Inspiration for Boathouse Comes from Tiny House Movement
by Karen Jenkins
I’d like to tell you that my family and I are fully immersed in the tiny house movement… that we sold our four-bedroom home in the suburbs and have downsized to keep only the necessities to live in a tiny house full-time. But, alas, that is not the case. And so as not to mislead all of you incredibly brave early-adopters of this fascinating movement, I thought I’d be upfront about that right off the bat.
What we have done, however, is to purchase what would be considered a tiny-home that was in major disrepair, and we then relied heavily on the stories, photos and advice from the Tiny-Home Blog for our inspiration. And for that, I thank you. I don’t think anyone (especially my husband) would have thought we could turn a floating 10×22 boathouse into a place that our family of five could actually live comfortably, but with your help we did. I thought I’d share some of our journey.
It started a year or so ago as we’d pull our boat into the marina after a day on the lake. Have you ever boated for more than a couple of hours with three boys, including a baby? The amount of “stuff” I ferried from home to the boat each time was taxing and I longed for one of those cute little floating boathouses that are on many of the lakes in the Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir system. The problem is, TVA stopped issuing permits for these structures more than 40 years ago, so you can’t just build a new one. You have to find one for sale with a TVA permit; in our case on Boone Lake it’s called a 4F number. Finding one priced reasonably can be the biggest challenge of all.
Near the end of the summer we did stumble upon a 40-50 year-old boathouse that was the right price, but it was very small and in very bad shape. Nevertheless, we snatched it up within a week of seeing if for sale. Immediately I begin searching online for ways to fit a family of five in 220 square feet of space. That’s when I found the Tiny-House Blog.
Part of our challenge was that TVA restricts the height of a boathouse to one-story and we can’t take up any more lake space that we currently use. Searching through homes on the blog I found the inspiration I needed; a loft. It doesn’t qualify as a second story, but seemed like enough space for a separate place to sleep. As I tried to explain my vision for the loft, my husband just wasn’t “getting it.” With a space only 10 feet wide he wondered how, even with a steep pitched roof, you’d have enough headroom. Back to the blog I went to find homes where window dormers were built to extend the space along the walls. We went up four feet, put windows in, and were able to stay within the TVA’s definition of one story.
Thankfully we also have a 4-foot porch that we were able to enclose. Although it only gave us an additional 40 square feet of space, I’ve come to realize that in the world of tiny-homes that’s prime real estate.
We ended up gutting the entire structure, replaced some of studs that had water damage, had the electric and pluming redone, and installed pine tongue and grove boards on the walls and ceilings. Although TVA drains its lakes in the winter, we have a small electric fireplace for heat for those early mornings in the fall and spring, and two window air conditioners for the hot summer days. A small hot water tank sits beneath the sink in the kitchen supplying enough hot water to wash hands, dishes and your hair if you’re quick!
The marina supplies our electric and water hook-ups and we went with an incinerator toilet so we don’t have to worry about septic.
The décor is a mix of ideas from houses I’ve seen on the Tiny-House blog, and a mish-mash of Pinterests pins from someone’s much-larger beach house that we could never afford.
Almost every aspect of our boathouse was taken from a photo or story I’d read on the Tiny-House blog. I’ve been so inspired by the creative ways many of you have maximized your limited space. There’s still improvements I’d like to make, but since it’s finally warm-enough we’ll finish the rest as we take-up residence for the summer.
Thanks again! Karen Jenkins