Tiny Wish House - Tiny House Blog

Tiny Wish House

tiny wish house

by Gillian Wilson

When our nearly 6 year old son was diagnosed with Leukemia last year time stopped, waiting for our brains to catch up. As I lay in hospital beds, and then at home with my son, we looked at books about tree houses. We had wanted to build one.

Children with cancer are all given a wish from the “Make a Wish” foundation. Right away, Eli wished for a tree house. MAW does not do tree houses any longer due to liability. So he regrouped, and asked for a fairy tale cottage in our yard, like in Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. As a paranoid mom, I realized the scale of his wish was greater than MAW could provide. I did not want a kid-sized playhouse that would be forgotten in just a few years.

I envisioned a functional tiny house that could serve our family for all our lives here in many ways. I was really concerned that the structure be safe for him since a big enemy of this cancer is fungus and molds. I wanted double paned windows, insulation, electricity so we could heat and HEPA filter, and water. We withdrew our wish, and I calculated up what we might have spent on vacations and restaurants over the next 3 ½ years. We did a little re-fi, and hired two local builder friends. Over the course of the worst part of his treatment he and I scoured every entry on Tiny house blog looking for ideas. I drew, and planned and got input from Eli over every aspect of the design.

It transformed from a very elaborate (unaffordable) curved roof Bavarian style cottage…to a simple 16 x 16 foot cabin. A feature I would not give up was a full staircase into the loft sleeping area. This is why I went with 16 x 16 rather than a smaller footprint. The builder talked me into a full upstairs since cost was about the same either way. The original set of drawings I also included a small bathroom with composting toilet. I nixed that during construction due to budget and opted for a sawdust toilet concealed in a chest upstairs.

Eli is into the much easier maintenance chemo now and has just over 2 more years left on therapy. Thankfully, the cure rate for childhood Leukemia is very high. Our tiny house has brought distraction, joy, and hope. The house provides a place for our friends to come visit which brings even more joy.

I had a friend tell me it is like entering their own childhoods againwhen they enter the house. I love our tiny house, more than our big house…and could easily live in it full time. Thanks for reading our story.

Gillian in Oregon

site for cabin

Site for cabin

Area leveled, trenched for electric/water/phone and 4 inches of rock layer down.

Area leveled, trenched for electric/water/phone and 4 inches of rock layer down.

post and beam floor structure.

Post and beam floor structure

first floor going up and very curious dogs assisting the builders.  At this point, the dogs still believe we are making this for them.

First floor going up and very curious dogs assisting the builders. At this point, the dogs still believe we are making this for them.

second floor, roof and shed dormer.  The downstairs plywood subfloor will get a layer of foam insulation and framework built for 2"x6" douglas fir planks to go down on top making a very stout "floor sandwich". The upstairs is the same douglas fir decking flipped upside down giving the downstairs an exposed beam ceiling.  This was more cost efficient than other flooring options I looked at.

Second floor, roof and shed dormer. The downstairs plywood subfloor will get a layer of foam insulation and framework built for 2″x6″ douglas fir planks to go down on top making a very stout “floor sandwich”. The upstairs is the same douglas fir decking flipped upside down giving the downstairs an exposed beam ceiling. This was more cost efficient than other flooring options I looked at.

Getting reading for roofing.  Starting to look like a cabin.  The front of roof has a 3' overhang so there is a dry place to sit.  All eaves are 24" to further protect the structure from the ridiculous amount of rain we get.

Getting reading for roofing. Starting to look like a cabin. The front of roof has a 3′ overhang so there is a dry place to sit. All eaves are 24″ to further protect the structure from the ridiculous amount of rain we get.

Yeah – steel roofing is up, and siding/windows on. One of our builders is a local timber framer. He has a mill and milled all of the cedar siding for the board/bat. He used live edge cedar to trim out the windows, and later would use live edge of various species to do the interior window trim.

Here you can see the live edge window trim, and also the lovely sweeping arches supporting the roof. I used copper chain as down spouts on the gutters.

