Reasonable and right

These historic Martha's Vineyard cottages are compact and charming. September 2012

These are historic Martha’s Vineyard Cottages are compact and charming. September 2012

“…it is reasonable and right that men should strive to make the useful wares which they produce beautiful just as Nature does; and that they should strive to make the making of them pleasant, just as Nature makes pleasant the exercise of the necessary functions of sentient beings. To apply art to useful wares, in short, is not frivolity, but a part of the serious business of life.”William Morris

One year ago today my post was about my love of romantic Victorian decorating, and how it might seem to be at odds with my growing conviction that simplicity is the answer to many modern dilemmas.  As I wrote then, I’ve learned to enjoy such frilly delights without needing to own, dust, or maintain them, especially now that there are abundant online images to enjoy through Pinterest and other social media.

In recent months I’ve been particularly drawn to learning more about the “tiny house movement,” as it is sometimes described.  I have no delusion that I am anything close to ready for such radical downsizing, but I still think it’s a fascinating concept worthy of attention.  One facet of this lifestyle that I find appealing is the attractive design of many of these tiny abodes.  Maybe it’s because, as a child, I dreamed of having my own little playhouse of about the same size and design.

Certainly the cottages of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, pictured at the top of this page, are far too large to be considered tiny homes.  Yet they are considerably simpler than the homes belonging to us and most of the people we know, while possessing a unique charm that many newer, more ostentatious homes lack.

William Morris, who is quoted above, produced high quality furnishings normally associated with wealthy or upper middle class consumers.  But note that Morris (an ardent socialist) said nothing about size, quantity or monetary value; rather, his emphasis was on the marriage of beauty and utility; the combination of aesthetics with practicality.  Perhaps his ideal is echoed in the delightful designs of the cottages pictured above, and in the cute coziness of many of the tiny homes springing up across the country and around the world.

For the majority of us who are not ready for such a drastic departure from the norm, there are some helpful lessons to be learned from those who are choosing this path.  You’ll find more food for thought in this post, titled “The top 10 tips I’ve learned from minimalists” at Lara’s blog, The Extraordinary Simple Life.

Advertising may have influenced us to associate beauty with excessive spending and prestige brands, but economic and ecological concerns are causing many of us to re-think our ideas about what is necessary and desirable.  Contrary to what we may have been told, practicality and beauty are not mutually exclusive, just as material possessions and happiness don’t always go hand in hand.

Since I have enjoyed dividing our time between two “normal” size homes, I would have a long way to go– and lots of belongings to shed–  before I could live full time in a tiny house, or even a gingerbread cottage.  But I applaud these modern pioneers of a new (old) way of life, who are proving that frugal does not have to be frumpy, and downsizing can be delightful.

One year ago today:

Turrets, dormers and tchotchkes




  1. Larry

    It is quite providential that your blog today would talk about small homes and all three of you got to sleep in your own home! Mom is so, so happy to know that the lengthy hospital stay is over and things will slowly return to Home Sweet Home. There is still going to be some changes to your routine for while. Tell Matt that Grandmother is so happy to hear the good news he is home. Praise be to God for this great blessing.

    • Thank you Larry, home is always a great place to be, but never more so than now. I feel very thankful to have all three of us here right now; a blessing for sure! Matt was able to walk just a little bit twice today outside (as per the doctor’s instructions) and seems to feel pretty well tonight. Love to all.

  2. raynard

    Julia, I dont know if I mentioned before my time over in Iraq was “spent in what I call a Army circus tent. There was over 50 people in one tent. You have “just enought room on each side to” to a whiff of someone’s feet and breath..( if you need a good laugh you can call me”Little Jack Horner, “lived in a corner Pss, What is Curds& whey? Is that a southern thing like”grits but up here it’s “scrapple” I digress be blessed

    • Raynard, if I had to stay in those conditions I would be totally useless as a soldier – in fact, come to think of it, I guess I’d be totally useless as a soldier under any conditions. I keep remembering Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin on her first day of boot camp – “What? no curtains? Why can’t the army afford curtains? I’m going to be waking up at DAWN!” 😀 I think curds and whey would probably be closer to yogurt than grits, but I hope never to find out!

  3. I am a great fan of tiny houses too. I spend a lot of time on You tube watching the compact little houses (teased by my girl for that). I have even thought of making a tiny home on our terrace which could be my retreat. During our trips to Ikea I can spend hours looking at the way they have organised little living areas. Now I have realized how big my little apartment is. We can survive with a lot less – it’s all about being systematic and organised.

