Living Large In Small Spaces - A Tour of Shabby Chic Tiny Retreat

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

Tonita's Tiny House

"A Tiny place of enchantment
where my heart is able to sing."
(Words from Tonita's blog Shabby Chic Tiny Retreat)

When I first saw Tonita's Shabby Chic Tiny Retreat it was love at first sight. If ever there was a reason for me to do cartwheels over a truly tiny house this is it.  

Hey!  That's my teapot.
Never mind that this little cottage possesses a teapot just like mine.

A tiny house is built

Tonita had been looking at tiny houses for years when in November 2010 she found tiny house builder Scott Stewart of Slab Town Custom Homes in Arkansas.  

The AnneMarie Model- Slabtown Customs
At the time Scott was offering special pricing on The AnneMarie tiny house model.  Tonita contacted Scott and after several phone conversations about customization possibilities she ordered her own tiny house.  

The house is built on a steel I-beam frame with two 6,000 lb axles.

Construction of Tonita's tiny house began in October 2011.  

Scott's digital photographs kept Tonita 
visually apprised of his progress.

Although 2,000 miles separated Tonita from her builder and house, she was involved in every aspect of the home's design and construction. "Working with an out-of-state builder is not for everyone," she says, "but with computers and phone communication it makes it easier. 

To maximize the bathroom's space Tonita chose a small tub with shower surround, wall sink and tankless commode. 

"I originally was going to use a normal home style toilet, but once it was sitting next to the bathtub it was easy to see in the pictures Scott sent me that it was just too cramped. . .I opted to use a RV low water toilet instead.  It has a full flush that mimics a normal toilet."  

The toilet can be tied into a sewer line or a holding tank.

Upper portion of the bath and shower surround.

To help her visualize the home's interior while it was being built Tonita marked out an 8' x 18' area in her garage with tape.  "I  cut out cardboard pieces the size of my very tiny bathtub, toilet, bathroom sink, refrigerator,  kitchen sink, stove top and counter space," she explains, "and placed them along the floor to mimic the layout of my tiny home." 

The Tonita Tiny House - Slabtown Customs
Scott left the interior wood unfinished so Tonita could paint it as she desired.  The flooring is Allure Trafficmaster.

By the end of November construction was complete and Scott moved Tonita's house from Mountain View, Arkansas to Springfield, Missouri.

Tonita's Tiny House arrives!

From there a friend transported the house to Tonita's land.

Tonita painted the interior white,
and festive decorations were in place by Christmas.

Tonita was "waiting with paint brush in hand" when her house showed up.

The tiny house has a standard size front door.

The house is 8' wide x 18" long and has an 8' x 6' front porch.  Even with the cost to transport the finished house from Arkansas to Washington state, Tonita says her tiny house was a "great deal".

Tonita stresses the importance of using a standard size front door in a tiny house. "Not so skinny people can feel uncomfortable crunching through some of the tiny front doors used on many tiny homes. This will provide your  guests as well as yourself a more comfortable entry into your tiny abode. It will also allow you to move in a table that will seat up to four guests comfortably, that is if you build your home at least eight feet wide by eighteen (ish) feet long. Of course, there is always an option to purchase a table with removable legs or a fold down compact table and chairs in order to move it through a tiny door that is not a standard size. However, with tiny non-standard front doors your furniture options become a bit more limited."

Romancing the tiny house

Filled with her vintage and shabby chic decor, Tonita's tiny house is now a romantic retreat. She jokes that the cottage has been "girly-fied".

The front porch is a study in wicker and lace.
In the summer Tonita's  porch serves as an outdoor sitting room. Thrift store lace panels block the sun and cast fanciful patterns on the porch walls.  A wicker loveseat ($25 Craigslist find) offers comfortable seating. 

Ready for guests.

Mismatched chairs and a wicker table keep the mood relaxed. The little table was a "free" roadside discovery that Tonita brought home and painted white.

A white wreath and antique French key
on the front door whisper "Welcome".

The Great Room

Walking through the door of Tonita's tiny house would be like entering a fairy tale.  One could imagine this as a cottage belonging to a princess.

Quaint gingerbread trim and whimsical decor are found throughout the cottage.

There's a sense of timelessness and enchantment in every detail.

A vintage screen door was repurposed as the pantry door.

Make no mistake, though.  The house is equipped with modern conveniences.  

Built-in apartment size refrigerator with bottom freezer.

