A 304-Square-Foot DIY Tiny House with a Greenhouse Bathroom Is Just One of the Reasons This Off-Grid Homestead Is a Dreamy Paradise
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Name: John and Fin Kernohan and some cats, dogs, and a pet chicken
Size: 304 square feet inside space.
Years lived in: 10 years, owned
Stuck inside for most of 2020, I’ve found myself fantasizing about dream houses. I’m extraordinarily lucky to live in a lovely New Orleans duplex, but my thoughts still drift to other romantic home types. Dream homes can mean a lot of different things to different people, and this week we’re touring all kinds, from an A-frame to an RV to living abroad and off the grid.
My boyfriend and I, like many others this year, used some of our quarantine time to work on our outdoor spaces, particularly our backyard and deck. We added
way too many more plants to our deck, purchased a hammock for relaxing, and planted veggies from seed. I think our total harvest was fewer than five zucchini, two tomatoes, and one bell pepper, but we were hooked. We now spend significant hours daydreaming about farming a homestead in the country on a few acres sprinkled with tiny houses, yurts, and goats. There just seems something so satisfying about the idea of being self-sustaining and enjoying nature quietly.
John and Fin Kernohan, founders of the United Tiny House Association, are living that dream and more. They have 16 acres nestled in Georgia’s Lake Country near Lake Oconee, which Fin says is known for its beautiful scenery, water sports, amazing wildlife, recreational areas, tournament fishing, historic landmarks, and more. Their home is called the “Beloved Cabin Tiny House Homestead & Stay,” and they own three tiny houses, a yurt, a skoolie, community houses, an outdoor bathing area, a custom-built dog run and separate catio, and other structures.
“Over 10 year ago, Fin suggested we leave the hustle and bustle of living between our two homes in London and Miami, but what she also had in mind was a life-altering journey we would passionately embrace and we’ve never looked back with any doubts or regrets,” explains John. “Not only did we leave our big city lives behind, but with Fin’s coaxing we built ourselves a beautifully small 304-square-foot tiny house from the empty shell of what is called a lofted-barn portable building. Vegetable gardens, fruit trees, sprawling forests, two winding creeks originating from natural springs, solar energy, methane biogas system for cooking, rainwater collection systems, and more, all make for our personal eco-friendly, off-grid paradise.”
There’s a lot to love on their 16 acres, but the couple has the most pride in the home and custom furniture they built with their own hands; with complete design control they were able to create an open, bright space with lots of widows, huge doors, and doorless cabinets. The open plan combined with a wall-free living space makes this tiny house cabin feel MUCH bigger and roomier than it looks.
“Storage in such a small space is key, so everything has been designed with storage and multiple-functionality in mind,” explains John. “The custom-built L-shaped sitting area in the living room also serves as two beds for guests and has an additional 32 square feet of storage space underneath. We also built a unique rustic farm style dining table on wheels, which doubles as John’s desk area. We can easily move the table out of the way when Fin has clients over for yoga and personal training sessions, and the underneath of this table has storage shelves for John’s printer, files, and dry foods.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: We have our own style that we call “Cozy Boho Dumpster Dive.” Our cabin and all our other tiny structures and DIY furniture have designs that are comfortable, romantic, functional, multipurpose-oriented, and we use A LOT of recycled, repurposed, and salvaged materials.
Inspiration: Fin – Inspiration comes to me from our lifestyle of living in a tiny space and having our off-grid, minimalist lifestyle. I’m always looking at ways we can incorporate the way we live with modern conveniences, comfort, and beauty; and then sharing my discoveries in each of the tiny homes we build here on our Beloved Cabin Tiny House Homestead & Stay. I also find inspiration in the beautiful achievements of others such as on Pinterest. And then of course in John… I love his ability to see things and say, “We can use ‘that’ to build ‘this.’”
John – I find inspiration in nature and our surrounding land. I like the patterns and images I see in wood, and how I can pull stone from the ground as each one has its own uniqueness in shape and color. I also find A LOT of inspiration in the materials and items others view as “throw-aways” or junk. Reusing and repurposing materials and items by giving them a second chance to be of beauty and use is a primary inspiration to me. Most importantly, I find inspiration in Fin. She has such a unique ability to see things and designs rooms and items.
Favorite Element: Most definitely, this would be our greenhouse/bathroom! Fin has wanted to create this room for the longest time, so when the opportunity presented itself where we were able to obtain a large number of vintage wood-framed windows, we jumped at the opportunity and turned Fin’s plans and design into our most coveted-turned-into-reality rooms in our tiny home. Fin had wanted a greenhouse/bathroom for years. She had talked about and designed/re-designed this room multiple times over time. It was important for us to build it out of repurposed windows, so when the opportunity to acquire a very large quality of old, wood-framed, salvaged windows came to our attention, we were able to buy them for only $3 for each window… even some very large 4’x6’ windows. Since Fin wanted this room attached to our Beloved Cabin, she thought it would be a great use of space to convert our original bathroom into a large walk-thru closet for seasonal clothes, tools, equipment, and gear… and to move our claw-foot bathtub and Nature’s Head Composting Toilet into the greenhouse.
