Seeing Is Believing

My Visit to Innermost House

by Kent Griswold

The other day I found a real intense peace sitting in front of this fire conversing with my new friends, Diana and Michael Lorence. Diana wrote a popular article for Tiny House Blog earlier this year entitled Diana’s Innermost House.

There is something almost unbelievable about Innermost House. When I received Diana’s invitation to visit, I was so curious to see it for myself.

144 square feet. No hot water or electricity. All their heat and cooking from the fireplace. I had seen the pictures on Diana’s website, and it’s hard to believe the house belongs to modern times. But Innermost House is real I can now say, and I can see how a couple really could live there. Seeing is believing.

It turns out the Lorences have lived there full time most of the last seven years. It’s their only home, though they do travel some. They didn’t even own a car until recently.

Now it’s a few days later and I’m still trying to pin down what makes Innermost House so special. What brings such peace to a person experiencing it. Here are a few of my thoughts.

The small enclosed space. The living room is about 7×12 feet and 12 feet high. At first I felt a little pressed in, but when I sat down close to the fire and started conversing the feeling soon went away. Then I just felt the deep peace.

The light. It has a feeling of an intimate chapel, with the fire, the natural light coming in through the windows, the candles in the close space and the old books.

Freedom from outside, worldly distractions. No electricity, appliances, noises that come from our man made complex lives.

The simplicity of the furnishing, books, well chosen articles each with a purpose. Everything super clean and minimal stuff. Everything in its place. There are two small storage sheds on the sides and they rotate what they need in and out of them.

The fact that Diana and Michael have lived this type of life for seven years makes their personalities and conversations a part of that secluded and secret atmosphere.

The peacefulness of the fire, the simple and delicious meal. The back to basics that we all crave. That is my draw to tiny houses and as my tag line goes “Living Simply in Small Spaces.”
I can’t really explain Innermost House but there is something there (spiritual, refreshing, unexplainable). No way to nail it down and no way to really capture it, though I think the photos do to a certain degree. I spent some time at their website afterward and really soaked in the photos, they meant so much more to me now that I have been in that special space.

My interest has always been to have a small simple cabin in the mountains. It’s always been my dream. Could Innermost House be replicated? I wanted to take it with me or somehow build my own version.

I need to look for ways to apply this knowledge to my life as it is now, get rid of the clutter, enjoy simple things, not crave the latest and greatest toy, enjoy each other’s company and conversation. I’m going to get that fireplace of mine going this winter.

I still have a peaceful feeling I brought away from their company and the Innermost House. Anyway just a few of my thoughts I thought I would share before some distraction takes them away. Enjoy the new pictures.

You can read more and see more pictures of the Lorence’s unique style of tiny house life at Diana’s website, www.innermosthouse.com.

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Roxy - December 16, 2011 Reply

Love it!

coasterkim - December 16, 2011 Reply

Beautiful and intriguing, but how do they bathe?

    Kent Griswold - December 16, 2011 Reply

    The photo does not show it but there is a shower in the bathroom. It is a wet bath like you see in many places in Europe.

      coasterkim - December 16, 2011 Reply

      Ah thanks! I’ll bet that gets pretty cooooold in the wintertime!

        Kent Griswold - December 16, 2011 Reply

        Yes, I would be tempted to put in a propane instant hot water heater but they have chosen not to.

          Carl in SC - December 16, 2011 Reply

          An older sister of dad lived in an old mountain home near Aquone, NC and it was from 1800s. It had no modern conveniences. An outhouse,wood cookstove,not sure they had electricity. The highway dept. built new highway through the property and they got a small Jim Walters home built across highway. Did get indoor toilet, but not complete bathroom. A pipe to kitchen sink supplied water from the stream which they ran 24/7. That might be as simple a life as I’d want to go back to.

Anoa - December 16, 2011 Reply

A beautiful monastic sanctuary. Simply lovely.

Angie - December 16, 2011 Reply

I love that first outside photo of it. Should be framed to relax cubicle workers.
The inside is beautiful, too.

