Downsizing to a tiny house, author Lyndsey Lewis opened wide the possibilities for her life and a dream kitchen.
By Lyndsey Lewis
Little Rock, Arkansas
People often wonder why I choose to live in a house that measures just 609 square feet. The whole thing would fit neatly into one of those enormous McMansion kitchens!
It’s a fair question. For years, my home was a 2,000-square-foot American dream that I never seemed to have time to enjoy. I was always at my job as a hospital pharmacist, fighting traffic for 40 minutes each morning and spending my time off on housework. I even worked extra days to pay for the mortgage, utilities and lawn service—all for a house with a second floor that I never even used.
That just seemed wasteful, not to mention exhausting. So I was ready to hit the reset button, especially after hearing a radio interview with the founder of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., a man who was passionate about designing and building micro-houses that have surprising, quality amenities in manageable spaces.
My dream included both a garden and a short commute, so I bought a lot in an older neighborhood from which I could walk to work. It meshed nicely with the plans I chose for a modern two-bedroom cottage with a loft. Snug, but with enough room for me and maybe even a (small) family someday.
I studied my state homebuilders’ association website for Certified Green Builders and talked with several until I found the best fit. “Green,” of course, is just today’s term for an age-old concept: careful, thoughtful construction that preserves trees on a lot, reduces material waste, uses appropriate insulation and more.
Meanwhile, I began collecting salvaged materials for construction: a corner bathroom sink with hardware, exterior doors with original glass, a vintage phone niche and, best of all, some granite I found—free!—for my dream kitchen countertops.
Tiny kitchens are challenging, no doubt about it, and not just because they require smaller versions of major appliances, like my dishwasher. When you’re decorating a small room, you also have to plan for storage of pots, pans, utensils and serving pieces. I stash some things in big baskets in cubbies underneath the banquette seating. There’s more storage in the small cart, on casters, that serves as my island, and open shelves by the sink. Cup hooks free up more space.
White cupboards with frosted glass doors and bright colors painted inside help keep things light and airy. And of course, everything is right at my fingertips!
Truly, my tiny kitchen is the soul of my home. From here, cup of coffee in hand, I watch the sun come up. There’s room enough to cook for family and friends, and even to entertain them at showers and other celebrations. Believe it or not, with some creative preparation, I’ve had 90 guests here.
It’s in the kitchen, too, that I now prepare and preserve my garden’s bounty. A large raised bed for vegetables in the back and the herbs and blueberry bushes planted on the street side have added a whole new dimension to my cooking. I also planted hundreds of bulbs over the winter, and used my sunny front room as a greenhouse to start seeds.
Also part of my outdoor space is the henhouse—painted to match my own “coop”—for Mary Jean and Virginia, two leghorns I adopted last spring with the approval of my Labrador retriever, Annya. The hens enjoy scratching in my backyard, and provide a regular supply of fresh eggs as well as limitless entertainment. Friends come over just to sit on the back porch and enjoy the country oasis feeling.
I’ve been in my little house a little more than a year now. It’s taken some adjustment in my thinking: I’m still working, for instance, on substituting window-shopping for the real thing. But I can vacuum the floors and wipe down all the baseboards of my tiny kitchen in less than 20 minutes, leaving me so much more time for gardening, cooking and crafting. My mortgage is a fraction of what it was and so are the utility bills, since there’s so much less space to heat and cool.
And when people ask, “Doesn’t it feel small?” I can honestly say it doesn’t. Since I customized it to fit everything I need and use, it just feels like home.
Learn more about Lyndsey, small room decorating and life in her tiny house at her blog.