Here you can see the live edge window trim, and also the lovely sweeping arches supporting the roof. I used copper chain as down spouts on the gutters.

Finally – a door! Another feature we did not want to give up on was having an arched top dutch door. This was worth the wait. Adirondack Naturals in new York made the door and gave Eli the gift of the great door knocker you see there. Cabin is finished in Eco-fin by sun frog. All of the external and internal finishes used are no VOC, or as low as I could find. Our timber framing friend found this great clear cedar lap siding at a clearance warehouse and did the soffits in cedar too.

Panel in. We did our own electric with the help of neighbor friend who tied it into our shop power.

Done! Want to see inside?

My favorite part of the house is this newel post made by a local Chainsaw carver (gallery at Alder Creek). He also made a lot of the cabin furniture. i found the quote from Christopher Robin, and it sums up the reason for building this cabin.

Dining area

Dining area

Kitchen. I found damaged Hickory cabinets ½ off at big box store. and Oak counter from Ikea…world cheapest kitchen! I splurged on a copper sink for its anti-microbial properties.

Living room area

Living room area

Upstairs bedroom with Hemlock ceiling. I wanted a skylight over the bed so our 2 sons could watch the stars in winter.

Other view of upstairs. Cedar tree used as support for pony wall.

The coveted dutch door. If I could do this again – I would have had this made in anything other than pine…It swells like crazy and is either loose, or stuck shut.

and finally a close up of the shelves in kitchen. Black walnut shelves – again from our timber frame friend and wood packrat. I love these!

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Lucy - August 3, 2012 Reply

This is such a lovely house and story! Best of luck to Eli and the rest of your family!

Donna - August 3, 2012 Reply

The cottage is beautiful. Here’s hoping your sons will use it for many years to come. Is there anyway to share with us some costs. It is exactly the size I am looking to build as our retirement home.

    Gillian Wilson - August 4, 2012 Reply

    Someone asked about cost….in the end, this project was roughly $35,000 – we did our own plumbing and electrical – so saved the labor cost here.

Rhoda - August 3, 2012 Reply

Thank you for sharing your touching story. This cottage is beautiful on the inside and outside. God bless you and your family.

Tara - August 3, 2012 Reply

Absolutely beautiful! What a wonderful gift for your son. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

mike - August 3, 2012 Reply

That thing is stunning. That is how it should be done.

liz goertz - August 3, 2012 Reply

My now 16 year old daughter had the same thing, it was a frightening time for the whole family. One day it will all be behind you and you will be worrying about what your teen age boys are doing in that little house!
when they go off to college you can move in.

Rachael - August 3, 2012 Reply

I love the attention to detail, from the rounded door to the gorgeous wood furniture!

Neil - August 3, 2012 Reply

The changes that life asks us make are difficult and will change us forever. Your making a beautiful change and God Be With All of You.

Kim - August 3, 2012 Reply

What a lovely story. I am sure the designing and buliding of the house was the perfect distraction for Eli and your family. Now you have a beautiful lasting legacy. Thanks for sharing, I hope Eli’s enjoys the little house with his grandchildren one day.

Christina Nellemann - August 3, 2012 Reply

Incredible. What a wonderful story and a wonderful place to be a kid…and an adult. Good luck with everything.

alice h - August 3, 2012 Reply

What a marvellous house and the landscaping really adds the finishing touch. Best of wishes for a bright future.

Kelli - August 3, 2012 Reply

Stunning, absolutely beautiful! God bless you and your son.

Bunny - August 3, 2012 Reply

What a perfect little house. The setting is beautiful. Praying Eli gets better and is able to enjoy his little cottage for a very long time.

JCinCT - August 3, 2012 Reply

Really nice….a house built with love. Thanks for the wonderful pictures that really let us see the whole house and all its details. Eli has gotta love this…may the Force be with you Eli and your loving family…..Good healing to you.

Nan - August 3, 2012 Reply

What a great story, what a great mom!

Pam - August 3, 2012 Reply

Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. It is so inspiring to see what dreams can produce. Prayers for Eli as he fights off the cancer cells.

