Cowboy Cottage - Tiny House Blog

Cowboy Cottage

Cowboy cottage

by Cheryl Preston

I am new to the world of living “small” and just joined your group last night. In the next four months, I will be downsizing from a 2000 sq foot farmhouse I’m renting into a 440-sq foot 2-room cottage that I call the Cowboy Cottage.

This little cottage started out as a shed built by its original owner who had a small vineyard and needed a place to make the wine. The second owner decided to build out from the shed and add a living/sleeping space for his visiting grandkids as a playhouse.

I purchased the property (a total of 10 acres with the main house I keep rented out) with my husband in 2005. After he died the following year, I decided to rent the main house out and turn the playhouse into another cabin to rent out. I used the original 1940’s stove (a castoff from the main house) as the inspiration piece and created a vintage western theme and named the guest cottage “The Cowboy Cottage.”

living room

I have some success renting out this little cottage as a vacation getaway, but have now decided to downsize and move into the charming Cowboy Cottage. The drive will be an additional 30 minutes to work, but at last I will be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

living room 2

I took out the closet and had a full-size Murphy bed installed. I had the plywood countertop taken off and had a nice piece of molded countertop added; updated the fixtures, laid down 5″ T&G yellow pine flooring throughout, added a wood stove, and western touches including a 5′ longhorn rack I picked up in Texas. I put in a hot water tank, small septic tank and insulated and sealed off the attic crawlspace over the living area. I also had 2 stables built under the part of the shed that originally housed a tractor.


Unfortunately, I cannot get a CO from the county to put in a separate electric meter because the shed does not have a 3′ required crawlspace so the power and water come through lines connected directly to the main house, 125′ feet away. Since I will be moving out there full time, I’m looking at having a new well drilled and looking into solar power as an option.


I was out there today taking measurements and trying to figure out how I am going to “fit” into it, but I’ve stayed in it many nights while out there for a weekend retreat; very different than actually moving in. But I am bound and determined to be out at my property at last.


Here is what it looked like when I first moved in, before the deck and stables were added (circa 2007) and a couple of before and afters the inside remodel in kitchen. Reduced the double bifold doors that lead into the bathroom down to 1 bifold door and added a new wall where the other bifold door was.


before kitchen

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RJ Sharpe - January 31, 2014 Reply

Nice! I especially love the modified shed roof. That’s a clever solution to the problem of how to build with a shed roof and protect visitors from getting dripped on. I also like the size. As much as I like a lot of the smaller spaces, 400-500 sq ft. seems more in line with what would work for my wife and I. Thank you so much for sharing. -RJ

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    RJ-thanks–that section was added around 2005 by the second owner who was a general contractor. That section of the cabin has more upgraded features than the original structure, such as double-paned windows and paneling and some insulation.

    Adding the deck made for more space and my future plans are to add a veranda over the deck so I can hang plants and have a little privacy when I’m on the deck. Maybe even add a small wooden hot tub!

    Kari Ekberg - February 3, 2014 Reply

    I really like the bit larger size. I want small, but not a closet. You did a wonderful job and I am really impressed. Yes I am a deck person. Love to sit outside at night on mine with a small fire pit and watch the stars

      cheryl preston - February 3, 2014 Reply

      Hi Kari, I had to have a small deck added just for that purpose! I also found an old part of a barn door and had someone attach it to the wall by hinges, so that when I want a table out there, I can swing it out, and prop it on a single leg. I’ve got a couple of swivel back bar stools salvaged from a closing restaurant and that’s my outdoor table!

Nancy Ward - January 31, 2014 Reply

I could move in tomorrow. Beautiful.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Nancy-the fall is especially pretty in western North Carolina! To see more photos of this cottage, of the Family Cabin, you can go to
    The Family Cabin is about 1500 sq feet with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It is really too big just for me, so I rent it out as a weekend vacation home.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Nancy-the fall is especially pretty in western North Carolina! To see more photos of this cottage, or the other cabin, you can go to
    The other cabin is about 1500 sq feet with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It is really too big just for me, so I rent it out as a weekend vacation home.

Brian - January 31, 2014 Reply

Very cool little cabin! I wish you the best of luck as you transition to the smaller space. My wife and I are preparing to do the same, but it will be a few years as we have teenagers we want to let finish high school before we upset their lives with a move. I’m curious, what part of the country is this?

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    This is located about 3 miles east of the resort town of Lake Lure, which is in western North Carolina.

Beverly Frye - January 31, 2014 Reply

I love this Cowboy Cabin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know you can live in it. I have recently moved into what I call my Little Cabin in Statesville, NC.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Beverly—I am about 100 miles southwest of you…I love North Carolina

Andy - January 31, 2014 Reply

What a wonderful house! Great work and beautifully done.

