Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Tiny House: CNN Makes Living Large in a Small House Its iReport

(Those two pole like things are American elm-- just before the spread of Dutch elm disease laid waste to these common street trees across much of America. The last American elm in Ripon succumbed just this year.)

When CNN starts talking about tiny houses, you know the idea of the Tiny House is going mainstream. Good bye McMansion!

The main living floor of my house is a whooping 540 square feet. Soon after I bought it I boosted its square footage to nearly 900 square feet with the addition of a bump-out to the attic, incorporating a full-fledged staircase, so I would have a loft master bedroom suite of a sort. The profile from my street remains as it looked when my house was built sometime after 1870. All this makes it much too large to fit in the CNN definition of a tiny house.

However, when my house was built, the area I now claim as a kitchen was most likely a covered washing porch (from clues I have found over my remodeling and repair of my home) and was originally built for two spinster sisters who wanted separate living quarters but wanted to be close. I have two front doors (one I never use and is cleverly hidden with my painting scheme). One of the sisters had a home of 144 square feet, the other 288 square feet.

Even after 1959, when a 144 square foot addition which brought with it indoor plumbing, and the enclosure of the washing porch brought the house to 567 square feet, it was still typically rented to two separate households, the bathroom and kitchen were communal spaces.

The biggest issue I have had to deal with in my tiny house is storage. I have no garage. My closet head room is a mere four feet. Finding a place to hang my full-length winter coat is always a chore. I had knees walls built in the attic loft with access to squirrel away all sorts of items; Christmas ornaments, memorabilia, sewing notions, the extra leafs for my dining room table, the fans in winter. You get the idea.

I have a living room, dining room, Handsome Son's bedroom; each measuring 12' x 12'. A 3' x 12' space was separated from what is now my galley kitchen and is a full 36"-wide oak staircase going to my loft.

Even at 900 square feet on my 44' x 144' lot, if my house was damaged, zoning in my town would forbid me from rebuilding it. This is typical of a lot of zoning rules in lots of places. This house has been nearly the right size for my son and I, and with my son college-bound, I am sure there will be time when my house will seem too big, and empty. It is the same story for my neighbors house which is a tad bigger than mine and has a basement, but is on a lot about half the size. Four of them live there and they have a garage, as well, and with the higgity-piggity building of decades ago sits half on my lot and half on their. (No rebuilding of that would make me ecstatic!) First thing I built was a nice fence running the property line, making neighborhood relations much better. Dragging that ice shanty THROUGH my lawn over my black Austrian pine was, of course, the last straw, even if this is Wisconsin.

Whatever the size, at this point, it is a home.

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