Cool Stuff

Tiny homes packed with positive family experiences

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The Andrews on the front stoop of their little cabin at Twin Lakes Beach on Lake Manitoba: Hilda and Denis Andrews, with Kirsten at age 6 and Elise at age 3, in 1977.

You see them on newsstands, plastered all over Pinterest, and there may even be one in your friend’s backyard. Entire conventions are dedicated to them.

I even saw one rolling down the highway a few weeks ago.

Tiny houses. They are everywhere these days.

The tiny home I saw on the go was being towed by a very enthusiastic young man whom I had the delight of chatting with at a rest stop. For him it was a new chapter in life and a chance to see if Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was right: Is less really more?

My fascination with tiny homes is innate. For three to four months of the year every year until I left home, I was raised in a tiny house – with about 300 square feet of livable space. It was actually a converted garage we affectionately called The Little Cabin. There was one room crammed with bunks, and one room for pretty much everything else. There was a side “room,” if you could call it that, about four feet by four feet that had a sink with cold running water and an, ahem, commode, for late nights when no one wanted to wade through the frogs and toads to the outhouse.

It was our summer retreat on Lake Manitoba, temporary digs that we would inhabit until my father had finished completing The Big Cabin on top of the hill with a gorgeous view of the water.

We lived in The Little Cabin from the first summer of my life and I left home before the new one was completed. That’s no knock. My father designed and built the entire thing on his own on weekends and holidays. It’s gorgeous and their permanent residence now.

I can’t imagine that living in the confines of those four small walls, without proper plumbing, would have been easy for parents with two young kids, especially during cold, rainy snaps. But we made do, and then some. It built strength in our relationships and we learned how to get along – for the most part.

Days that weren’t spent outdoors were scented with homemade playdough, slurries of fine sand and shampoo – which we discovered had a magnificent texture we never grew tired of – and card games. We were light on our feet lest we wake the skunks living below that had a fragrance we could do without. Our eclectic soundtrack comprised John Cougar, Paul McCartney and Wings, Meatloaf, The Knack and for a good while, The Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack. We sang into wooden cooking spoons.

I remember the day we got hot water, sometime around my 12th year. Up until then, we took our baths in the lake, a bar of Ivory soap and shampoo bottles floating nearby. If the weather was terrible for weeks on end, we had our long hair washed in the kitchen sink with scalding hot water boiled on the stove. A few years later, we got a shower. It was outside and had no privacy, but it worked if you didn’t mind showering in a bathing suit with the mosquitoes.

A single hammock-like chair was available for lounging if you didn’t get dibs on the daybed, and there were four kitchen chairs and a table. That was the extent of our furniture. We had a nine-inch portable Sony TV with rabbit ears that got two fuzzy channels on a good day. It only came on for the late-night news followed by M*A*S*H.
I read a lot.

The dishes were handwashed and put away after every meal. There wasn’t much mess to clean up as we didn’t have a lot of stuff with which to make a mess.

The Little Cabin was an expression of minimalism – one of the original tiny houses. Time may have painted a rosier picture, but I long for it now. Our wee home was magic. I can completely understand the allure of all those seeking a similar experience. Mind you, the ones I’ve seen on Pinterest are unquestionably better appointed than ours.

@ Copyright 2016 Squamish Chief

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