A Life Less Ordinary

February 27, 2012

I was feeling very under the weather with a head cold this weekend, as were my two girls, so the majority of our family time was spent snuggling on the couch or making soup. Watching an LA-based real estate show one evening, I fell in love with several of the modern homes featured but was shocked by some of the immense sizes…do people really think it’s normal to live in 16,000 square feet? I would really love to build someday and have often browsed through home plans, trying to imagine what our ideal layout would be, and it’s always surprised me how limited the pre-drawn options for houses under 3000 sq ft in size are. I mean, how much space does a family really need? So I found it very refreshing to come across the current home of one of our favourite designers (whom we’ve also featured here and here) Jessica Helgerson…

Jessica Helgerson. Photo by Lincoln Barbour.

Located on Sauvie Island, just North of Portland Oregon, Jessica and her husband live with their two children in a mere 540 square feet of space. Yes, you read that right, five hundred and forty square feet! Their tiny house sits on 5 acres of property and the Helgerson’s remodelled it using only reclaimed materials, choosing not to add to its existing footprint…a daring choice for a family of four!

Jessica Helgerson. Photo by Lincoln Barbour.

Jessica Helgerson. Photo by Lincoln Barbour.

Jessica Helgerson. Photo by Lincoln Barbour.

With a sleeping loft, well-planned built-ins and storage in literally every nook and cranny, Jessica’s family has managed to live here comfortably for several years…with room to spare for regular weekend guests! The couches have drawers beneath for toy storage and double as guest beds while a pull-out closet in the kids’ bunk room provides storage for clothing and more…

Jessica Helgerson. Photo by Lincoln Barbour.

Jessica Helgerson. Photo by Lincoln Barbour.

Jessica Helgerson. Photo by Lincoln Barbour.

Jessica Helgerson. Photo by Lincoln Barbour.

I love this example of simplified living and find it much easier to aspire to than living large. You can read more about the Helgerson’s home and green renovations here. Rachel pared down their belongings in a very big way before they left and it’s inspired me to do the same. Rather than continuously letting the clutter frustrate me (and the kids, in turn, with my nagging!), I’m determined to tackle my closets and basement and get rid of the excess once and for all. The more challenging goal will be to keep it that way!


1 jessica { 02.27.12 at 4:18 am }

wonderflu pleaces!
jessica recently posted..Chalkboard Mug

2 Jaclyn Bishop { 02.27.12 at 7:21 am }

i am maybe more than just a little obsessed with helgerson. i feel like she does everything so perfectly. i love that their home is teeny and she has made it swoon worthy. simplicity is what its all about.
Jaclyn Bishop recently posted..lulla lemon

3 Lori E { 02.27.12 at 8:54 am }

Oh not for me. I could barely breathe just looking at it. Once those kids get a little bigger they may not even fit into those bunks either.
I don’t need massive but would have to have bigger than that even if I lived alone.
Lori E recently posted..TELL ME YOUR BEST IDEAS

4 Rosa @ flutterflutter { 02.27.12 at 10:02 am }

LOVE IT!!! Love all the white, and attention to every inch. I thought we had it small at 1800 sqft, but 540! WOW!! Beautiful!
Rosa @ flutterflutter recently posted..Flutter Flutter Find: Daiso

5 Rosa @ flutterflutter { 02.27.12 at 10:05 am }

Just linked up to this on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/flutterflutter
Rosa @ flutterflutter recently posted..Flutter Flutter Find: Daiso

6 carolsmyth@thedesignpages { 02.27.12 at 10:18 am }

Contrary to what I always believed, I find that as my kids get older we need more space. No more toys scattered around but they definitely want private areas for hanging out with friends which means gone are the days when all the kids and friends could play together in the same room. Beautiful and well designed space though:)
carolsmyth@thedesignpages recently posted..It’s Giveaway Time

7 Shelley@2jacs { 02.27.12 at 10:23 am }

Wow…every inch is just beautiful and well thought out…I could easily live here-what a breath of fresh air! Thanks for sharing:)

