Larsen chairs, fabric and all.

Biggest Indulgence: A beautiful leather couch that won't fit through our door or windows, so it's currently waiting for us in a relative's basement until we can find another place with a bigger opening!

Best advice: Our best advice is not to furnish your place all in one shot, take your time and wait until you find exactly what you want…and curate especially if you are living in a small place!

Dream source: Anything and everything from Machine Age in Boston

Resources of Note:

It's a rental so we weren't allowed to paint!


    • Runner from Lowe's
    • Chair from craigslist
    • DIY coat rack


    • Island from IKEA
    • Shepard Fairey screen print


    • Couch from Urban Outfitters
    • Rug from IKEA
    • Chair from craigslist
    • Shepard Fairey screen print


    • Dining Room Set from craigslist
    • Posters from Places We've Traveled


    • Dresser from Habitat for Humanity
    • DIY Concrete Lamp
    Ork Posters

Thanks, Joe & Kara!

Images: Sarah Rainwater

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