Living Large In Small Spaces - Ken and Susan's Primitive Cottage

Forty-first post in the series 
"Living Large in Small Spaces"

Welcome friends to another edition of Living Large In Small Spaces. 

Recently AnnMarie of the wonderful blog Musings of a Vintage Junkie told me about the small cottage her friends Ken and Susan own in upstate New York. She offered to take photographs and give me details for a post on LLISS, and invited her to submit a post of her own for the series.

Today it's my pleasure to welcome AnnMarie and the fabulous home and story of her friends Ken and Susan.



I love reading Nancy's posts at A Joyful Cottage and I especially enjoy The Living Large in Small Spaces Series. After reading many posts on how people all over the world are living wonderful lives in smaller, beautiful homes, I realized that I have friends doing just that on Main Street in a small town in Upstate New York.

I want to thank Nancy for asking me to do a guest post on my friends' property and to be part of her wonderful series.

The Leaning Barn country store was a favorite stop for me when I was decorating my farmhouse in the mid 1980's-early 1990's. Located on Main Street, Marion, New York it was close enough to justify a weekly stop. The owners were always going on buying trips and refreshing their great inventory. It really did lean and the stairs and second floor were so rickity that it was an adventure to go see what was up there. That is where I found the best stuff!

What does this have to do with living large in small spaces?

Fast forward 25 years and now my friends Ken and Susan live in the quaint leaning barn, transformed into a primitive cottage.

They have downsized quite a bit over the years, having moved from a 3600 square foot Queen Anne Victorian home with a carriage house, to a 2400 square foot home, and finally to this 1100 square foot home all within a couple of blocks of each other in Marion.

Their sweet primitive cottage came with a 2700 square foot home. They bought the large property to share with their son and his family who live in the large house.

They have moved six times in their 41 years of marriage. I asked Susan how she has left all these places behind, each one beautifully decorated by herself and Ken. "I am a buy and sell person by nature", she said, "It does not bother me. Everything I do, no matter where I live, is with the thought of resale. I like to better it for the next people." They have been at their primitive cottage 8 far.

To the right of their home is a playhouse added for their granddaughters. We'll visit the inside of that later.

The old Leaning Barn had been torn down and a new three story construction was put up by the former owners and used for the shop. Ken and Susan made it into a home in less than two months. They took down some walls and added a kitchen. They put up some walls and added a closet and bath. They also added a sleeping loft. There is a full basement with a walkout and can be accessed by a hatch door near the laundry. This 1100 square foot home has a bath and a half and can sleep five. Every room is filled to the brim with thrifted and repurposed items that serve double duty for beauty and function.

Let's go inside!

As you walk up the front steps, to the left is a wonderful glider Susan got for $5. As well as working professionally in the interior design field and now doing consultations, Susan is a thrifter at heart. She calls herself the "Queen of garage sales" and you will see many thrifted items throughout her home and outside. The Wee Town Country Story sign is from the shop they owned for 10 years, housed in the carriage house of their former home a block away.

Ken customized the front door and it is a great promise of what's inside! Ken retired from General Motors and Susan lovingly says that "He is the most talented person in the world". He is an accomplished musician, furniture builder and carver. As we tour their home you will see that most of the shelves and cupboards were made by him, as well as carved figurines, penny rugs and the finishing touches all around the home.

The inside is one great open concept room with all the different areas in view. As you enter, to the right is the sitting room. Susan and Ken each have their favorite chair and Mr. Bean has his too!

Ken made the Penny Rug on the back of the blue checked chair.

Hand carved Santas by Ken on the windowsill

Above the mantel is this beautiful apothecary shelf, hand made by Ken.

You would never know that some of  the great old baskets hanging from the ceiling in this room are there to hide the plumbing in the ceiling from the tub upstairs. Beauty hiding function.

To the left of the front door is the kitchen. It is small but holds everything needed to make it functional. Susan says "because it's small you have to decorate to hide the function". She does what it takes to stay with true Primitive style.

The island holds her dishes. Her toaster hides behind the curtain on the shelf.

The tall cupboard is a food pantry. The small cupboard holds pots and pans behind the curtain.

It may be small, but there are all modern amenities in this great kitchen, including a nice new dishwasher!

