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Couple Rightsize into DIY 520 Sq. Ft. Whimsical Cottage

Straight out of a storybook this sweet little whimsical cottage is a dream come true for Sue Corl and her husband Ron.

The cottages’ design, look and feel was based on Sue’s childhood dream of having a tiny cottage just like Rudolph, Hermey & Yukon Cornelius (from the Classic cartoon Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer).

Thus the name of their tiny home, “The Rudolph Cottage“.

Ron and Sue have been living tiny for over 28 years. After living in a 200 sq. ft. travel trailer for seven years with their two cats and a large dog they decided it was time to up-size (or should I say ‘right-size’?).

So they bought 30 acres of beautiful lush woodland amongst the largest Amish community in central Ohio.

Then they spent over 2 years gathering the perfect materials to create this whimsical fantasy tiny house Sue always dreamed of.

Let’s check it out while I tell you the rest of their very inspiring simple living story…

Couple Build Their Own 520 Sq. Ft. Cottage to Upsize from 200 Sq. Ft. Trailer

Ron and Sue having been living in their whimsical 520 sq ft cottage since 2007.

Their creative style demonstrates you do not have to just be in a tiny box to enjoy this type of lifestyle.

You can make it a magical little retreat that can be enjoyed everyday in whatever amount of space is right for you.

Take your time with this one and pay attention to all the details of this little cottage because there are so many hidden gems within this house.

The first time I stumbled upon this I had to go back and look at the pictures again and again.


They were able to find funky materials from Craigslist, yard sales and local auctions.

They even got their windows for only $5…

Many of the wooden posts to build the foundation were made by cutting down trees on the property, having them dried and cut to the perfect size.


Front Porch with Hand-made Rocking Chairs


After 5 years Ron and Sue have completed their ‘new’ yet ‘reclaimed’ tiny cottage.

Every piece of wood was custom cut and molded to fit this project.

The entire house was built and designed by Ron who is a furniture designer.

He said, “My approach was to build the largest cabinet I have ever built!”

7’x8′ Kitchen with Retro Cabinets


Living Room


The main living space is 16’x12′ with a loft bedroom above.

Whimsical-Rudolph-Cottage-in-Amish-Country-07 Whimsical-Rudolph-Cottage-in-Amish-Country-08

Tea Time in the Cottage

Whimsical-Rudolph-Cottage-in-Amish-Country-09 Whimsical-Rudolph-Cottage-in-Amish-Country-10

They started off using a ladder to get to the loft but soon realized as they grew older that would not work.

So Ron designed and built what seems to be the perfect staircase and then his wife Sue painted it just how she liked it. And it looks marvelous, doesn’t it?


Stairs to Loft Bedroom


Both Ron and Sue are artists so they decided this house would be their platte. I think they did an amazing job (even though all that matters is that they like it, right?).


Funky Painted Ceiling in Bedroom


Coming from a tiny camper bathroom they decided to splurge on their new bathroom.

This 9’x9′ bathroom has siding made from 100 year old boards and a 1940s sink.

The inspiration for this bathroom was to have the look and feel of an old back porch.


Why wouldn’t you put a mini chandelier in your bathroom? Absolutely love this space.


Ron’s Custom-Made Composting Toilet


Images © Randy Fath for Shiny Tiny Mansion

A look back in time… A few moments of the building process.


The total raw materials and utility hook up costs were around $18,000.

However that doesn’t include the 1300+ hours of labor, sweat, blood and tears that went into building this sweet little gem.

For Ron and Sue moving into this 520 sq. ft. cottage probably felt like moving into a mansion after being in a 1968 camper for 7 years.

Now they have started their own tiny lifestyle journey online through their blog Shiny Tiny Mansion. And I believe they are working on a book, “The Little Book of Living Small”. I’ll keep you informed on when that’s released! For now go check them out!


If you liked this fantasy storybook cottage you’ll LOVE our Free Daily Tiny Housing Newsletter with even more!

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Andrea is a contributor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the Tiny House Newsletter! She has a passion for sharing tiny and small house stories and introducing you to new people, ideas, and homes.
{ 60 comments… add one }
  • Cahow
    July 8, 2014, 2:42 pm

    Hi, Andrea! I think you’re Alex’s sweetie, correct? Nice that the two of you share this passion. ^..^<

    I love 100% of everything about this cottage, including the vast amount of photos. So often, we as voyeurs, are left "hanging" because there's a myriad display of doorknob photos and close up's of books but nary a shot of the loo/kitchen/or loft-bedroom area. These photos will satisfy the grumpiest of viewers!

    Really appreciate, as an architect, the cost vs. labor breakdown: $18,000 in billable cost but 1,300+ labor hours @ $100/hr = $130,000 additional sum to the house, totaling $148,000, which is about right if this was built by a contractor and Turn Key Ready. Of course, an artist married to a carpenter have it lucky; not so much if it were a bank teller married to a UPS driver! LOL

    And Andrea, LOVE your cute statement of "Why wouldn’t you put a mini chandelier in your bathroom?" I so agree!

    Lovely addition to my Tiny House folder I keep for personal dreaming and inspiration. Well done, everyone!

    • Alex
      July 9, 2014, 6:35 pm

      Andrea’s doing a yoga class right now so I just had to reply first, Lol! Yes- she’s my sweetie.

      And I just love this house too! Andrea and I both agreed we would live in it very happily.

      Oh- and thanks for the est. break down of costs- that’s really helpful to have laid out for all of us to see.

      • Cahow
        July 10, 2014, 10:58 am

        Hello, Alex! 😀 You beat Andrea to the keyboard…cheeky devil, you are. 😉

        You’re welcome for the cost analysis; of course, different parts of the U.S. with varying labor rates will raise or lower the cost but it’s an estimate. My hubby and I have too many kith and kin living within driving range of our cottage, so something this small would not work for us. However, if we were childless or had kids with no children, it would do in a pinch, especially if you tossed on a nice screened in porch with cots for overnight/weekend stays. As it is, during this past 4th of July holiday, we had 12 people staying at our 800 sq.ft. cottage (with ONE bathroom) and it was ever-so-slightly claustrophobic by the last day of holiday. Luckily, the weather was sublime so all the youngin’s pitched tents in the back garden and “camped” out with shouting distance of the microwave/loo/and Wi-Fi. LOL

        I’m sure that if a tour was provided of this charmer, we’d get to truly enjoy the master craftsmanship that a cabinet maker and artist poured into constructing it. I must say, I deeply admire his ability to zero in on being able to come up with a plan and commit to it. Usually, when a person is creating something for themselves with their own talent, they stall out because they have TOO many ideas, not too little! At least that’s the case with all the artists/craftspeople that I know, myself included. I’d have to hire someone else to do radical improvements to our cottage because I’d spend more time at the drafts board than with a hammer. LOL

        Chalk it up to the “Shoemaker’s Children Syndrome.”

    • July 10, 2014, 1:03 pm

      Hi Cahow,
      I can’t agree more on every aspect of your comments. You beat me to the punch on thanking Andrea – she makes a cottage look good!

      We see all the time about folks saying they built their home for 10k-20k by themselves, but you gotta count your time into the equation. One may be able to build a 200SF Tiny home on wheels in a week or so but not a house with some kind of foundation.

      I will say that here in central Ohio, my Amish friends gather together and can build a HUGE barn in a weekend. It may take them 2 – 12 hour days, but there will be 100 of them and most of the bents have been pre-built or at least had the joinery cut before they start. So we are at 1200 man-hours plus the joinery cutting which could easily take another 100 hours or more. They do it for free but when it’s time for their new barn, the same thing happens. It’s a fair trade and in essence, the labor is still accounted for by barter.

      We have the cottage insured for 100K but you’re right, it’s probably not enough. If we would have paid full price for the materials, we couldn’t have begun to afford this place. And then there’s the price of the land that no one seems to mention. I don’t want to live in a 200SF camper on wheels. We did that for 6 years!

      We have 30 acres that we purchased from my family back in 1998. It was overgrown and had no structures or even a camper. We paid $500 an acre which was a fair price at the time. So we had $15k in the place before I bought a 2×4. Now we have lovely fracking all around us and we could never afford to buy here now! We may soon have no good spring water to drink, but so many are enchanted with the money and the trust that all will be alright 🙁

      To us, the idea is to build small, not cheap. Instead of spending 250K on a 2500SF McBoring home, spend $120K on a smaller home and buy the top of the line everything. Then have lower utility bills and upkeep and save the money for good food and wine on your same income – give yourself a raise! That’s the way we live and it works great for us.

      Cheers and thanks again to Andrea and Alex for sharing our cottage on tinyhousetalk.com – Ron

      • PJ
        May 13, 2015, 4:44 pm

        Just finishing up a studio apt. made from a garage/shop 30′ x 30′, with a single garage left on one side, so living space is around 550sq. ‘. Cost ballooned, even tho the building was already there, and on a good foundation. Had to install new septic system first, then found all siding had to be replaced. Probably have over $60000 in it by now. It is a beauty though, and I would love to share pictures when it is finished. Building costs in this area are much lower than in other areas, and this is out of city limits.

      • May 15, 2015, 12:12 pm

        Hey PJ,
        I would love to see those pics. Send them over to [email protected]

  • Marsha Cowan
    July 8, 2014, 3:22 pm

    I am soooooo jealous! It is a fabulous little house! Great article!

    • Alex
      July 9, 2014, 6:35 pm

      Thanks Marsha so glad you liked it (and the reading, too!)

    • Marsha Cowan
      October 13, 2016, 2:25 pm

      Just want to add. . .this is the house that could easily become the “go to” place for gatherings because it is so unique and cozy and warm and inviting.

  • Brian
    July 8, 2014, 5:28 pm

    This is a very Happy house. Love it to death and it brings back memories of times gone by. Beautifully decorated in a style I love but don’t have. Thankyou so much for sharing your superb home.

    • July 10, 2014, 1:06 pm

      Thanks Brian,
      We draw from the past for sure and bring back some of that kitsch from the 60’s/70’s. Glad you like it! Ron

  • carriLve the stairwaye
    July 8, 2014, 9:11 pm

    love the stairway and the size of the house…..pack up the clutter and stifle the colors………

    • July 10, 2014, 1:14 pm

      Hi Carri,
      We are both artists and color is what we live for. We like homes that are more Zen and sterile but it’s not how we truly live – and honestly most folks don’t. They just pick everything up for the photo shoot so everything looks perfect and clean. We decided to show the real deal. We swept and arranged pillows. We use the recycling bins and the hose almost everyday and there they are. We have no control over the cats and as Sophie hid, Vlad is more Hollywood, so he shows up in the pics, LOL!
      Lately I’ve been saying the opposite of most designers – “put color on all the big stuff and throw in some splashes of calming white!”
      Cheers, Ron

  • Ruth Vallejos
    July 9, 2014, 10:23 pm

    This house is a joy. For those who find it too busy, that’s OK – this site has featured plenty of simpler houses for your tastes.

    I especially like the raw board edge siding. Really very nice as a detail.

    I like the stair – I’d advise as you get older to add a handrail for stability.

    • July 10, 2014, 1:21 pm

      Hi Ruth,
      Glad you like the cottage! The siding was a labor of love for me. I had our local sawmill cut one side of the log flat and then leave the other side to follow the tree’s shape. It’s called “live-edge” and has become popular in furniture lately (actually George Nakashima was doing it in the 50’s/60’s). Each piece was cut by hand 4 times by following the edge with a roller bearing, router bit, first a straight one and then an angled one. Took my nephew and I 2 days but in the end it was the effect I wanted.

      The staircase does have a handrail all the way up on the left side. I could put one on the right too but we don’t need it yet – soon – but not yet 😉
      Cheers, Ron

  • AL
    July 10, 2014, 12:28 am

    Looks roomy for how small it is…I like it..much larger than an average apartment!

    • May 14, 2015, 1:17 pm

      Hi Al,
      According to industry magazine and site MultiFamily Executive in 2013 the average apartment size in the us was over 900SF. The trend is smaller in most larger cities but less than 500SF is still way small by US standards. If I was building Shiny Tiny again, it would be an even more open floor plan 😉

  • Dan Giarad
    July 11, 2014, 10:26 am

    Awesome place. I’m beginning the process myself, with a 5 year plan to finish. Would you mind giving me your dimensions for the foundation? Plan to build that this fall, hopefully having it closed in by winter. As I live in the New England area
    Dan Girard

  • comet
    August 13, 2014, 1:27 pm

    Soooooo cute! And SOOOOO nice to see that REAL PEOPLE with REAL THINGS live here–not sterile robots. I always wonder–who ARE these people with NO stuff? I don’t mean 1000 hoarded boxes of diapers for a family with no kids. I DO mean–there was mouthwash on that lovely sink! We all use mouthwash and etc and you have to wonder–Where do they put all that stuff? Maybe they snap off a twig from outside but—-

    Do they all heave it into a basket and stash it out side when the photogs come?

    I LOVE that Hoosier!!!!!!

    And thanks for pointing out how the Amish are able to do the amazing barn or house raisings–we have a new Amish community (an offshoot of one about 50 miles from here) and I for one am THRILLED at the thought of our FARMLAND being preserved and valued. I am looking forward to seeing these new families re-surrect what in a lot of cases we have lost here–the gorgeous big barns, the slower pace, the hand work.

    For years I said–Let’s go talk to the Amish and get THEM to come and buy these fertile vacant farms! And guess what–one fine day they DID just that!

    • May 14, 2015, 1:21 pm

      Hi Comet,
      The only thing about Amish moving in is that land prices will go up as they buy up more and more. That’s great for land value but not so great for taxes 😉 Also, buggies are charming but after a while, it can be frustrating when you are trying to go the speed limit to get to the store and you have to slow down to their pace before you can pass 😉
      Thanks for the props on living in reality. When we took the pics, I insisted they weren’t staged (although we did tidy up a bit, LOL)

  • shelly
    September 1, 2014, 12:23 am

    what kind of building permits, plumbers, etc. love the color and nooks and crannies.

    • May 14, 2015, 1:26 pm

      Hi Shelly,
      We live so far out that we had no building permits, however, I mostly still followed national codes for safety. I did all the work myself (except the shingles) but I have been in the trades in one form or another for decades. It sounds great for a DIY’er because it’s so small, but there is a lot of know how that goes into a safe and water tight structure 😉

  • Andrea Hardy
    October 14, 2014, 8:17 pm

    this house is a true original and visually appealing to me–love it!

  • May 13, 2015, 11:46 am

    This is one of the best tiny houses yet.Perfect size and brings the past alive.I love the decorating style, on a scale of 1 to 10 I give it a 20.Great job!

    • May 14, 2015, 1:28 pm

      Thank you Rita! It’s not for everyone, but for those not afraid of color and whimsy . . . 😉

  • Timothy Harris
    May 13, 2015, 11:59 am

    Love the house, way too many trinkets and stuff, but thats just my taste , outside of that I love it.

    • May 14, 2015, 1:38 pm

      Thanks for being moved enough to comment Timothy!
      “We are both artists and thrive on color and stimulation. Without it, we find our senses bored. Much of this “collection” is passed down from family members so to us, it has more meaning than simply clutter. If we were to sell our home, we would “de-personalize” it because we know our taste is not for everyone.”

      Shiny Tiny causes such a strong reaction that I simply copy and paste the above. As artists, the best we can hope for is reaction and we get it.

      Thanks and if you are ever in central Ohio, contact me to see it in person and judge for yourself in real life instead of just pics ~ Cheers 😉

  • Mardee
    May 13, 2015, 12:29 pm

    I love this one…..I would change a few things but other then that I love it

    • May 14, 2015, 1:39 pm

      Thanks Mardee ~ we would change a few things too, LOL!!

    May 13, 2015, 1:10 pm

    What is in the building out back? Curious?,,, and one thought, if those nice stairs had hinged lids,think of all the storage space for more collections~! Loved and enjoyed this one~! Jan

    • May 14, 2015, 1:41 pm

      Hey Jan,
      The building out back is a storage shed for garden tools, bikes, and staging I use with my custom furniture. The lean-to attached to it is Sue’s Studio. It’s about 9 x13.

  • Eva
    May 13, 2015, 1:42 pm

    Love the color. With all those little objects scattered all over the place it does NOT look cluttered at all. It looks like the home of folks who love life and love their home. Thanks for all the inspiring photos.

    • May 14, 2015, 1:43 pm

      Hi Eva,
      Thanks for your lovely comments 🙂 We do love our life and home, but just like in normal size homes, things break and wear out and need repaired. Life isn’t all fantasy in a Tiny ~ just smaller!!

  • matt
    May 13, 2015, 3:11 pm

    I’d like to know how all of these DIYers are getting around the permits/codes seemingly so easily. I’ve been building and working for a contractor for years but I hold no licenses (just an hvac technology certificate) and that’s what scares me most about starting a build, getting shut down on some stupid government technicality. Personally I think it’s a violation of natural law, humans were meant to construct and build just as we were meant to breathe

    • May 14, 2015, 1:47 pm

      Hey Matt,
      We live so far out in the country that there were no building permits and that’s the key. It’s a dichotomy though, because I agree with you about “humans were meant to construct and build just as we were meant to breathe”, but without experience, building a DIY home to live in can be VERY dangerous. You gotta know the basics or hire folks who do. I have seen some DIY homes that I was scared to walk into!! Construction can be learned fairly easily but it takes time and most don;t want to take the time.

      • matt
        May 14, 2015, 9:11 pm

        We have a lot in the country we’d like to build on. It has a slab from where a house burned and I was planning on building pier and beam on it, but the other day we realized it was collapsing :/ I agree, code is a double edged sword and usually I’d have little negative to say about it, however it seems to be becoming a tool to reign in those wishing to live a more simple, fiscal, off grid life style.

      • May 15, 2015, 12:15 pm

        I agree Matt,
        Building on a crumbling foundation isn’t a good idea since it’s what supports everything. That sucks though. Can you dig just outside it and let the existing slab just be a weed barrier? 😉 So you still have codes out where your land is? We don’t even have a building department!

  • Tammy
    May 13, 2015, 4:51 pm

    This is the best tiny home I’ve ever seen! I love this!

  • Mark
    May 13, 2015, 7:21 pm

    .. That house seems like it has everything and is just the right size .. I’m not a big fan of the colour scheme myself, but it’s built to their taste not mine of course ..

    • May 14, 2015, 1:53 pm

      What a joy it is to see a comment that is considerate. I always say don’t say on the internet what you wouldn’t say standing face to face. We know our taste is not for everyone ~ in fact, mostly, our taste is that of a 12 year old boy and girl ~ and that’s what makes the world go around. That and civility. Thank you Mark!!!

