The Little House—Exterior The Little House is a 10’x28’ cabin built on a 24’ gooseneck trailer. A large cedar-planked deck extends living space into the outdoors during the warm summer months. The 5’x10’ triple mulled and triple glazed window unit on the south wall transmits light and warmth via solar gain to the interior through most seasons. Siding is T1-11, sanded to a smooth finish and stained by Mareca. The corners, windows, and fascias are trimmed in cedar and pine. A shed-style roof is finished with metal panels and flashing.
Brief Introductory Note On The Little House Mareca was the lead architect and designer of the cabin; Trystan was the carpenter, electrician, cabinet-maker, and metal-worker (i.e., jack-of-all-trades, master of none). We worked together as a team in all aspects of the project; no task was too big or too small (okay, everything was relatively small). Trystan has been overheard saying, “if The Little House looks good, it’s thanks to Mareca. If the cabin has sheetrock that runs square for the full length of the house, it’s thanks to the fellow that framed the house like it was a piece of furniture.” The Little House was conceived, designed, and built largely within the timespan of one year, taking more than 2500 hours to complete.
The Little House—East Half The bed occupies a space built above the trailer’s gooseneck and an upholstered reading bench permits easy access to the loft. A Rinnai propane heater is directly vented and thermostatically controlled, providing reliable and energy efficient heating. The spacious living room rendered Trystan’s dream of having a small reading chair a reality.
The Little House—West Half A half-galley kitchen occupies the central portion of the north wall and the sun shines through the octagonal window of the home’s front door, which lies beyond the elevated hearth. Firewood storage and a large drawer are incorporated into the hearth, which is topped with travertine tiles and a Jotul 602 woodstove. The hearth is trimmed in oak and aluminum. A rich brown engineered laminate flooring visually anchors the interior space, which is largely completed in light-hued materials and finishes. Most of the lighting fixtures are fluorescents, many of which are seen here. In total, three ceiling fixtures, four wall fixtures, and a wirelessly controlled lamp provide opportunity for myriad combinations of lighting in the small space.
Bedroom Loft An 8” thick, queen-sized memory foam mattress was trimmed to 57” wide and tucked into the loft. Ample soft-goods storage is supplied by a large built-in trunk at the head of the bed. Cubbies above the bed accommodate clothing. A casement window in the east wall provides emergency egress and cross-ventilation for warm summer days. Sheetrock panels were run the full rake length of the ceiling, but only the screw heads were mudded and the tapered seams of the ⅝” material were left as is. We were careful to avoid paint buildup at the tapered seams and the final drywall installation for the ceiling has an interestingly unique and modular look.
Kitchen The long kitchen counter is solid surface with an integrated, double basin Corian sink; a maple butcher block countertop sits between the range and refrigerator. These counters were built by local businesses to our specifications. Appliances consist of an apartment-style fridge, 20” propane range, and microwave with an exterior-vented exhaust fan. Owner-built cabinets in the kitchen—and throughout the house—are constructed with ¾” birch plywood, with maple plywood door and drawer fronts. Cabinet plywood is edge-banded with ¼” thick oak for rigidity and durability.
North Window All the windows are trimmed with yellow birch and 5/4 stock cherry stools. Clear side casings and heartwood aprons were planed down to ⅝” from 4/4 stock; the head casings were left thicker—planed to ⅞”. All the boards were hand-picked from the hardwood supplier’s racks. The light diffuser above this window (and both of the south wall windows) is built with aluminum angle and channel that are hand-brushed and waxed. Final assembly was completed with stainless steel hardware. Semi-transparent plexiglass diffuses light from the wall-mounted T5 fluorescent strip fixture that sits behind the diffuser frame. Un-diffused light emanates from the fixture’s bottom, ensuring sufficient lighting for various kitchen tasks.
Mareca’s Home Office A fold-down standing desk with casement window hardware is designed for laptop work. Additional light and ambiance for this nook comes from the pendant light. Adjustable shelving is a common theme throughout the cabin and is used here to define space and provide efficient use of storage.