Electric cook top, double sink and full size faucet.

The kitchen has ample counter space for preparing meals.  

The dark stain Tonita used on the maple butcher block
countertop contrasts nicely with the white cabinets.

The counter does double duty as a buffet for entertaining.

Tonita gave the base cabinets a beadboard look,
painted them and added glass pulls and knobs.

She added the backsplash and shelves, too.

Christmas kitchen

A built-in shelf unit keeps things organized.
Note that the front of the shelf is a ladder.
The shelf unit's ladder can easily be removed and used to access the two sleeping lofts.

Ladder to the guest loft.

The guest loft is above the reading nook and bathroom.

Tonita furnished the guest loft with a twin feather bed, which allows for extra storage room.

A chandelier and fairy lights cast a dreamy glow. 

Ladder to the master loft.

The master loft is above the front entrance.

Master loft.

Tonita furnished the master loft with a double bed, although a queen would fit, too.

Cozy reading nook
The reading nook is fitted with a comfortable chaise lounge, an abundance of pillows, and a throw for curling up with a good book or settling in for a nap.

Reading nook windows
Just enjoying the lovely view of Tonita's property is an option, too.

"My favorite piece in my tiny house -
My chandy from Spain, dressed for Christmas." ~ Tonita

The reading nook's chandelier is one of nine that hang in Tonita's tiny house.

"Lots of mirrors in the tiny house to reflect light" ~ Tonita

A $2 vintage medicine cabinet was repurposed as a spice cabinet.

Christmas mantel
Tonita dressed up a built-in wall heater by placing a faux fireplace in front of it. The mantel was made from an old chippy door.

The delightful bathroom is unabashedly frilly.

One of the many lovely vignettes in the tiny house.

Tonita's small space doesn't keep her from entertaining.   

"You have to be creative to live in a tiny house and even more creative when you entertain in one." ~ Tonita
She hosted an "I'm Dreaming of a Pink Christmas" party for four friends in her tiny house, planning ahead of time how she would accommodate winter outerwear. "A large vintage coat and hat rack inside my bath tub area held the guests' large, bulky and dripping winter coats," she explains, "while their purses sat inside my little bathtub."

Tonita says her dining table seats 4 comfortably.

A vintage apron adorns an old theater chair.

For seating she uses old theater chairs that fold flat when not in use.

"Just because you live in a tiny house doesn't mean you can't decorate it." ~ Tonita

Tonita's use of small scale free standing furniture instead of the hard edged built-ins typically found in today's Tiny Houses makes it comfortable, inviting and very livable.

Le' Chicken Chateau

While Tonita was waiting for her tiny house to be built she repurposed an old playhouse into a chicken coop for her rare breed lavender Orpington chicks.



Shabby chic chicken coop.  "Why not?" Tonita quips.
The coop interior includes a chandelier, washable wallpaper and chicken art on the wall.  An old milk can stores organic chicken feed. "A vintage tractor seat makes a nice place for me to sit and hang out in the coop and watch my little chicks grow," Tonita explains.

"I found these wonderful vintage nesting boxes on Craig's list. They came from and old egg production barn that was over a hundred and fifty years old. I just love them." ~ Tonita

Tonita found old table legs ($1 each) and added them to the nesting box to give it "the look of freestanding furniture."  The hens' names are painted over the nests "just in case [they]start to squabble over what space belongs to them."

Fall at Le' Chicken Chateau

An enclosed chicken run -- accessed from the coop - was added later.

Chicken run door.

The chickens free range when Tonita is home.

The Cottage Storage Shed

Tonita stows seasonal decor and other possessions in her storage shed. "Even in a tiny house I feel it is important to be able to change out furniture and décor," she says. "I could not imagine living day in and day out, year in and year out with the same stuff in the same place all the time. I would go stir crazy and be bored to death."

The 10' x 20' shed is larger than Tonita's tiny house.
Tonita made over the original plain storage unit to give it a cottage look.  Here's a rundown of budget-friendly materials she used for the project:

  • Used French doors found on Craig's list for $65.00. 
  • New windows with interior grids purchased at a discount contractors overstock supply - $35.00 each including screens. 
  • Faux shutters made from scrap cedar wood. 
  • Metal scroll work pieces found at a local craft shop for about $7.00 each and painted white.
  • Vintage lace valances hung on the inside of the shed were $2.00 each at a local thrift shop. 
  • She hauled the old cedar deck section, destined for the burn pile, from her friends' old property.
  • Metal flower boxes were purchased at Grocery outlet for $12.00 each. 
  • Road side picket fence sections complete the cottage look she wanted. 

