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Living in a Small Home: Making Use of Every Inch

6/28/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: small house, small home, small space, Idaho, reclaimed building materials

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailSayra and Dominic Adams and their five-year-old daughter live in a 550-square-foot timber-frame home on 5/8 of an acre in a small rural Idaho town. They paid $37,500 for the fixer-upper, which had been abandoned for five years. “It was in sorry shape,” Sayra says. “Blue tarp on the roof, rotting bathroom floors. We did everything from re-wiring and siding to installing a new concrete septic tank.”

If local gossip is to be believed, the small home was moved from an adjacent prairie to its current site. Sayra and Dominic think it was built out of reclaimed materials because the framing is made of odd lengths and they found pencil graffiti on the ceiling that appeared to have come from the local high school, which was torn down after a fire.

Sayra and Dominic upped their home’s energy efficiency by installing James Hardie concrete siding, an insulated metal roof, double-pane windows, a Takagi propane water heater and a Woodstock soapstone stove to provide heat. A $70 Idaho forest permit allows them to cut dead fall wood to feed the stove each year. Big maple trees on the west side of the house keep it cool in summer. Their electricity bill is about $50 per month.

Sayra and Dominic can walk from the front to the back door of their two-bedroom home in 15 big steps. The bathroom is about 6 feet by 9 feet—enough room for a small clawfoot tub and sink. They added a small addition to the 8 by 10-foot master bedroom, and they store shoes and other items in the laundry room. To take advantage of the incredible views that surround the home, they hope to build a deck soon.

“There are constant challenges, living in a small space,” Sayra says. “We went from a 1,200 square-foot house to this one. When all three of us are in the kitchen, we do bump into each other! I edit ruthlessly. I don't have a lot of things. There is some in storage, yet I plan to sell most of it.” The family regularly donates toys and other items to the local thrift store. “Basically if it works, it stays,” Sayra says. “If it's a dust catcher and doesn't have much use, it goes!”

Sayra says her house is very livable, and the only drawback is the lack of privacy. She’s managed to find places for three spinning wheels and eek out a nice-size closet for herself. The property includes a large vegetable garden and a studio for Sayra’s hatmaking business, Hat Diva.

“We intentionally use every bit of space!” Sayra says. Books are kept in a built-in bookshelf in a tiny alcove off the living room. Three narrow rolling storage bins under each bed hold out-of-season clothing and extra bedding. A three-drawer chest in the living room holds quilts and blankets, and canned goods are stored in a bedroom closet. Sayra stores pots and pans in the stove when it’s not in use.

“We fit most everything in!” Sayra says. “It's not that much of a challenge after you get used to it. We use lots of baskets, and our small kitchen has drawers. We even have a shelf above the refrigerator, which is inset into an alcove space.”

Sayra says people love to come to her home because it’s so cozy. “After three years here, I've learned that less is really more,” she says. “Really, overall it's like living in a fun clubhouse. Sometimes I feel like I never grew up and am playing house.”

sayra front 

Sayra and Dominic rehabbed their neglected 550-square-foot home in rural Idaho. 

sayra front closeup 

The home has a small front stoop. Sayra and Dominic hope to add a large deck to create more space. 

sayra living room 

A soapstone woodstove heats the home. Extra blankets and quilts are stored in a three-drawer chest. 

sayra bathroom 

Sayra got the clawfoot tub from a friend and was thrilled that it fit in the small bathroom. 

adams ktichen 

The kitchen is small, but it's large enough to accommodate Sayra's textile dying. 


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