After The Fire: Living in 351 Square Feet

Real Simple

Imagine coming home from a night out with friends, only to find your newly renovated house in flames. That's what happened to husband and wife, Natale & Ren, one night in their home of Ashley Falls, Massachusetts. Everything except the clothes on their back and their dogs were lost &mdash but rather than moving away or buying new, they decided to hold their ground, stay on their land and start new, and small.

Prior to the fire Natale had been given two small 1940s cottages &mdash he previously planned on converting them into a guest house or space for his private business, but now using these buildings for the home was the best way to start living on their land as soon as possible. By reusing these structures they were able to save money on living expenses and were able to build a separate workshop for Natale's business.

Here's how they managed to go small:

  • No Sacrificing: Ren maintained the amenities that mattered most to her, and figured out a way to make them fit: a claw-foot tub, queen sized bed and lots of counterspace were designed to have space in the new home.
  • Make the Most of Each Space: The couple analyzed how they actually use their spaces and designed for it, even if it was unconventional. They built a reading loft above the sofa in their bedroom, hung back to back clothing rods in a deep closet, and mounted a dish rack directly over the kitchen sink.
  • Downsize, Even If It's Inconvenient: During construction a window was installed in the wrong place. But the couple made the most of it &mdash a below counter mini fridge was used instead of a full size, which ensured that they only bought as much food as they could eat at a time, and none would go to waste. Additionally, the misplaced window had it's own advantage of extra sunlight that they weren't initially planning on.
  • Keep Only What Can Be Used: The only storage in the house is open shelving in the kitchen, a shared bedroom closet and nightstands. This meant reducing stuff by borrowing books, archiving bills and audio files on the computer, and constantly backing up using an external hard drive.

For more about the couple and their small space story, visit Real Simple.

(Images: William Waldron/Real Simple)