Living Large In Small Spaces - Whisper Cottage

Thirty-seventh post in the series 
"Living Large in Small Spaces"

Welcome to another edition of Living Large In Small Spaces.

I believe there are countless ways to live large in small spaces. There's no "right" way. I've featured a variety of homes in this series, from a lovely senior's room in an assisted living center to a designer mountain cottage; a charming basement apartment, a vintage beach cottage, a floating home, and much more. Homes in Canada, West Sussex and Wales; as well as small homes from coast to coast in my home country -- the USA. My mission is to inspire you with good design, interesting style, and my personal favorite -- stories of individuals who have made the choice to downsize and live more simply. Because when all is said and done, it's the vision and tenacity of these people and the joy they possess that inspire me the most, and I have a feeling that's what inspires you the most, too.

Today's featured home is one that I'm particularly interested in sharing with you, because it's the first of its kind to appear here. 

The owners Geneva and Buzz are a delightful couple. I ran across Geneva's blog My Heart's Song a while ago and invited her and Buzz to share their home and story. At the time they were in the midst of a move and understandably didn't have the time to write a guest post, but they were more than willing to allow me to tell their story. As you probably know, I've been pretty busy myself with our cottage build, so all this sat on the back burner for a bit. However, I just couldn't put it off any longer. It's my pleasure to share with you today the people and the story behind


In August 2010 the couple sold their beautiful brick home and began the search for a home in which they could afford to retire. 

As Geneva tells it on her blog:
"Buzz found this mobile home in June of 2010; took pictures of it and thought it might be something we should consider.  I spent hours looking at the pictures he had taken since my schedule didn't allow me to see it in person. 

"Even though a mobile home seemed like a good option, this one seemed so dirty (from the pictures anyway).  Buzz went back at least two more times to check it out from top to bottom...but we decided to put it on the back burner.  Honestly, I think I just didn't want to live in a mobile home... no matter how it looked.    

"We had always thought we would end up in a cute little cottage some where in the Texas Hill Country and believe me we looked there, and in East Texas and in West Texas, and in South Texas and in North Texas.  It never entered our minds that it could be any where but Texas ... :)

"We were both praying for God's guidance.
This wasn't a decision we wanted to make on our own."

Geneva writes, "The whisper came when I was driving home from work in December 2010 'You need to re-think the mobile home'.  That's when I sighed and said ... 'I know, it just makes sense.'

I felt excited, and couldn't wait to get home 
to tell Buzz what God had impressed on my heart. 

When I walked into the tiny apartment we were renting, there sat Buzz, obviously getting prepared to break some news to me.  I was worried, until  he said 'We need to re-think that mobile home', then I just smiled, and asked, 'When did you start thinking about that?' 'Oh, about thirty minutes ago ...' (God had whispered in our ears at exactly the same time)."


Geneva and Buzz bought the home late December 2010, and began to remodel. On February 1, 2011 they moved in after completing the first and most extensive stage of the remodel. Since then they have continued to upgrade their home, and the results are amazing.































A Joyful Cottage: This is your retirement home. And you sold your conventional home to downsize and be debt free in retirement? Is that correct? 

Geneva & Buzz: This is our retirement home.  Originally, we had thought we would pay off the mortgage on our 2200 sf site built home, but opted to downsize instead.  We not only saved a big chunk of our savings, we also saved the money taxes, insurance & maintenance would have cost us each year.   We weren't using all of the space in that home and knew a smaller space just made more sense.  We sold our home and never looked back.

AJC: Are you willing to share how much you paid for your home?  I fully understand if you'd prefer not to, but even if you gave an "under $____" figure, I believe it could be an encouragement to my readers who are looking for alternative affordable housing.

G&B: We found our existing home in a manufactured home community consisting mostly of Senior adults (55 & older) and paid $17,000 for it.  We invested another $12 to $15 thousand in remodeling to make it our own.  I've given a breakdown of costs in the Q & A section of my blog.  Realistically, the home could have been spruced up for much less ... it was simply our personal choice to do the extra things we've done.
The home and remodeling expenses are paid in full ... :)

AJC: It looks like your home was on private property when you purchased it. Is that right?  

G&B: Our home was and is currently located in a manufactured home community, which we prefer because of the low maintenance, security & sense of community.  This community also provides amenities that we use on a regular basis ... especially when our granddaughter visits.

