Being a single mother isn’t easy. It’s a constant struggle of selfless determination, offering very little time for relaxation or family bonding. When downtime does make an appearance, you certainly want to make the most of it, which is exactly what Kelley Lewis Ebert did by building this 192-square-foot lakeside cabin. Her three children were with her every step of the way for the construction, and the family now uses it as an off-grid weekend retreat where they spend time interacting and building memories rather than watching TV or playing video games.
The cabin’s conception began when she bought a 1.3-acre property shortly after separating from her husband, and giving birth to her third child. For most people, those two events would present enough of a challenge, but Kelley saw buying the lot as a means for herself and her children to make a fresh start on something. She wasn’t sure at first what that would be, eventually deciding to build a tiny house based on the low cost and simplified zoning regulations for sub-200-square-foot structures in her area.
Like many intrepid tiny house builders, Kelley came up with the design herself, settling on a 12×16-foot outline to maximize space within the 200-foot limit. She included 16-foot-high ceilings to allow space for a sleeping loft that holds two standard beds. Porches on either side offer a bit of extra room to enjoy both the lake in front and the woods in back of the cabin. The main area, including a kitchen and bar, is open to maximize the view, and there’s also a bathroom with a small shower and a composting toilet.
Because Kelley had no construction experience, she didn’t feel up to tackling the structural work by herself, so she had a builder do the foundation, framing and roofing. After that she was on her own – or not quite, because her children (aside from a few squabbles and temper tantrums) were enthusiastic participants. The eldest helped putting up the walls, the middle one enjoyed painting, and even the youngest was old enough by then to help with some cleaning.
Kelley’s budget for the project was limited, so she economized by picking up a lot of used materials from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Craigslist vendors. She was able to snag a gas generator and a water pump that way, so despite being off-grid the cabin actually has electricity and running water taken right from the lake. (There’s also a filtration system to make it safe to drink.) It’s heated by a woodstove.
While Kelley doesn’t claim her cabin is perfect – she wishes she’d included more storage space in the design, and wishes she’d had the money to include more glass – she thinks the process and the result have both been well worthwhile. Involving her children shows them how to work towards a goal, and having a beautiful, natural environment to enjoy between tasks shows them the rewards of achieving one’s goals.
The family likes the property so much that they may one day build a larger house on it, but for now they’re happy to enjoy weekends of fishing in the lake, chasing each other around the woods, or just sitting on the porch enjoying each other’s company.