Natasha and Brett met in 2013, she was a designer at Anthropologie, he, a special needs worker. Brett is a dreamer and adventurer and Natasha is up for anything and is the one with the building experience. With Brett’s wanderlust and Natasha’s hands-on ability and willingness to make Brett’s dreams a reality, early in their marriage they set off on a series of DIY/tiny living projects. They renovated a Volkswagen transporter van dubbed ‘Wes Vanderson’, building out the interior living space and then quit their jobs so they could live in it for six months and travel across North America. After their foray into ‘van life,’ they sold their Volkswagen and bought a vintage Airstream. They christened it the ‘Tin Can Homestead’, and spent the next year and a bit building it out and living in it. Once city life and Seattle prices became too much for both of them they decided to sell the airstream and move across the country to start their next adventure; buying land & building out a homestead in Vermont. They named their property the Sugarhouse Homestead, in honor of a mossy old stone sugarhouse at the end of an old farmers road back in the woods of their property. They negotiated a deal with the sale to include a 166 sq foot shed. They spent a few months converting it into a dry cabin so they could live in it and are now hard at work finishing up their ceramic studio.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SPACE GENERALLY?
We’re in a 166 sq foot cabin on 11 acres of land in Vermont. We have electricity but no running water so I rigged up an off-grid plumbing set up and we carry water from our well.
HOW DO YOU TWO SPEND MOST OF YOUR TIME?
We spend a lot of time with our two Yorkies in our cabin, we make coffee and watch crappy TV go for little road trips counting fun antiques. We have a shared love of pottery and started making & selling it out of our airstream in Seattle while we were still living there. Now that we have our own land and our little cabin is fixed up and cozy, we have turned our attention to our ceramic studio. We’re currently wrapping up our build so we can re-launch our pottery business as a couple under the name Sugarhouse Ceramic Co. Currently, this is where we are pooling all our spare time and resources. We weren’t aware that Vermont had such an amazing maker culture when we moved here and we’re so excited to be a part of it.
WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR LIFESTYLE?
Brett’s favorite saying is “there’s no right way to live” and we both definitely subscribe to that theory. We both have a craving for beauty and adventure and freedom and if you’re not loaded, you have to find creative ways of pulling that off. For us that’s buying 10 acres without a house, living in a tiny cabin and building our little studio.
We like a simple lifestyle and honestly, we aren’t ballers. I’m an illustrator and Brett is a social worker, not exactly super lucrative trades. Living tiny allows us to live well on a smaller scale.
WHAT KIND OF OBSTACLES OR ROUGH SPOTS HAVE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME DURING YOUR DOWNSIZING JOURNEY?
Oh my gosh, seriously every obstacle. We moved across the country with everything we owned in the back of our pick-up truck, immediately made an offer on a property that was supposed to close within a month, and our closing took five months. We lived in Airbnb’s for six months as nomads and it was an absolute nightmare. We were bleeding money with our lawyer telling us every week, “any day now” so we could never get ourselves properly settled. It was such a hard time for us. And we got into our place so late in the year that winter was upon us before we had time to prepare. It was a rough six months but we’re so thankful now for our current cozy living situation.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT PART ABOUT LIVING TINY?
Having no bathroom. Our property closed too late in the year after the ground was already frozen so we couldn’t put in a bathroom. We have a portable-potty that we rent and we shower at the gym. Can’t wait until spring when we can break ground and get ourselves a stinking shower!
WHAT VALUES DROVE THE CHOICES YOU MADE IN CONSTRUCTING YOUR SPACE?
As an artist and designer, I place a pretty high emphasis upon aesthetics. I believe that no matter your living situation you can make the space around you beautiful.
HOW DIFFICULT WAS THE STOVE INSTALLATION PROCESS?
I talked to Nick about our needs for our wood stove and he suggested our stove size for our space. Our flue path went right up through the chimney we had installed earlier in the fall. We custom built a hearth by tiling a piece of plywood and then wrapping it in zinc so we could set our stove on top of a vintage fish crate. The installation was SO EASY, like amazingly so. We love the aesthetic, it’s such a classic, clean look and it fits so well into our little cabin. NO REGRETS! We love it.
HOW DO YOU USE YOUR STOVE?
Our stove works so well for heating our space. We use it to heat water to do dishes, keep a stack of blueberry pancakes warm while we cook, and melt butter on it when I’m baking. We heat with wood and in the colder points this fall, we were able to keep it rolling through most of the night and light a fire using leftover embers in the morning.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FUNNY STORIES ABOUT LEARNING TO USE YOUR WOOD STOVE SO FAR?
We were wood stove virgins before this and there’s definitely a learning curve involved in their use. We got good at building fires and can do it quickly and efficiently and keep them burning as long as we please. I also figured out that using a wide flat paintbrush to sweep all the coals down into the coal grate is a MAJOR game changer. I just make sure the coals are cool before I clean it out. We bought a cord of wood at the beginning of winter and have gone through maybe 1/6 of that? It’s an incredibly efficient stove.
ANY ADVICE FOR OTHERS CONTEMPLATING INSTALLING A SMALL STOVE IN A SIMILAR SPACE?
Use my paintbrush-as-a-broom ash sweeping trick, it works so well!
A major selling point of tiny house living is certainly the extra time for pursuing passions and creativity. Brett and Natasha have successfully created two tiny spaces and now focus on honing their pottery craft. We love their resilience and grit to make @sugarhousehomestead a dream come true. May we all be inspired to aim high and trust the process…
INTERESTED IN A SMALL STOVE FOR YOUR TINY SPACE?
Contact us on the form below and we can help you sort through all the details in getting the perfect stove and installation configuration for your unique space!