Jan - August 3, 2012 Reply

What a wonderful project to focus on during such a stressful time. My guess is that in years to come, your sweet boy will remember his little house much more than his illness. Good job.

GINGER - August 3, 2012 Reply

Perfectly magical, perfectly conceived and perfectly built! Full of love and healing energy! Blessed Be!

Tiny Houses | England House Plans Blog - August 3, 2012 Reply

[…] When I started scrolling more through the Tiny House Blog to see more little homes, I saw this. […]

Megan - August 3, 2012 Reply

Thank you for sharing. The house is adorable. Wishing you the best “happily ever after…”

Hazel - August 3, 2012 Reply

What a wonderful thing to do for and with your son(s)! Such a tender, touching story and such a delightful fairy-tale cabin. May the ending be a fairy-tale one as well.

Anna - August 3, 2012 Reply

Love the house, what a great gift and a fun place to have 🙂

James Harkness - August 3, 2012 Reply

This is honestly the most inspirational story I have read, as well as the best looking Tiny House I have seen on here. Incredible.

Hugh W - August 3, 2012 Reply

Wonderful story… I needed a good one today. Shared it on G+ as well.

Mary - August 3, 2012 Reply

What a gorgeous cabin! And a beautiful thing to do for your son. May he and your family enjoy it for many years.

Heather - August 3, 2012 Reply

Best wishes to Eli! Enjoy your magical little house!

Hans Etter - August 3, 2012 Reply

Any list of vendors that you would recommend?

Lee Gandy - August 3, 2012 Reply

Our son was diagnosed with T-cell ALL in 2008 and after 3 and a half years of chemo finished his treatment this year. He is a happy and healthy 10 year old now, there is light at the end of the tunnel 🙂 The house for Eli is beautiful! I know that you will all enjoy it together for many years to come. Best of wishes!

    Gillian Wilson - August 4, 2012 Reply

    Wonderful news on your son! I love to hear stories from the other end of treatment!

Mrs. Frisby - August 3, 2012 Reply

What was the quote from Christopher Robin? The house is beautiful. Best of good luck to your family!

    Sherry - August 4, 2012 Reply

    Maybe “Halfway down the stairs is a stair where I sit…” It would seem appropriate.

    Gillian Wilson - August 4, 2012 Reply

    “Promise me you will always remember-
    you are braver than you believe, stranger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
    Christopher Robin

      Gillian Wilson - August 4, 2012 Reply

      dang auto-correct – that should have read “stronger than you think”…not “stranger”…but if you knew us – they both apply!

Meg - August 4, 2012 Reply

Wow! Eli, you and your family sure designed and built something super special- aren’t you glad your Make A Wish tree house didn’t come true, because then you wouldn’t have made this amazing cottage!!

Nicole Marie - August 4, 2012 Reply

What a lovely home you have created! Best of luck to you and your family and thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

Susan - August 4, 2012 Reply

This house is just awesome!! I would love to live in this, so many really clever touches. Inspiring for me, thats for sure.Great job, Eli, and of course family!

Sandra Allen - August 4, 2012 Reply

I have been moved by many stories but this one takes the cake. Wow, such devotion to his little wish that made the big wish come true, you truly are great parents.

This is the stuff that magic is made of. Eli can come back with his bride someday and remember when.

Thank you for sharing. Sandi

dwhr - August 4, 2012 Reply

Fantastic – would love to build my own up in northern NH!

PLC - August 4, 2012 Reply

I really like this house. I hope your son recovers completely. Inspiring story.

Katia - August 4, 2012 Reply

Thank you for the awesome and cherished chapter in your lives! May God Bless and Keep you all!!!

Can you give me the dimensions of this wonderful little cabin. I;’d love to move from the main house but still live on the farm. And what a way to do it!!!

    Gillian Wilson - August 4, 2012 Reply

    It is a nice square 16×16. 2 floors, so you could make it shorter than ours, or just include a loft.

