our little house

19 Oct 2008


Our little house, our cottage as so many visitors seem to call it , seems to get smaller and larger every day as our lives are lived in every available corner and space. My sister is always telling us we need a larger home, my mother says you feel that there is love in this house.

Twenty years ago, almost to the day we attended the auction, there was the lightest lightest drizzle falling and we stood on the steps of what was to become our wash house excited but terrified.
We had never attended a house auction before much less bid at one.
We had been married a year and a half and I was six weeks pregnant with our first child.

woodshed and laundry

The housing market was unfriendly at the time, interest rates were high and getting higher every day, close to 20%.
Stephen was a student , I was the breadwinner.
We needed to find a house before I looked too pregnant in case the bank changed their minds about our loan.
Buying a house seemed such a grown up thing to do. The house seemed so grown up, not like the student type digs we had been living in.
Married, a baby, a house, we were becoming proper grown ups.


We looked at so many houses, some incredibly sad.
We had wanted to live in an inner city area similar to what we had known in Melbourne.
The gentrification of these suburbs was only just beginning and the bank and assessors wouldn't OK a loan for anything we had seen.
This house, though only a few minutes walk from the church I had attended as a child, was in a little pocket of early 20th century glory.
Large blocks, small homes, dead end street.
It seemed beyond us but all along it was quietly waiting for us.


Our home was built in 1932, a two bedroom home originally with a wood cookstove in the cool kitchen and an open fire in the loungeroom, an outdoor loo and separate wash house.
We were to be its third owners, the previous owners having built an indoor loo and installed an electric stove and woodheater in the kitchen.
We thought we would live here for two or three years and then move to the country.
Life had other ideas - twenty years later we are still here.


The other day I took a different bus home, one that wound its way through McMansion land.

Now most of the homes around our house were built in the first half of last century.
Most of the houses I pass when I walk to town and when I walk down to the shops are of similar age.
The houses around Kate's school and those around Andy's school are also from the early to mid twentieth century.
Naively I had no idea of the extent of McMansion land.
Whizzing through the area in a car is very different from winding around what seemed like every street on a meandering bus.


These houses are large, they take up most of the available land on which they sit and the furniture from our house would most likely only fill half the house or less.
These homes seem to foster dependence on the consumer market place.
They have little or no room to grow food, little room for children to play or just be in nature, and endless space to be filled by things.



I'm making no judgement about the people who live there, if you want to buy a house you often just have to choose from what is available and building your own home is not always an option, buying an old cottage also is not always something that people consider.

My point is that while riding around on this interminable bus ride I actually felt very sorry for the people who have to live in these homes as if they were missing out on something and for the fact that they seemed so dependent on their world staying just as it is and to change to becoming more self reliant would actually be a huge shift.
I'm sure many would be able to change, mankind is infinitely adaptable but it sure would be difficult when you physical surroundings are so against you.

through the apple trees



30 Responses to “our little house”

  1. There is something about cosy. I have a close friend who has a beautiful large house with the vaulted ceilings. Even her children love the sociness of our old on the shabby side house.

    There is a coldness in the newer houses that I feel. Also that everyone is so alike.

    We had all sorts of knooks and hideaways that the kids loved to make their own.

    I love your home so much.

  2. funny, i too call them mcmansions! i drove through a development of them today on the way to the farm ... very frightening. each mailbox the same, obviously under some kind of homeowners' association rules, every yard meticulously landscape. like a ghost town. no trace of anyone in sight. neighbors on top of neighbors despite all the money paid to live there. very, very sad. someone at the farm said they're probably all in their basement "media centers." what have we come to, i so often wonder. it's my dream to own a tiny little cottage like yours.

  3. Your home is just that a home. It's beautiful and you are very lucky to have it and to appreciate it.
    Thanks for sharing.

    cheers Kate

  4. Jenny, you are so right. I love cosy. We would never consider moving to a bigger home. (Why spend more money so everyone can live farther apart?) Though we certainly would consider moving to a smaller home.
    Any time my girls exclaim about how big a house is, I always say, "Who on EARTH wants to clean THAT??!!"
    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  5. Your house looks like a dream come true to me! We are surrounded by the generic mcmansions in outer Melbourne - they're everywhere! The irony is most people who own them only have small families and really don't need all that space.

