For Small House Living Try Some on For Size



1-Bedroom cabin at Oak Haven


When people ask me how to decide on what type of a small home to build, I tell them one of the ways we figured out our size and floor plan was to stay in small cabins during our vacations.

Last week, we had the opportunity to visit Sevierville, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains. During our trip, we had the opportunity to stay in a couple of small cabins at Oak Haven Resort, a community of log cabins built in the mountains outside of the city.

Unfortunately, when we were doing the research to build our own little cabin in the woods, we didn’t know such places as Oak Haven existed. We were mainly confined to looking at sizes in the very basic cabins we rented during our research.

None of them had that homey feel to them.

Inside the Living area in the 1-bedroom

I say “unfortunately” because Oak Haven could have provided us with 11 types of 1-bedroom floor plans to try, which would have also given us a sense of what felt more like home.

We had the very fortunate experience to stay two nights in cabin #22. Not only was the cabin decorated in bears – just like Our Little House – but it was 600 square feet with a layout that felt cozy, but not cramped.

This cabin came complete with two closets in a decent sized bedroom, a full bath with shower and Jacuzzi tub, an open kitchen/living room with space for a small dining room table, space above the bedroom that could have been an extra loft (but was closed off as storage space) and nice outdoor living space on a screened-in porch overlooking the woods with a private hot tub.

The cabin also had a closet in the small hall into the bedroom with a stackable washer and dryer, as well as a few built in bookcases.

Had we stayed in a cabin like this before building Our Little House, we definitely would have went with the cathedral ceilings, which gives the home a bigger feel.

Living Room 2-Bedroom cabin

On our third night there, we had to move due to a previous booking, but that gave us an opportunity to stay in cabin #47, a 2-bedroom. While it was also homey and cozy, we knew immediately it felt too big for us. The result, I would say, of living in 480-square feet now for five years.

In addition to the comfortable home type feel, the resort also had luxuries we don’t have at Our Little House: A full service spa, swimming pool and game room where we could shoot a few games of billiards.

For us and anyone seeking a vacation (there are cabins with up to 7 bedrooms), it gave us an opportunity to “get away” while still allowing us to feel at home sitting on the covered front porch in the rocking chairs or drinking coffee in the morning on the back screened in porch facing the woods.

For anyone considering building a tiny or small home or cabin, this is an excellent place to try some floor plans to experience what size of cabin would best suit your needs, but to also get a real feel for what type of floor plan most feels like home.

If you can’t travel to the Smoky Mountains, I would suggest to anyone wanting to build a small home to find a resort such as this closer, one where you can really experience not only different sizes and floor plans, but get a real sense of what feels like home for you.

Are you looking to downsize? Have you stayed in a resort such as Oak Haven?

2-Bedroom with stairs leading to the second BR

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32 Responses

  1. merr says:

    Such good info. I can see why these small abodes are more and more popular. They are quite charming.

  2. Heather L. says:

    That’s a beautiful cabin. I can see how 200 more square feet makes it feel so much more roomy.

  3. That’s a great idea to try out a variety of cabin layouts before you make a big change. I know when we stay in hotels/cabins, we look for idea we can use in decorating our own house.

  4. Alexandra says:

    We used to live in our two-bedroom cottage and were quite happy with the space. Could have done without the second bedroom though. How great to be able to test out the space. I will save this information in case one of our B&B guests is interested. Thanks!

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Alexandra. You might have some people coming through interested in even staying somewhere in the Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area. I can attest they are wonderful.

  5. Jane Boursaw says:

    Fantastic idea. And reading about your adventures in small-house living has made me really yearn for a smaller abode. I’ve even thought about ditching a house altogether and going with the RV lifestyle! Not quite ready to make that jump yet, though. Anyway, love the idea of trying out a small house first, and the ones you’ve mentioned look sweet.

    • Kerri says:

      They are nice, Jane When you decide to make the transition, the same applies to RVs as well. Try as many as you can before you buy.

  6. Really smart idea to try out a new living situation. Why is it I always jump in and adjust later?

  7. Kerry Dexter says:

    fine idea to stay in such a place with a real awareness of how the space works and what you may learn from it. hope you enjoyed your stay in the Smokies.

  8. Alisa Bowman says:

    I do think it helps to stay in them. In the end, though, it’s all the stuff that comes with you when you move that can make a big cluttered difference, I suppose. You’ve just gotta purge, which, I know, you’ve addressed here recently.

    • Kerri says:

      Yes, I was just thinking the same thing this morning, Alisa. The cabin looked and felt big in part, because it didn’t have a lot of stuff. That’s very important.

  9. Irene says:

    What a great idea to try before you buy!

  10. Sheryl says:

    Makes so much sense to try this out before making the ultimate decision. I’m surprised at how large it looks in the photos.

  11. Donna Hull says:

    What a great idea. Plus, these cabins make a nice mountain vacation even if you aren’t trying on down sizing. This reminds me of an article that I recently read encouraging boomers to try on retirement before actually retiring. Makes sense to me.

    • Kerri says:

      It does make sense, Donna, not just with downsizing, but retirement. I’ve known a lot of people to look forward to it and then not know what to do with themselves when they finally get there!

  12. That’s a great idea to try out a smaller house b4 you build your own. Our house is already quite small for our family. So we don’t need any practice!

  13. Sue Roberts says:

    My husband and I stayed at a state cabin at Rock Island State Park in TN and it was much nicer and roomier than most private condos we stayed in at South Padre Island from 1986 until 1999. I could easily live comfortably in that cabin!

    • Kerri says:

      Trying out different spaces is definitely helpful, Sue. You make a good point, a lot of state and national parks have cabins for rent at more economical prices than resorts. There are some lovely cabins at the Buffalo River National Park here.

  14. Mike says:

    Wish you had some more pics and a floorplan! 🙂

    • Kerri says:

      Mike, if you click on the Oak Haven links above, you can see more photos. I don’t own the cabins, so I cannot provide the floor plans. 🙂

  15. This is really good advice. We’ve talked about moving to another part of the country and I’ve always thought we would need to take a month and go live in different areas to really get a feel for it. Same idea.

  16. Anita says:

    While it’s true, the cathedral ceilings offer a bigger feel, the trade off is some heating/cooling inefficiencies. And, a tall ladder needs to be more handy for changing lightbulbs, and dusting cobwebs :))

    • Kerri says:

      Very true with the ladder, Anita. But the heating/cooling loss is really negligible, depending on the efficiency of your system. We have a one-room cooling/heat pump unit in the studio and it has cathedral ceilings. It still costs us much less to cool the studio than it does Our Little House, which has a more inefficient window air unit. And I’m here in the studio all day with multiple electronics and computers going.