Katia - August 4, 2012 Reply

Thank you for the awesome and cherished chapter in your lives! May God Bless and Keep you all!!!

Can you give me the dimensions of this wonderful little cabin. I’d love to move from the main house but still live on the farm. And what a way to do it!!!

Cindy - August 4, 2012 Reply

I so enjoyed seeing your fairy tale cottage. Thank you for sharing and all good wishes for you and your family.

Paul Jenkins - August 4, 2012 Reply

Beautiful all over! Best wishes!

Dustie - August 4, 2012 Reply

I am touched every time a child gets cancer, and I always pray for their recovery. This tiny house is a dream indeed for your son and children and your family. Your planning was so well thought out. I pray Eli gets well soon and I also pray for your family. God speed.

Carol - August 4, 2012 Reply

This is the most beautiful home I have ever seen!
Your attention to detail is amazing. Bless you and your family. May you all enjoy this house for many generations.

Rachel Fann - August 4, 2012 Reply

This little house is soooo beautiful, and inspirational. My son, Jayson Fann just built a “Spirit Nest” for a childrens hospital in Bethesda MD…check it out on “Big Sur Spirit Garden.com”. He builds “tree houses”…but big cosy nests for people, and you can fill them with pillows, warm blankets…perfect for star gazing!…….and gooooood luck with your little one! Rachel

    Gillian Wilson - August 4, 2012 Reply

    the nests are gorgeous. That a great place to build them!

Judy - August 4, 2012 Reply

Great Story! I hold your family in my prayers. Speedy recovery for your son.

Sandy - August 4, 2012 Reply

So beautiful!! Prayers and best wishes for Eli and all of you Thanks for sharing!

Stephanie - August 4, 2012 Reply

This is amazing and I would not expect anything else from girl. What a very special place for the kids. It was fun for Mike and I to look at and we were trying to figure out exactly where that is at in the yard. It would be so fun to come see the old place which I know we would not recognize anymore. God bless girl. i am so happy as it seems the worst is behind you all. You are an amazing momma with an amazing little boy. Thanks for sharing and prayers out.

    Gillian Wilson - August 4, 2012 Reply

    Hey Miss! Email me sometime so I have your address….you can link to my email from Eli’s caring bridge….on the right side of screen! would love to chat with you. gill

Nerida - August 4, 2012 Reply

All the best for Eli’s recovery. We also are great fans of Winnie the Pooh and CHristopher Robin. I am currently working a patchwork quilt for a bub and it will have quotes on it inlcuding the one you have on the wall. Just LOVE that bear and the whole house. Just wonderful.

Many blessings to you and your little family.

Nerida - August 4, 2012 Reply


One of my other favourite WtP quotes is

“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh

Seems his house is just overflowing with that feeling. 🙂

Jayne - August 4, 2012 Reply

Your story is wonderful and so inspiring and full of love..the finished cabin is just so perfect complete with the handmade furniture..I wish you and your family many moments of laughter and happiness inside!!

Susan - August 4, 2012 Reply

Any chance you would share the cost? I understand if you can’t reveal it, but if you don’t mind it’s very helpful. Thank you and best wishes and luck to your sweet son. You’re wonderful for creating his dream.

Maria - August 5, 2012 Reply

Thank you.

BunELuv - August 5, 2012 Reply

I want one 2…And may your entire family be blessed and your son healed in the name of your LORD & GOD!

David - August 5, 2012 Reply

Your story is truly inspiring. My son is in remission after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in March 09; two weeks after my spouse filed for divorce. Hundreds of days in the hospital and two bone marrow transplants helped my son and I learn what is important in life. Spending time with the ones you love and being able to make every minute count is really what it is all about. I spent many a night by my son’s hospital bed looking at tiny homes on this site. I left a multi thousand foot home hoping one day to realize a dream of living in less than two hundred. Now that my son is out of the hospital, he has acquired his dad’s appreciation for tiny homes and dreams of living in one himself one day. A home which allows the time to truly live. A prayer goes out to Eli for a most blessed future leukemia free.

