Inspiring Author: Janet Lee

I first discovered design blogger Janet Lee not on the internet but through her beautiful new book Living in a Nutshell.  A small package with a big punch, the book is filled with clever projects that are easily executed.  Janet’s motto:  Designing “out of the box” when you live in one, translates into pages filled with stylish small space ideas.   As a long time New Yorker with a history of tiny abodes, Living in a Nutshell is my new go-to project resource.  I am thrilled to share some of the fabulous work and words from Janet Lee in this Q&A.  Run to the store and snag your copy, you’ll be truly inspired.

More about Janet Lee:  TV producer and serial small space nester turned decorating blogger and author.

Hometown: La Jolla, California              

Current City of Residence: New York City


Describe the first DIY project that spurred on the Living in a Nutshell blog?

The catalyst for my nutshell blog developed from circumstance rather than a project per se. In the height of our national housing crisis, I found myself in the middle of a divorce and putting my dear “little maison” in Brooklyn on the market. I had no idea the apartment would sell in one afternoon! The same unit in the building sat on the market for months so I thought that was going to be my fate.  The real estate agent told me the difference was in the colors and unique design of my space. That was my “ah-ha” moment. I thought maybe I had a point of view to share and decided to document my next move into a new city rental with a portable design bent—décor that you can take with you. Living in a Nutshell, the blog, was born.Tell us more about your new book.

The book is full of accessible small space design ideas, DIY projects and budget-friendly tips that help to uplift the look and feel of living in a tiny box into something that is a little more luxurious, cozy and unique. I personally painted, découpaged and sewed my way through the book finessing each how-to so the reader will be successful.  I want the reader to think of me as their design buddy who doesn’t judge and who has made all the big mistakes for you.  I am not a professional decorator who aspires to knock Martha Stewart off of her “domestic goddess” throne. I am just the girl next door who has a passion for design and who loves to share decorating triumphs amassed from designing over a dozen pocket-sized spaces.

Which project from the book is your favorite and why?

(On page 73) I included two framed photos of my older brother and sister before the Korean War erupted. At the time my father was in America establishing his medical practice.  I added vintage bifocal lenses to the outside of the frames to magnify the details of the photos and to draw the viewer in. My father sent the toy car in the photo from America. Personalizing a space with meaningful mementos makes every inch of a teeny space matter. With a budget of only $100 – which project do you recommend for first time Do-It-Yourselfers for a quick room facelift?

(On page 24) For first-time DIY’ers, this is an easy way to ease into color and paint without breaking the bank. For about $50 I like taping off a chair rail border along the walls of a foyer about 40” from the floor. Carry a border above the doorway and top it off with molding appliqués you attach with Command picture hanging strips—the ones with the interlocking teeth. It’s a simple way to add architectural interest to any space. Who ate all the caviar from your Caviar Dreams project(I hope Scooter got a taste)

My cat Scooter He wishes! This girl’s on a budget so those brand new tins I bought from a wholesale place online for about $7 a piece. A late night walk past a famous NYC food emporium called Zabar’s inspired the project. They were tossing out huge garbage bags full of empty caviar tins but they were so heavy and stinky that my husband at the time refused to allow them into the apartment. Where is your favorite spot in your Little Maison and how would you describe it:  Hands down it’s my bed.  It feels like a cozy cocoon and I never get tired of looking at Tord Boontje’s paper Dawn Curtain on the walls.

Thank you again to Janet for sharing Living in a Nutshell!  Visit her online:



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