It’s been almost four years since we decided to embark on this quest to build a mortgage free homestead. We spent a lot of time in the beginning deciding where we wanted to live, and how we wanted to build. We looked at tons of house plans, bought a set, and drew up our own using a very basic computer program.
Building for cash is a good thing because it gives us constraint. We can’t build the home we think we need because it would take too long to save. Being determined to stay away from mortgage and debt has been a blessing in many ways. By building “cash on the barrel,” as my fellow tiny houser, Andrew, calls it, we are living with limits. Limits push our creativity. We’ve been through this cycle in the past three and a half years: we look at plans, find some we like, realize we would have to save for a long time, and go back to the plans we
originally purchased. What usually happens, is we pull out the plans and start talking about how we will live in the house. I look for the spots for furniture, and think about where we will put stuff and where we will have a dinner party for 8 and then I say. “It’s too small.” Then we go to a bigger plan and realize it will cost $80,000 to build, and we go back to the small plan.
We spent Memorial Day at a State Park under old oaks watching the kids swim in a mountain lake. We had the plans with us, and I said it again. “I want to be sure this is the right plan.” And Karl called me on it. “Hari, this is our cycle. . .” And he explained
the cycle. Ahhh! He was right. We picked the right plan 3 years ago, but we had to go through the cycle (10 times!?) to be sure it was the right plan. On Memorial Day, we made the once-and-for-all (I promise, Karl.) final decision on how we will build our small house. The first phase of this project is a 16′ x 24′ building. I’ll share details soon.
Karl’s focus went straight to drawing up a master materials list which meant we had to decide on the size and placement of the windows. It seems like it should be a simple thing to do, but For me, everything is interconnected. Window size affects wall space and wall space determines furniture placement and shelf space. In order to make good decisions, we did a scale sketch of the space and drew in a couch, small dining table and a spot near the door to take off shoes and hang backpacks. We talked about how tall the back of the couch will be and where the windows should start, how big the window over the table should be to allow for shelving to store dishes, etc.—we tried to imagine how it will feel to move around in the space. We started with the biggest possible windows, but then decreased their size a bit to allow for shelves in each corner, and a four-foot shoe bench with cubbies for our bags. I think we struck a nice balance between wall space and light—-allowing a lot of natural light to flood the house. Large windows to see the woods and garden will connect us to the outdoors. We are doubling our house size, so we will definitely feel a lot more breathing room. We have planned it so we can add wings on either side when we save up another chunk of money. Knowing there is a plan for growth (if we need it) gives me peace of mind. And, yes, there will be a bathtub!!