Karen and Tony Tipsword were living in a 26-foot camper on the property they planned to turn into a campground in Murphy, North Carolina, two years ago when they started eyeing a small abandoned house on the property. The home had been considered “of no value” when they bought the land, but careful examination found it “just barely on the right side of salvaging,” Karen says. The 16-by-20-foot house had been empty for 30 years, and rain had been pouring in through a gaping hole where the woodstove’s chimney had been for a decade. “We needed a home by winter, and we could salvage this building with some small additions and porches quickly and inexpensively,” Karen says.
The Tipswords renovated this long-abandoned cabin that was already on their property.
Karen and Tony gutted the building, removed the roof and the few outdated wires that remained, and sprayed everything with bleach. A 10-by-16-foot addition and an 8-by-30-foot enclosed porch gave thme 720 square feet of living space under roof. They topped the house with a metal roof salvaged from a demolished Dollar General Store—which provided enough material for the shop, chicken coop, campground showerhouse and a pavilion that’s in the works. The front porch is built from lumber milled on site, and the kitchen shelving is made from a maple tree that Karen and Tony had to take down at their former home in Georgia. All the doors and windows are salvaged.
The addition of three porches for outdoor living substantially expands the three-room home’s living space. An enclosed back porch serves as an office, laundry room and guest area—and soon the kitchen. “We will be moving the kitchen out to the enclosed porch, where we will finally be able to have a table at which to sit down and eat meals!” Karen says. “We will build window seats along the two walls so that we can incorporate more storage for large kitchen items that aren’t used often. This will also give me the counter space that I genuinely miss in my kitchen.” (The only other thing that Karen misses is a bathtub to soak in after a long day’s work.)
The home has electric heat, but the primary heat source is a small woodstove that Karen bought years ago. About three cords of wood will get the Tipswords through the winter. Karen and Tony keep the home cool by opening windows at night and closing up the house by day. “We are surrounded by large trees, so it stays reasonably cool,” Karen says. “Only on the 90-plus degree days do we use a window air conditioner in the bedroom.”
Like most small home dwellers, Karen has found that living in a smaller space requires paring down possessions and clutter. The upside of that? “I know where everything is,” Karen says. “It takes less time to clean.”
Karen has become a firm believer that less is more. “Being happy does not mean a large home filled with lots of things,” she says. “We are happier every time we divest ourselves of something. Working in the campground, building our business, meeting new people—many of whom go away as friends or even like family—these are the things that make our days joyful. We are learning to live a more sustainable lifestyle as we raise our own chickens and vegetables. A small house is part of that feeling of independence and success as we minimize our carbon footprint.”
Compromise is key, she adds. “Expand your outdoor spaces as much as possible. Grill out frequently. Learning to be organized really helps!
Karen says living in a small home gives her a feeling of “independence and success.”
Chickens are an important part of the family.
Karen says that running a campground makes her days joyful.