Devon in VT - January 31, 2014 Reply

Love it, its adorable! Best of luck with it.

jean massey - January 31, 2014 Reply

you have a great home there. I hope you enjoy it for many years love the color!

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Jean! I don’t know how long I’ll stay in this particular cabin; I’m looking at bringing in a park model close to this cabin, and I’ll probably want to live in the new park model when it gets here and start renting out the Cowboy Cottage again to weekenders. But I’ll be in for the rest of 2014 for sure.

Wendy P - January 31, 2014 Reply

I’m not sure I could live permanently in such a tight space … I would need to at least add on a covered large porch to increase my outside usable space. To be honest, I would want a separate bedroom – so perhaps 650 sq feet ? Could some of you live permanently in 440 sq feet? Where does she put her clothes?

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Wendy, you ask a great question about the clothes…I haven’t moved in yet, but I will move low dresser underneath that clothes rod, and will pack my other clothes and store them in a nearby storage unit. This is a truel challenge. I will store some furniture, and store some items, but since this little cottage is already furnished, I won’t need to bring much except my clothes and my pets. The rest will be sold, stored or donated. No one said downsizing was easy, but for my future plans to expand the cabin rental business, it is necessary and I’m looking forward to living back out on my property again!

Teresa - January 31, 2014 Reply

Love this, you have done an amazing job. The decor is so warm and welcoming.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Teresa….you know what sets the tone? The wood grain paneling…I was afraid if I stained the tongue-n-groove yellow pine floors, it would be too much wood, so I left them natural. But the more I look at it, the more I think a dark walnut-stained floor would blend in with the walls better. Also, the trim at the top is cherry; it came from a cherry tree I had someone chop down (his name was not George) and he used a portable sawmill to mill it right there and he put up the trimwork. I think it helps to break up the vertical lines of the paneling.

Gloria House - January 31, 2014 Reply

I love this idea! I live in a 400sq foot park model-across the breezeway we have a 16+20 ft cabin that has a living room-sm bedroom and a bathroom. All this is in a NE Ga campground.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Gloria, let’s talk offline about your park model. I’m looking at adding a park model to my property sometime next year and I’d love to talk to a park model owner. (reference my response to Jean Massey)

    Thanks for your response! Let’s hook up! (no pun)

    David Stembridge - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Would love to hear more about your park model as well Gloria! We are in SE Ga.

Pam - January 31, 2014 Reply

I love it! And the updates you’ve done are terrific!

Rob Sand - January 31, 2014 Reply

Nice digs. Consider installing a private meter for the electrical and the water. I have done both. You can then calculate the electrical and water usage and pay the renter in the large house for your share.

Enjoy your fine home.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Rob, I had an electrician come out and install a meter base so I could have a separate electrical hookup. But the county would not issue me a CO because the structure was not certified to be habitable and to code. It didn’t have the required 3′ crawlspace and the septic was put in without a permit by the previous owner. So they did not grandfather me in. So I hope one of you has been able to successfully use solar power so I can keep this cabin on its own energy source and not use the existing set up I have; which is a buried cable from the main cabin to the cottage.

      Wendy - January 31, 2014 Reply

      I wonder if you had presented the cabin as a “studio” where you work, not live, if you could have gotten that meter? Also in re: to clothing- most people only wear a tiny fraction of the clothes they own. You may be surprised at how many of your clothes you can easily get rid of and never miss.

        cheryl preston - February 1, 2014 Reply

        Wendy, that’s a great idea about asking about a studio. I’m calling the electric company next week about requirements for a putting in a park model, so I’ll ask then!

Amanda - January 31, 2014 Reply

I love your little house! I have been living small(er) for 25 years now, preparing for the day when I can live in a cabin just like yours. I like the size, enough room to have a small jewelry studio, and for my golden retrievers. The happiest i ever was is when I lived in a 200 sq ft studio cabin, complete w/ small fireplace, and kitchenette/shower too. IT was a rental though. You will live like a queen! Beautiful workmanship.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Amanda! I also have 2 dogs, both Australian Cattle Dog-mix, so they will be outside in the stables area. My pets inside will be my 4 cats. So we’ll see how this works out! I had thought about yanking out the Murphy bed, putting in a sleeper sofa, and putting a washer-dryer where the Murphy bed is, but I don’t have enough electrical power to run a dryer down there. So for now, I’ll just pull the bed down at night and stow it out of site in the daytime.