Mel - December 16, 2011 Reply

This has always been one of my favorite homes written about on this website. Simply wonderful.

Martin - December 16, 2011 Reply

Stunning, simply stunning.

Rachel P. - December 16, 2011 Reply

I have been fascinated with Diana and the Innermost house ever since it was first shared here. I shared the photos and article with my family, but my husband was the only one who agreed it was an admirable place. If you haven’t read Diana’s essays on the website you might take some time to do so.

Kat - December 16, 2011 Reply

Simply lovely, I was very happy to have been introduced to Innermost House the first time you wrote about it here, Kent. What a wonderful experience for you.

Martin - December 16, 2011 Reply

How do they keep it so neat and tidy?

    Kent Griswold - December 16, 2011 Reply

    They have two small storage areas, 4 foot by 6 foot in size. They rotate in and out what they need from these spaces. Diana is one of those extremely neat personalities and it shows in the home. It is one of those things about them that you don’t want to believe until you see and get to know them personally.

      Martin - December 16, 2011 Reply

      I understand that maybe people with certain personality types can do this, but I just look at my own desk in front of me and the mess/stuff I have. I suppose once you’ve done the hard part and trimmed down all your possessions, it’s probably fairly straightforward to keep on top of it, but you would need discipline!

        Kent Griswold - December 16, 2011 Reply

        I struggle with the same issues Martin and I’m sure most do. This did not happen overnight for the Lorences either but has been a journey. They took many smaller steps to downsize to this extreme and it happened over many years. They also have been living this almost monistic life for seven years now and have it figured out as to what works for them.

      Terry - July 1, 2012 Reply

      Hi Kent, what are some of the books that seem to be all over the place at the Lorence little house?

2kids2cats - December 16, 2011 Reply

The setting of their home is just spectacular. The home itself is lovely, but the minimalist life is not for me. While I do long for a life free of so much “stuff,” I would still need a bit more of my personality to shine through in the decor. It just seems more of a retreat than a true home for full time living. But then again, I don’t live their lives. I look forward to seeing more pictures on her website–my connection at work doesn’t seem to like it.

http://kevinsmicrohomestead.wordpress.com/ - December 16, 2011 Reply

Kent ,this is a well written article.You have captured the essence very well. I like the thought about the quiet “Freedom from outside, worldly distractions. No electricity, appliances, noises that come from our man made complex lives”.Also interesting that you commented”just a few of my thoughts I thought I would share before some distraction takes them away.”

Isn’t that the problem ? I challenge anyone to just be alone with there thoughts,no distractions or outside noises.At first it will be uncomfortable for some.We are so used to having noise it is strange no to.T.V. or radio playing ect…

    Kent Griswold - December 16, 2011 Reply

    We have so many distractions and I am one of the most unorganized persons. Just trying to keep the blog running smoothly and answering and sorting emails can eat my day up so quickly. We all need to “Stop and Smell the Roses” from time to time and seeing the Lorences living this type of life made me want to move more in that direction myself. However it is so easy to get back into our usual routine and forget about these moments of peace and quiet and what made them happen.

terminalcitygirl - December 16, 2011 Reply

What a gift! Thanks Kent for sharing and I’m so pleased you were invited. For 15 years I’ve talked of doing something similiar and of course my family thinks I’m crazy. It’s tough as I’m in southern Canada so cold/ rain are real issues to work through and property here is so expensive! I have actually posted an ad on a nearby Island and asked folks if anyone knows of someone who has land I might build or park a tiny house on but so far it hasn’t come together for me. But one day it will. I think the simple decor, lime plaster + natural wood, the lighting, the books and quiet are elements that resonate deeply with many of us. I was recently in an old church doing some drawing and experienced that peace; I think innermost house must be similiar but with the much added bonus of Diane & Michael’s company! Did you talk at all about the materials used and any challenges they have with keeping warm in winter, condensation, etc…

    Kent Griswold - December 16, 2011 Reply

    Unfortunately we did not have the time to get into the construction of the Innermost House, I am hoping Michael and Diana will put together a post along these lines as I would like to know more also.

