An 860-Square-Foot Tiny Home Becomes a Summer Haven For a Family of Five

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By Kelly Dawson
Nestled near Lake Michigan, a family finds peace and relaxation in the form of an off-grid tiny home.

Designer Jorie Burns never forgot her childhood summers in Michigan. Although it's been years since those particular long days—and she now has three kids of her own—Jorie always planned to return to the natural beauty of those trees and beaches when the right opportunity arose. 

And as it turns out, that big chance came in the form of a tiny home

"I wanted our home to have as many windows as possible," Jorie says. "I love how the plywood ceilings turned out looking so clean and natural."

"I wanted our home to have as many windows as possible," Jorie says. "I love how the plywood ceilings turned out looking so clean and natural."

"It was an affordable way to have a second home," she says. "With the business of everyday life, I wanted a place to go that would be simple and just about us and nature." 

"We needed furniture that could be easily wiped down and rid of sand from the beach and dirt from our hikes; a leather sofa was a must," she says. Jorie added a daybed to the living area as an extra space to sleep, if needed. 

"We needed furniture that could be easily wiped down and rid of sand from the beach and dirt from our hikes; a leather sofa was a must," she says. Jorie added a daybed to the living area as an extra space to sleep, if needed. 

Set about 90 minutes from their home in the Chicago suburbs, Jorie and her family escape to Three Oaks, Michigan, to enjoy a hideaway that's not much more than 860 square feet. There's no internet and most of the available entertainment is found beyond its walls. Yet they chose this site because it's surrounded by a resort of like-minded small structures.

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Jorie asked for an enclosed deck at the front of the home, which includes a dining area, as well as a space for the kids to sleep, if they desire. "The huge screen deck feels bigger than the interior of our home," she says. 

Jorie asked for an enclosed deck at the front of the home, which includes a dining area, as well as a space for the kids to sleep, if they desire. "The huge screen deck feels bigger than the interior of our home," she says. 

"The community is built around two small lakes perfect for paddle boarding, fishing, and kayaking," she notes. "There are two pools in the resort, and the property is only two miles from Lake Michigan's shoreline." 

Here's the main difference between her tiny home and primary home: counter space. Jorie specifically chose this eye-catching Smeg toaster because she knew she'd "have to leave it out for all to see." 

Here's the main difference between her tiny home and primary home: counter space. Jorie specifically chose this eye-catching Smeg toaster because she knew she'd "have to leave it out for all to see." 

Unlike the nomadic lifestyle that most tiny homes project, this one is different: strict rules applied to its construction. Jorie had to choose between three builders to create her home, and a log cabin exterior was required. She settled on a 380-square-foot living space, a 200-square-foot loft space, and a 280-square-foot screen deck at the front of it all. 

Lastly, Jorie made sure to have a separate master for her and her husband, and enough room to fit four mattresses in a camp-like space for her kids—although they're welcome to sleep on the deck, too. 

Once the layout was in place, the builder went to work creating the house off-site in Indiana, where Jorie couldn't regularly check in on its progress. 

"Having the double loft really created a lot of sleeping space for our kids—we have two double beds and two single beds up there," Jorie says. "Unlike a lot of tiny homes, we do have our own separate bedroom that is in the front of the home."

"Having the double loft really created a lot of sleeping space for our kids—we have two double beds and two single beds up there," Jorie says. "Unlike a lot of tiny homes, we do have our own separate bedroom that is in the front of the home."

"The interior was pretty much designed and assembled through email," she remembers. "I felt like I was designing this blindly." She jokes she's such a detail-oriented person that the process was "torture," but thankfully, it all worked out in the end. 

Large windows open the property to natural views, and Jorie chose equally laidback furnishings that were a mix of comfort and style. "If I was going to have a small home, I needed all of the details to be perfect, since there was no place to hide anything," she explains. "I never felt like I had to compromise on style in order to find something small enough to fit. It just took a little more digging."

Jorie found these skinny end tables at IKEA, and chose a bed that could be lifted to hide extra bedding and supplies. She explains she wanted the interior of the home "to be light filled, airy, and as open as possible."

Jorie found these skinny end tables at IKEA, and chose a bed that could be lifted to hide extra bedding and supplies. She explains she wanted the interior of the home "to be light filled, airy, and as open as possible."

This summer will be the family's first season in their tiny home, and Jorie knows that most of their days will be spent outdoors. But when they do return inside, they'll have a place that she describes as a "haven."