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Janet’s 320 Square Foot Foundation Home on her Son’s Property


Janet got in touch to show us her lovely 320 square foot foundation home that was built as an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) on her son’s property in Danville, Kentucky.

Although this tiny home wasn’t Janet’s “Plan A” for a retirement home, it ended up being the best one, she says. Now she lives in her happy L-shaped home just steps from her son and teenage granddaughters. She cooks family meals a couple times a week and yet has her own private space.

Thankfully Danville recently allowed for ADUs, giving Janet this great option for retirement! See pictures of her home and read her story at the end of the post.

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Janet’s Retirement Accessory Dwelling Unit in KY

Janet’s 320 Square Foot Foundation Home on her Son’s Property 6

Images via Janet

A deck helps extend the living space outdoors.

Janet’s 320 Square Foot Foundation Home on her Son’s Property 5

Images via Janet

Her kitchen with all she needs to cook family meals.

Janet’s 320 Square Foot Foundation Home on her Son’s Property 3

Images via Janet

Her bathroom behind a pocket door.

Janet’s 320 Square Foot Foundation Home on her Son’s Property 1

Images via Janet

Her daybed and bedroom corner.

Janet’s 320 Square Foot Foundation Home on her Son’s Property

Images via Janet

Janet Shares Her Story:

Construction started in Jan. ’20 and I moved in Sept. 1 while a few outdoor details were being finished up. Building is in my son’s yard, next door to his family’s house in Danville, KY. I’m 75 and I retired in Danville seven years ago when I moved here from Nashville, TN. Until this home was built I’d been living in local apartments after selling my owned home and rental properties in Nashville.

My place has been lovingly financed and built by my son and his wife after being unsuccessful finding an affordable home with mother-in-law apt. and when zoning in our county made for ADU construction. It’s on a foundation with a crawl space.

Constructed by local builder, Dennis Palmer, who worked with us. He said he’d never built anything smaller than a duplex but he was pretty open to adjustments. Total cost for basic construction was $60K. All the adjustments, (transom windows, bamboo flooring, window door, storm doors, front stoop, back deck, paved drive/needed expansion and new appliances and furniture etc.) brought the total cost closer to $75K. All appliances/unique furniture came from Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, IKEA, Overstock and Wayfair…everything delivered on time and working!! 320 Sq ft., Interior dimensions are 16X20 ft., basically an ‘L’ shaped room with the small bathroom, (using a pocket door) in the SE corner.

All electric and on grid. Garage is used by my son for his vehicle and workshop. I do have a stacked full size washer/dryer unit and water heater in the garage. All of the rest of my belongings are inside this home and a small storage building on the back deck. Mini split for heat/ac. Smaller size but full range and frig. No dishwasher. Small bathroom with tiled shower, flush toilet and sink cabinet…also high ceiling and walls for shelves for plants, and a small ‘loft’ storage. Sleeping area is on the main floor.

I’m two steps from my son and his family but have plenty of privacy. I have their lovely yard and two teenage granddaughters to enjoy and they do all the yard work.

There’s a very small but easy to use ‘U’ shaped kitchen. I love to cook and bake and I serve meals to the family about twice a week. I bought the IKEA ‘gate leg’ table that’s next to the kitchen range (with wheel casters added for ease of movement) and it can be kept small or opened up half or completely for more work space. My love seat has a storage for my knitting, the side chair adjusts to recline or even to fold down into a twin bed, (more ‘cot’ sized). My coffee table has a convertible top and storage that holds all my ‘desk’ items except my printer/stand. My ‘day bed’ has lower drawers, caster wheels, (we attached) and open shelves in back that I store items in that I don’t use often… hanging clothes in a nice wardrobe with sliding doors and a bureau and two bookshelves I brought with me.