    Keep working on that dream, it will eventually work out I’m sure!

Ryan Surface - December 16, 2011 Reply

Beautiful post Kent a pleasure to read, what a wonderful space and such a gift these days to find someplace where you can have some peace. I stumbled across the initial post the other day and went to Diana’s blog. What a gorgeous simple place. Thanks for writing more on it! Love the photo of the light streaming in with the fire going in the fireplace, made me sigh contently just looking at it ;-).

Weston - December 16, 2011 Reply

Beautiful. I’ve seen pictures of the house before and have always loved it.

Where do they sleep? I’ve seen lots of pictures of the house but never any sleeping quarters.

Constance - December 16, 2011 Reply

Lovely! Great choice in the black exterior paint. That’s pretty unusual for a tiny home but it gives it an amazing drama and importance. The interior is unique and very romantic as a retreat for two. The extra pictures through the link are worth the time to load up. Just beautifully done!

    Kent Griswold - December 16, 2011 Reply

    Not normally my choice of color but the house blends into the location so well that you don’t see it until you are upon it.

Eileen - December 16, 2011 Reply

This is the most intimate, comfy place I have seen. It makes me want to sit down with a glass of wine and chat with new friends. Did they build it theirselves? How peaceful. Thanks for sharing.
Eileen

    Kent Griswold - December 16, 2011 Reply

    Yes, Michael buit the Innermost House. He said it took approximately 3/4 of a year to complete.

Sue - December 16, 2011 Reply

Hi. I didn’t know where to put this. I tried the email, but it required a bunch of monkeybusiness, so I thought this might be a good place. This is a listing for a small cabin in Alaska. It is all done and off grid. It is not mine. I think it was built by a friend. Anyway, it is a good cabin at a really good price, so I thought your readers might be interested. It is at http://chucks-real-estate.com/for_sale_by_owner_fsbo/d-log_cabin_-_hollis_-_39000

You might want to put this in a better place.
Thanks!

-billS - December 17, 2011 Reply

I am relaxed by simply looking at the pics. I can only imagine the feeling of actually being there. I particularly like the use of the fireplace. The iron kettle stand, the neatly stacked charcoal and tongs and the little basket on the porch with kindling. I look ahead at cleaning the fireplace and wonder how much sand they go through. I have ideas of things I want to incorporate into my life. Thanks Kent! -billS

Eric L - December 17, 2011 Reply

Wonderful house!
Have they thought about writing a book about building and living in the Innermost House? I think that would a great book to read!

chesapeake - December 17, 2011 Reply

This is so beautiful. Glad to see another post about this place.

I am curious about cooking over fire. I know the flavor is incomparable, and I’d love to see recipe lists/ideas.

    Sharon - December 17, 2011 Reply

    Hi Chesapeake, I thought you’d like to know that Diana lives “recipe-free.” At home in the evening she fixes a one pot stew of whatever vegetables are in season, and uses staples like carrots, cabbage, potatoes and dried legumes throughout the year. She says she just closes her eyes and reaches into the cupboard! You can read about it here, http://www.innermosthouse.com/#/in-dianas-words-i/spoiled-rotten. At her speaking engagements we serve what she and Michael have for lunch at home and it’s always a big success, though I have to say it tastes a lot better at her house. It’s mostly some cheese and bread, fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts. Then afterwards plain dark chocolate and green tea.

      chesapeake - December 18, 2011 Reply

      Thank you so much, Sharon! My husband and I have a million food intolerances/allergies and do all of our cooking at home. Always looking for ways to simplify in looking to build our off-grid home. Just having a fireplace never occurred to me!

      And now that I think of it, I do have a recipe for baking gluten free bread in a dutch oven! Could totally work over a fire. Thanks again! My brain is churning.