Hallyhook - January 31, 2014 Reply

Cute place and very livable. I had to do a similar downsize and found that eliminating many favourite doodads and things made the space seem more, well, spacious. After a very short time I didn’t miss all those things I had hanging around. I never really “saw” them anyway.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for words of encouragement…I am going from Victorian decor of antiques (china, knick-knacks, silver teasets and old furniture) straight to cowboy country! It’s a refreshing change! And who doesn’t love leather??? (I never liked polishing silver anyway!)

Sue - January 31, 2014 Reply

Totally my style, now you just need a horse out in back 🙂 It may be a bit tight for you at first, but I’m sure you adjust just fine.
It is a lovely place, good job! It’s too bad about the commute but look what you come home too. Peace and quiet.
Worth ever mile. 🙂

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Sue, and a horse is in my future…..I’ve spent years dreaming about one, and that’s why I had the pasture and stables put in, for that one day when I would come back to the property. “If you build it, they will come…” had a colleague yesterday offer me a “free” horse but I’m not ready yet–I won’t move out to the cottage until May..

Maryl - January 31, 2014 Reply

Well done! You’re a lucky girl. =)

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Maryl—very fortunate that we found this piece of paradise….and I believe my husband would be very HAPPY with everything I’ve done with the property….

Deborah - January 31, 2014 Reply

Absolutely LOVE your place. I definately could live there. Very tastefully decorated!!!

NanaPat - January 31, 2014 Reply

Love your “Cowboy cabin” !I’m sure you will enjoy living there and should be proud of all your work.
Thanks for sharing.

    Cheryl Preston - January 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks NanaPat…..And looking back, if I were to have made any changes, I would have started calling it the Cowboy Cabin instead of the Cowboy Cottage because “cottage” sounds so white and picket-fence dainty and “cabin” sounds rustic, and splintered wood and more outdoorsy which was the look I was going for….thanks for your comments

June Jones - January 31, 2014 Reply

I love this house. It reminds me of one my family lived in for four years when I was a child. Same size — about 400 square feet. Ours had a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms. It was cozy, but also very charming. It was built from reclaimed walls and windows from old buildings from the nearby town. My dad built a wraparound deck, so in the summers we could sit outside in the evening… And it was out on some acreage in the woods, so it felt very private. What wonderful memories I have. My parents eventually built a bigger house on the property and we moved into that when my sister (the third child) was born. I’m glad I got to live in what we called “the little house.” It’s given me a marvelous perspective on space… And happiness. Today Iive in a 1,200 square foot house and lament I have one room I hardly use… That seems like wasted space to me. Enjoy your cowboy cottage!

    cheryl preston - February 3, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story June! Interesting how growing up “small” has left a permanent impression on you–you only live in the size house you actually NEED..I could actually move up to the larger house that is about 100 feet away, but it is just TOO BIG for 1 person! (1500 sq feet and 4 bedrooms).

Fran Yohannan - January 31, 2014 Reply

If you are committed to “tiny living,” you can do it! Seven years ago when our 6 sons left home, my husband and I moved from a 4600 sf house to a 600 square foot apartment. It was a challenge but over time, we learned what is really important and what are just “extras.” We have so much more time for the important stuff, like enjoying ourselves and our family. We like “tiny living” so much that we are hoping to build our own “tiny house” – one even smaller than our current luxurious 600 square feet!

Ann H. - January 31, 2014 Reply

Wonderful little cabin! I’m sure you’ll figure out how to make everything fit. Lucky you! I’m so jealous, it’s beautiful!

David Remus - January 31, 2014 Reply

Very nicely done. Useful, not too small for most people, attractive too.

Thanks for sharing.

Sherry Klopf - January 31, 2014 Reply

Well done girl!!! I’m searching for smaller solutions for a home now that I’m recently widowed. You have give me hope and ideas. Way to go!

Sherry Klopf

    cheryl preston - February 3, 2014 Reply

    Yeah, once you get used to sleeping alone, a full-sized bed is the perfect size!

David Cadman - February 1, 2014 Reply

Hi Cheryl, don’t worry about wondering how, just do it, as the kids say… been 19 years now and I have a variety of lodgings, down from 40×24, with finished basement, to now 15×10 room, w/loo and shower… bit tight, as the bed is a queen (not mine, the landlords) but sufficient for a retired bachelor… I won’t go into detail what I have left behind, suffice to say, a library room, work shop, 19×12 living room, 17×12 family/rec. room, 4 bedroom house 😉 oh, it had two bathrooms, two full kitchens and sauna, wife and 3 great kids; if I can do it on disability, you can… look forward to updates…

Dave in Canada…

    cheryl preston - February 3, 2014 Reply

    Dave, I see you are from Canada….you get colder winters than we do here in NC; but this winter has been a doozy. I have a woodstove, but I am also going to look into putting those new Mitsubishi ventless A/C-Heaters (about the size of a breadbox) that mounts on the wall. I’ve seen these used in park models and they are ideal for small spaces. That way I won’t HAVE to come home and fire up the woodstove and constantly be in survival mode! I can just flick the wall switch and the cabin will be heated quickly and efficiently.