    • Bindu, our Ikea store had a display that re-created the full inside of a tiny home, and I think that’s what got me so hooked on the idea. Like you, I would love to have one just for myself. The writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh had such a little house where she would go to write (she actually called it “Little House” and noted some of her journal entries and letters as being written from there). I think it was a converted tool shed. You can see a photo of her in it at this link. My little attic garret is about 40 square feet I think, and I love every inch of it.

  4. Thanks but no thanks…we down sized over ten yrs ago to a smaller home. but I like space… 🙂

    • Merry, I’m afraid I like space too, except when it comes to cleaning. I’m especially hooked on STORAGE space, which is why I like the idea of having a tiny house in addition to a “regular” house, and not instead of it…which I suppose defeats the purpose! Still, I can fantasize about building a cute little “tiny home community” in Nor Cal or another lovely but expensive vacation destination, and having people buy or rent there for extended visits. Maybe have a large community center in the middle with shared spaces for big kitchens and dining rooms and other places for groups to gather. I think that’s what I like best about having a more spacious home; lots of people can fit in for dinners and other get-togethers, especially over the holidays.

  5. Sheila

    Julia, delightful downsizing has such a nice ring to it. There seems to be way too much stuff between me and simplicity. There are so many consignment shops, thrift stores, resale shops, etc. that let’s me know I’m not alone in this. I would like to have a vendor booth at one of the eclectic resale shops, just for fun! I so hope you’ve had a good day. Welcome home, Matt! 🙂

    • Sheila, I think it would be so great if somewhere we could have a giant storage house for everyone to put their cute, pretty, delightful and otherwise priceless things into a big community library and we could all check out stuff when we wanted something new and take it back to exchange for something else. Some public libraries now have everything from tools to cake pans to toys for checkout. Just imagine how cool it would be to go to one of those cute little vintage re-sale shops and not have to pay for anything or store it permanently, just borrow it! I’d love to share some of my “stuff” with anyone who would enjoy it for awhile. Especially stuff like specialty dishes and pans, china and glassware or crystal. I guess I’m just trying to have my cake and eat it too! Even if I did get a tiny house I would still want to visit people who had big homes full of interesting treasures. I love going to Darla’s home in the historic district. She has so much wonderful stuff and changes it out with all the seasons and holidays – she had a full basement for storage, which makes it possible, but I have such fun looking at all her “pretties.” So I guess I’m torn between two appealing extremes. Which means I’ll shoot for the middle, at least for the time being. 😀 Thanks for being here with us tonight, at HOME!

      • Sheila

        Oh, Julia, what a wonderful idea! 🙂 Inlet Queens Eclectic Shop in Murrells Inlet was started by a group of women who went to weekly yard sales and bought projects to work on. Then garages overflowed, husbands couldn’t get the cars in because of the junk, so the idea of a treasure co-op was formed. It has expanded to 52 booths now, housed in 2 buildings, and a waiting list to “join”. Wow…. If WE had time WE would be dangerous. “Southern Sister’s Treasures Library”…… 🙂

        • Hee-hee, how about “Southern Sister’s Stash of Sublime Stuff?” 😀 We would be dangerous indeed. I looked up the Inlet Queens Eclectic Shop online and I think it’s such a great concept, I hope it is catching on everywhere! Bless their hubby’s hearts, they didn’t know what they were starting when they complained!

          • Sheila

            I’m glad you checked out the Inlet Queens. I love it when you come to my neighborhood! 🙂

            • Isn’t it great that I can go there even when I can’t leave here? A lot of women of past generations would be so envious of our ability to connect this way!

              • Sheila

                Did you notice all the “Boomdee color” on their website? Vintage, that’s me! You know what I mean…… 🙂

                • Yes, I did! I can’t see aqua without thinking of her. I just love Vintage anything. I am not a big fan of the circus, but I had to buy some of the new circus postage stamps because of that vintage look. I love the elephant and the tiger!

                  • Sheila

                    I’ll have to look for those. I really like unusual stamps, not to mention elephant motif! 🙂

                    • I think they are quite well done. I’ve never had any desire to go to the circus, but the vintage look of the stamps is attractive. Of course I like stamps of all kinds and like to keep “pretty” ones to use on all my correspondence.

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