In Quietude: A Simple, Healing Mountain Cottage

Denise Franklin lives happily in 280 square feet designed to nourish her soul.

| March/April 2010

  • Friends gave Denise the wasp's nest, which she displays as art.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • The house is built of local lodgepole pine. The ventilated, insulated double metal roof reflects heat away from the house during the hot Okanagan summers.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Clematis covers the entryway trellis. Denise plants flowers that attract hummingbirds to the pots on the porch.
    Illustration by Andrej Galins
  • Clematis covers the entryway trellis. Denise plants flowers that attract hummingbirds to the pots on the porch.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Denise feeds herself all summer (and beyond) from her garden, where she grew carrots, beets, garlic, beans, peas, potatoes, lettuce, basil summer savory, dill, tarragon, lemon sage, thyme, mint parsnips, kale, cauliflower and more.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Architect Henry Yorke Mann calls the central living area "the quiet and soul of the home."
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Architect Henry Yorke Mann designed a simple, spiritual home for Denise Franklin.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Tucked off the living space, the kitchen provides ample room for Denise to entertain.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Open shelving is built into the walls' structure. Denise enjoys light from the south, west and north as she cooks.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Denise sleeps on a "shelf" above the front door. "I think my shelf is my favorite part of the house," she says. "I'm transported when I go there."
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Denise stores canning supplies in a 100-square-foot root cellar.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • The vaulted ceiling's skylight bathes the home in light.
    Photo By Stuart Bish
  • Tall ceilings and ample shelving make Denise's home feel more spacious.
    Photo By Stuart Bish

Denise Franklin needed a healing place. She’d been through a major illness (more than 20 years earlier doctors had told her she had six months to live) and had walked away from a house and husband. She yearned for “a place to pray, meditate, prepare my food and entertain my friends, and a warm place to lay my head at night.” 

Denise had $28,000 to spend. She knew it might be an impossible dream. But she also believed in magic.

Finding a design shaman

In 1999, Denise secured a long-term lease on a half-acre plot in the Okanagan mountains near Oliver, British Columbia. Set atop a wooded knob, her land was perfect for growing herbs and vegetables and offered kaleidoscopic views of the Okanagan and Similkameen mountain ranges. All she needed was a design wizard to make her mountain cottage a reality. “When building a dwelling of any size, it’s wise to seek out a professional in the field, a good architect who will listen to your needs, wants and, at times, your impossible dreams,” Denise says. “This is particularly true when you go to him with a total sum of $28,000 in savings, a disability pension and no other means of financial aid.”

Architect Henry Yorke Mann is something of a wizard. The grandson of a master builder, Mann has been designing and building houses in British Columbia since 1962. His homes are built to enhance the human soul; he deems any house that doesn’t a failure. Mann describes the architect, at his best, as a shaman producing sacred works. “Even with an extreme budget, it’s possible to build an environmentally sound home that enhances the joy, life and soul of humans,” he says.

For Denise, he did just that.

Everything she needs

Denise now lives happily in a 280-square-foot pine dwelling, aptly named Quietude. Her simple house—four equal sides supporting a vaulted roof with a skylight in the middle—easily accommodates living and dining areas and a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom without feeling cramped. “There are not really rooms as such,” Denise explains, “but areas that all come together and become one usable space.”  She sleeps in a loft—which she calls her “shelf”—tucked above the front door.

The home is designed as a mandala. Built around an open center with structural members that contribute equally to the whole, the shape evokes wholeness and order. “A mandala is a resolved space that’s at peace with itself because it’s complete,” Mann says. “This complete, regular geometry helps one be at peace.”

It also helped keep the cost of building Denise’s house down. “The simple eloquence of Henry’s design made for inexpensive material costs in both construction and finishing,” says Ken Silbernagel, who built Quietude almost single-handedly, using materials sourced within 100 miles of the site.

Silbernagel built Denise’s home with inexpensive lodgepole pine, the Okanagan’s most prevalent wood. He used boards remanufactured from the culls of larger boards (wood that would otherwise have been thrown away). Because all four sides of the house are identical, he also cut costs by having all the boards and beams cut together.

Mann often builds houses of wood because he admires its structural and spiritual strength. “Frank Lloyd Wright called wood the most humanely beautiful of materials,” he says. Denise has felt the magic. “As soon as I enter my home, the warmth of the wood’s golden hues engulfs me,” she says, “leaving me with a quiet, private and special place to be.”

Living the life

7/18/2013 6:53:38 PM

This is the best tiny house ever!  

Dale Bieber
3/5/2013 4:37:46 AM

very sweet

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