AJC:  You recently moved. Can you share a little of what that was like.  Was it difficult to physically move the home? Do you own the property? (I hope I'm not being too nosy, please feel free to tell me to take a hike!)

G&B: Even though moving our home was a major interruption to our lives, it's working out pretty nicely.  The new community gave us a great re-locating package which included moving our home, garden shed, carport and decks, as well as putting new skirting on our home.  Another plus-since our old community was going away (the property was sold to a developer), many of our neighbors moved here as well (instant community) . The actual moving of the home was a little surreal ... seeing our home being pulled away by a truck was pretty scary.  We received very little damage which was a relief since we've done some pretty unconventional remodeling on the interior walls.  Packing was a breeze.  We didn't have to remove anything from the home ... we just moved things to the center, took pictures/mirrors off the wall and dishes out of the upper cabinets.  Even with that, we were able to purge some things that were taking up valuable space ... a nice perk to any move.

Since our garden has been an important part of our lives, we were relieved to learn we could dig up many of our plants and bring them here.  This garden will be different ... simply because the space is different, but it's great to have a head start with some mature plants.  As soon as we've settled a little more, I plan to do some blogging about our move and our new location.  

This move helped us realize we don't have to be afraid if it happens again.  :)  We still have our home!
AJC: I'm so impressed with what you've done. Do you have any advice for someone considering downsizing, especially to a manufactured home?

G&B: Downsizing to a manufactured home isn't for everyone, but it's certainly been a positive for us.  Our primary advice to anyone purchasing a used manufactured home (ours was about ten years old), would be to make sure the home has good bones.  Most damage to older manufactured homes come from leaks, which can literally ruin walls and floors.  Maintenance of our home is relatively simple, but ongoing ... just like any home.  Since we maintain on a regular basis, we've been able to keep the costs low, and use the savings to do the FUN things we want to do at this stage of our lives.  
Our remodeling advise (in my blog) isn't professional in any way, but we've been more than happy to share what we've learned along the way. 

AJC: Is there anything you'd like to add?  Anything at all?

G&B: Our home has roughly 1200 sf of living space and has everything we need.  The lot/space that we rent gives us ample room for outdoor entertaining and with landscaping we're able to have pockets of privacy ... outdoor rooms.  Basically, for $30,000 we have a home that we're very comfortable with, and our monthly expenses are generally, below $500.00 (lot rent/utilities).  A very affordable lifestyle!

Thank you so much, Geneva and Buzz, for sharing your lovely home and life with us. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this photo of you two is proof positive that you really are living large in a small space!

Our Life Lesson
True contentment is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.  

We've barely scratched the surface of Geneva and Buzz's home and lifestyle. There's so much more for you to see. Geneva shares wonderful DIY projects and inspirational writings. Go to Geneva's blog here. And be sure to read her Remodel Q&A page here for more details about the project.

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.

From the comments I've received, many
people have been encouraged by the homes and lives 
shared in this series.
If you live in a small space (approx. 1200 square feet or less),
 I'd love to feature your story, too.
Send me an email and let's collaborate.
(See the "Contact Me" page for my email address.)


  1. Wow, from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan!

  2. Thank you, Nancy for sharing our story! It was an honor to be featured on your wonderful blog. xo Geneva

    1. It was my pleasure, Geneva. You and Buzz are the best!

  3. Their home is lovely. From the shots of the inside, I would no idea that it was a mobile home. What a charming place they have created.

  4. Wow I love what they did. Hubby and I are considering buying a modular home when he retires. Maybe we can find a fixer upper like they did and save some money.

  5. I have so enjoyed this series! I've followed it faithfully & have enjoyed each story.

    I live in a small home by some standards - 1200 sq. ft. It's the only home we've ever owned. We bought it as newly-weds in the late 1980's, raised our family in it & are now enjoying the empty nest. I admit it felt fairly small when raising our son with friends over all the time but I'm glad now we stayed content with a small home now that I'm older. I can stay here for the rest of my life hopefully!

    Our biggest incentive to stay our small home was location - it's on a small lake- & cost. We were able to pay off our mortgage by the time I was 33 & my husband was 37 which meant no debt when we had a teen with all the extra expense they bring. I never understood the big house craze & the massive debt it brought to some. There are so many great benefits with a small home.

  6. What a wonderful transformation. Love it all. The bathroom sliver platter hanger is a favorite. Very nice.

  7. They did an amazing job! I never would have guess it was a mobile home from the inside. Love the kitchen :)

    I'm off to visit her blog...


