When it comes to small houses planning and design really counts.

This couple began creating ideas for their future “perfect” home early in their marriage.

They wanted a home that was big enough for just the two of them (and their dogs).

This way they’d have more time and money for their personal interests.

own less live more 704 sq ft of freedom aaron leitz 004   Own Less, Live More: 700 Sq. Ft. Small House of Freedom

Aaron Leitz for the NY Times

See more of Lily Copenagle and Jamie Kennel’s small house below. They’re the couple behind this 700 sq. ft. house of freedom.

And the home is environmentally friendly, too. They use a rainwater system to reuse water and hydrate their plants. They also have a 550-gallon rain barrel on the property.

Cleaning is a breeze since you can plug the vacuum in at one spot and reach the entire house from there.

own less live more 704 sq ft of freedom aaron leitz 001   Own Less, Live More: 700 Sq. Ft. Small House of Freedom

Aaron Leitz for the NY Times

It’s a one room design with a curtain for privacy to enclose the bedroom when desired. The home was completed in 2012 with costs of about $135,000 to build (including labor and materials).

A Rais wood stove that swivels is what keeps the place warm.

They were also able to include an office area for the both of them.

Along with book shelves throughout to store their collection of literature.

own less live more 704 sq ft of freedom aaron leitz 002   Own Less, Live More: 700 Sq. Ft. Small House of Freedom

Aaron Leitz for the NY Times

Another one of their smart design moves was putting the washer and dryer in their clothes closet so that doing laundry is quick, easy and painless.

Genius, I say.

own less live more 704 sq ft of freedom aaron leitz 003   Own Less, Live More: 700 Sq. Ft. Small House of Freedom

Aaron Leitz for the NY Times

If you head out back on the property you’ll also notice two storage sheds with living roofs.

One of the sheds is like a workshop with tools, bench and garden supplies while the other holds their recreational stuff like their kayak and other outdoor gear.

And  yes, they actually have the spare time to use this stuff thanks to their less demanding home.

“There’s so much personal freedom in going smaller,” says Mr. Kennel in the article at the NY Times.

Read the original article here.

See more by taking a complete photo tour of their 700 sq. ft. home here (click on View Slide Show when you get there).

If you enjoyed this article on small houses and downsizing for freedom you’ll love our free daily tiny house newsletter with more!

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   Own Less, Live More: 700 Sq. Ft. Small House of Freedom

Alex

Alex has been living in small spaces for more than 7 years, he's the founding editor of TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter, and has passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. Send in your story and tiny home photos so we can share and inspire others towards simplicity too. Thank you!

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{ 40 comments }

  • Alex Pino January 24, 2014, 9:40 am

    They just built this house in 2012. I thought, gee, where are they? How were they allowed to build a 700 sq. ft. home in a normal neighborhood?

    It turns out they’re in Portland. They’re neighborhood seems to be pretty progressive.

    If you want more details they’re in the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/garden/freedom-in-704-square-feet.html

    But basically they tore down a 2 bedroom 1950s house that was on the property and built this smaller, 700 sq. ft. home on the lot.

    I just want us to be able to build this small in more neighborhoods around the country.

    Reply Link
    • LaMar Alexander LaMar January 24, 2014, 11:13 am

      That seems to be the biggest problem for people that want smaller homes is the counties and cities are still stuck on promoting larger houses so they collect more in property taxes and pleases the Realtor’s and land developers that often sit on city councils that make the rules.

      The only way to fight it is to get enough people and go to those council meetings and if necessary protest in the media and make a lot of noise.

      Show them these smaller houses are better for the environment, can be very attractive and use less land and resources so more smaller homes on less land. They are more affordable for young people, unmarried people and seniors and it is what many retiring people now want.

      LaMar

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      • Alex Pino January 24, 2014, 11:24 am

        Thanks LaMar I could not agree more!