      MelD - December 28, 2011 Reply

      Thankyou for telling a little about their diet, I am always curious! I was fascinated by the first article a while ago.
      This sounds very similar to a small family I spent time with when my first daughter was born, they consciously lived far more simply than the way I had grown up (this was the 80s). I particularly appreciated the very simple diet – one-pot meals and pasta or pulses with veg for lunch with home-baked bread, bread with local butter, cheeses, quark, nut butter, homemade jams etc. in the evening, with fruit and nuts which they grew along with all their own vegetables and mint or other teas they grew, too. They exchanged their homegrown produce for art and other things they needed (cheese, milk…) and their home was small and cosy and simple. Philosophers, I guess. I am working on returning to that way of living, one day, as my family grows up and away!

Arlos - December 17, 2011 Reply

Kent, you have to admit when you enter the property off of the road, the feeling of an Italian villa comes to mind and then winding through the organic walnut grove is nothing short of spectacular. the walk to the cabin can leave you short of breath as it did me when I serviced their Bosch tankless water heater. Am I to understand they no long use this? It’s installation and gas propane tanks in a shed almost made me turn tail. All in all, this place defines the ideal in small space living. I would dearly love to see this place again.

    Sharon - December 17, 2011 Reply

    Hi Arlos, I’m one of Diana’s volunteers. I asked Diana about the hot water when I first visited Innermost House a few years ago. She said they abandoned the propane system because it kept failing, and she didn’t feel it was safe. Anybody who has heard Diana speak knows she doesn’t much like machines! I guess the hot water was just something she felt she could do without. Diana had us all laughing one day when she described how Michael rubs her back and tells her stories to distract her from the cold water when she washes her hair in the sink. How romantic is that! Anyway I know they heat their water over the fire in the wintertime. I agree the whole setting and the house are positively out of this world.

et - December 17, 2011 Reply

This is the most beautiful home ever.

cj - December 17, 2011 Reply

The light makes it. Even the shade in the kitchen is a play on the light. Some places can look stark and cold…sterile. The ambient light in every room of this is beautiful and calming. Reminds me of some monasteries I’ve seen in photos. They also seem to have found just the right amount of ‘ni-cessities’ to be uncluttered and remain cozy and inviting. As with the light, the decor emits warmth.

    Emily - December 18, 2011 Reply

    Perfect cj. It’s almost like the house is furnished with light instead of chairs and tables. Like the light is the art on their walls. Have you seen the pictures on the innermosthouse website?

Joan - December 17, 2011 Reply

This home is so beautiful — just looking at it brings peace! Then my mind turns to “how does it work?” Could you share with us what they do about refrigeration? Also, is that charcoal they are using for heating hot water? Wouldn’t that produce carbon monoxide?

    Sharon - December 17, 2011 Reply

    Hi Joan, I volunteer for Diana’s speaking engagements and I’ve heard this question before. I love to bake, and the first thing I asked when I saw that little kitchen was, where’s the refrigerator? where’s the stove? There aren’t any! Diana just goes to the farmers market on the weekend and gets things that will (sort of) last the week. She wrote a great article about it, http://www.innermosthouse.com/#/in-dianas-words-i/spoiled-rotten. I love the super-simple meals I’ve had at Innermost House but I have to say no one would ever gain weight there. It just isn’t…well…fattening enough! I don’t know about charcoal, but I know they’ve worked this life out step by step, like a couple of pioneers.

BigGoofyGuy - December 17, 2011 Reply

It shows that small can be beautiful. I think it would make a very relaxing place to live and/or escape from the hustle and bustle of the world.

Emily - December 18, 2011 Reply

Kent this is a great article on the most beautiful tiny house ever. I fell in love with Innermost House when I saw it in House Beautiful magazine. These new photos and your words really say it even better for me…super simple, deep, spiritual. Peaceful but intense too. Thank you for this insiders glimpse into the home of my dreams!

    Kent Griswold - December 18, 2011 Reply

    Emily, I felt very honored to be invited to share a few hours in this lovely home with the Lorences. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

Dixter - December 18, 2011 Reply

Where does a guest, or third person, sit?

    Kent Griswold - December 18, 2011 Reply

    A small bench was used for seating when all three of us were visiting in the main room.

