One of the most striking, stop-me-in-my-tracks tiny homes I’ve seen during my Instagram searches is that of Bela Fishbeyn. I originally discovered her through the Domino Design Awards a couple years ago and now she’s one of my favorite small space accounts to follow! Bela and her beautiful family share a gorgeously crafted tiny home that is big on style — plus, she’s one of the wisest, most thoughtful people I’ve come across online. I hope you enjoy this home tour as much as I do!
Home Tour: Inside the Strikingly Eclectic Tiny Home of Bela Fishbeyn
Who: Bela Fishbeyn, Spencer Wright, and Escher Kamalova of thisxlife (formerly Tiny Migrations)
Number of years living small: 2+ years
To start, tell me your story about how you ultimately ended up choosing a small space?
For us, moving into a tiny house was incremental. First, we gave up our lease and sold all our furniture to spend more time traveling. We rented Airbnbs when we needed to, picked up housesitting gigs, added in a little camping here and there. We’re big into lifestyle experimentation and we saw our high cost of living in the Bay area as an opportunity to do a housing experiment. We wanted to know what life would be like without a lease.
It was interesting, but a lot of work and it didn’t work so well once I was pregnant. We wanted something more personal, somewhere to raise a child that reflected our values. We also wanted a house that was flexible. In particular, we wanted to be able to use our home as a vacation rental property so we could be free to travel.
A tiny house was the perfect solution for us. We could design it exactly to our specifications to be a daily inspiration for us and our daughter, and we could position is somewhere beautiful and full of nature. We also knew that vacation renters wouldn’t care much that it was small, since it’s really about the same size as a hotel room. This meant we could buy a custom-built, luxury home on a modest budget, and easily rent it for a profit whenever we travel. Perfect!
What is your biggest challenge in your small space?
Our house is very airy and open to the outdoors. We even have a garage door that opens up a whole side of the house. This is great during spring, summer, and fall, but it’s not so useful during the winter. We also get a lot of rain showers during the winter.
All of that would be no problem if it was just me and Spencer, but Escher has a lot of energy and it’s tough when she has to be cooped up. To fix that, we just travel elsewhere during the cold and rainy months and rent the home on Airbnb while we’re away.
What is your favorite part about living small?
Wow, so much really, but I think my favorite thing is how your incentives completely change. Your daily decisions become much more simple and productive when living in a small space.
You really can’t accumulate much junk and between that and the fact that you’re working with such a small space, it’s really easy to keep the home in tip-top shape. Since we were able to design our home down to the inch, everything is right where we want it and it looks great all the time. We spend so much time in our homes, and your environment is the single biggest contributor to your decisions — having a home that’s so intentional helps us live according to our values. Now that our home is set up properly, we’ve been able to remove a lot of the things that distract us or cause us to make mistakes.
What is your number one hack for living small?
This is a weird answer, I think, but it’s true: fasting.
We didn’t experiment with fasting until after we lived in a tiny home, but now on most days we only have a big meal in the evening… no breakfast, no lunch. It’s been incredible and it’s a form of living small that anyone can incorporate into their lives. Intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding eliminates so much distraction from your life. I still remember when we got started… it felt like our days were twice as long, twice as productive, and our dinners were three times as delicious! It’s also much easier to put in the effort to have a fantastic, healthy meal when you only have to deal with it once a day.
Do you ever feel pressure to be “minimalistic” or feel guilty about buying things you don’t “need” for your home?
Actually, I think the opposite is true. When we had a larger home, it was so much more of a struggle to buy things because we were always worried that stuff will just accumulate. It’s also really hard to afford high-quality home goods when we had to buy a ton of stuff.
With a tiny home, it’s very easy to find an object that we love that serves a specific purpose and splurge on it. Our home expenses are relatively low, so it’s not a big deal if any single object is a little pricey. As long as the quality is there and we love it, then the decision is easy.
We don’t really think about minimalism anymore. Minimalism is the start, it’s what gets rid of all the clutter in your life. Once you’ve done that, you can become a maximalist. You start to fill your life with things that actually bring you the most joy and that’s even more satisfying than getting rid of all the junk!
What have you learned about yourself by living small?
Going small changed our attitude towards things but I also think that it changed our attitude towards other people. Our family has become so much more embedded in each of our identities. I think I also have a deeper relationship with the people closest to me. I’ve learned to be more selective with how I spend my time with other people. Somehow, there’s not as much reason to pretend or play social games. We can be ourselves and really commit the conversation to what’s important within our lives.
What’s your number one storage hack?
Have less storage? Joking, but there’s definitely some truth in this. Think about what storage is for a second… it’s space reserved for things that you don’t use regularly. So, if you feel like you need more storage, you’re saying that you need more space for stuff that you don’t regularly use.
I think the best storage hack is to flip that. Focus on turning the things that you own into things that you use regularly, then make sure they’re beautiful enough to display all over your house. Once you do that, you really don’t need much storage. And honestly, you can’t use that many things on a regular basis, so you don’t need that much display space either.
Who is your biggest small space inspiration?
It’s always tempting to look for a guru. I’m sure there have been a lot of people and sources that have influenced us, but I really think that the inspiration for living in a small space has to come from within. Remember, to live small you’ll need to focus on removing the extra stuff that holds you back. It’s about designing your life around the way you actually want to live it.
Oftentimes, this means living in a small space because, like I was saying earlier, our lives are actually not that complicated… we exercise, we eat occasionally, we read and study, maybe listen to music and podcasts, email and work, we play with our kids and our partners, we have conversation and grow with other, weu take care of our health and our looks. How much do we really need to do all of these things well? Not much. So why lock up your resources in stuff that isn’t helping?
Instead, free up those resources and put the money towards living the life you actually want to live. Invest it in your future instead — to know how to best invest it, you have to know what you want your future to look like.
If you want to live smaller, then focus on finding authenticity and understanding yourself. You already have everything you need for that. No stories, no narratives. Take a deep breath and look in the mirror.
What do your friends and family say about your choice to live small?
In the beginning, some people thought it was risky for all sorts of reasons, and truthfully it probably was.
We’re definitely not risk-averse but we’re not blind risk-takers, either. Instead, we always look for opportunities to stress-test ourselves. Our goal is resilience and longevity, some people call it ‘anti-fragility,’ and this often means doing things that are hard and carry a higher degree of uncertainty.
The important first step is to limit catastrophic failure. We always start by establishing our “acceptable worst-case scenario” to limit catastrophic failure. Once we have that, even if something looks hard and like there’s a chance it could fail, we know that we’re very likely to come out the other end more capable than when we started. If you do that with one or two big projects every year, each time improving yourself and your life a little bit, then after ten years you’ll have accomplished way more than you ever could have planned for.
These days our friends and family hardly even think about us living in tiny house. It’s just normal to everyone. Funny how opinions change over time once people don’t feel like the sky is falling!
You can find even more Small Space Squad Home Tours here:
Photography by Bela Fishbeyn and Ryan Tuttle, used with permission.
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