Barbara - February 1, 2014 Reply


Your little cottage looks beautiful!

It’s amazing how many people are doing what you are planning. Downsizing is not something new but my husband and I are doing the very same thing you are. Our house is for sale in southern MN 2500 sq feet. The kids are in college and we have been slowly moving to our up north cottage on 30 acres, in the woods about 100 miles south of the Canadian border. I can relate to what a lot of people are saying in these post.
I don’t mind the downsizing it has been a so freeing. We have given away a lot.
So far the only challenge has been wood for heat. We had plenty cut and recently ran low. We have a propane back-up but do not want to rely on that either and the expense as well. We love to cut wood and it’s great exercise, but funner in the summer:)
Thanks for sharing!

    cheryl preston - February 3, 2014 Reply

    Hi Barbara, here is a link to those Mitsubishi units I was just talking about. I think they are around $3K but they are ductless (not ventless) and can be installed in a day. May be something to look into as your primary source of heat.

    Thank you for posting to this blog!

David Cadman - February 1, 2014 Reply

Quick note, be careful of too much dark… it can get depressing… try for a balance of light and dark decorating, with the dark as the highlights… you’ll find too, that lighting is much better, because the light will reflect light out while the dark will tend to absorb… not something you want in a tiny space…
as per clothes, this clothes horse, found that when downsizing, put half your clothes away under the bed (Wally Mart has plastic trundle boxes) and see what you wear on a seasonal basis, and decide from there what is necessary… took me 3 years to finally downsize from suits that I never wore to casual 😉
What you don’t use frequently can be stored away off site, usually for a small monthly fee, until you are comfortable with letting it go… hardest things to part with are “family treasures” collected over a life time… that is what kids are for; discuss it with them;
ummmm not particularly short, sorry, got carried away ;)will butt out of your life and check on what SpaceX is doing LOL…

Cheers, Dave

Rod - February 2, 2014 Reply

Hey Cheryl, nice place. on the electric can you have a tempory pole set up? as a contractor I have to have power to run my tools, I get a tempory ploe set up to work off of. when the job is finnished the power is moved to the meter on the house.I have had tempory poles set and used permanately. their is no limit on how long you can use a tempory. Hope this helps.Rod in Texas.

    cheryl preston - February 3, 2014 Reply

    hmmmm…a temporary pole may be the answer…I will check into it…do I request this from the power company? Is it something I purchase separately and have an electrician put int? Who is responsible for running the line from the main pole to the temp pole? Power company? I’m intrigued with this idea!

dawn - February 3, 2014 Reply

before i talk about home, i would like to sorry for your loss of your husband. i too lost mine so i understand change……

but i got to say this cottage is cute as hell! i hope you get everything work out about elec and craw spaces and such! you did a grand job on this cute little home! wish you the best on all that comes your way!

    cheryl preston - February 3, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Dawn for your well wishes and comments….what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and you will come out of this situation with your loss a stronger person. I just wish I had my husband her when something goes wrong and he knew how to fix it! He was a plumber by trade, so I have learned to be somewhat handy, but not a craftsman by any means, so I have to hire out a bunch of work that I could save $$$ if I knew how to do it and just not interested enough to learn how. I’m happiest when I’m decorating!

MsDawn Burton - February 5, 2014 Reply

I am very sorry about your husband. The place is beautiful. I pray you will be blessed out there.

Patrick - February 7, 2014 Reply

Sometimes, dwellings cobbled together in sections over time have the most charm. I would place this one in that category. Love the Western theme touches, too. Really makes yours a one-of-a-kind home. I’m sure you’ll enjoy living there, and hope you’ll find the longer commute well worth it!

esma emre - February 20, 2014 Reply

hi first I want to apologize my english as strong as it’s not for a long time your page I’m watching gorgeous I in turkey istanbul near a small village I live garden with lot of work and the garden this model someday would love to make turkey this system get my home conteyn merge, but your model is more beautiful congratulate you and the model is very beautiful greetings

Valerie R. - February 26, 2014 Reply

This is one of the nicer designs I’ve seen, and a good size to be practical. I live in 500 sqft myself, and even when there were both of us, it never seemed cramped.

Sarah Obenschain - March 18, 2014 Reply

Gorgeous! Sorry to hear about your circumstances to move into a smaller space, but you are moving into style! It’s one of my favorites I have seen so far!


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