Saturday, September 27, 2014

Living Large In Small Spaces - A {Tiny} Cottage In The Woods

Second post in the series
"Living Large in Small Spaces"

A {Tiny} Cottage In The Woods

It's my pleasure to welcome Lin of A {Tiny} Cottage In The Woods to A Joyful Cottage. 

I was introduced to Lin when she left a comment on one of my posts, and I've been reading her blog ever since. The creative, gracious life she and her husband live in their Colorado cottage epitomizes what it means to live large in a small space.  I know you'll enjoy what Lin shares with us today.


When Nancy invited me to write a guest post for her series, "Living Large in Small Spaces", I decided to not only share a little about the house and our building experience, but to also answer the question ~ what is it really like living in such a small home?

The Life We Imagined

In designing and building our 375-square-foot cottage, we had the opportunity to redefine The American Dream. Our dream was to live in a comfortable home without a mortgage. To live without credit cards or debt of any kind. We wanted to live surrounded by nature enjoying the days and seasons, and we wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, to be more self-sufficient, and to live life at a slower pace ~ enjoying each day to the fullest.

Building Our Dream 

We both had worked in software development and didn't have any construction design/building experience, but when the opportunity presented itself, we decided to take a leap of faith and just go for it. Building a house is like learning how to do anything else ~ it's just one sequential step after another. The first step was to draw up the plans, get the necessary soils, foundation, and truss reports, and obtain a building permit. Then it was research, research, research, purchase and load the supplies for the current task into the pickup, build, pass the inspection, and repeat until done.

~ building the house ~

The entire house would fit into the same square footage as our former McMansion master bedroom/bath. We built with many green options including an off-the-grid solar/wind electrical system, and it all fits within a small footprint on the side of a mountain, keeping the land that surrounds us wild and untouched.

Our house is open like a loft with an enclosed 5'x8' bathroom. The open floor plan and cathedral ceilings are visually uplifting, and when people visit for the first time, they're always surprised at how large it seems when they step inside.

The sofa can face the wood stove in winter or the French doors that open to the view, providing a place to relax, talk, read or watch DVDs. Furniture is arranged to suit the two of us, but can quickly be moved to accommodate six for dinner, or a larger get-together outdoors on the patio.

~view from the kitchen window ~

The kitchen is L-shaped and has an RV oven, 12-volt yacht refrigerator, and deep bar sink. No worries with the smaller appliances. I cook most of our meals at home and have made Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings in this little kitchen. The farm table multi-tasks as a desk and art & crafts worktable, as well as a place to prepare food and enjoy meals together. Often my husband is at his computer at one end of the table, and I'm crafting or drawing at the other end.

~ our eat-in kitchen ~

We decided on wall sconces for lighting to free up floor space from lamps and cords, and installed separate switches for each one to conserve electricity. The house is wired for both 12v and 120v, and we use the little 12v automotive light bulbs in the sconces. Windows all around provide natural light and passive solar, and blur the line between outdoors and in.

Just before moving in, we built a simple queen-size platform bed that lifts up to reveal queen-size storage underneath.

 ~ photo of the platform bed reflected in a mirror ~

We've talked about building wall-to-wall cabinetry with a murphy bed along the south wall, but after living a simpler lifestyle, perhaps the more elegant (simple and beautiful) solution would be to purchase a prettier bed befitting a tiny cottage in the woods and keep the armoire. We're still thinking about this one.

~ clothes and art supply storage ~

There are no rules when it comes to furnishing a small home. It does not mean that you have to live with just the basic essentials or go with a minimalist look (unless that's what you want). It means having enough. Enough of what you need to be comfortable as well as having the kinds of things that make your house a home. I love French cottage/farmhouse style with a mix of handmade and gently used items and a little touch of whimsy for fun. We still have some finishing/decorating work to do, but to me, that's the fun part!

A Gentler Lifestyle

My husband and I drive to town once a week to run all of our errands together, and then usually spend the rest of the week quietly at home.

 ~ I love to draw, paint, and craft ~

People joke and ask how can we stand to be together all the time in such a tiny house, and that question always surprises me. We've been married for 33 years and enjoy each other's company, so there isn't a need for separate rooms/spaces ~ just a respect for what the other person is doing. After living here, I find myself looking back and wishing that we'd raised our children in a smaller home.

True for Thoreau in1854, and Still True in 2014

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote ~
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
We couldn't agree more. Living simply in a small home opens up the opportunity to live a larger life ~ to have the time and financial freedom to be with and do what matters most.

