Cottage at Five Years


Tiny Cottage at Five Years

November 6th, 2006 we began building our tiny cottage and in two months our family closed it in. The cottage is a high mass building with about 100,000 lbs of masonry and well insulated small space that soaks up and stores solar gain efficiently. This makes it so that it stays warm in the winters with just 3/4 cord of wood and it is cool in the summers. At 252 sq-ft it is tiny by most American housing standards but it fits our needs. We’re outdoors much of the time and when we come in it is for quiet things: cooking, eating, reading and sleeping. The cottage is a place of rest.
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We moved in December 24th, 2007 having spent the rest of that year working on the interior. It has now been five years since we built the cottage and four years since we moved in – we’re loving the space. It is so much better than the old drafty, impossible to heat, impossible to clean and high maintenance farm house we lived in just down the mountain. The cottage is easy to clean and maintain. The angles, curves and materials absorb sound. The design gives privacy even in so small a space. The cottage is filled with light from the big windows.

This year we expanded the cottage, adding about 90 sq-ft more space on the interior. This in addition to the approximately 252 sq-ft on the main floor and roughly 72 sq-ft in the front loft. The exterior footprint remains the same size as before – the cottage just got bigger inside. This extra interior space is a back attic for storage above the bathroom and master bedroom. I had been planning all along that we would finish that off and finally did the design and implemented it this fall. The cottage has an 11′ barrel vault ceiling so the front kids loft and the back attic snuggle in at the south and north ends. The masonry, the angles, the arches and the texture of the materials soak up the sounds. By having different levels it means that people can disappear into different places and the tiny cottage keeps its calm.


Shower Planter Christmas Cactus

One of my personal favorite parts of the cottage is the bathroom planter wall. The division next to the shower and bathtub is a bottle wall with a granite planter and brick arch above it. In the planter I have bamboo, mint, spider plants and Christmas cactus growing. The Christmas cacti are blooming right now. The location is perfect for them, a miniature tropical rain forest with limited western light.

Outdoors: 22°F/2°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/60°F

Daily Spark: The journey is the reward. -Old Proverb

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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13 Responses to Cottage at Five Years

  1. David B says:

    Cool! Always great to hear about the cottage. May I ask why you have a frying pan hanging outside?

    • Keen eyes you have. That is the dinner bell.

      • David B says:

        I hope it is one of the Lodge pans and not a nice Griswold :) I imagine they do ring nice though, some resemblance to a bell shape.

        I love cooking on cast iron, though I have a gas stove. You all have an electric hotplate though right? Not sure how well cast iron does on a flat-top electric.

        • It is a Wagner. We have four cast iron skillets and don’t need that many in the kitchen so one is hanging. They last forever, even out in the weather. We don’t have an electric plate. Instead we’ve had a smooth glass top stove and oven in the kitchen. We really like it. We’ve had it for about 14(?) years and it has served us well. We did drop something heavy on it a long time ago that broke the glass top and we had to replace it but other than that it has done well with our pressure canner, cast iron pots and pans, etc. So based on our experience the cast iron works fine on the flat top electric stoves. We also have a cast iron wood stove in the middle of the house.

  2. Susan Lea says:

    So cool! You guys are so creative and have such wonderful ideas! I love the miniature tropical rain forest in the bathroom. Now all you need to be authentic is a lizard. We lived in the Central African Republic for 2 1/2 years, and we had a lizard who lived in the concrete block wall and would come out for the humidity whenever someone took a shower. I didn’t mind him at all, although I would have been VERY stinky if I’d lived in the bush and had the experience of some of our friends who had snakes come up through the shower drains! One advantage of Vermont–no mambas in the drains!

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Len says:

    Good picture. It really shows the scale well. It is really small. I think the smallest I can build here is 700sq… though 106sqft can fly too. So about twice what you have including the loft. We have two sons and I can imagine living in a house your size. I would have to have storage somewhere… Barn or something… not heated though. We’ll see how it goes when I get some land to play with. I am waiting for my wife to finish her school (LPN) before anything like that though. She did get her drivers license which was step 1. I will try keeping the bedrooms small like you have, but have a large room with dining/kitchen/living stuff in it. High mass stove in the middle…. All of these things are subject to code, at least till signed off. So I may make one larger bedroom till signoff and split it after.