"My tiny house on the left, the chicken chateau & run in the center and the shed on the right." ~ Tonita

Tonita has created a charming, one-of-a-kind homestead.  I asked her if she had anything she wanted to say to those considering a tiny house. Here's what she wrote:

"What I would like to say to people interested in downsizing or shifting to a small or tiny home is this… There are no rules to tiny or small home living.  Just because you live in a tiny space you DO NOT have to be a minimalist or get rid of everything you own.  I think it is important to fill your space with the things that make your heart sing, and you can have a storage unit or outbuilding to store items and then rotate them in and out with the change of your mind or the seasons.   

Also tiny homes may provide a mortgage free living option for you but remember they are still illegal to live in  (due to size regulations) in most areas of the United States.  Do your homework before you build a tiny home."

Great advice from someone who's living large in a small space.  

Thank you, Tonita, for sharing your tiny house and Le' Chicken Chateau with us.
(All photos are the property of Tonita and used with her permission.)

There's so much more I could share about Tonita and her "living large in a small space" life.  Visit her beautiful blog Shabby Chic Tiny Retreat to see more photos and read about life in her fabulous tiny house.

See Scott's video tour of Tonita's completed tiny house before it left Slabtown Customs. Very informative!

Featured at

Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home

Shabbilicious Friday

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.)


  1. Nancy, Thanks so much for the feature on your great blog. I have followers that email me quite often to ask why I have not posted in months or wondering if I am even still alive. I try to respond to each email and want to say here... I am very much alive, thanks so much for peeking at my girl cave and sending me such wonderful comments and for checking in on me. I really appreciate that, really I do. I have a crazy busy life, work 7 days a week, and I am a terrible blogger who is VERY low tech. Not even sure I foresee keeping a computer in my future. I am happy that women have been inspired by my tiny retreat to dream about having a nook, cottage or some small place of enchantment for themselves. I want all your readers to know it is never to late to have a happy childhood. If you missed that when you were young - create one for yourself today. You can do it. Anything, really is possible. Many thanks sweet lady, and many blessings to you and your husband as you move forward with your sweet place of enchantment.
    xx, Tonita

    1. Thank you, Tonita. It's been so much fun getting to know you and sharing your shabby chic wonderfulness here. Hugs.

  2. I love this, Nancy! Tonita's house is like a fantasy playhouse for adults :) The decor is lovely, and I especially love how she decked it out for Christmas. And what fantastic advice and inspiration in her comment about creating a happy childhood at any time in life. This post is simply wonderful in every way!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed seeing Tonita's very special house, Julie. Thanks for your very kind comment.

  3. I love all of it. Why are they illegal to live in . I rember when I was in hs and i took a friend home. She didn't want to be dropped off at her house but down the road. She lived in the smallest house i have ever seen with her family.

    1. Debby, because of their size and the fact that they're movable (built permanently on a frame with wheels), tiny houses are considered RV's in many communities. City residential codes often consider RV's to be "camping" and not permanent homes, and restrict them entirely or to short-term use only. For example, where we presently live an RV can only be used on a lot for 30 consecutive days, and then it must be removed from the lot. Our town also has building codes that a tiny house cannot meet. For instance, a new home cannot be smaller than 1,000 sq ft. if it's on a permanent foundation (one reason we're not going to build here). If it's a mobile home, nothing smaller than a double wide is acceptable. In some cities mobile homes may not be allowed at all. The best thing to do is look into the building and residential codes in the city where one hopes to live in a tiny house and make sure it meets the legal requirements before proceeding. Sames goes for insuring them. Folks should check with their insurance carrier to make sure they can be insured as a permanent residence. Thanks for your question. I'm glad you enjoyed Tonita's tiny house.

  4. It's like a tiny little town on the prairie!! Gorgeous tiny space (but I am claustrophobic even viewing it!). So beautifully done. Thanks for sharing it! (I love that reading nook!!!!)


    1. The reading nook is something I'd like to have wherever I live, Anne. Not everyone can handle living in such a tiny space, that's for sure. Some people use them for guest houses or studios instead of full-time living.