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        • LaMar Alexander LaMar January 24, 2014, 11:57 am

          I was thinkin, it would be really nice if we had someway for tiny housers and other people interested in the movemnet to be notified when someone is planning a small house that might get resistance from a city council or county so we could organize and show up at the meetings for support or at least send letters or emails of support.

          City councils and county seats are all elected people that do not want negative attention. Many are business owners in their communities so if a bunch of people show up in support of a project and those officials are afraid of negative publicity or want to be re-elected they will be more likely to support the projects.

          Tell me your thoughts and how we can make it happen everyone?

          LaMar

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          • Rick Waggoner April 10, 2014, 9:30 pm

            LaMar, I couldn’t agree more regarding that idea, but let me throw in an extra, take along a Tiny House to Prove to the fools at the meeting exactly what you are referring to so they might have a better perspective of what it is & how it helps the environment.

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          • Connie40023 May 16, 2014, 4:11 pm

            The obvious answer for organizing local movements is to use Facebook and Twitter. I think that’s how I got here.

            Link
      • Ari K January 24, 2014, 4:30 pm

        Awesome comment, LaMar. I never thought of this, but you are right. Your insight is spot on.

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    • Paola February 17, 2014, 4:49 am

      I just cannot believe that in the US building regulations are so idiotic to set a minimum limit on the size of a house! It should be the other way around… allowed to build from 15 square meters and not over 300 sq mt
      And to think that it is called the land of freedom… :)

      Reply Link
  • Alex Pino January 24, 2014, 11:26 am

    I also REALLY like the washer/dryer in the closet feature. That was pretty smart (and I’ve never seen it before)

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  • alice h January 24, 2014, 11:43 am

    The big dilemma in a lot of cities is the need to increase densification. It’s not just to collect taxes, though that’s part of it. It’s a lot more efficient to maintain public transportation, distribute services and utilities and maintain good neighbourhood walkability. It also prevents urban and suburban sprawl that often threatens local farmland and wilderness. This usually means multiple residences in the same space a single would occupy. They think in terms of condos and high rises so building a smaller house on a lot is too much the other way. In a lot of cities the best way to increase living space might be to make several small or tiny living spaces inside already existing ridiculously large houses, as long as they were done with health, safety and environmental concerns in mind.

    Our area has a community plan that has medium rise buildings allowed along the main street, townhouses and low rises on the next street in and the rest of the area is single family housing with secondary suites only allowed for relatives. Starting this year they are allowing one secondary suite only but no laneway houses or accessory dwellings. Hopefully that will change and some day they may allow small or tiny backyard houses and multiple suites. I doubt that they will ever allow a single tiny house on one lot and the cost of land in our area makes it pretty unlikely.

    Smaller houses on single lots work in some cities and towns and it makes sense for people to work towards making it possible there. Cities where densification is the stated aim, not so much.

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    • Rich January 25, 2014, 9:44 pm

      I agree re densification but this is not the american dream. And many older cities have devolved zoning that is more like the suburbs :( I discovered a few years back that my city of Albany, NY actually values single family residences higher than multifamily residences of the same size which encourages absentee landlordism… especially with a disintegrating public school system, so much non-taxable real estate (several colleges and state govt). It is a complex mess.

      Reply Link
  • Marcia@Frugal Healthy Simple January 24, 2014, 12:40 pm

    That is really cute. It’s funny how the laws have changed over and over.

    Our house is 1146 sf, built in 1947. Many of the houses, if not most, in my street were built in the 20’s and are even smaller – 2BR at 800-950 sf or less. Of course, some of them have had additions since then, or have converted their (really small) garages.

    My house doesn’t meet the current city requirements. It is grandfathered in, of course (it’s too close to the next house, does not have a garage, and does not meet the minimum amount of “fenced outdoor back yard”). In the past, that would not have mattered – however recently, the city has decided that people cannot add on, or in some cases – even sell their homes until they bring them up to current code.

    Now, I doubt we’d have a problem if we sell – we can’t magically create a garage or increase our amount of “outdoor space”. It means, however, we are unlikely to be able to add on. Not that we really need to, but I wouldn’t mind a half bath.

