The Art of Living in a Tiny Cabin

17years of living in my 361 sq. ft. log cabin invites comments like, “Oh how adorable, but I could never live in such a tiny space.”

At the time of my desire to purchase a home, I wasn’t seeking to downsize or live as a minimalist, and the trend towards tiny homes had not yet begun. Having always loved tiny things, the cabin immediately captured my interest, but how could I live in what looks like an oversized dollhouse? I needed to go back again and again because I could not imagine making it work.

My queen sized bed, double dresser, and dining room set were out of the question. And then there is the piano. I drove through the neighborhood countless times – Asheville’s first vacation neighborhood established in the early 1900s called Homeland Park. Pausing in front of the cabins, wishing for a peek inside, I wondered how people were managing.

Being a visual person, artist, and former interior designer, surely I could make this work. Making a list of my furniture and needs, possibilities begin to emerge as I freed my mind from what had always been fixed solutions, such as, how I live without a dresser.

The need to sleep didn’t require a queen-sized bed, as the room would handle a double bed. A section in the closet devoted to shelves would compensate for the dresser and my desk, an essential item, would suffice as a place to eat. The owners were leaving a wrought iron table and chairs on the front porch, making a pleasant place to eat in good weather. The piano could go to storage since I was currently teaching in student’s homes.
I was feeling the momentum of excitement and delight in seeing how I often block possibilities from the limitation of one viewpoint.

The kitchen has a tiny gas stove, tiny refrigerator, and one counter with open shelves. Not much storage space for the ridiculous amount of kitchenware I was holding onto. The stackable washer and dryer is a plus.
The bathroom lacked a tub but has a large shower. One oddity, however, is that the shower is in the living room. Now it seems perfectly normal but at the time seemed absurd! The shower is as camouflaged as one can make a shower in the living room, with a chair in front of it and an attractive curtain. A storage shed seemed to be the answer for the excess that I wasn’t willing to give up so back to the cabin I go. The parking space is small but I thought I could manage a small shed.

I bought the tiny cabin, and need to also mention that a golden retriever moved in with me. She was a tiny puppy and my first dog so I’d not given any thought to her having to back out of doorways when full grown because they are so small!

It is a very ‘in thing’ now to have a tiny home, yet 17 years ago I admit that I had some embarrassment as I’d project all kinds of things that people might be thinking, primarily, “Is this all she can afford,” all the while being gooey over the cuteness of it, while thinking that the entire thing isn’t as big as their master bedroom or living room. I no longer do that as I’ve made it my home and it suits me perfectly.
My tiny cabin continues to gift me lessons that are applicable in other aspects of life. Even though I thought I’d done sufficient planning, it was apparent on moving day that I had too much stuff. Stuff became the operative word so an exploration began of closely examining the stuff that I’d felt was so important. It is an on-going journey to examine the things that I’ve held on to as though my life depends on them. The tiny space became a powerful metaphor for an examination of my true values.

Every item has taken its turn under the magnifying glass to determine its purpose and value. The choice became clear; either it has a utilitarian purpose or is sentimental or something that my children will want. Driven by necessity, I became a minimalist and have grown to appreciate the simplicity of having only what I need.

The piano is another story. It was the piano of my childhood with lessons beginning at age five so my attachment was strong. The day came to get it out of storage because I was tired of being a traveling piano teacher and wanted to teach at home. Needless to say, it filled the room and at the time I didn’t know what else to do. The living room became the teaching room.
The piano needed considerable work to bring it to an acceptable teaching quality and, given that it consumed the entire room, I actually entertained the thought of getting rid of it. Choosing practicality over attachment, with a painful parting, I was able to follow through.

In retrospect, however, it was just a piano. I agonized over the choice of an electric piano, as it seemed a sacrilege given my propensity for the purity of music and instruments. After extensive research, I settled on one that I could live with. My cabin went through yet another revision, as I wanted privacy for lessons with a separate place for parents. I now needed a display wall for the giclee prints made of my art. It seemed insurmountable but I remembered how I felt when I first saw the cabin, so again I listed my needs and examined the possible solutions.

When Celie died, I thought a single bed would suffice and double as a sofa in the daytime so the keyboard went into my bedroom. With a wall of old shutters as a place for displaying my art, one room has a triple use: art and teaching studio by day and bedroom by night. A bi-fold door around the keyboard gives the students privacy.

My desk serves multiple purposes – as a place to write, for artwork, computer work, and meals. Things like files, music and art supplies and extra linens fit nicely in little ottomans that double as additional places to sit.

Dual-purpose items are the norm.

I don’t have a dishwasher, microwave or toaster. My dishware covers what I need, not what I keep just in case. I got rid of everything in the storage shed to free the area for additional parking and in retrospect, I don’t know what all that stuff was.

I smile now when I think back on the first time I came inside this tiny space. It excites me how possibilities open in life when we get out of our own way. Living well is an art and my tiny cabin continues to teach me how to do that.


I enjoy an active life in my tiny cabin – teaching piano lessons, creating artwork, writing, designing artsy, miniature gardens, and bird watching, to name but a few. I can be reached about any of the above at farrellsylvest@gmail.com. The photos for my story are done by photographer, Kashena Wilusz, kashenaw77@gmail.com.

Written by Farrell Sylvest