    • Realize that what is inside our house is just personal stuff. All of our farm stuff is outside. The closest we come to bringing our work home with us is our boots, work suites, computer, printer and a few paper files. Our work spaces, tools, etc are all elsewhere in sheds, the old house which is now our ‘barn’, etc.

  4. Dear Walter and family

    Thanks again for such a great blog year. We never stop learning from you and mention you every time we eat our own boar meat ! Have a peaceful Christmas , fill it with lots of downtime. You all deserve it.

  5. annalee says:

    with you love of the tropics and coral reefs i am surprised you live so far north in frozen land of vermont!!!! have you traveled alot around the world to these places like the south seas. i love the idea that you built habitats for plants and animals into your little house!

    • Actually, no, I am not a traveling man. It is rare that I even leave our mountain never mind our state. I do enjoy reading about other places but I love where we are too much to spend time traveling. The aquariums, palladiums, terrariums, plant-nooks and such are my way of visiting those places, of having a little bit of the tropics here. Saves on traveling time. :)

  6. Jami says:

    Hey Walter and Family,

    I have so enjoyed reading the continuing story of the tiny cottage, what an adventure!

    As I read I was looking forward to seeing and reading about the finishing details on the inside. But after the ceiling finishing I couldn’t find much more. I really wanted a whole post/pictures on the rooms like the bathroom and tub, especially since I’ve dreamed of doing my own tub. And the kitchen too! Can you point me in the direction of the interior finishing posts and pictures?

    Also I have a request for future blog posts –
    I’d like to hear more about where you got your first dogs to get started, what age you recommend, and ideal pack number. Do you fix your dogs or allow breeding, if so how do you manage this? More details on your thoughts, trainings, guarding the house, watch for predators and/or manage the heard. Similar to your post on teaching them to pick up bottles/trash and bring them to you. That was great. Do the dogs sleep with the pigs/chickens, or outside, or ? I’d really like to hear more about the use of dogs on the farm.

    Congrats on your soon to be on-farm-butchering business – that is a brilliant idea!

    And will that rebar continue to stick out of the cottage roof, or is it part of yet another chapter in the continuing saga of the Tiny Cottage :-)
    Nope. no family member put me up to this question – he..he..he…..

    Blessings to you and the family ~

    • You’re right, I need to do a post about the bathroom. It came out beautifully. Even though it is not totally finished it is heaven compared our old farm house’s bathroom. The shower is a delight with the glass bottle wall, planter and brick arch. We even have a big bathtub now! At one end of the bathtub it has a depression which is just right for washing a small child in. A tub within a tub. Sometime I’ll do a full pictorial post. There are some scattered photos of the bathroom and kitchen but none that have focused on them.

      Our first dogs simply showed up at the farm and said they were going to work here. I said no, go away. They started doing work around the place and eventually I realized I had to accept it and pay them. One thing and another led to seven more and then more over the generations. We don’t spay or neuter. Realize that in a natural pack there is not a breeding free for all. Social order is very important to them. Only the alpha pair breed in most packs and maybe a lieutenant pair in a very big pack. Normally the rest are working to take care of the pups as a group activity. It takes a pack to raise a pup. Didn’t some First Lady say that?

      The dogs spend most of their days and nights checking on the various livestock, doing chores with us, playing, patrolling the borders, marking territory, catching mice, etc. They sleep with the animals, in various dens and other spots they choose around the place outside. We do bring them in the house occasionally and sometimes some of them ride shotgun. Most of their time though is outdoors on the farm. They’re not house dogs. I’ve done some posts on how they work on the farm and have a bunch of drafts I’m polishing. Feel free to make suggestions for topics.

      The cottage rebar is part of the next chapter in construction. Someday there will even be a tower. Stay tuned…

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