The Cabin: Making the Best Use of Limited Square Footage

Last week, I told you about my parents' cabin by the river and showed you pictures of what it looked like when they bought it. If you haven't seen it yet, click here to see last week's post! It's definitely a fixer upper.

And that fixing is starting with the floor plan.

SSDC The Cabin Floor plan Before

The cabin tops out at a whopping 640 square feet. There were plenty of things wrong with the way the cabin's floor plan was laid out. For example, while it did have two rooms with their own doors and closets, it was only listed as a 1 bedroom. I'm guessing because the smaller bedroom was just too small to fit anything bigger than a crib or toddler bed into, they didn't count it. 

It was listed as a 1 bathroom though, which was not entirely true. It was actually a 3/4 bathroom (a bathroom with just a shower). The bathroom was probably only 30-32" in width, just enough to fit the smallest stand-up shower I'd ever seen. Plus, the cabin has no basement so the bathroom also housed the hot water heater. With the way the fixtures were laid out, if you sat on the toilet your feet would practically be in the shower and your thigh would be touching the hot water heater. There were many more problems, which I have outlined for you on this snazzy little diagram.

The Cabin Layout Problems

Now, we could have solved all these problems pretty easily but just ripping off the back of the house and expanding it with a 20-foot addition. But what's the fun in that? Budget-wise, it made much more sense to work with the square footage that we already had. It was up to me to come up with a plan for how to maximize the existing footprint. 

To me, the biggest problem was that the rooms were divided in such a way that there was no separation between private and public zones. In interior design, we talk about public zones as being spaces used for gathering and entertaining (like kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, etc.) and private zones being bedrooms and bathrooms. Rule number 1: It's not comfortable to use a bathroom that is only four feet away from the living room. Especially when said bathroom has paper-thin walls that don't even go up the the ceiling. I knew I could come up with a way to better divide the space into the proper zones, while also increasing the functionality and usability of the limited square footage. 

Cabin Floor plan Solutions

The change that made the biggest difference (and took the most convincing!) was eliminating the second bedroom. There was no way to fit two functionally sized bedrooms with enough storage space into the existing footprint. I would much rather have one nice bedroom than two that are too small to even fit a dresser into. And because the property was already classified as a one bedroom, we weren't losing anything from a value standpoint. By eliminating the second bedroom, I was able to create a floor plan that maximized the square footage with a new open concept kitchen, dining and living space, a full bathroom (with a bathtub!), a space for laundry and a nice sized master bedroom. 

The Cabin Floor Plan After

In case you are wondering where the hot water heater went, it was relocated to just outside of the house in a newly built (and insulated) utility shed. To give you some context, here's an image of the old floor plan overlaid onto the new plan. (Old floor plan is in blue).

Cabin Floor Plan Old vs New

What do you think of the new layout? Could you imagine yourself living in a tiny house like this? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Disclaimer: These drawings are quick conceptual sketches, not scaled architectural drawings. These drawings are simply meant to illustrate the existing conditions and space planning solutions that I created for this project.  These drawings were also done from memory, so not all details are 100% correct when you compare them with the photos I found for last week's post. 

The Little Cabin by the River

Around this time last year, my Dad noticed a property not too far from his farm hit the market. It was a small log cabin, built in the 1960's that was listed as a foreclosure. On a wintery afternoon, we drove the mile or so to check it out. At this point, I think my father already had it in his mind that he was going to buy it. He said he wanted to get my opinions on the place, but I think he was really hoping that I would fall in love with it and convince Anthony that we should move there. You see, my dad's dream in life is to have all of his kids and grandkids living within two miles of the farm. I told him it was a little too small and too far away from work for us, but I did fall in love with the potential of this tiny log cabin by the river. After some negotiating with the bank (which went like this: the property was listed for close to $80K. Dad decided he wouldn't pay a cent more than $40K, so despite rejections and counter-offers he just kept submitting the same $40K offer until the bank finally gave in and accepted it! This speaks volumes of my Dad's personality...) the property was theirs. 

There she is: the little cabin by the river. And by little, I mean  tiny --640 square feet to be exact.

There she is: the little cabin by the river. And by little, I mean tiny--640 square feet to be exact.

My parents are still not sure what they ultimately want to do with the cabin (rent it? sell it? keep it for the family? turn it into an airbnb destination?) but in the meantime, they've started the renovations. If you follow me on Instagram, you got a sneak peak at the progress 2 weeks ago.

It will still be several weeks until the renovations are complete, but in the meantime I'm sharing a photo tour of what the cabin looked like when my parents bought it. Because I don't think any of us thought to take before pictures, all of these photos were taken from the real estate listing. In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing more about the plans and progress of the cabin, so stay tuned!

Another exterior shot, which includes the garage. Believe it or not, this was a really nice (finished!) garage before the house went into foreclosure. All of the electrical wiring, aluminum roofing and siding was stripped and stolen. The leaves on the ground are hiding the concrete slab foundation, which is huge! I think the garage is actually larger than the house. 

Another exterior shot, which includes the garage. Believe it or not, this was a really nice (finished!) garage before the house went into foreclosure. All of the electrical wiring, aluminum roofing and siding was stripped and stolen. The leaves on the ground are hiding the concrete slab foundation, which is huge! I think the garage is actually larger than the house. 

Interior shot of the living room. Very dilapidated and dirty with warped wood (veneer) paneling BUT that fireplace, those original hardwood floors, the exposed beams? Character galore. 

Interior shot of the living room. Very dilapidated and dirty with warped wood (veneer) paneling BUT that fireplace, those original hardwood floors, the exposed beams? Character galore. 

The hallway *ahem* I mean, kitchen. Very narrow space. 

The hallway *ahem* I mean, kitchen. Very narrow space. 

The larger of the two bedrooms. Still quite small, but lots of light and those beautiful hardwood floors, again!

The larger of the two bedrooms. Still quite small, but lots of light and those beautiful hardwood floors, again!

So, do you think we are crazy? Or can you see the charm hiding under all those years of neglect? Sound off in the comments below!