The center of the home has a table and chairs with a view of the beautiful staircase.

Before we go up, the living room is on the left. It is small but holds a large L-shaped couch, a couple of chairs, a table and a large screened TV.

Ken made the Penny Rug above the couch.

To the right of the table in the center is the powder room and laundry.  A Make-Do chair separates the two areas.


Again, Susan has done a great job hiding function and multi-purposing areas in her home with her great eye for decorating in the primitive style. This is the laundry area. The fronts of the washer and dryer are hidden under tacked on fabric and a screened cupboard door. The tops are hidden with an array of primitive boards, bowls and tins boxes.

Under the rug in front of the washer and dryer is the hatch to go down to the full basement.

The door in the laundry area goes to a closet but it is also the Secret Place under the stairs. Her granddaughters would crawl in under the hanging coats. There is a light to switch on that reveals a play area. My granddaughter Chloe enjoyed some play time in there too!

On the stairs are Susan's "babies"..... her collection of antique jugs with cobalt decorations. Most are local and very collectible.

At the top of the stairs is a candle cupboard filled with quilts and a reproduction Thomas Jefferson writing chair.

The upstairs is all open with a loft above the bed. There are four different sleeping areas that sleep up to five people.

 A cozy nook for sleeping to the right of the four poster bed.

The loft 

Susan likes to climb up to the loft to sit and gaze out the window to contemplate.

There is a great view from the loft to the other side of the room. All that gorgeous wood on the walls  is Shiplap Pine. The Antiques sign is from their former home and is made from wood from an old cistern. It reads "Beaner & Gurly's Antiques". Beaner and Gurly were their dogs. Above the sign is a window behind the quilt.

The tub area is gorgeous with lots of unique touches. Susan has a knack for repurposing items in every area of her home.

The hanging light is an old chicken feeder. The window shade on the top are old cupboard doors and the bottom shade is a cupboard door recently found at an antiques show.

An old garden trellis decorates the head of the tub and holds the essential scrubby.

There is so much more to this quaint, primitive home, as there are d├ęcor items and unique touches in  every nook and cranny, added by Ken and Susan. The whole home reflects each of their personalities. But we are going to head outside now to the beautiful gardens and the Playhouse.

Welcome to Hannchael Cottage. The name comes from the first and last parts of Ken and Susan's granddaughter's names, Hannah and Rachael. The cottage was made and delivered by the Amish woodworkers in the southern tier of NY. Ken put up the Shiplap Pine walls, built the loft and added the linoleum to the floor. It is completely furnished with garage sale finds.

The fifty-cents thrifted chair on the front porch.

The loft that Ken built. The bed on the bottom is an extra long twin bed.

A vintage radio for $1 that works and plays kids cassettes.

A yard sale dresser.

A kids size overstuffed chair.... thrifted for FREE!

A sweet sign that Susan made with transfers.

Now at age 10 and 15, the granddaughters have outgrown playing in the playhouse so it has become another place for Susan to go and sit and contemplate.

I am sure she is dreaming up fabulous decorating ideas for her next home!


Oh, my! What a perfectly charming home Ken and Susan have created. I'm so amazed by their attention to detail in every room of the cottage, and what about that beautiful garden and the whimsical playhouse.  I love it all!  How about you?

Thank you AnnMarie for introducing us to this lovely couple and showing us how largely they live in their small space.

If you haven't read AnnMarie's blog, you need to. It's jam packed with vintage fun and goodness. You'll find it here.
I hope AnnMarie's post on her friends' cottage will encourage others to give tours of not only their small space, but the small space of friends and acquaintances here at A Joyful Cottage. It's so much fun to share!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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 or have designed 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. I have to say how much fun I had doing this post and how honored I am to have it appear here on this great blog series. So excited for everyone to read it. Thank you!

  2. I really enjoyed this tour of your friend's charming cottage and gardens, AnnMarie! It reminds me so much of my Mother's house! She lived most of her life in New England, until moving to WA state later in life, and she kept that beautiful prim style. There are so many wonderful details here, I have to go back and look at this a few times! :) It is a cozy home that looks like it is filled with love. Thanks for sharing! - Karen

  3. Wow! I am impressed with this couple. He is an amazing artist/craftsman. I was taken at the very start of this post with that red glider on the front porch. Thank you for the tour.
    Have a great week Nancy :)
    Your blogging sister,

  4. I love to visit the cottage series. So much fun to view how people live in small spaces.

  5. This was an absolute delight to read! I imagine it must be great to see in person, with something interesting to look at, at every turn!