Trystan’s Home Office A standing computer desk fits into the corner and additional desktop space is available on the built-in hutch behind the desk. Sliding door hardware and aluminum top rail with 1” aluminum channel bottom track and edge-banding round out the lower part of the cabinet unit. A mix of open and closed shelving completes the hutch’s top.
Entryway The owner-built front door is 4½” thick and filled with rigid foam insulation, yielding a high R-value that is in keeping with the energy efficiency goals of The Little House. The lockset required significant modification to be adapted for this application. A built-in closet is 8’ tall and hosts two tiers for hanging clothes. The large sliding doors are each reinforced with steel splines to prevent warping; the top rail, door hardware, bottom track, and aluminum edge-banding are the same as were used in the sliding doors of the office hutch. Trystan’s desk is constructed with square tubing; mild steel components were cut, welded, and then polished with a flap-disk and finished with carnauba wax for protection and a satin sheen. The desk is topped with solid surface material and, like the kitchen countertop, was built to our specifications by a local shop with remnants they had on hand. A boot bench—cantilevered from the hearth—and heavy rubber mat provide a transition zone for donning and shedding shoes, boots, and jackets during all seasons.
South Wall The south wall is finished with birch plywood and the panel seams are trimmed with hand-brushed and waxed aluminum flat bar. Heartwood grain veneer panels of the lower wall are visually distinguished from the clear grain variety placed on the upper wall. Energy efficiency was a key consideration in the design and construction of The Little House and the walls are framed with 2”x6” studs and insulated with fiberglass batts. Additional insulation is provided by extruded polystyrene foam that lies in a 1½” furred-in space, which is also where electrical wiring runs. A similar construction/insulation technique was used for the floor and roof, although deeper framing members and thicker fiberglass batts were employed; the ceiling also received a total of 3” of rigid foam. The Little House is warm, efficient, and tightly sealed. It is truly a pleasure to inhabit this little space.
Notes About the Photographs Trystan photographed The Little House with a Nikon D810 coupled to a Nikkor 16–35mm f/4 lens; the combination was mounted on a tripod and live view with timer release was used on exposures measured in seconds. It is our hope that these photographs convey the general concept of the house and the many elements that comprise it. The broad, open perspectives of this small space as rendered by wide angle (short) focal lengths are quite different than what the eyes and mind calculate in experiencing the house. If we’ve in any little way given you a glimmer of the cozy and welcoming space of The Little House and its environment, then we’ve exceeded our goals with these photographs.
Acknowledgments We thank our family and friends for their creative inspiration and help throughout this project.
Mary Lee has an abundance of design and construction knowledge and she inspired our lighting design; it was also her utterance of “little house” on a late summer evening that cemented the cabin’s name. Dale’s words of encouragement carry an unparalleled generosity and sincerity and he inspires us to do good work always. Kathryn and Nanette constantly provided support while cheering us on from hundreds and thousands of miles away.
Ian and Stefan always lent a hand—no questions asked—when called upon and Trystan learned just a few things about building from them when he had opportunities to lend each of them a hand as they built their cabins. Trystan cut his teeth on construction when he built his first cabin (The Tiny House), a project that wouldn’t have been possible without Ian’s accommodating generosity and support. Thanks to Pat and Nick for checking in on the builder and his sanity from time to time.
Many other family members and friends helped in numerous ways. Thanks to Owen, Amanda, Marwan, Erin, Kenny, Bob, Perrin, Alice, and Dave. Thanks to Matia for making lemonade. Marwan and Dave were often who we’d turn to when encountering many of the perplexing aspects of construction; Marwan is also distinguished in having put in the most volunteer hours.
Thanks to The Little House. This project put us into the proverbial trenches together and four months into this work it became exceedingly clear that we should marry. We were wed on the deck the following summer.
This project is dedicated to our parents, who gave us the awareness to dream and support to be creative. We hope Kathryn thinks fondly of Trystan’s father when she sees this work.
Trystan & Mareca