  5. Tonita has a lovely little fact she has a lovely little compound of little homes! I believe that I have seen pictures of her super sweet cottage on Pinterest. I really enjoyed reading her story. While I am not sure I could live in a house quite so tiny, she has done an amazing job with the space and the décor. She has a real eye for design and a charming style all her own. I have to say though, I think her porch pig is my very favorite touch! Thanks for sharing, Nancy! Can't wait for next Saturday! :)

    1. Thanks, Kim. The porch pig is pretty cute. I love all the vintage touches and the pure girly-ness of Tonita's tiny house. I don't think I could get Captain to go along with decorating our home like this. I do love it though and hope I can incorporate some of that uber feminine decor in my own private space one day.

  6. What a sweet small living paradise. So cute and love the chicken coop and storage shed. Thanks Nancy for sharing Tonita's feature with all of us.

    1. My pleasure, Kris. I think you and Tonita have a lot of the same decorating sense. You both do that shabby-chicness so well. :)

  7. I love Tonita's tiny house, and the fact that she too believes that there are no rules in how we decorate a tiny house!

    I just finished reading "The Big Tiny" by Dee Williams (great read). She brings up the fact that living in a small or tiny home opens up opportunities to be more a part of a community. I love this. Instead of pulling into a garage, shutting the door, and staying inside not knowing your neighbors, small homes include using porches, patios, and yards as additional "rooms", inviting neighbors to say hello and come by often for a little visit.

    A visit to Tonita's home would be a joy!

    Thanks again so very much, Nancy, for this wonderful series!

    1. Lin, thanks for mentioning that book. I'm going to look for it. I love the philosophy of being "part of a community". It's what we want in our next home, and is one reason we're building in a small town where we can connect with our neighbors. Thanks for sharing, and for your very sweet words. xxx

  8. What a great series, Nancy! Tonita's tiny house is just beautiful! What a joy to visit, and see her lovely decor.
    What fun!

    1. I'm glad you're enjoying the series, Debbie. I'm having a lot of fun with it. Thanks for your encouraging words. xxx ~ Nancy

  9. What a charming and beautiful little house. I love it.


    1. So happy you enjoyed the tour, Janet. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a sweet comment. :)

  10. Before buying the Urban Cottage I had dreamed of having a tiny house. When I shared this with my son he nearly had a cow. LOL

    1. LOL. Pat, now I"m curious what "he nearly had a cow" means.

  11. Oh my Tonitas tiny house is just darling! She has given it so much character. Must say that I giggled a little that her storage shed is bigger than her house. lol! Wondering if she has a husband. My hubby would go stark crazy in a tiny house. If it was just me, I could do it in a heart beat. Love her cute coop and her Christmas décor was wonderful!

    1. My situation is the same, Jann. I could live in a tiny house, but doubt that my hubby would be happy in anything quite that small. We're thinking of something in the 400 - 500 sq ft size. With and outbuilding that will serve as studio space.

  12. What a great post. I was just enthralled by this tiny house!

    1. I'm glad you liked it, Laurel. Tonita's tiny house is extra special.

  13. I've seen this home before and it is adorable. I also love she decorated it, so frilly and girly. One can't do that with a hub, at least mine won't. Maybe you;ll share this at my monthly Sunday's Best going on now!

    1. Thanks, Cathy. I've linked it up. Have a great week.

  14. What a lovely tiny cottage! It was very interesting to read all the thinking that went into building and decorating it.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post, Magali. Tonita did a great job of designing her tiny house and optimizing the space. xxx

  15. What a gorgeous place! Tonita really decked it out beautifully!

    1. I think so, too, Pam. Tonita is very creative. Thanks.

  16. Hi Tonita, love your little house! thank you for sharing Lisa@ Sweet Tea N' Salty Air

  17. What a cute house! I had never heard of a tiny home! I must say that the kitchen is absolutely adorable!!! Thank you for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays. I did so enjoy this 'tiny tour"!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the tour, Jes. There are quite a few tiny homes on the internet, but few as beautifully designed and decorated as this one. In my humble opinion. :)

  18. Love your story on your blog Nancy.
    Thanks for sharing
    Lots of blessings from South Africa

  19. Such fun to see, love it! Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY...

    1. My pleasure. Thanks for stopping by, Cindy. I appreciate your visits. xxx

  20. Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the tour, Michele. Thanks for visiting. xxx

  21. Oh this is gorgeous! While I visited this great tour I felt I was walking by a 'fairy tail' house with all it's beauty. My girls had one that hubby built them not much bigger than this, lol! The decoration is exquisite and perfect. I adore her kitchen! Thanks for sharing, loved this tour.