    Our city is really also trying to densify. Parking is already such an issue, I don’t really understand it. I know they are trying to make it more affordable for regular people. I don’t disagree that it’s a worthwhile pursuit, but they build these condos and apartments with the assumption of one car per unit, when the reality is more like 3 cars.

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  • Jennie K January 24, 2014, 1:34 pm

    This one is awesome. Love the office and book space! We are set on a 500 aq ft house, but this 700 ft one is causing me to seriously reconsider. Really gorgeous house!

    Reply Link
    • Alex Pino January 25, 2014, 9:06 am

      Glad you liked it Jennie! 500 sq. ft. is a great size. But yeah, I’d definitely consider 700 sq. ft. the way they have it laid out here. It’s perfect for two.

      Reply Link
  • Bill Burgess January 24, 2014, 1:41 pm

    I can see why more people do not buy $25K Park Models…In fact that’s why I set up the 4FAthoms Designs page. But really to get maximum use per sq.ft. is the issue and my hang up with price should not be the issue. This home cost probably includes the land as well and skews the number a bit from the RV pricing systems that are normal for this format. I would like to see something on “Pitting” the tiny home or Park Model, something to show Seniors or Handicapped what could be a solution to access.

    Reply Link
    • Alex Pino January 25, 2014, 9:07 am

      I got a really nice Park Model Oak Log Cabin I’m featuring later today. Be on the look out for it Bill- I think you might like it :)

      Reply Link
  • Dominick Bundy January 24, 2014, 2:14 pm

    WOW! I just found my dream home, there is absolutely nothing at all I would change about this home. . The high ceilings, large windows. the openness, and the all round flow of the home. Perfect !

    Reply Link
    • Dominick Bundy January 24, 2014, 2:17 pm

      Forgot to mention that a floor plan of this home would have been nice to see..

      Reply Link
      • Alex Pino January 25, 2014, 8:36 am

        I know, I wish we had the floor plan but I wasn’t able to get it, sorry!

        Reply Link
  • libertymen January 24, 2014, 4:06 pm

    I guess you are free to spend 135 K for a very small house.The design looks like a Ken KERN house,
    Maybe from that old book 30Houses to build on a budget,
    Small house with a big price,They have a rain barrel? BIg Whoop.,

    Reply Link
  • Terri January 24, 2014, 4:15 pm

    $135K ? Good grief.

    Reply Link
    • Alex Pino January 25, 2014, 8:35 am

      And it was really more than that because they had to buy the land for about the same price and knock down an old house that was on it.

      Reply Link
  • Clyde Jenkins January 24, 2014, 5:16 pm

    Let’s be honest here. The couple lives in 700 sq.ft., but they have two sheds — one for tools and a shop and one for toys. So we should add all that square footage together. My bet is that it approaches 1000 sq.ft. What about a garage? I admit that this is still way under the typical 2000 or 2500 sq.ft. of a modest modern house.

    Is it truly more efficient (or more economical or a better use of resources) to build several small structures for all your needs? What I take away from this example is that someone desiring to live in a small house should fully understand their personal requirements for both now and the future. And that a single larger structure may actually be better.

    I do like how light and airy the interior is. The huge closet with laundry right there is a good idea. But do these folks actually cook? I only see a microwave and a toaster oven, no stove top, no oven. That is fine for them and I am not criticizing their choice. I would want a more conventional kitchen.

    Reply Link
    • cahow January 27, 2014, 10:41 am

      Clyde wrote: “Is it truly more efficient (or more economical or a better use of resources) to build several small structures for all your needs? ”

      This phenomenon has puzzled me, too, Clyde, in regards to the Main Home being tiny but then a number of out-buildings (as we called them on the farm) also on the property. I have now resigned myself to “Different Strokes for Different Folks” and send them blessings in their life choice.

      If I remember correctly, our very own savvy LaMar is “King of the Out Buildings” on his property and plans on making his own wee compound. It works for him and that brings me joy. (apologies if it’s someone else whom I’m remembering.”

      I have a tendency to be more IN-clusive vs. EX-clusive. Both my husband and I own our own firms which demands two separate offices. We also have two messy hobbies: me: weaving and jewelry making/him: stained glass. By some people’s vision, the above could demand FOUR separate tiny houses on our property: two offices and two craft places. But, we wanted EVERYTHING to be within the foot print of our tiny home (800 sq.ft. and rapidly approaching 100 years old!). Currently, in Michigan, we have 6′ snow drifts and -23 degrees for a wind chill!!!! WHY in the world would we want to heat up to four more buildings and run electric out to them, only to have to bundle up every time you need the loo or to grab a quick cuppa? I actually enjoy being in front of the loom and hearing my beloved puttering about in our cottage: it gives me a feeling of coziness and love, plus when he pops in and brings me a cuppa + a biscuit…life is good!

      Regarding the laundry in the closet, we’ve had that blessing in every home we owned, including the large 2,800 sq.ft. home we raised our family in. Actually we had two laundries in our home: the stacked closet unit for normal loads but a giant commercial unit in the lower level that handled four sets of sheets, comforters and the billions of clothes that kids can generate.

      Now, regarding their cost, estimated at around $150,000, inclusive.

      SO FRICKIN’ WHAT!!!! This couple makes a boatload of money. The $150,000 barely buys a condo in Chicago and that would be a low-rent condo, at that. Cost is relative to income: if you can afford a $2 million dollar home but spend $150,000, isn’t THAT to be applauded?

      Alex has profiled some very rich and famous folks on his site that went from McMansions to trailers or very small homes and every one applauds them and lauds their downsizing. Someone please explain to me the difference between a movie producer going “small” and this couple’s identical choice? CBS’s “60 Minutes” did a piece on Jay Leno last night, and they showed his massive and extensive car collection, which takes up TWO airplane hangers!!! Where’s the outrage at THAT indulgence?! So many of these comments come across as sheer jealousy. If no one is dipping into my wallet, I could care less how they spend their money. LOL

      Reply Link
    • LLCarignan April 11, 2014, 10:10 am

      One practical reason to use outbuildings is to store stuff that doesn’t need a weather-tight, heated/cooled space. If you can clear the junk out of your more expensive living space and keep it in a cheaper storage structure, you need less house. This, after all, is why we park cars in a garage and not in our living room.

      Reply Link
  • Rob Gray January 24, 2014, 5:19 pm

    I love this, and it’s one of the few THs we see here that also has some practical storage, although I suppose that area should be added to the 700sqf.

    Most THs have no storage at all, if you own a cordless drill and a hammer you’re out of luck, there’s nowhere to put them. Let alone a kayak etc. Most people (even minimalists) have a life that needs some “stuff”.

    Of course one answer is to chose hobbies that don’t require much.

    Reply Link
    • Alex Pino January 25, 2014, 9:08 am

      Thanks Rob, good points. I agree even minimalists will have stuff they need space for. On the other hand as you said you can rent equipment etc and find ways to not acquire so much. Or you can leave it at a friend’s shed/garage or something like that :D

      Reply Link
  • curt January 24, 2014, 10:57 pm

    I did get a kick out of the sheds- a interesting Idea- liked the sloped live roof facing into the yard not out onto the alley- I saw those roofs and thought strawberry plants. a gas fireplace I could see- Radiant heat in the floor. some solar electric panels. The bamboo in galvanized livestock tanks. A little bit bigger kitchen- cooking is a hobby. With the bamboo- and the rainwater being funneled into it-how do you handle the leaching away of nutrients in the soil? With enough organic matter in the containers I can imagine they would soak up a lot of water. Another option is turn the footprint of the sheds into a alley rental house to cover the taxes and utilities…

    Reply Link
    • Alex Pino January 26, 2014, 9:03 am

      I like the sheds along with your other ideas too. Thanks Curt!

      Reply Link
  • Les. Scanlan January 24, 2014, 11:03 pm

    A lot of money,,,, not for us pore folks,,,, but Annie design,,, love the floor to ceiling windows,,,

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  • Les Gibson January 25, 2014, 1:02 am

    The problem I see is I see patio homes, small lot 2 car garage full of stuff with 2 or three cars, at least one n the street. We love our “stuff”

    Reply Link
  • Kathy Perilloux January 25, 2014, 10:35 am

    Of all the emails I get….
    I look forward to Tiny House….. THANK YOU!
    It helps to keep my creative juices flowing and always some interesting idea I can incorporate into my future ‘project’.

    Reply Link
    • Alex Pino January 25, 2014, 10:41 am

      Thanks Kathy!! :)

      Reply Link
  • John January 26, 2014, 7:10 am

    The NYT post on FB for this article got 20k likes and almost a thousand comments. Hit a nerve. So many people commented on kids when it’s apparent from the article though never explicitly stated that this couple doesn’t plan to have kids.

    Also lots of mean spirited comments like trust fund babies, not green at all, get an apartment, etc… If ya can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all, but it’s FB.

    Reply Link
    • Cahow January 27, 2014, 10:21 am

      John: I couldn’t agree more with you about the NASTY ARSE comments about this couple’s lifestyle choice. I have loads of friends who never procreated but, and this is a BIG but, they use that time to do extensive and exhausting volunteer work for OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS who don’t have the time or money to help their own progeny. One couple I know: the man volunteers three times a week in a literacy program for disadvantaged youth and the wife volunteers four times a week at Children’s Memorial Hospital in the Aid’s section, no less!

      Trust fund babies???? Hardly. And if they happened to actually BE trustfunder’s, so what?! That just means they come from a family or families that did well and passed that legacy to their own children, now grown up.

      So many bitter people out there; I count it up to sheer jealousy! pfffftttt…

      Reply Link
  • cahow January 27, 2014, 10:14 am

    Clovis Smith: your comment is one of the MEANEST replies I’ve ever seen on Alex’s site. Boo, to you!

    Reply Link
  • Sidney February 5, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Two things I would like to see are a street elevation, ie how the house fits in the neighborhood, and a picture of the bathroom. With all the ceiling height, they probably could have added a loft above their sleeping area which would have given them more useable space. This sort of design probably works better in southern California to take advantage of all the outdoor living space.

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  • Edwin April 11, 2014, 6:08 am

    Cahow, I think it more about people that can’t afford to pay for a large house, it’s more for people that don’t want to owe or have hundreds of thousands in debit. I know I could not afford a new home costing $200,000.00, so I will have to down size to a smaller home. I don’t think 130 sq. but around 5-600 sq. would work for me.

    Reply Link
  • Keith G April 11, 2014, 12:07 pm

    Really a nice package, regardless of whether it’s what I’d choose or not. Not too big, not too small, and I do like the separate “out buildings.” I know that for some this is a no-go (like the folks who said they were in Michigan, with subzero temps and snowdrifts!), but my folks had a place with a detached garage where my dad’s shop was, with an extra “apartment” above that (never finished), and a separate building where the laundry was, separated from the main house by the cedar deck out back. That’s probably not ideal for a laundry room, but it’s the best they could do, it was a prebuilt house they bought and they repurposed as well as they could.

    The couple of things I’d like to have seen in the slide show or the articles are before and after pictures of the setting, the way the house sits and appears in the neighborhood. They didn’t show any pictures of the street-side of the house, which I always like to see. Maybe they omitted this deliberately so the owners could retain a little privacy. Still, I’d like to see how it looks on that side, and how it looks next to the other houses around it.

    Reply Link
  • Scotty s September 28, 2014, 10:58 pm

    I applaud the small footprint, but 135k? Big price tag for small living.

    Reply Link

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