Thoreau stayed at Walden Pond for 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days. As of this writing (September 26, 2014), we've lived in our tiny cottage in the woods for 5 years, 9 months, and 6 days, and hope to stay here for the rest of our lives. This is home.


Thank you, Nancy, for inviting me to share our story. I look forward to reading about all the homes in this series, as well as following the progress of yours!

post signature
Thank you for inspiring us, Lin.

You can see more of Lin's charming cottage and the lovely art she creates on her blog

Featured at

Join me next Saturday for another post in the special series

 Living Large in Small Spaces

See more home tours in the 
Living Large In Small Spaces Series here.

Would you like to share your small space story 
or have your home 
featured  in this special series?
Send me an email and let's collaborate.
(See the "Contact Me" page for email address.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Living Large in Small Spaces - A Tour of Little House on the Hill

First post in the series
"Living Large in Small Spaces"

Little House on the Hill

Last April, while cyber researching small homes, I stumbled upon a charming 540 sq ft cottage built by Tim and Leslie.  I was so impressed with their accomplishment that I immediately contacted them and asked if I could share their home and story here at A Joyful Cottage.  They graciously agreed.  

Then life got busy for them and me, and our collaboration simmered on the back burner. Until today.

I'm thrilled to kick off the "Living Large in Small Spaces" series with Tim and Leslie's charming cottage.

It began with a vision

Three years from retirement Tim realized he and his wife would have to sell their home and downsize.  "There is no way I could retire with the mortgage and utility bills I pay right now," he said at the time. 

This little sketch, found on the internet, was the inspiration for Tim and Leslie's retirement cottage. In order to afford their dream, the couple planned to build the home themselves. 

"Financing the construction of such a little house is not an easy thing," Tim says. "Banks don't want to lend money to somebody building their own house. They also don't want to lend very small amounts of money.  I [had] enough money to build the house, or. . .buy the land. . .but not both."

The right stuff


Tim and Leslie found the "perfect piece of property" and worked out a deal with the seller whereby he would carry a contract on the land until they could finish building the house.  At that time the couple would secure a conventional loan and pay off the property owner. Their total mortgage would be around $15,000, which they could pay off during the first year in their new home.

Armed with past experience in construction, a truck and tools, Tim set to work.  

A dream come true

Building began in October 2011.  Nine months later Tim and Leslie moved into their new cottage, which was almost paid for by that time. Tim was able to save most of his income for the next two years as a "nest egg."

Leslie staining the siding.

A sign on the porch sums up
the couple's philosophy of simple living.

Although Tim and Leslie had to work within a tight budget,  they reached their goal of a "very nice, well built home."  

Interior motives

I know you're anxious to see what's on the other side of this charming screen door, so let's go in.

Carriage style lamps light our way to a warm and welcoming cottage.

Two loveseats in the living room offer cozy seating and conversation. 

Plank walls painted white and abundant natural light brighten the rooms.  

Soft lighting and polished wood cast a warm glow in the evening.

Furniture acts as dividing "walls" for the space. Dark hardwood floors are a stunning contrast to the white walls.

Red accents punch up the neutral palette.

Tim found the little kitchen table at a local antique shop.

The small kitchen is big on charm.  Tim and Leslie purchased in-stock unfinished oak cabinets from a home improvement store, painted them and added decorative trim and moulding to give them a custom look. A pantry next to the refrigerator provides lots of storage.

Tim designed and built the decorative range hood. 

A wood stove keeps the home toasty warm in the winter and enhances the vintage cottage look. 

The bathroom is a comfortable size.

It boasts a walk-in shower, space for stacked washer and dryer, and a large closet.

A wall cabinet opposite the closet completes the ample storage.

A quaint iron bed anchors the bedroom.  Leslie painted the walls powder blue to match the blue in the new bedspread.

The nightstands double as beds for the couple's pugs.

Floyd and Gunther supervising construction.
Say "hi" to Floyd and Gunther. 

Let's go back to the bedroom and see the his and hers closets.  Tim added cottage details to the doors.  Leslie scored the matching baskets used for storage of personal items.

A loft, accessed by a pull down ladder in the kitchen ceiling, accommodates visiting grandchildren.


By taking advantage of free Craigslist lumber, and seconds at local Amish saw mills priced at 20 cents a board foot, Tim built this combination tool shed and chicken coop for under $300.

Now Tim and Leslie have a business called Hickory Hollow Hatchery.

The daring young chick on the flying trapeze.

In Spring 2013 Tim built a shop and garage.