      • June 21, 2016, 4:31 pm

        Although I am an artist of the unprofessional variety, I love a lot of colour and patterns as well. I always make attempts at having a more subtle yet elegant home decor, but in the end I go with what is aesthetically appealing to my husband and myself…a lot of interesting textiles–my handmade quilts included, antique stained (and more current) stained glass windows and many colours throughout the house.
        I love your home. The harlequin ceiling design going up the stairs and continuing in the bedroom is fabulous and perhaps my favourite decorative design of the entire home. That bedroom is both unique and inviting.
        I enjoyed your comment that you and your wife are more like 12 year olds in your tastes because I’ve always referred to my husband and my tastes as being “free spirit gypsy style”.
        Again, I love your perfect sized home!

  • Susan Wong
    June 6, 2015, 10:27 am

    I love it, Ron! I’m an artist too and I find your house and palatte energizing. Thanks for showing your place “warts and all” with some real, albeit pretty adorable clutter. The bathroom chandelier is great.

    • June 6, 2015, 12:47 pm

      Thanks so much Susan;). It amazes me the emotion that our little home has raised. I designed and built it for us with no other aesthetic in mind, yet we have been shared around the world on many websites. The vast majority love it, but it can evoke feelings of overwhelm and downright hostility in others. I guess as an artist, I win!! Art is not remembered without provocation, LOL! Amazing to me that pics of a home actually lived in are so foreign to our senses that it elicits such emotion. But the media plays to our sense of perfection in life. Not attainable and not real. Leads to only disappointment and really boring looking white and grey houses. Cheers and thanks again!!

  • Robynne Catheron
    October 13, 2016, 12:32 pm

    Ron and Sue, your little home tickled me more than any other. I’ve seen glimpses of the interior- kitchen, stairs and bathroom- several times on different sites, and the pictures always made me smile. I’m grinning like a schoolgirl today, seeing more views of the rooms! I’m feeling complete and unabashed joy and whimsy, and sighing with delight (and envy) at every photo. While my age has pushed me to downsize my beloved collections of knick-knack-dust-collectors, I thoroughly enjoy admiring yours; they’re thoughtfully placed, providing just the right pops of bright colors, and completing the whole retro-themed ambience. Shiny Tiny looks like a fun and happy home; a joyful combination of your daydreams and talents. I LOVE it! To me, it looks perfect in every way.

    October 14, 2016, 7:39 pm

    What a whimsical mountain tiny cottage, it’s really nice and I take my hat off to the couple for their build as well as their graciousness in sharing this beautiful cottage with us…! Thanks folks, I love it…!

  • Sam
    April 19, 2017, 7:01 pm

    Wonderful! I am a hand weaver, and I would so love to set a loom up in that living room and weave some great linen towels for that great kitchen.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 20, 2017, 4:08 am

      That’s so amazing that you are a weaver! What great handiwork 🙂

  • Suzanne
    April 19, 2017, 9:26 pm

    I makes me happy just looking at the photos. Imagine how I’d feel if I actually lived in such a beautiful place? I hope you have a very long and happy life in your beautiful little home. Love your cat. He/she must feel very snug and comfortable living there.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 20, 2017, 4:03 am

      Makes me happy to 🙂 Love seeing personality in these homes!

    May 3, 2017, 9:22 am

    I love every thing about this cottage. Just beautiful.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      May 3, 2017, 10:04 am

      It really is great!

  • Cris Y-D
    January 4, 2018, 3:09 pm

    You had me at the front porch. Then that 1st pic of the retro kitchen! I went right back to the late 50’s – early 60’s. I can smell the bread baking and the pickles canning! You two meld your talents and are so copasetic – love the setting outside, too! Congratulations on a job, no, not a job. On a beautiful creation!

  • Karen Blackburn
    May 15, 2018, 4:31 am

    Great house and nice to see a) a bedroom you can stand up in, bending over or crawling not so good as you age and b) a great sized shower. It is very difficult to use a tiny shower, especially as you age or gain mobility problems. Only query, why do all these tiny homes have such huge TV screens in them. As someone who gave up TV completely – only viewing odd special events on a computer in local library – I find the idea of wasting valuable space on a TV screen slightly incompatible with the tiny home theory, unless vital for work purposes eg: TV critic

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