Small Wonders

Shawn O'Neill's cabin under construction, with help from his father. Photo courtesy of Shawn O'Neill

Shawn O'Neill's cabin under construction, with help from his father. Photo courtesy of Shawn O'Neill

Posted on June 14 2019, by Gladys Breckenridge

It’s difficult for Lynn Heimer to describe in just a few words what her small log cabin means to her.

In 2006, Heimer and her husband decided they would set aside some of their savings and work towards creating a tiny cabin of their dreams.

The couple purchased a piece of property in the middle of a pine tree forest three hours away from their home in Globe, Arizona. But the building didn’t start until 2013.

Lynn Heimer and her husband's small cabin. Photo by Lynn Heimer
Lynn Heimer and her husband's small cabin. Photo courtesy of Lynn Heimer.

Fast-forward almost 13 years, the couple has finished the exterior of their little 700 square-foot retreat. The inside, however, remains a work in progress.

“It’s easy to manage if you go smaller. That’s what we decided and it’s what we could afford at the time,” Heimer said.

A 2018 poll from the National Association of Home Builders revealed that there is a potential market for even smaller residences. More than half of American adults surveyed said “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they would ever own a home less than 600 square feet.

Not only is the minimal space part of the appeal, Heimer said there is something special about a cabin’s rustic feel that transports her to simpler times with greener pastures.

“This is like an old time grandma and grandpa kind of deal,” Heimer said. “It reminds me of when America was being built… there were a lot of log cabins then.”

Heimer also belongs to a group on Facebook, where more than 8,000 people connect online to share photos and stories of their personal cabin-related experiences.

Arthur Kraft, the face of Migraine Craftsman, has made a living off of small cabin popularity for the past six years.

Kraft builds tiny cabins for his clients throughout the state of Georgia, but last month he decided to set up his own YouTube channel to assist others looking to build their own.

Like Heimer, he believes there is something more than just the quaint appearance of a cabin in the woods.

“I get a lot [of] e-mails and comments about how people want to escape the big cities. The cabin has the appeal of nature and being able to disconnect from all the stress,” he said. “If it’s a small cabin, there’s less to worry about. There’s less to clean, less to cool, less to heat, less taxes and less upkeep and maintenance.”

Kraft said one of the main reasons he established his business was because he wants to show people they can feel fulfilled while living with less, but also encourage them to do so because it’s more affordable.

“People will buy a big house and there’s too much in taxes, too much of their yard they have to upkeep, too much maintenance. It’s expensive and with society nowadays everyone is stressed out,” he said. “I want to show people things on a small scale, so they can better their life and just feel better.”

Kraft, who said he has built about 40 small cabins since starting his business, encourages those who want a small cabin to try to build it themselves.

“Start small, build something really tiny with a hammer and nails, just to see how it feels and see what happens. Don’t be afraid to fail,” he said.  “People are so afraid to fail because they are afraid to be judged by others, but just go out there and do it.”

Shawn O’Neill tried his hand at building his 400 square-foot cabin with his father and brothers just over fifteen years ago. He said the best part was the journey to its completion.

“We did this thing where we would go every other weekend and we’d work and then 5 o’clock rolls around and we’d break out the beers, sit around the fire,” he said.

It took Shawn O’Neill and his father about a year to finish his cabin.

Photos courtesy of Shawn O'Neill.

It took the group of them about a year to finish his cabin.

O’Neill, who lives in Cincinnati, said it was always a dream that he and his father would build a log cabin together.

“I had talked about it all my life. And my father, it was everything to him,” he said.

O’Neill’s father passed away a few years ago, but his cabin is a place to go where he remembers him.

“It’s just nice to go down there because dad was the driving force,” he said. “One of my favourite pictures I’ve got is dad standing on the porch, by the hill.”

O’Neill, who said he built a larger cabin a few years after, added that if he had his way, he would spend time in his little sanctuary.

“I love the idea of a small, little place to get away from everything,” he said. “Everything here has a place. I just built it so I can sit there, relax… get away from the craziness.”

Like O’Neill, Heimer said she hopes to use her cabin as a place where she can shut off from the rest of the world, adding that it’s at the point where she can almost see the finished product.

“It’s been fun, we can see it. It’s amazing what we have done,” she said. “ Building this, it’s not for the faint of heart. It will test you… but the reward is that you’ll have this beautiful little place.”


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