We are able to begin our growing season much earlier than before now that we can sprout and start growing our vegetables during the colder months inside our greenhouse/bathroom compared to before when we used to begin all our plants outside once it began to get warmer. We also are now able to easily save our tropical fruit plants by bringing them inside during the colder months. Prior to us building our greenhouse/bathroom, the back of our Beloved Cabin would be colder during the winter months compared to the rest of our tiny house. An added extra benefit of the greenhouse/bathroom is a process known as passive solar heat. Our greenhouse/bathroom now heats the back of the cabin very nicely. Also, during the summer, we open the upper vents we included in our build and the trees outside are full of leaves casting a lot of shade over the greenhouse, which keeps this area from getting too hot inside.
We also just love being closer to nature when we bathe. We have always had different versions of an outdoor bathing area since the beginning of going tiny and we even included an outside shower on our towable 148-square-foot “Tiny Firehouse – Station No. 9.” We simply enjoy having the ability to bathe and shower while being surrounded by nature… our greenhouse/bathroom has allowed us to bring this preferred way of bathing “into” our house. As a side bar, some people may not be comfortable with an outdoor shower and bath in the way we designed our greenhouse/bathroom due to their concern of privacy. The reality is that we designed this area for ourselves and what we enjoy/prefer for our tiny lifestyle. Additionally, we are located far off the main road and we have 16 acres of privacy here. Also, when we have an event and there are people on our property, we have dropdown white curtains to give privacy whenever we might want it.
Another big plus with our greenhouse/bathroom is that our cats love it! This is the beauty about living a tiny lifestyle… anyone can create the perfect and home that is catered and designed specifically for themselves.
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge we both agree we used to repeatedly have was mutually agreeing on Fin’s designs… seriously! Fin’s mindset and thought processes work very differently than how John learned to build. (John’s family is Amish and he started developing mad tool skills at a very early age.) Time and time again, Fin’s designs not only for our personal home, but also for all the tiny houses and unique homes we have built, turn out to be amazingly beautiful and functional. We now basically go with Fin’s designs and work with John’s building skills… and when John ponders on how his building skills can accommodate one of Fin’s ideas, he figures out how to do so while Fin adapts her designs to coexist with John being able to put nail to wood.
Biggest Indulgence: By far, our biggest indulgence and most costly accomplishment, and another area of our tiny home we are immensely proud of, is our outside living space. We built a deck that surrounds all four sides of our tiny home, which is complete with a covered front porch, in-deck koi pond, storage areas, entertainment areas, a jacuzzi, Fin’s gymnastic rings and yoga swing, the most awesome dog run for when we let our furry boys outside to enjoy the sun and fresh air, and an enclosed “catio” with ladders, ramps, a cat tree, a sandbox, and a catnip and wheat grass garden for our feline family members. The expense and time we put into our outdoor living space has been well worth the investment! We, our beloved cats and dogs, and our friends/family/guests all enjoy the different areas located around the deck surrounding our tiny home.
What was your idea of a dream home when you were a little kid? How close is this home’s version to your childhood dream? Fin – For me it was having a small and simple home with lots of animals and being with someone I love. John and I have that exact home now as I imagined and wanted as a little kid.
John – As a kid I imagined my dream home would be large mansion with a garage filled with lots of fancy cars. As a younger adult, I achieved that dream, and I was never happy with my big houses and many cars… I used to always want bigger and more. My life and home today are perfect. I’ve never been as happy as I have been for the past decade living this simple and tiny lifestyle.
PAINT & COLORS
- Valspar Signature Ultra White Flat Tintable Interior Paint — Lowe’s
- Valspar Ultra Ultra White/Base A High-Gloss Enamel Tintable Interior Paint — Lowe’s
- Behr Ultra Pure White Satin Enamel Interior Paint and Primer in One — Home Depot
- Behr Premium Plus Ultra Pure White Flat Low Odor Interior Paint and Primer in One — Home Depot
- NOTE: We prefer BEHR Ultra paint due to its brightness and that it includes both the paint and primer.
- All our sofa pillows have come from discount and discontinued sales at Walmart, and then are covered with both pillow covers Fin has sewn and the ‘Ullkaktus’ pillowcases from IKEA.
- We purchased our amazing high-efficiency Dutchwest Wood Burning Stove with the Catalytic Converter on Facebook Marketplace two years ago, but you can purchase new online.
- Nature’s Head Composting Toilet
- We purchased our clawfoot bathtub through Facebook Marketplace for $170 and spent an additional $200 restoring it. (It has a year stamp of “1865” molded into the underneath of the tub.)
Thanks Fin and John!