Learning to love life with lessBy Vivian Siempos Haidas
How Much Space Does One Really Need?
That is the central question behind the tiny house movement taking shape across the United States.
These tiny dwellings are being touted for their small size and large functionality. Distancing themselves from a “bigger is better” mentality, people seeking tiny houses are interested in simpler lives—with a lot less stuff. Whether it is for a summer getaway or a year-round residence, owners of tiny homes say they require less maintenance, less expense, and therefore allow them to live each day to the fullest. The following Cape Cod homes are for sale by owners who have loved and cherished them. Some are selling their homes because they want to go larger; for others, it’s a matter of circumstance.
These houses are all under 500 square feet, by many standards, tiny, but what they lack in space they make up for in charm.
Deborah Bright and her partner spent decades daydreaming about owning a place on the Cape until they purchased their summer getaway in 2004.
They enjoy the things that are quintessentially Cape Cod—the stretches of dunes, the beaches and the endless nature trails. They found their cottage, one late summer weekend, while visiting friends in Eastham. They looked out across Minister’s Pond and saw a cottage colony that Bright said looked very sweet and old-fashioned and was nestled along the pond shore. The next day, they drove down a gravel road and saw the cottages they were admiring the night before. They looked at two cottages for sale, a two-bedroom and a one-bedroom. They looked at the two-bedroom first and although they liked it, they weren’t completely sold on it. They then walked into the one-bedroom and they were smitten, charmed by the picturesque pond view that filled every window.
“The abundance of windows on all four sides of the house made it feel bigger and airier, and the wood-burning fireplace promised cozy evenings in the fall and spring when we liked to visit,” says Bright.
Their tiny house sits on the shore of Minister’s Pond. It is close to Cape Cod Bay, the National Seashore and the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
Since they’ve owned the house, they have made improvements, including building a deck on the rear of the cottage and installing glass sliders in the living room and a large window in the bedroom. The intimate scale, Bright says, makes it feel very personal, very private and very romantic.
When asked if she would make the purchase again, Bright says, “It was the perfect sweet getaway for us and we derived immense joy in both using it and sharing it with friends. As it is a quintessential vacation cottage, we never felt that its size was limiting. The benefits of a tiny house are that life is kept simple, you can’t have too much stuff. In a small house, that sense of simplicity perfectly coalesces with why we sought the Cape in the first place—to leave our distracted, overly busy, cluttered lives behind!”
Francine and Jim Bartram’s dream was to own a house by the water. In 2002, while on a weekend getaway on Cape Cod, they stumbled upon an open house sign in front of several tiny cottages and they decided to take a look. The cottages were weather-worn and sand-filled, but they knew they found what they had been looking for.
With his portable heater and generator in tow, Jim Bartram trudged through the snow to work on this dream home, a labor of love that took place over 13 consecutive weekends. When it was complete, they named their tiny house Madison, after their daughter.
The Bartrams rented their tiny house to summer visitors.
Those visitors came back year after year, the guest book was signed, stories were shared, and tenants left gifts reminiscent of their time spent at Madison.
The Bartrams also spent time in the cottage, making lasting family memories. A favorite memory of theirs was when Jim’s sister, her husband and their three daughters, stayed with them at the cottage, eight people in total staying in a 310-square-foot space. They went to the beach, played whiffle ball, had a bonfire, ate s’mores and enjoyed every moment. At night, they lined up sleeping bags for the kids like hot dogs on the floor, and the futon and bed were left for the adults. “Regardless of how small, you make do,” says Francine. “You learn to condense, organize and realize you don’t need that much to have a great stay.”
The Bartrams say that you learn to make every inch count when you live in a tiny house. They moved a wall by an inch, strategically designed closets to fit everything from the vacuum to the toilet paper and clothes, and created a loft in the bedroom for extra storage.
“Personally, I love a little place,” says Francine. “You learn to keep it simple, and that leaves more time to enjoy life.”
Chris Cobb and his wife purchased their tiny house in 2005, when their youngest daughter went to college and they become empty nesters. At the time, they were searching for a low-maintenance cottage in Falmouth and their search yielded this tiny house, only an hour away from their year-round residence in Franklin.
The Cobbs wanted to use the house year-round, so they installed both natural gas heat and air conditioning. They put their Boston Whaler in Brewer Fiddler’s Cove Marina, a mile away, so they could enjoy fishing and the beach, as well as their three-mile daily walk past Old Silver Beach and New Silver Beach, both only a mile from the house.
In the 10 years that they’ve owned the house, all three of their children have married and they now have three grandchildren. There are many advantages of owning a small house, says Cobb, including small electric, gas and tax bills, and low maintenance.
This house is in the heart of Cotuit, but you can’t see it from the main drag. It’s hidden down a gravel path. It’s within walking distance to the beach and center of town, but its seclusion allows for privacy.
Paul Grover has owned the house for 20 years. When his children were little, they used it as a playhouse, and when they grew up, it was transformed into a guest house for the family as well as for visitors to the Cape. Grover says that the tiny house has appealed to writers and artists not only for the quiet it allots its guests, but also for its magical charm. Unlike many of the tiny houses on the Cape, this one can be and has been lived in year-round. It has a gas stove as well as a washer and dryer. In the summertime, the large deck almost doubles the living space.
“It’s really a beautiful piece of land,” says Grover.
Melissa Damelio bought her tiny house in 2010. With her father’s help, she turned it into a year-round residence. Damelio says she never spent so much time in bed just staring out the window at the view. She says that after living 10 years in New York City, she became accustomed to living in small quarters and had no desire to live in anything bigger. The small space allowed her to customize with high-end materials: Caesar stone for her counter, Indian slate tiles for her bathroom, and walnut Eco Timber for her flooring.
Her father, a builder/contractor, helped her utilize the space in the most efficient way, turning a closet into an office, rearranging the kitchen for openness and functionality, adding a small addition and building a deck on the roof to maximize the beautiful view. “With tiny houses, you have to utilize every inch of space and stay organized, which was a real joy for me,” says Damelio. “It also minimizes your accumulation of stuff.”
The renovations helped her fulfill the creativity she longed for in her early 30s, and with her father’s help, she was able to create a beloved home.