He explains why "Mail Pouch Tobacco" is painted on the side of the garage:

"From 1925 to 2000, there was a man by the name of Harley Warrick. . . Harley painted over 20,000 barns in Ohio and surrounding states with advertisement for Mail Pouch. He said 'the first 10,000 were a little rough, but then I got the hang of it.'  I decided to do a tribute to Harley on our garage."


Tim makes wood products and sells them on the Little House on the Hill website.

Raised bed garden

Although Tim and Leslie lead a busy life, they still find time to relax.

And enjoy the view from their back deck.

Thank you, Tim and Leslie, for sharing your lovely cottage and homestead with us.
 (All photos are the property of Tim and Leslie and used with their permission.)

Visit Tim and Leslie's website to see more photos and read the journal Tim kept during the construction:

See the cottage decked out for Christmas in Tim's Youtube Video: Our Little Cottage - Living the Simple Life

Show Tim and Leslie some love by liking their Facebook Page: Hickory Hollow Hatchery

Join me next Saturday for another post in the special series

 Living Large in Small Spaces

See more home tours in the 
Living Large In Small Spaces Series here.

Would you like to share your small space story 
or have your home 
featured  in this special series?
Send me an email and let's collaborate.
(See the "Contact Me" page for email address.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Cottage - How small is big enough?

How much room do we really need 
to live joyfully?

That's the question Captain and I have been asking ourselves and each other the past month.  

I knew when I entitled my last new cottage post "Our New Cottage - Is This It?" that the chances were very good that it wasn't "It"; that we hadn't yet arrived at THE cottage.  By that I mean a pleasing, livable cottage design that wouldn't break the bank.

"Piggy Bank/Breaking and Entering?"  Photo by Pascal  Some Rights Reserved

Even with excellent credit and a big down payment, when we saw the costs from the lender to build the "Is This It?" design (construction loan and closing costs + final mortgage and closing costs), we knew we wouldn't be moving forward.  

We're not comfortable with spending that much cash now, plus incurring the burden of the final mortgage.

"If Mamma Ain't Happy" Photo by Patrick Q  Some Rights Reserved
Not at our age.

In truth, we'd like no debt at all.  Which means in order to meet that goal we'll have to build small. 

Very small.

Now, I love small homes.  Cozy has always appealed to me more than spacious, so I don't consider downsizing a punishment.

"The Entrance" Photo by Nicolas Boullosa  Some Rights Reserved
But I'm also realistic enough to know that there is a point at which "tiny house" loses it's appeal for me.  I've followed the Tiny House Movement for the past four years, and I greatly admire people who can live debt free in 102 SF of space, but that's not me.  

I know this to be a fact.

So. . .

How small is big enough?

Blaentrothy Cottages - The Wash House

When I saw this Welsh cottage I showed it to Captain and said, "I think I could live in a cottage floor plan like this."

Blaentrothy Cottages - The Wash House

An open floor plan.

Blaentrothy Cottages - The Wash House

Kitchen open to the living room and dining nook.

Blaentrothy Cottages - The Wash House

Blaentrothy Cottages - The Wash House

Small, functional kitchen.

Blaentrothy Cottages - The Wash House

No corridors.

Blaentrothy Cottages - The Wash House

Bedroom directly off the living room.

Blaentrothy Cottages - The Wash House

The bathroom is off the living room, on the opposite end of the cottage from the bedroom.  I'd change that to make the bath accessible from the bedroom.

My friend Magali at The Little White House on The Seaside pinned this floor plan for me.  (Isn't she thoughtful?  I just love her, and her blog.)

1st Floor Plan
The Weekender by Home Design Central

This is a 600 SF cottage which, coincidentally, has similarities to the 528 SF one bedroom cottage plan we just finished, and which is now in the hands of our builder for pricing.  

If that plan flies, I'll show it to you.

In the meantime I've been connecting with small home dwellers; people who have chosen to live simply, many of them debt free. They're smart, kind, creative people and I'll be sharing their homes, lifestyles and tips for small space and simple living right here at A Joyful Cottage in a new blog series:

 "Living Large in Small Spaces"  

We'll be touring Tim and Leslie's 540 SF cottage this Saturday.  

If you're not yet a follower of A Joyful Cottage you may want to become one so you don't miss any of these fun and informative posts.

So, what do you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts about downsizing, living in small spaces, simple living, etc.

I party with:
Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings
Tweak it Tuesday at Cozy Little House
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
The Homemaking Party at Hope In Every Season
Home and Garden Thursday at A Delightsome Life
Share Your Cup Thursday at Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson
Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home
Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

The Art of Homemaking at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth