Our home: the big idea of small
I wouldn’t call it tiny, really. But wonderfully small? Most assuredly yes. By the standards of the day, it’s most definitely pint-sized.
But there’s room here.
In this little wooden cabin, built just last year, there’s room for the five lives that fill it. There are places for gathering, and spaces for seclusion.
There is room for what matters the most, like the heirloom rocker, the books, the bean bags, and the football gear. There’s room for overnight guests, and dinner with friends.
And, yes (because I know you’re wondering), there’s even room for the boots, the coats, and the hats. With the length and width of this house multiplying out to a mere 665 square feet, it’s a wonder, I suppose, how this is really possible.
All photos by Carmella Rayone.
Let me tell you about this big idea of small.
A few years back, when we were in the middle of The American Dream and the bigger house with its bigger things and bigger mortgage, an inkling would flicker into our minds and conversation now and then.
It was a feeling that said, somehow, there was another way. A way other than subdivisions, and HOA rules, and postage-stamp lots.
A way where time wasn’t crammed heavy and traffic wasn’t roiled. A way where home wasn’t tied to a mortgage, or to a realtor’s opinion of resale value. A way to wide open spaces where there was room for souls to breathe.
Indeed, there was another way. What we didn’t know was that getting there would require nearly everything of us.
Could anyone have anticipated the grinder that was the real estate market crash of 2008 and 2009? We certainly didn’t. Nor did we see double job losses headed our way.
Before we could pause to find our bearings in the middle of that horrific upending, nearly everything we had that was worth anything was gone. And there we were, barely standing, trying to catch our breath.
Then, in the darkness, that inkling flickered. It flickered faintest light onto a shift in perspective and new way of life.
It lit a new definition of home and necessity. It grew brighter with a fresh understanding of our wants and our needs. It shined on simplicity.
We realized that we no longer wanted the “this and that” of before. Instead, we wanted to know the more in living with less.
The idea of a small cabin came into our minds. Would it be possible to build such a thing that could house the five of us now, and become the guest house down the road? Could it be full of character and be built to last a lifetime? Was it possible really to live comfortably in small?
Drawing upon my experience in residential building and interior design, I began to sketch. Years of inspiration and study were funneled into the intentional design that formed beneath my pencil.
Curiously, even as a sketch on graph paper, this little house began gently schooling us in simplicity. This house required things of us.
It required an off-loading. It required giving away. It required a reckoning. It helped us recognize what our treasures were, and what they weren’t; for it would hold the necessary and the loved, but nothing more.
With our lifestyle, interests, and possessions thus mindfully edited, the cabin was then tailored to fit.
Over the next year and a half, this little house rose up off the plans and came to life. A builder built, and we finished.
When the sawdust had settled and the paint had dried, we looked around and saw our dream: a little house with a front door that opened into the great room where windows were placed to catch the sun’s path and the cross-breezes.
The kitchen stretched across the far end, simple in its painted cabinets and open barn wood shelves. The dining banquette was tucked beneath an adjacent window; a high dormer in the vaulted ceiling spilled light down.
Full-size furniture gathered near a window, and floor-to-ceiling book shelves lined one wall. Down the hall was a simple single bath, and the master bedroom with its writing nook and built-in wardrobes.
A ship’s ladder stair near the front door lead to the enclosed loft where private bunks were carved out of an open room for our three boys.
This was home.
And it was, really and truly. Because through careful steps, patient sacrifice, and straight-up miracles, this little house was debt free!
I sit now at my desk in the writing nook,
a quiet place that waits for me; waits for these times when words arrive. The afternoon sun is here and warm, but not too warm, and I see the wind fluttering the green of the tall cottonwood outside the window, all those leaves flipping like a million little flags.
And above me, there above the ceiling that’s over me, I hear the sounds of three boys in the loft up there, doing what boys do after having spent hours at the riverbank on a summer afternoon. Happy muffled boy voices, I hear, and muted footsteps; chair legs sliding on wood plank floors, and glass marbles rolling.
The sounds of the largeness in the small.
You May Also Like:
Get the weekly email called 5 Quick Things,
where Tsh shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)
You’ll also get an excerpt from her latest book, At Home in the World, a memoir about the school year her family backpacked around the world.