I’m very happy living here in Danville. I enjoy living next to my son. We borrow and use each other’s tools and kitchen items. To move here I did as most do, I made another major downsize…again, my third since divorcing and moving from the family home in the mid ’90s. Retiring here in Danville was ‘Plan C’ ….which is what happens when you retire ‘on plan’ and the economy just plunged. Plan ‘A’ was purchasing a ‘co-housing’ unit in Denver near my sister and plan ‘B’ was a new co-housing I helped plan in Nashville. However, this present plan has turned out to be the best. This home includes a lot of the reasons I loved the co-housing plan…small footprint plus sharing and being in community with others. I’ve loved Danville since I moved here a couple of years after the kids settled here. I’d never lived in a small town before. I’d lived in large urban areas and in remote rural areas (where we did all DYI, partially off grid, chopped all our cooking/heating wood, gathered eggs and grew most of our own food), and I’ve been very happy running into the same folks over and over here.

I found a lot of advice and tips from your newsletter, even as many of the features were folks with varying situations, finances, abilities and styles. I think I’ve read every one of them and I still do. Despite lots of research we found it really had to just all come together as I moved in….only so much could be figured out on graph paper.

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Our big thanks to Janet for sharing! 🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Brenda Foster
    December 28, 2020, 8:40 am

    Sometimes life shuffles our cards and makes “Plan C,” the real the “Plan A,” and that can work better than we thought. Janet appears to have made the decisions and adjustments needed to settle into her own life-space. It is good when families can live close, yet feel they have their privacy. Best of both worlds.
    Her tiny house has lots of personality and comfort features, and the added deck is all that is needed to insure inside and outside living space. Well done.

    • janet pierce
      December 28, 2020, 9:10 am

      Thanks Brenda. You nailed it.

      • Amanda
        December 29, 2020, 7:39 am

        Nice home, Janet! I like your story and how you and your family made your choices even more.
        My very favorite bits are that you stay deeply connected with your family by cooking dinner a couple of times weekly–I hope you serve those meals at your house!
        What you said that struck me most: Only so much can be figured out on graph paper. I’ve been stuck almost a year between sketching my cabin-to-be, and getting off my, um, dime! I think you just knocked me loose. Thank tou!

        • Janet
          December 29, 2020, 5:58 pm

          You betcha…I serve here where we have just enough room to cozy up and eat. We’ll have a bit more room when the weather is better and we can use the deck. I get to eat at their place four evenings a week plus holidays and game days. Good luck with your plans. I hope we see you featured too.

  • Debbie in Texas
    December 28, 2020, 10:56 am

    This is a BEAUTIFUL little home! Everything was so well researched including what looks like no-maintenance composite decking. Maybe Trex?

    • Janet
      December 30, 2020, 3:04 pm

      Thanks Debbie. Yes the decking is composite. My son built it and I’m not sure what company’s product he went with. I can’t wait for the pretty weather.

      • James D.
        December 30, 2020, 4:21 pm

        Composite decking isn’t no-maintenance, just reduced maintenance. Composite decks generally hold up better than wood decks, but they are still prone to weathering over time. Being a composite, it also still has wood fibers that can degrade over time, leaving uncomfortable plastic fibers sticking out of your deck over time if you don’t maintain it. Intense heat can also melt the plastic and cycles of hot and cold can weaken the fasteners over time.

        Also, it can have different problems. Like composite can get much hotter than wood and require protective footwear, especially in warm climates where it can get a lot of sun exposure and you use darker tones for the deck color… Some composites are intended to be able to take stain and thus natural elements like leaves and sap may stain a composite deck, and homeowners who plan to grill on their deck may find that grease, barbecue sauce, ketchup and other food items can easily stain the surface as well. Contrary to the marketing, there is paint for composite decking to help cover up such stains and can be among the maintenance it can require… Composite materials that resemble real wood when installed may begin to look artificial if their color fades unevenly over time and can look more like plastic… Composite decking materials are weaker than natural wood, so they cannot support their own weight and may begin to sag if they are not properly supported… If you can’t keep the decking shaded then the sun can damage it over time as it will degrade the plastic but you can paint it to help protect it…

        A nice shaded area, though, with a little maintenance, can last a really long time but it’s not invulnerable and you’re likely still going to want to replace it after 15-25 years…

        • Janet
          December 30, 2020, 8:05 pm

          Thanks for the information James. Good to know. I’d heard it heats up in the sun. There’s a fair amount of shade there and I’m planning to put an awning over it after the seasons change and I’ll keep these thoughts in mind. I’m sure I’ll be eating some meals out there, so good to know about any spills causing stains…my son is the grill master, so no grills planned.