  6. Oh my, I was tearing up there for a minute reading your lovely post about your home. The way you describe your home is so much the way I feel about the little yellow cottage that I inherited from my mom a few years ago. It also has a feeling of love in it - cozy, warm, and humble. Unfortunately, we might have to sell it soon because of the recent economic crunch we're all experiencing. Well, time will tell I guess. . .

  7. I love your home and your blog. We live in an apartment that was built over 100 years ago (not a prewar, a walk thru, big difference!) Almost everything in the apt came from flea markets,antiquing, street finds...the funny thing is when my really wealthy customers would come over, customers that live in million dollar apts. they would want me to decorate for them. I think we are lucky that we can appreciate "cozy" and have the capability to create that. It's a gift and you definately have it

  8. I found your blog through Jewel's blog "Eyes of Wonder." I am really enjoying it.

    I drove through a newer development of look alike BIG houses the other day. My kids commented on how they are all the same, colors, yards etc...

    We live in a "cottage", and small ranch style house built about 20 years ago. We too were the third owners of this house, and it had been terribly abused. But we have been able to make it our own. We love our life here and wouldn't change it...well, unless we could find a place with more acreage for our horses, and so my daughter can board horses! That is not likely to happen - so we get to still live in our dear home.

  9. What a lovely home you have, and looking at the garden it dosn't even look like you live intown. You must have a large yard..

  10. Jenny, when we built our home 5 years ago, we were amazed by the number of people who thought we were mad only building a 3 bedroom house with just the one bathroom. We have everything we need and more still (plus a small mortgage) We love our home. We have a big, big, big home being built next door (thankfully some distance away) with 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms for a family with 2 adults and 2 kids. I don't get it. There will be no gardens - only grass. I really don't get that.

    I often feel sorry for people in such a mindset that only the largest most sprawling house will provide them with a home. However, I'm almost certain they would be mystified by my pity. After all, aren't they the ones who have it all?

    Lisa x

    (p.s. our first home was built in 1932 and still had an outdoor laundry and loo & a kooka wood stove in the boarded up fireplace when we bought it)

  11. It looks divine...such sweet pics.
    I feel like curling up and resting in those tranquil surroundings...

  12. What an excellent post, and I really like your observation about a large house to fill with stuff but very small surroundings so you are forced to go out and spend money. It's still a dream of mine to once own a little house with a big garden, right now the apartment with a small balcony we live in is just the opposite of that (but still our home we love!). :-)


  13. I think architects at the turn of the century really understood how people lived and how a home truly needed to "shelter." When we went to build our house, we used a Sarah Susanka book to find a design that would "shelter." The result is "home", but still feels big to me!

  14. There is a significance difference between a house and a home!!! We live in a HOME and DH and I have spent years making it a place where our children feel safe, loved and inspired and where we can explore the people we r.....i wouldnt trade that for anything!!!
    Hugs xxx

  15. What a great post. I live in a very small house as well. We are not in the country as you are though. We can walk to town. I know exactly what you mean about Mcmansion..that is a great term for it btw. I wouldn't trade my home for it. I love my little home.

  16. Your house is beautiful and cozy. We too bought an old house, even older than yours, it was built in the 1920s and has two bedrooms. I like it because it is in an older part of town, very quiet and it has a big garden. When we started looking for a house the only thing we knew for sure was that we did not want to move into one of the new subdivision where each house looks the same and where you are not even allowed to hang your laundry outside. I think this house chose us as much as we chose it. :)


  17. Jenny, I SO totally agree with you. We have been in our small home for 25 years this month, and we love it. And we can afford it, though it was a huge stretch at first. I have no desire to live in a show place.