    Gillian - August 7, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for your comment. We are kindred spirits in having sick children lead us to the tiny house dream. I am so glad your son is doing well . Tranplants are terrifying.

      Joseph Zick - April 11, 2014 Reply

      Could you please contact me by email on your beautiful little tiny home you built. Joezalbanyrv@gmail.com. Thank you.

Steve Du Bois - August 5, 2012 Reply

I would love to buy your actual plans for this home! The only thing I don’t see that is a neccesity is a bathroom…

    Gillian - August 5, 2012 Reply

    I just drew up scale plans on graph paper. I originally had small 1/2 bath under stairs…but also, lots of room upstairs in dormer area. That is a king sized bed in picture. It is an enormous tiny house.

Sharon P - August 5, 2012 Reply

Love this and definetly would love the plans. So well done and definetly brings back wishes of childhood/adulthood! Hope your son is doing well. You are great parents for doing this as a way to keep going and make wishes come true!

Scott S. - August 5, 2012 Reply

Wow – fabulous house, and wonderful cause behind it. We all need things to look forward to, and I trust that this project provided your son with something beautiful to look towards, and will continue to inspire; I know it has inspired me.

Doug & Patty - August 5, 2012 Reply

MAW wouldn’t fulfill the wish because of LIABILITY! We think they have forgotten what they WERE all about! But you became the angel they claim to be!

    CW - August 6, 2012 Reply

    I think it likely that it has nothing to do with MAW forgetting what they are about. The most probable answer is that someone fell out of a treehouse that they provided to fulfill a childs wish and some lawyer saw them as deep pockets to go after. Welcome to the culture of litigation.

Vappu - August 6, 2012 Reply

Amazing little house, and inspirational story! I truly love this!

LoriVinton - August 6, 2012 Reply

I am in awe, I pray for healing for you and yours.You are blessed.Thanks for sharing your story.

Damon - August 6, 2012 Reply

Thank you for sharing so many detailed images, descriptions and tips! I love seeing inside and also being able to see how you did things along the way. You truly have created a magic cottage!

Re: the sawdust toilet, we recently stayed at Tree House Point in WA and their treehouses had Incinolet toilets, which burn the waste to ash via electricity. From the company’s website: “INCINOLET uses electric heat to reduce human waste (urine, solids, paper) to a small amount of clean ash, which is dumped periodically into the garbage. INCINOLET remains clean because waste never touches the bowl surface. A bowl liner, dropped into the bowl prior to use, captures the waste, then both liner and its content drop into the incinerator chamber when the foot pedal is pushed. You can use INCINOLET at any time-even while it is in cycle.” Though we ended up using the plumbed toilets in the shared bath on the ground, I thought I’d mention it in case it might be worth exploring for you down the road.

Thank you so much for this detailed and inspiring post and here’s to perfect health for your precious son!

Patti - August 6, 2012 Reply

I could so live in that house too! It’s like a real-life version of a gingerbread house. I love the bear carved into the stairway rail. And the bedroom looks like one that even a tall person can stand up straight and move around just fine in…which seems rare for a tiny house with upstairs bedroom. Nicely done, and count me as one who just might consider buying your plans if you ever make them available. Best wishes for your son’s recovery

Fr. Chip Johnson - August 6, 2012 Reply

A beautiful tiny house! We are in process tonight of sketching plans from this for our next phase. We are in a 16×16 with a 1/2 loft for sleeping(<4' clearance in loft…,bad planning.)
This Griswold house will key into our existing cabin with a patio between and the cabin would serve as bath/kitchen while we LIVE in the new spot! Great construction job and a fantastic photo journal.

Chip and Linda

Dina - August 7, 2012 Reply

Just to clarify – MAW does not do tree houses because the insurance companies would only insure them for an astronomical rate. MAW has never been sued over a tree house incident. At least that is what we were told when a relative asked about them.

Lovely little house, and I wish your family years of health and joy in its use.