8 barbara@hodge:podge { 02.27.12 at 10:49 am }

Beautiful! Do we really need such huge spaces? My son has been having fun designing a tiny house for his drafting class. We have watched a few online videos about micro houses – intriguing.
barbara@hodge:podge recently posted..So Canadian eh?: Andrea Lauder Johnson

9 Victoria @ Edin's House { 02.27.12 at 11:17 am }

Such a lovely way to live!!
My experience: our little city cottage is only 1450sq.ft. with 725 on each floor…while it’s small, I still haven’t learned to live with less!! I blame it on our continual renovations because until I can actually put things in rooms where I want them, I refuse to give up any more items (had to give up a few special things) until I know – once and for all – that I can’t make them fit!! In the mean time, I live in mayhem!!! Maybe one day I can live in an organized and less stuff-filled way… like Jessica & her family!!
Victoria @ Edin’s House recently posted..Dreaming of Spring!

10 Birch + Bird { 02.27.12 at 11:30 am }

We’re currently living in only 1300 square feet and I agree, cutting down any less would definitely be a big stretch! But I do think that we can all plan our homes much more efficiently to make small living possible…just think of the freedom of not having bulging junk rooms in the basement and overflowing closets! Because, really, that stuff I never unpacked when we moved 4 years ago? I’m thinking I don’t even need to open the boxes at this point! Thanks for all of your great thoughts :) ~Lily

11 janis - pinecone camp { 02.27.12 at 12:48 pm }

I loved this home. Can’t believe it’s so small! Just shows you how talented she is by creating home that is open, lots of storage, and does not look cramped or crowded at all. Love it.
janis – pinecone camp recently posted..Baked

12 Roberta { 02.27.12 at 1:46 pm }

Ahhh…I simply love this little home…the kitchen table is to die for! We downsized two years ago from 3,800 sq.ft. to first an apartment of 1,350 sq.ft. and finally to our “Love Shack” home of 687 sq.ft. We also went from two storage spaces down to one and then last November I even downsized the one we do have to a smaller one. AND I’m still emlinating stuff…it’s all such an emotional process and once I get my head around it…I’m okay with getting rid of things. Being over 50 makes it a little bit harder with my years of experience comes years of emotions (aka baggage) tied to all those things. But the reality is…we can’t take it with us and I do not want to leave it for my kids to deal with either. It really has been a freeing experience as well and every year it gets easier and easier to let go of the things because I realize that it’s the people and the experiences, in our lives that really matter. Off to read more about this adorable little home. Thanks for sharing. Fondly, Roberta

13 Keren { 02.27.12 at 2:01 pm }

Living in NYC has forced me to love and adore my 900 square feet! It does not feel cramped and is easier to clean! As long as a place is filled with good design, personal touches, and sunlight – all is well!


14 Birch + Bird { 02.27.12 at 2:39 pm }

Thanks for sharing your own personal experience Roberta! What a process and I can imagine it gets more difficult as time goes on and more mementos are accumulated. But you’re very right, we can’t take it with us, and personally I start to feel bogged down by too much stuff and find it really affects the mood of our family when there’s constant clutter. Time to pare back and focus on what’s really important! Thanks again :)

15 colleen { 02.27.12 at 8:10 pm }

well we live in 3,600…and we have loved every inch of it…..but we didn’t need all of it …although we used it all!..you have seen it!……but I know for a fact I could happily live in & love a smaller home…we are planning on that soon!
The cost of taxes & maintenance are a hug factor for me…but seriously how big do those monster (although some beautiful) houses have to be.
WE love to entertain & I know we can do it in a smaller home!
colleen recently posted..Button Button Who’s Got Buttons…

16 colleen { 02.27.12 at 8:11 pm }

p.s. I love this home featured here!
colleen recently posted..Button Button Who’s Got Buttons…

17 cailan { 02.28.12 at 7:29 am }

That is so inspiring. Just what I need as I prepare for a day of purging! : )
cailan recently posted..Creating a Master List for Your Home

18 Birch + Bird Vintage Home Interiors » Blog Archive » Flea Market Storage Solutions { 02.28.12 at 8:32 am }

[…] large house is something I’ve never wanted and I could really go for Jessica’s sweet little cottage that Lily featured yesterday.  It just feels more manageable, realistic and comfortable.  And […]