  18. I love seeing pics of your home and surroundings. How could you want it any other way? It's about feeling the love and comfort -- that's what makes a home.


  19. You're absolutely right, and it's good to remember why we bought an old house (though not so old as yours, having been built 1956) when renovating seems to take only very small steps forward.
    I have loved my old house from the minute I saw it and I am happy every day for the opportunity of having a real home, and a happy and healthy family to live in it.

  20. Thank you! You've put much more eloquently what I always am trying to say! People were/are taken back when they see our "small" house (we think it is huge!)

    I am expecting our fourth baby, and we "only" have 3 bedrooms, and live in "only" 1600 square feet (I'm quoting others as we in no way feel this way!).

    Ironically, we live in an old development, which 20 years ago was most likely the "McMansions" of the time - yet now it is too small for many Americans with less children than we have! Its just never enough for people, they want bigger and better, yet like so many others said, they feel cold.

    I think they feel cold, because for most, two people have to work to be able to afford them, and so generally, except for a few hours in the evening, the house is in fact lifeless - literally no one is there for most of the time.

    How sad!

    Thank you again for your words :)


  21. So true. Now the bottom has fallen out of the Morgage Market in the USA, many people are thinking less is better.

    We have always thought this way because more means, more. Costs more, uses more resources and you must work more.

    Having a smaller house with room for some kind of garden is rewarding. Plus I have always viewed the garden as an extension of the house, especially in summer.

    Also remember those high interest rates 17% on our first house.

  22. And how about all those lovely creaky floorboards and squeaky doors? I know where everyone is in our home without having to call, in the centre hallway, halfway up the stairs, at the top landing ... the house tells me where people are positioned within its walls. A wonderful old familiar sound as it speaks and breathes. Not quite as old as yours, c1940 but aging beautifully and well loved.
    Now listen to author Penelope Lively read from her new book "Family Album", it's wonderful. Put the kettle on and enjoy a quiet few mins.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/afternoon_reading.shtml Choose the Wednesday reading.
    Jayne xo

  23. Dear Jayne, I was just thinking about you on the weekend and planning to contact you this week. you are a mind reader. I just made a cuppa and sat down here for a minute or two after hanging out the washing and getting the bread out of the oven. Thanks for the link. Sounds like the perfect thing to do while I start some doll making.
    Hope everything is going well.

  24. Jenny, this post was a feast. The gratefulness and love with which you write about your home and the way you capture it in pictures is just a joy. I can't get enough of the cosy details, and always go away inspired. Thank you.

  25. I really really enjoyed reading your post today. I loved hearing your little story about your home.
    Just cause it really is a home not a house- truly spoken from your heart. My DD was watching a homeshow with me today & she said they're not homes where is all their photos & personal things it's like living in a shop window isn't it

  26. It may surprise you but there are large homes where there is love and happiness in abundance also. It is wonderful that we have a choice and can live in a home that suits our individual families needs and preferences.

  27. Hi, I'm Kate, I've been reading your blog of and on for a few months, but don't believe I've commented before. I just wanted to introduce myself. And say how warm and friendly your home looks, I love the room your wood stove and table are in.

  28. I wanted to tell you that your home looks so cozy and wonderful! I have lived in my 1200 sq ft home for almost 28 years and DH and I raised our two children here who are now grown and on their own. We're grandparents and love having our whole brood over for bbq's and family dinners in our "little cottage home"! (with a great porch, by the way)
    I love small!
    My sisters & their families and my mother all live in very large, newly constructed homes & a townhome and I'm always in awe of all the wasted space. I always feel like I've just walked into a cold, sterile environment. Don't get me wrong, their houses are gorgeous but I will take my 70 year old home anytime over theirs.
    With my children gone it almost feels too big sometimes but we are enjoying our 1/4 acre more than ever.
    Blogs like yours and other simple living/sustainability blogs are such an inspiration to those of us that are trying harder & harder to go green and live a simple life. Even as we are moving into our mid-50's.
    Thanks so much for the motivation and I look forward to reading more!
    Marilyn in NM


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.