    CW - August 7, 2012 Reply

    That makes just as much sense. I have to admit, that I was speculating. I was really just commenting on the idea that Make-A-Wish had somehow “forgotten what they were about,” and figured there are probably very practical/pragmatic reasons why they can or can’t do certain things.I think they are a great organization, but there are limits to what any organization can do.

oyong - August 7, 2012 Reply

if u don’t mind,can i have the copy of your house plan?both of us want to build small house like yours.we love it.nice and simple

Gillian - August 7, 2012 Reply

Make a wish is wonderful, but there are unfortunately so many kids in the situation of receiving wishes, that some wishes are too great. There are wish guidelines and rules. The organization rules also vary by state. Ultimately, this was such a personal wish for Eli…and quite outside of the MAW criteria, we did it on our own. The process of doing it proved to be much more therapeutic than if it just magically appeared.

Melissa - August 8, 2012 Reply

So beautiful, and even more special because of the reason for the cottage. Healing prayers for your son as he continues on his road to recovery, and how lovely he has such a special spot to know in a very physical way the love and care you have for him!

jane - August 8, 2012 Reply

What was your budget for the house? Just wondering how much it would cost to build one like this?

    Gillian - August 9, 2012 Reply

    See reply early in comments

Tiny houses | Towards Self-Reliance - August 11, 2012 Reply

[…] favourite is the tiny wish house. It’s a wonderful design, and I would love to live in it. It has more than enough room for a […]

Krista - August 14, 2012 Reply

Thank you for this. It has touched my heart. I agree with above who states that this is such a beautiful physical example of your love for your son. We would be interested in the plans for this if possible.

Stephanie Reiley - August 14, 2012 Reply

What a beautiful home. I wish your two sons many happy, healthy years together looking at the stars through their skylight. You’re in my prayers.

Basha Brownstein - August 31, 2012 Reply

What a wonderful story of manifestation in the face of sadness. I wish your family abundant healing and all the best. Your cottage certainly reflects a simple beauty and sweetness that will be a haven of love.

donatella - August 31, 2012 Reply

Magical! Reminds me of the wabi-sabi fairy tale cottages of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Grace - October 3, 2012 Reply

Dear President
Greetings to you from Myanmar,I am Grace Director of Hope For Myanmar
Children,we have 28 orphans and poor children in our center,we need prayer
support and help for these children,we need food,clothes,medicine and
for education,we are very much need of help and prayer support our
prayer is not only for our center also to support other orphans and
childcare center, there are many children to feed and give them
education,I humblely request your organization to support these
children needs ,you can see us our free website is Hope For Myanmar
Children,if you have any
question please feel free to me,thank you again for your concern for
With blessing,
Mrs Grace
Director Hope for Myanmar Children

Joyce - July 4, 2013 Reply

Gillian, Your little cabin is so lovely, and looks so comfortable and comforting; it’s something I’d love to have in my own life–I lost my handsome son when he was just 31 y.o. in a hunting accident (my only child), and even today there are times when I wish I could just go into my own little abode and shut the world out.

I miss him deeply–and my thoughts are with you and your son, because I know how hard it is to lose our sweet children, if it happens. I do hope your son outlives you, and that’s meant to be kind; we aren’t supposed to bury our children!

Cathy Johnson (Kate) - October 8, 2013 Reply

What a wonderful, inspiring story; I hope your son is doing very much better now! (I wish I could have read the Christopher Robin quote, this is all just magic.)

Nadya - September 8, 2014 Reply

I love this manifestation of Eli’s wish!
I lived in twI small houses at Breitenbush (propane hotplate in one, second shared a kitchen and bath): 9 X 19′, the second was an octagon, 17′ diameter. the shaker space had a loft bed, second a simple upper floor…..
The Lôvélÿ craftsman touches and features remind me of our staff cottages!

Sunnie C. - May 13, 2015 Reply

I just love this little house! I have spent countless hours playing around with graph paper. Such a wonderful experience for you and your son!
I would like very much to see your plans, also. Not to copy them, but I would love the roof elevations! That seems to be my biggest issue.
Thanks again for sharing!

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