Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tiny House Furnishings

You can enlarge this photo by clicking on it 
Furnishing the cabin long distance, before it was built, and as design elements shifted, was intimidating to me, but the endeavor committed me to the site in a way that my husband's enthusiasm and my maniacal weed whacking of 8 foot grasses and devil's club never did.  The process enabled me to start seeing myself living there.  In terms of d├ęcor, I had three priorities:  a) shop once and that’s it, b) don’t crowd the little space, and c) make it inviting and functional. These priorities determined what we bought and how we used them.

a)   Because anything we buy has to be transported by plane or snow machine, I didn’t plan to haul in any pieces that we would want to replace.  This decision raised the stakes for my initial decisions!  For example, I invested in a mattress with a twenty year warranty, and had local craftsmen build many of the wood and metal pieces.  This strategy also suggested that I duplicate rugs, chairs, cushions etc, in case of a future need to replace a frequently used piece with a less used one or if I wanted to corral furniture from various rooms into one space for a large group. 

b)  Since our home is small (16x24 on each floor, the second floor having pony walls and a
steeply sloping ceiling), with all functional areas visible in one glance, I chose a simple color scheme based on Haida and Tlingit red/black/cream colors in their art and purchased smaller than normal, multi-use furniture.  I really, really didn’t want the cabin to look like other fishing/hunting cabins, where one favored barcolounger totally dominated a tiny room decorated with collections of oily shot glasses on every mix and match surface above grease-slick rugs.   By undersized, for example, I mean that the kitchen table is 36“ square, rather than the normal 48, the living area is furnished with two love seats instead of couches, and the counters are very shallow. 
We commissioned several pieces from a skilled craftsman in Wasilla, AK, who, I think, works in order to hunt and fish in season.  He fashioned them from beetle killed logs (with the resulting, interesting squiggly lines all over them) in a hardy, rustic style.  For handles on all these pieces, he used deer antlers (there is deer hunting is southeast Alaska and a story with each antler). I love his workmanship and will order additional pieces as we slowly replace unsightly plastic bins with his handsome work. I just have to plan construction for him and hauling for us in between hunting seasons! To function as mini-side tables, the ends of the arm rests are the flat,
functional for holding a hot or cold drink.   The “coffee table” is one I built with birch and willow (and a plywood unlayment)  His fine kitchen cabinets beautifully replaced my first year "counter", which had been a slab of plywood over two saw horses.  One piece divides the kitchen and sitting areas.   It is only 13 inches deep, just deep enough for my plates, but 5 feet long and four feet high, so it functions as a roomy pantry below and my baking and prep area above. 

c)      Miscellaneous, floors, and storage: The floors look like knobby pine but are really snap together polymers from Home Depot, easy to clean.  Rag rugs denote the living area, the entry, and the kitchen, and since we don't have a vacuum cleaner, we shake them out the old fashioned way and hose them off twice a year.  The metal pieces, like the propane powered cooking stove, spiral staircase, and woodstove, and those commissioned from a regional blacksmith, such as the serpentine bear bars on the doors and clothing hooks, are black.  In a cabin with no closets or built ins, storage was a bit of a challenge.  Not just what do I want to use but what do I want to put in them?  Although Adirondack style birch and twig construction isn’t Alaskan at all, I like the whimsical look and thought it suitable for accent pieces given all the birch on the property.  Scattered here and there you'll see various shallow shelves holding tin mugs and bins storing games, as well as a twig clock and mirror.    Ironically, this very American style of decoration was manufactured in China, and I can certainly compliment those who built and packaged these delicate pieces.  Not a twig was broken or out of place. While other kitchens allocate some drawers for miscellaneous items, we dangle four willow creels on leather straps below the black metal circular stairs, one for toiletries, another for office supplies, and two for a medicine "cabinet".  Black mesh bags hang on hooks in the corner with onions, garlic, lemons, and potatoes. (There is no refrigerator or pantry in the cabin).

For outdoor cedar furniture, we ordered a love seat and two side chairs for each deck, from the same source as the kitchen table and chairs.   By contrast to my satisfaction with the Chinese made, delicate Adirondack pieces, I am sorry to express my disappointment at the American made cedar furniture.  One of the chairs arrived missing a leg altogether!  A love seat came with two unmatched sides (there are only four pieces in each box).  I should have known better, but because I wanted mix and match pieces, I ordered half log console tables and bench/coffee tables from the same vendor the next year.  One of the console tables had a horizontal cut mid leg, as though for a coffee table, but they constructed it and it passed inspection for delivery to us anyway, and both tables were deeply gouged on top, although that could have occurred during shipment.  Because of my intention to shop once and that’s it and because transportation costs are so high, we sanded the console tables and had the vendor ship out replacement legs to the air-taxi company in Anchorage, so we could get them next time we hired a plane.  Not pleased.  Check reviews before ordering cedar furniture!
The overall impression, I hope, is functional and cozy for 2-4, with furniture that can be pulled inside or out to seat more.  Originally I was somewhat apprehensive about living in such a small space, but I have found that I really like it.  The size has made me neater more organized, which frees up a lot of time previously wasted looking for something!

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