My name is Kristin, and my family and I live in a small house that we designed ourselves here on the North East coast of Canada. We are a (very soon to be) family of 5 plus 3 large Siberian Huskies. My husband and I have two children, they are 13 and 7, and we have a third baby due at the end of summer. My husband is a conservation officer, and he works for our provincial government. I am an EMR, and I work for our local ambulance company. We are an indigenous family. We are members of the Nunatukavut group of Inuit-Metis peoples from Southern Labrador, on the Canadian East Coast. We have lived here our entire lives, and although the region is very remote, and our community is very small (pop~500), we are surrounded by family, friends, and more Canadian wilderness than you could ever want and we love it.
We don’t live in a typical, portable tiny home, although we did largely consider it while in the home planning process. We had our home built in late 2017, early 2018, and it’s an 800 square foot barn style small home. We didn’t originally set out to build a house this small, although I’m glad it’s where we ended up. As I mentioned above, we live in a very rural area in a very tiny community. There is almost no real estate market here. Houses almost never pop up for sale, and as our family grew, and we knew we wanted to stay and raise our kids here, we needed a permanent place to live. Over the course of a couple of years, while we were planning for home construction, we sent several potential house plans to builders and suppliers for quotes. Every time, we felt like the finished project cost was more than we were comfortable paying. After the third downsize still came back too high in cost, we really sat down and asked ourselves, “what do we actually need?” The answer was, “not a lot.” So I went to the drawing board and designed a small house that included everything we needed, and nothing more. I drew it up as small as I could possibly get it, while still including everything we needed to live comfortably, especially through our Northern Canadian winters. I also designed it to perfectly fit our lifestyle and the piece of property that we already owned and had cleared ourselves.
What we ended up with was 800 square feet of perfectly planned living space that fits our family to a tee. The main floor has a large mudroom (we call it a porch where we live). It has a door in the front and another at the other end leading to the back yard. It houses our washer and dryer, hot water tank and storage for our mounds of sports gear and seasonal clothing. Winter is the biggest, longest, coldest season where we live, and it’s essential to have a large porch to save your sanity during the season of snow!
When you enter the main house from the porch, you’re essentially entering one open living space. Our kitchen, dining, and living area is one large room. The kitchen is tucked into one corner, and instead of a dining room, we just have one small table in the middle of the kitchen. Our living area is exactly wide enough for one couch, with our woodstove at the other end. During the summer months, our home is heated via a single heat pump unit, but in the winter, we light the woodstove, and it becomes our main source of heat from about mid-November to mid-April. We are able to heat the entire home with one unit or the other because the house is so compact, yet completely open.
Our very tiny master bedroom is directly off of the living area, as is the one bathroom. Our bedroom is small. So small that a traditional swinging door wouldn’t work and we had to go with a sliding door. There’s just enough room for our queen bed with a nightstand on either side, but we don’t find it cramped or inconvenient at all.
What makes our small home unique, and perhaps a distant cousin to a typical tiny home, are our kid’s bedrooms. In my quest to make the home as small as possible, I replaced a typical second floor and staircase with two loft bedrooms, both accessed via two separate loft ladders. My daughter’s loft sits above the kitchen, and my sons sits above the master bedroom/bathroom. They have three walls, each plus a railing, and curtains in place of the fourth wall for privacy. We ordered special ladders that are able to pop up flat against the wall to save space when not in use but pop out for safe and easy climbing when needed.
There was a moment during construction when I questioned the decision to have our children’s bedrooms accessible only via a ladder, but we reminded ourselves that people all over the world live in tiny homes with ladders and make it work. I’m also a huge fan of the Little House on the Prairie series, and I told myself that if a ladder was good enough for Mary and Laura, my kids would also be just fine. Honestly, two and a half years later, the ladders haven’t been an issue at all, and all my kid’s friends think they have the coolest bedrooms in town!
I don’t know if I can choose one favorite part of our home. It was quite a labor of love and patience getting to the end result, and we love it in its entirety. I think I love how different it is. It certainly isn’t your typical home, and we feel like we get to live in a cozy cabin every day.
While we don’t have a separate space to accommodate guests, that wasn’t really a consideration through the design process because all of our family and friends already live here. We actually built this house right next door to my parents, and my husband’s parents live just up the road as well. There is plenty of room in the kid’s lofts for sleepovers, though!
We love our tiny community, just like we love our little house. Although the amenities here are few, the lifestyle we get to enjoy is second to none. The Atlantic Ocean is literally steps from our backyard. We are surrounded by beautiful Canadian boreal forest and all the wildlife that comes with it. We enjoy boating, fishing, and berry picking during the summer and snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice-fishing, and traditional boil-ups all winter long.
The downsizing process wasn’t challenging for us at all. We have always lived in small spaces, and so we simply transferred everything we owned to the new house from my parent’s basement apartment, where they were gracious enough to let us live during the construction process.
It might feel a bit small around here on rainy weather days, and there are times when it would be nice to have a basement area to send the kids to play, but those are small sacrifices, and the benefits outweigh any drawbacks for us. Our house is very easy to maintain, easier to clean (even with three large dogs), and because we don’t have extra space for “stuff” to accumulate, we never find ourselves overwhelmed with things that don’t serve a purpose.
If there is one little wrench that threw our plan off just a bit, it’s our new surprise, the third baby! This house works perfectly for two children, and our youngest was easily able to climb the loft ladders by the time we moved in. We have gotten good at making what we have work for us, though, and the new baby will fit just fine with us in our bedroom until it’s safe to have him share the loft space.
You can make whatever space you have felt like home, whether it’s a large, typical North American home, or something much smaller. All you need is an open mind. We have dreams of going smaller one day. My husband and I joke that once our kids are grown and have families of their own, we’ll spend our time split between the three of them, parking our retirement-tiny home in each of their driveways for extended visits!
I have a very new website and accompanying Youtube Channel and Instagram, and they all share the same special name. If you’d like to see more of our little home and how we live, you can find us at www.littlehouseonpurpose.com!
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