International Inspiration in Small Spaces

Think small can't be spectacular? Homeowners incorporate a world of influences to create an international level of elegance in their modestly sized spaces.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionInexpensive materials give this house its sophisticated look.
Meet an architect who brought Venice style to his L.A. digs, take a tour through northern Europe in a couple's Washington home, see a gallery owner combine living and working in a fantastic, functional area and check out how tiny temporary housing has everlasting style with the HELP House.

"Venice of America" was originally planned as a Californian seaside resort reminiscent of Venice, Italy — complete with canals and gondolas. The original homes were simple bungalows on tiny canal-front lots. Architect Whitney Sander found an empty lot for sale about seven years ago. With his wife, Catherine Holliss, he designed and built their dream home that embodies the modernist ideal of free flowing space.

At first glance, the homeowners' style looks prohibitively expensive. A closer look reveals that the materials used throughout the home are very affordable. For the atrium, Sanders chose one-inch-thick acrylic panels that were hand-sanded to produce a foggy transparence in the well-lit space. They like how the curved pieces give a warm, feminine flow to the modern aesthetic, which tends toward a cold, masculine edge. It just goes to show that it's not the expense of the materials but what you do with them that makes a space look sophisticated.