  • Michael L
    December 28, 2020, 5:54 pm

    Janet… Your home is beautiful! I know it takes some adjusting to live tiny bit it’s well worth it. I’ve been in my tiny cottage, all 312 sq ft of it, for 5 years now and still living it. Wishing you blessings!

    • janet pierce
      December 28, 2020, 6:20 pm

      Thank you Michael.
      So far I’m enjoying the adjusting well. Thanks for the encouragement. I’d love to see your place too.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      December 29, 2020, 2:25 pm

      Hi Michael! Have we ever featured your home?

  • Lee Baldwin
    December 28, 2020, 6:30 pm

    It was really lovely of you to lay out the process of how you downsized and discarded your other options. These are such difficult decisions, especially when they are dependent upon others and the overall economy. I’m glad you are happy with the results and that they are working for you and your family. I’m sure you bring great peace and pleasure to your family, and they to you. I do have a design question: I’ve noticed minisplits being used in sleeping lofts and now in your daybed nook. Do you notice the draft of the cold or the sound of the unit in either mode? Thanks for helping me with my own design concerns!

    • janet pierce
      December 29, 2020, 5:47 pm

      I’ll add that the sound of the unit is nothing as loud as a window ac…more like a similar unit at a motel room.

  • Janet
    December 28, 2020, 9:59 pm

    Hi Lee,
    Yes, I really do love my place but yes there are always trade offs.
    My minisplit does make some noise. It’s been quite cold this past week and it’s kicks on regularly with enough noise for me to need to cut the tv or radio up a notch. It’s kept me nice and warm.
    I tend to ignore such things but not everyone does or can. I once got used to living near railroad tracks. I don’t notice a draft at all but it I put my hand up to it I can feel some air being sucked in.
    One good thing about the mini split is that it actually recycles my air. Living in such a small space and also enjoying cooking means that odors can linger. There was no requirement for a vent over the stove and although I’m careful to not let food burn, (mostly to not set off the smoke alarm) I’ve noticed that the mini split actually does take care of the air. After all, it’s all one room and the mini split sucks the air in…from just a few feet away and runs it through a fine screen…a finer screen than I ever had in a normal hood vent.
    I have a nice cross ventilation from screened windows in my doors and windows during nice weather. I’m still adjusting and getting used to it all. Thanks for asking and I’m glad to answer more about this or anything else you may be working on.

  • Brenda Foster
    December 29, 2020, 8:22 am

    I comment earlier about Janet’s home. Now wanted to comment on Amanda’s “stuck” situation, (and anyone else who is stuck,) when designing plans on paper, and we all have been there. Sketching on paper helps, but I found that sitting in the space and inhaling the energy and visualizing, for me, worked well. I eventually moved doors and windows, and set things up from physically being in the space itself. The view dictated the placement of the bed, the doors, the windows, etc. Not everyone has the space before the design, and if you do, that is a bonus. Both Janet and I had that good fortune.

    I was designing a cabin in the woods, so foundation, drainage, roof selection was important. Once I knew what the elements would be, and knew I wanted real wood all around to blend in with the forest, the rest was fun. My needs never changed, but my placement, adds and deletes were reworked, as it morphed into a cabin far more beautiful than what I drew on paper. Relax, enjoy, and let you inherent hidden talents have reign over process and it will end up being entirely yours, and to your liking. Make it fun, not a chore. Good luck.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      December 29, 2020, 2:21 pm

      Love this advice, Brenda!

  • Amanda
    December 29, 2020, 9:13 am

    Thank you Brenda. Those are great ideas. I appreciate your shares.

  • Alex
    January 8, 2021, 12:38 pm

    Janet, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful home!

    • Janet
      January 8, 2021, 3:41 pm

      You’re welcome.

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