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Irmhild Liang has been living in this tiny house in her daughter’s backyard for four years. It was designed by her son, who is an architect. My family and I call it Kleines Haus, which means “small house” in German. It’s a small house with one main room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. I moved from the Boston area to Oakland to be closer to my children. I didn’t like the weather in Boston anyway. And when you get older, some things become harder and more stressful by yourself.
My son is an architect. He has his own firm called Blue Truck Studio and he designed this house for me. We built it in the backyard of my daughter’s house. Everyone helped, even the grandkids. When I’m inside Kleines Haus, I don’t see the big house. My family is close by, but it’s my own space. It’s small, but has everything that I need.
The kids come by spur-of-the-moment, and I usually love it when they come. There are aspects of the house designed for the kids. It’s got a little loft, so there’s a ladder. So Otto, my grandson, goes up there once in a while. Or we have some quiet time. Sometimes I get out some of the children’s books that I brought with me and we can sit down and read a book. And that’s good for him because he’s got so much extra energy. So being calm and quiet is good for him.
I’m from Germany. I like things clean and neat. There are built-in cabinets everywhere to keep things tidy. I don’t cook much, so in the cabinets over the kitchen I store photos. When I moved here, I shipped many boxes and then went through them, organizing and seeing what I wanted. The things that I’ve kept are unique, like the antique wooden sewing chest with many drawers, the dragonfly sculpture my good friend gave me, or the knotted shag rug tapestry that I made in my younger days that’s hanging on my tall wall.
Describe your home’s style in five words or fewer: Comfortable, modern, European.
What is your favorite room and why? The main room because I can feel relaxed and do what I want for myself. It has everything I need. My desk is in there, which is good. I can take out the sewing machine and use it. I can sit on my couch and watch TV on my iPad or read.
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? A vase and flowers. Occasionally I get flowers from my niece Freya’s flower shop, Brother and Sisters Flowers. Wherever I live, I always have flowers.
Any advice for creating a home you love? My advice is to think about creating a simple space that is both functional and has room for the items from your life that have emotional value. It can be small — very small — as long as it has room for memories both old and yet to come. And it should be easy to clean.