Chasing Simplicity

Chasing Simplicity

Karla Graves of Raka Home Design pursues the balance of whimsy, minimalism and practicality in design

Nestled in a quaint neighborhood modeled after charming cottages in England, a little red brick house with an arched front porch sits somewhat nondescript. It’s upon entry that the real eye-catching magic is found. 

Birmingham-based Raka Home Design, pronounced “Rah-kah” after the first names of its founding couple, specializes in getting as much as it can out of whatever space a client has to offer. 

Founded by Ray and Karla Graves, the company designed small spaces before it was cool. That drive for the tiny-design niché came after the couple moved back to Birmingham from Charleston, South Carolina with their kids. 

They lived in a 700-square-foot apartment in Liberty Park, where Karla had a career-changing epiphany. After realizing cleaning her little apartment only took 30 minutes and that her kids were always around, a spark to pursue simplicity was lit. 

“We went on a quest to find the smallest house, the smallest floor plan… we found this little neighborhood and literally found the smallest floor plan that they could offer and (she points down smiling) it’s the house we still live in.” 

“For us, our love of small spaces really began from a season where we just asked ourselves what we really wanted in life, what we wanted to focus on, what we wanted our day-to-day to be, but also what we wanted our future to be.” 

The trend towards tiny homes and living small has become a viral movement. Simplifying appeals to people as they are learning they can live with less just as effectively, if not more effectively than before. 

An embrace of tiny spaces comes with a sense of freedom and newfound philosophy to enjoy the simple pleasures. 

To Raka Home Design, the choice of focusing on small spaces is more than the space itself. The beauty in designing specifically small areas is in making the most of what is there and combining functional design with fun and imagination. 

Client Jessica Turner was drawn to Raka Home Design’s work by “their sense of innovation, practicality and aesthetic.” 

“We wanted to have a space for friends and family to come and enjoy themselves. They made this wish a reality,” Turner added. 

What was a small alcove in between two windows of Turner’s home became a beautiful reading nook filled with marigold, tufted velvet cushions. Raka’s design of the playful arched nook gave personality and fun back to what was a boring and tight space. 

The creative problem-solving that accompanies making a space both practical and whimsical is key for the Graveses, even when it came to designing their personal family home. 

With a white three-tier custom-built bunk bed that looks like it could be in The Flintstones, it’s clear that creativity in design comes with fun. Inside each bunk, each boy has shelves to make his space his own. From old Polaroids, to a Lego village, each bunk is unique. 

“You really have to get creative when you don’t have as much space and I found creativity, it’s almost like ‘how can we make this work?’ but not just work,” said Karla, “but be crazy fun and something that we don’t want to move out of. Something that our kids are even excited about sharing. 

Photos by Lilly Kate Hollis

“I think it was through that, where the different types of builds, finding nooks and making the most out of it came from. It’s like ‘this is what I have, what can I do to make the most out of it in the best possible way?’ 

That pursuit of timeless simplicity and drive to optimize spaces for both functionality and fun sets Raka Home Design apart. 

Now focusing on Airbnb renovation and management and custom interior design for clients, the Graveses are making names for themselves. 

Recently featured in a one-hour HGTV special competition Beach Cabana Royale, Karla is excited to keep working with clients and using Raka’s love of small spaces to impact others. 

“It’s been this sweet little thing for us, and I feel like a lot of people in big cities or overseas, where large spaces are not the norm, have this struggle of ‘No, this doesn’t work. It doesn’t work.’ I love encouraging people that it can.”