homes

Couple Finally Escapes Their 3,500-Sq-Ft Home To Live In Tiny Handbuilt Cabin

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

These days, more and more people are looking for ways to live a smaller and lighter life, and trying to take up less space, use less resources, and leave a smaller impact on the planet. Others are questioning the idea of needing a lot of stuff to live a rich, full life.

And that’s why tiny houses have become so popular. For some, they’re a way to live more sustainably. For others, they’re an affordable way to have a home without mortgage payments or high rents.

But a tiny house comes with certain adjustments. You can’t have a lot of things, you have to make the most of your space, and in many cases, you have to climb a ladder to get to the bedroom.

And all of that is why tiny homes are especially popular with younger people, either single or childless couples. But that’s not always the case.

Tiny houses are also getting popular with people on the other end of the age spectrum. Once the kids move out, many people like to downsize and create a space just for them, like one mom who created a tiny home as a personal oasis after her kids grew up and moved away.

But for Jody and Bill Brady, it was all about getting away from a big house that was quickly becoming more of a burden than a luxury.

The couple, who are in their 50s, decided that it was time to make a major life change, what they called “rightsizing” their lives.

First order of business? Ditch the big house. “The house owned us,” they say.

So they sold the house and began researching a way to make their own, tiny dream house.

[H/T: Treehugger, Apartment Therapy]

Jody and Bill Brady lived in a 3,500 square-foot house, and also owned five other homes.

Everything seemed to be fine, but then Jody Brady took a look at their finances, and realized that they were pouring all of their money into their properties.

“The house owned us,” she says. “At the same time, we’d been questioning our carbon footprint.”

And so, inspired by the Solar Decathlon, a national festival showcasing sustainable homes and technology, the couple had a serious talk about changing their lives completely.

As a result, after scaling down to smaller and smaller homes, they ended up selling their properties, quitting their jobs, and building their own tiny, 250 square-foot dream house in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

The Bradys designed the home themselves, making sure it fit both their morals and their needs.

That meant designing a sustainable home that was also easy and comfortable for a couple in their 50s to navigate — which meant no ladder to the bedroom!

They designed everything themselves, and they did it the old-fashioned way, with pencil and graph paper!

They built everything themselves, and many of their projects are ongoing.

Construction started in June 2014 and took about a year, and while the house is totally livable today, the Bradys are still making adjustments and improvements.

These gutters just went up in August.

And as for the inside? It’s pretty dreamy.

Going from 3,500 to 250 square feet wasn’t too terrible a transition, either. “We live outside as much as possible, so the house feels even bigger than its square feet,” Jody says.

They also installed a lot of windows so the space never feels closed-off.

The Bradys used reclaimed materials as much as possible, in keeping with their eco-friendly ethos, and used a lot of barn and pallet wood.

Jody says that hunting for salvaged material made a few projects take longer, but she also says it made them more creative and “serendipitous.”

And can we just take a moment to drool over this kitchen?

The sink can also be covered to make even more counter space, which is a great little trick when space is an issue.

For heating, they constructed a clean-burning woodstove, and there’s an alcohol-burning stove for cooking.

In addition, the house is about 80% solar powered, so their footprint is tiny, too.

In the bathroom, there’s a composting toilet, which the Bradys admit takes a little getting used to after a lifetime of using a flush toilet, but they’ve learned to adapt.

And to keep the bathroom from feeling too claustrophobic, the walls don’t go all the way to the ceiling. So they provide both privacy and a little more of an airy feeling.

There’s also a shower stall and sink.

The water heater is turned on half an hour before a shower, which provides six minutes of hot water, so they don’t have to waster energy heating the water  all day.

And it also forces them to take short showers, saving water!

The Bradys say they get lots of questions about whether they have to climb a ladder to get to sleep. They don’t.

Instead, the bed is n the same level as the rest of the house, and to save room, clothing is stored in big drawers under the bed.

Because the inside of the house is so small, the Bradys try to take advantage of their outdoor space as much as possible.

There’s a large deck built around three sides of the house, which expands the living space, especially during the warmer weather.

They also built a separate “screen porch” building, where they can live, eat, and even sleep during the summer.

Built about 10 feet away from the main house, this structure was actually built first, kind of a trial run before the real house was constructed.

The entrance to the screen house also has a tiny patio outside.

In the yard, there’s a garden where the Bradys grow vegetables to supplement their food supply, and you can see some of the solar panels here, too.

And as for the effect of a tiny house on social life? The Bradys say it’s just fine, and they’re entertaining just as much as they did in their larger home.

The Bradys have lived in their tiny home for a year, and they’re loving it. You can check out their tiny house journey on their blog and keep up with their latest projects.

And if you’ve ever dreamt of making a major change, SHARE this tiny house story!