  6. Thanks for inviting us for a visit.

  7. What a cute place! LOVE those quilts and the antiques are amazing! Thanks for the tour!

  8. Wow what a great home featured here. Love all her primitives in her decor. So happy AnnMarie took us on a tour of her friends home. So much fun. Thanks Nancy for another great feature.

  9. Nancy, such a wonderful post! The home and the collections are amazing. It brought back days of when I once a home decorated in primitive design. Wonderful. Hugs, Jo

  10. I can't pay enough compliments on the work done and collectibles that make this house a home. Love, love, love the garden!!! :)

    Jane xxx

  11. Great blog! I enjoy sharing your love about everything that has to do with small places and cottages.
    Beautiful little cottage and playhouse, almost fairy tale like.

  12. WOW. Nancy, this was spectacular! It's great to see who many people use their creativity (Ken and his rugs and wood carvings!) and create such a world of DREAMS! This is totally Americana primative and it says "Upstate New York" to me so much. Though I've never been there, I can imagine the treasures of antiques and homes that take you back in time. I have a primitive dough trough that I just love, and it came from an old farmhouse in NY.

    This is a lovely share, so cozy, and I bet during the holidays, it's really dolled up!


  13. Lovely, primitive, custom, fabulous...I am just awed by the collections and the home these two talented people have created.

  14. What charming home..but her gardens drew me in. Great Americana at it's best!

  15. What a charmer!! Love the primitive style and the details and treasures are amazing. These two are extremely talented and have an eye for utilizing their space to the max. So enjoyed this and AnnMarie you did an wonderful job capturing the great photos.
    Hi Nancy, so nice to meet you and I am a new follower too. Your blog is lovely.Wonderful guest post from AnnMarie.
    Have a blessed week ahead. cm

  16. This was a great tour and so much fun. AnnMarie did a great job.
    Thank you so much for the tour.

  17. How charming! Followed AnnMarie over and what a treat! Thanks so much for sharing! Blessings, Cecilia

  18. How charming! Followed AnnMarie over and what a treat! Thanks so much for sharing! Blessings, Cecilia

  19. So enjoyable to see how others create and live in small spaces . . .
    Love her collectible jug crocks in the blue . . . wonderful collection . . .
    And the grand children's house is delightful . . . what fun to go there and snuggle up with a good book!
    I love this series Nancy . . .

  20. This was such an interesting house to tour!

  21. I love this cottage! AnnMarie outdid herself documenting all the beautiful details in this lively home.

  22. How unusual and beautiful! I am so glad AnnMarie shared this with us. What a great home!!

  23. Dear AnnMarie, This is a wonderful journey in decorating. The imagination used to incorporate and use all the space available in a unique and charming way. xoxo Catherine

  24. What a beautiful and cozy home they've created. I'm all for the downsizing trend.

  25. Wonderful tour. My new husband doesn't care for primitive so I don't use very much these days - but once it was my primary style and I still love it.

  26. What a fascinating home! I could spend hours absorbing all the beauties in those photos. I think this is an amazingly talented couple. What lucky granddaughters!!

  27. What a treat! I love homes filled to the brim with treasure in every corner. What a cozy place to live and have your family so close. Wonderful!

  28. What a treat! I love homes filled to the brim with treasure in every corner. What a cozy place to live and have your family so close. Wonderful!

  29. Oh my, oh my, oh my, what a charming and oh-so-cozy cottage! Every little detail is darling and beautiful. A big thanks to AnnMarie for sharing her friend's home with us :)

  30. Ann Marie's friends cottage is just wonderful. Love the primitive style! What amazing talent they have. Ken is a fabulous carver, and a man who makes Penny rugs, wow! Their gardens are gorgeous and I love the whimsy!

  31. Ann Marie thank you for sharing this darling cottage and all of the lovingly handmade pieces, I could see the joy on the owner's faces. Their cottage garden is priceless and every detail of the home and garden was so welcoming!


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