How Designing a Tiny Home Reshaped the Life of One Man

January 20, 2020
panoramic shot of woodworker measuring wooden plank By LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS - Adobe Stock

When some people break up, they get a new haircut or take up a new hobby. Tom Morton decided he wanted to build a house. And he knew what he wanted: a simple and sustainable abode that was also a livable, modern beauty. With the help of one green home expert architect and a 70-year-old contractor, Morton’s open-plan, two-bedroom dream was realized on his new 6-acre wooded lot. He could have built a bigger home with all the bells and whistles, but the smaller home gave him everything he needed while saving him in construction and upkeep costs. And even more so, the minimalist lifestyle gave him peace of mind: When he had finished going through all his belongings and taking only what he needed for his new home, he said he felt cleansed. 

This small house in Sharon, CT is a perfect example of how small doesn’t mean cramped or uncomfortable. This beautiful little gem is filled with light, easy access to the outside, low maintenance and energy efficiency.

After getting divorced, Tom Morton decided he wanted to build a house for himself that would be minimal, environmentally friendly, and unique. He wanted it to be rustic yet modern, have a small footprint but feel open, be simple but high functioning, and most of all be sustainable. Tom’s friend, German Passive House (PH)–certified architect Hicks Stone, helped him with the land selection and site of the house as well as its design and layout: a simple two-room structure with a living, dining, and kitchen area, and a bedroom with an en suite bathroom. Given Hicks’s experience, Tom knew he would get the energy-efficient house he was envisioning.

Tom had had some experience in the building trades, so he decided to pull together a crew and build the house himself. He formed a small construction company, and hired Bernie Plonski, a 70-year-old, highly experienced carpenter/contractor. The house was completed in a year. Tom says Bernie understood exactly what he was trying to achieve and could build almost anything (and on budget). At his age, Bernie appreciated the fact that it was a low one-level design suited for this stage in his career.

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