  8. What a beautiful home they've created! I would do that in a heartbeat if I had the money. But not in OK. Tornadoes come through here with frightening regularity!

  9. Nancy,
    I have been SO inspired by this series! Thank you so much for taking the time each week to post each and every story. I am amazed at what Geneva and Buzz have accomplished--it's beautiful!

  10. I really wondered about this one . . . BUT
    Amazing how beautiful it looks!

  11. Now this is not only a wonderful heartwarming story but affirmation of whispers. Lovely transformation. thanks for sharing this sweet story Nancy.

  12. I am so deeply touched by your post. I've followed Geneva but this was so touching...thank you!

    Jane x

  13. Nancy what an amazing story. So many times we want what we can't afford and do it then we are in big trouble. They were very smart and worked with what the Lord said to them, then everything turns out right. Thank for sharing. Hugs, Jo

  14. AMEN. That last quote is so interesting because it can become SO TRUE. This is a lovely renovation and also quite a change. For many people, this sort of transition would not be suitable, let alone considered. But they made it work. And truly, the most important thing is that THEY are happy.

    We just came back from a marvelous vacation stay in Carmel, California. If you are not familiar with it, it is a one square mile area near Monterey, and is it MAGICAL. Most of the homes there, especially the historic ones, are very small but enchanting fairytale style cottages. They run for MILLIONS of dollars just because of where they are at. The ocean is right there, and one of the most beautiful beaches you could ever see. We went there for our anniversary 33 years ago, and decided to celebrate our anniversary there. We have always wanted to live there (WHO WOULDN'T!) and this time around, we had much to be grateful for, and though the temptation is great (for my husband more than me) to say, "I wonder how we could make it work to live here?", we came home to see our own cottage for what it really means to us. Our home is just as beautiful, charming, original in design, etc., because WE made it that way, patterning it after the cottages in Carmel that we fell in love with 33 years ago. Yesterday as I was gardening and cleaning, I found myself "....wanting what I have." It is the most exhilarating feeling to be content and THRILLED about what you already have.

    Cheers to the couple who pulled it off to go from an elegant brick house to a mobile home that just needed some love.


  15. This post has totally changed my mind about mobile homes! It looks so big inside. They've done a beautiful job of making it homey. They look like a fun couple!

  16. Wow, that really changed my impression of mobile homes. They have done an AMAZING job. I would never know it was a mobile home, outside or inside. Thanks for sharing this piece Nancy because it is posts like that which make us open our eyes to absolutely all the possibilities.

    I have missed your posts, lots of catching up to do. Hope you are well. Donna

  17. Amazing what you can do when your heart is in it! They did a terrific job of making it look large! I LoVe all the finishes too. Great job!

  18. Nancy, this was the sweetest and most amazing story. When the Lord whispers in your ear, you know it's right, but when He whispers in both yours and your hubby's ears and at the same time . . . you know without a doubt it's the thing that you should do. Their makeover is marvelous. That home was stuck somewhere in the early eighties and look at it now. Gorgeous. Not to mention . . . what a sweet and fun loving couple. This post was a joyful journey into downsizing and I'm happy that I could tag along.
    Have a wonderful week.
    Your blogging sister,
    Connie :)

  19. Wow! What an incredible remodeling job. I love what they've done and this is such an encouragement as we think about what the future might bring for my sweetheart and I. There are advantages to keeping an open mind about manufactured homes. We rented a wonderful manufactured home for a few years while we were in transition to our community. It was God's place for us and our children and even though we were renting I was able to make so much of it our own. Thank you for sharing this wonderful home - and Geneva and Buzz - with us. I'm heading to her blog right away to see what she has to share.

  20. hi dear Nancy !! que casa mas maravillosa ., adore esa cocina y ese hermoso porch y esta decorada con mucho encanto. deseo que tengas un buen comienzo de semana

  21. Amazing! Well done to Geneva and Buzz, and such a great motivation for our future plans.
    Thank you,

  22. Geneva and Buzz have done an amazing job on their home, the interior is really cosy and inviting. I especially love how they turned a built in unit in the dining room into a gorgeous looking buffet.
    The transformation of the porch is fascinating as well, what a clever couple they are.

  23. I loved reading the story from the beginning. Geneva and Buzz have made a lovely home and it doesn't look small at all to me!


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