    1. How wonderful to have a father who would build a fairy tale house for his daughters. That must have been a very enchanting childhood. Thanks for visiting, Fabby. xxx

  22. Oh, this is just fabulous! Thanks for sharing it!

  23. Amazing, and beautifully decorated! Love it! I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Kathy. I appreciate your visit. xxx

  24. What a lovely series you are putting together Nancy. I adore Tonita's tiny home and I'm so glad you linked it up at Shabbilicious Friday this week. I'm delighted to be featuring it at tomorrow's party.
    Hugs ~ Kerryanne

    1. Fabulous! Thanks so much Kerryanne. You made my day. xxx

  25. I don't know how many times I've scrolled up and down on this post - I'm completely blown away !!!
    Just stunning - all the detail - amazing - thanks SO much for sharing !

    1. It's a pretty amazing tiny house. I could have posted a bazillion photos, but I mean, how far can you go? When do you stop?

      Thanks for stopping by, Suzan, and have a great weekend.



  26. How adorable, I love all the detailing especially the kitchen, it's so gorgeous !

  27. I am always looking at Tiny Houses but this is the prettiest by far, of any I have seen, I haven't actually seen one styled in shabby chic before either, a style I love. However I feel her having a large storage unit kind of defeats the purpose of living in a tiny house.

    1. Angela- Tonita here- owner of this tiny home. Thanks for your sweet comment about my tiny home decor. It is so nice of the Joyful Cottage Blog to showcase my tiny retreat. After seeing many tiny homes and trying on a few for size I would never ever be able to be comfortable or live in one without a back up storage unit(s)at the very least. I have no desire to ever become a minimalist and would get terribly bored not being able to change things up in such a TIGHT, TEENY WEENIE MINI space. My tiny home was only created to continue to give myself options. I enjoy shopping, collecting and filling my tiny home with new new found treasures that I rotate in and out. I change out the furniture, towels, fireplace, dishes and pictures as well as the little treasures on the shelves and in the nooks and crannies that serve no purpose but to create a smile. I think everyone has different reasons for owning a tiny home. I applaud those who choose to own 20 possessions but that would not work in my world. IT is about being a fun space for me, with no rules for it or it's purpose.

    2. Angela and Tonita - Thanks to both of you for joining in the conversation. Dialoguing is great because we learn so much that way. When Dennis and I built our cottage (670 sq ft), we knew we would need storage outside of our small home. No matter how organized or minimalist one becomes, there's usually a need for some kind of storage. He's an artist and we needed a place for his frames and mats and other supplies. Fortunately, there was already a workshop on our lot when we bought it and we use that building for storage and for working on projects -- which is a whole other subject. (We also built a 190 sq ft studio for him that is attached by our breezeway. Someday that could serve as a guest room if he ever decides he's done with painting. Yeah, right.) I know there are a lot of people living in tiny homes the size of Tonita's that rent a storage unit for seasonal clothes, camping gear, sports equipment and things they're not ready to part with quite yet. I've spent a lot of time researching this subject. A LOT of time, and from what I've learned most people's motivation for building small is financial. They don't want debt. I really don't think it's as much about about minimalism as it is about wanting to save money. The cost per foot to build a storage shed is a whole lot cheaper than the cost to add more space onto a house. Just my 2 cents. Thanks, again, to both of you for sharing your thoughts. xo ~ Nancy

  28. Good Morning Everyone, Your tiny house is just amazing!! Everything is beautiful. I wish you happiness in your lovely home. To Nancy, a joyfulcottage, I wanted to tell you I came across your site by accident this morning and I am so happy and grateful that I did. All of the lovely pink and "fufu" stuff made my day already. I look forward to all of the beautiful things to come. I signed up for your newsletter as soon as I saw all of the lovely things I saw this morning. The name A Joyful Cottage is just perfect!! - Have a wonderful day! Your new friend Kelly

    1. Hi Kelly. Thanks so much for your lovely visit and comments. Tonita's Shabby Chic Retreat is fabulous, isn't it? I'm so glad you found A Joyful Cottage and that you've become a new friend. I hope you'll continue to enjoy what's shared on these pages. All the best to you in 2017. ~ Nancy


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