Trinidad - December 18, 2011 Reply

Can you recall your feelings the first day you stayed at your house?

    Diana Lorence - December 19, 2011 Reply

    Dear Trinidad, When my husband and I first moved in there were so many things unfinished that Innermost House had not quite come into itself yet. So there never exactly was a first day, but a few times each year I get to have something like that first day when we return home from traveling. It seems we always get home in the dark. I wait in the doorway while Michael steps inside and lights a match, but even before I can see a thing I sense the intense presence of the house. It isn’t that it’s my home. The house has the strangest feeling of being complete in itself, a sort of compelling self-composure. It is as though it has a life of its own and a story of its own and feelings of its own. It even has a scent of its own compounded of a thousand fires, old wood, woodland herbs, cool air and something else I can’t define. It feels alive.

      Terry - July 1, 2012 Reply

      Hi Mrs Lorence,
      I was wondering where I might read some of your husbands writings.

      Thanx.

Ismene - December 20, 2011 Reply

What fascinates me about this tiny house is that it doesn’t seem tiny. It’s what you said Kent, “At first I felt a little pressed in, but when I sat down close to the fire and started conversing the feeling soon went away. Then I just felt the deep peace.” Their house may be small in measurements but there’s something else going on. It doesn’t seem like it was made to be small. It’s more like it was made for the peace. These people seem like real-life alchemists who know how to turn small into gold. The pictures alone are almost magic. Fantastic article!

sylvain lamarche - December 22, 2011 Reply

Beautifull classic design. will sale 250 acres farm and spend winters in a 67 westy. This size house would do just fine for summers. Cheap to maintain, taxes, etc.

Tiny House Living – December 23, 2011 | Tiny House Living - December 23, 2011 Reply

[…] Seeing Is Believing tinyhouseblog.com The other day I found a real intense peace sitting in front of this fire conversing with my new friends, Diana and Michael Lorence. […]

Steynian 452rd | Free Canuckistan! - January 8, 2012 Reply

[…] really like the design of this house.. except they seem a little.. erm, sincere. Maybe a little spooky, too. […]

Ci - August 18, 2012 Reply

I have heard about Innermost House through a video by Faircompanies on YouTube. For some reason, this one always draws my attention and I am deeply fascinated by the house just by itself.
In the midst of designing my dream home, I take inspirations from Innermost House though I am curious on where does the house gets its water supply from, how is the water treated, and what do they do about greywater and waste management?

Michael - August 26, 2012 Reply

How about a floor plan? Pictures can be deceiving as too how big a place seems, and it looks like it’s bigger on the inside than the outside.

Michael - August 26, 2012 Reply

OK, found the website and the home is BEAUTIFUL.
I just have to know what the fire place it set up with?
Is it curbed lose sand, sand that was solidifies in some way, loose ashes, some kind of lava rock?

If it’s loose, and anything but ashes, how to the prevent the ashes from contaminating what is in there?

I always wonder about house ventilation.
Having BBQ coals burning in such an inclosed place, there has to be an exchange of air in some way.
I know that our house (less than 5 years old modern construction) sucks in through either the roof vents on the main level 3/4 bath, or the heater vent when the heater is blowing or there are bathroom vent fans on

Ken - January 6, 2013 Reply

Seeing the photos really does bring a peace or calm to one’s soul. What a wonderful little space they’ve created. I still find myself amazed at the infinite ways people find to simplify their lives and break it down to the things that drive them. These ideas really inspire me, so please continue to post stories of people seeking their passions.

José - October 10, 2013 Reply

I can appreciate the simplicity, tidiness and quiet location, it is a place for contemplation, study and blissful isolation from the mundane. A creative individual could render useful benefit from its chapel like austerity ambiance, but it would also need a workshop addition to put into reality all the visions, drawings, sketches and ideas in a human mind, as a simple balancing act of sanity.

fleming behrend - April 21, 2014 Reply

Getting in and out of bed looks to be a challenge. Specially as you get older! But beautiful concept.

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