19 ziggy { 02.28.12 at 5:31 pm }

Nice pad. And nice images.
ziggy recently posted..The Year of Mud Gets a Brand New Look

20 Live Small « straightdopeness { 02.29.12 at 6:49 am }

[…] http://birchandbird.com/a-life-less-ordinary Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

21 Mary { 03.02.12 at 7:09 am }

We started out in a 10×28 (280 sq.ft.). It was a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom – for 7 months – until we added another 10×28 alongside it – so now we were in 560 sq.ft. But…still not done! We lived in that – with our bed behind bookcases – for 11 years while we added a large porch on the front and side (10×40 across the front), and a 4×10 alcove off what will be the living room/kitchen. Then we put in the bedroom and library (20×16) and now the closet, which my husband is finishing at the moment – 7×12. One closet. That’s it. Then he will finish what will be our one permanent bathroom (the other part of the last 12×16 addition). When we are finished (hopefully in the next year – because we still have a portion of the porch to do) – it will be 1,112 sq. ft. with a covered, wraparound porch. We owe nothing because we pay as we go. Our land is paid for. I will retire in 3 years – it will cost us approximately $300 a month to live here – that includes electricity, taxes, and savings for unexpected repairs. No water bill, we are in the country on a well. It is plenty of space for us and our guests (pull-out sofa in the library). How much space do people need, really? People live in huge houses and pay for storage to keep stuff in – those crazy storage places are everywhere. Something is very strange about that. LOL.

22 Birch + Bird { 03.02.12 at 10:39 am }

Oh wow, thanks so much for sharing your experience Mary! It’s so inspiring to see that small living can be achieved…if it was the norm there wouldn’t be the overwhelming debt issues that so many of us face in our society! Good for you for taking it slow and adding what you need as you go :)

23 Mark E Tisdale { 03.02.12 at 8:07 am }

What a gorgeous little home!
Mark E Tisdale recently posted..Pinterest on Pause

24 Birch + Bird Vintage Home Interiors » Blog Archive » A Thrifty Little Hideaway { 05.03.12 at 12:03 am }

[…] the other day and thought it was perfect to share. Remember that adorable cottage belonging to Jessica Helgerson that I featured last month? Well here’s another eye opening renovation which maximizes every […]

25 Heidi { 05.24.12 at 8:02 am }

I love it!!!! I love white and cottage look

26 JD { 07.29.12 at 7:25 pm }

My family (husband and two young sons) live in a 575 sq foot house. This house appears huge by comparison in the pics. It looks like you could easily entertain here. The one complaint in my home is that we have to use our outdoor space for entertaining and for example last year we had to cancel our sons first badly party because it downpoured and we could only fit immediate family in the house. Storage hasn’t been a problem for us but I do love the built ins in this home. I would love for Jessica to redesign my house :)

27 Birch + Bird { 07.29.12 at 8:07 pm }

Wow, that’s amazing JD! We’re in just over 1000 sq ft but poor weather can still be an issue when we’ve got a houseful of family and friends…it’s always far more comfortable to spread out outside!

28 Birch + Bird Vintage Home Interiors » Blog Archive » Lakeside Living for the Weekend { 08.24.12 at 12:02 am }

[…] down to the studs and a sleeping loft was tucked up into the cathedral-style rafters. This home is another great example of how to make a small and dated space work for family life!All photos by Max […]

29 Minimalism « Beatnikbunny { 11.24.12 at 6:27 pm }

[…] There is a blog that features a house that is 540 sq ft.  That sounds in some ways hardly doable, but at the same time, completely liberating.  Here’s the link: http://birchandbird.com/a-life-less-ordinary […]

30 Birch + Bird Vintage Home Interiors » Blog Archive » Library House by Jessica Helgerson ID { 08.30.13 at 12:02 am }

[…] with storage and built in shelving, using every nook and cranny to best advantage. Remember her tiny house? So amazing. Well, I’m off to work for the day while my kids get wet at the water slides with […]

31 Diana { 12.18.14 at 5:49 pm }

Look the best thing about this home…is BOOKS, Books and more books…LOOK, the children are reading!

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