words & photos :: Kristin Schnelten.
Matt Cundy’s life didn’t slow down last March—it came to a screeching, lurching halt. As a graphic designer whose clients run small businesses and produce local events, the need for his services was, in a blink, completely eliminated. It didn’t take long for boredom to set in.
“There was no work, and I had absolutely nothing going on,” he remembers. “But I’d always talked about building something here, just a place to hang out by the water. So I figured, Why not now?”
With his construction experience limited to pallet furniture and customer signage, he turned to YouTube for building instruction: framing, joists, roofing, vapour barrier. “It was hours of videos combined with trial and a lot of error.” Though he may deny it, there must have been some social media inspiration, too. Because the result of his COVID project is a bit, well, #swoonworthy.
Perched atop a knoll overlooking the calm waters of the Beaver River head pond, the tiny, moveable structure has all the elements of exterior chic: a single-pitch black metal roof atop classic board-and-batten siding with a high, linear window, all strung with swooping retro party lights.
Inside, shiplap pine stops short of the ceiling, in an effort to delineate space and increase visual height. But the pièce de résistance—what leads to gasps upon stepping through the door—is a handmade, peaked window, spanning the width of the river-facing wall.
“It’s all about maximizing the view and making the space appear larger. The light just pours in every morning,” says Cundy. “Plus, big windows are sick.” Designed to barely clear a platform bed in its opening arc, the hinged window is simply a sheet of plexiglass surrounded by a strong frame. Fitted with its custom screen, summertime nights are breeze-filled, bug-free and perfect for sleeping.
But Cundy hadn’t intended the shed to be a bedroom. Initially envisioned as a sauna and change room, the project morphed into an insulated, heated would-be office. When temperatures rose and he found his hundred-year-old apartment bedroom stifling, an evening in the new bunkie gave him some reprieve, and he moved in—sleeping there every night, right through November.
“That’s the really cool thing about this project. It’s constantly changing and evolving,” Cundy adds. “It began with boredom, and turned into a really fun creativity project.”
Creative energy is at the heart of Sarah Tacoma’s tiny house. As a busy herbalist, photographer, homesteading mother of three and owner of Bloem Botanicals, she desperately needed an apprentice—an apprentice who, when COVID restrictions arrived, required an isolated shelter separate from the family’s farmhouse.
Growing up with a structural engineer father and an extended family filled with contractors, building and remodeling is in Tacoma’s blood. “I’ve been around construction my whole life; the smell of new wood just smells like home,” she says. “I’m always thinking in terms of projects.” Family reunions are work bees, with aunts, uncles and cousins descending on the chosen property to execute a plan—finish an addition, build a deck. “We call them Tacomaramas,” she laughs.
Unsurprisingly, things happen quickly with this family. “I had been thinking about this project for a while, but I don’t bring ideas to my dad until I know I’m ready,” because 72 hours after their initial design conversation, the supplies were on-site and they were breaking ground. Tacomas are, as she understates it, “productive people.”
Five weeks later, the tiny house was complete. The clean, bright space with its high vaulted ceiling has room for a futon, side chair, small refrigerator and counter for a hot plate. The bump-out sleeping chamber, cantilevered from the far wall, is the stuff of every kid’s dream.
“My family is from Holland, and this is a traditional style of bed there; my mother calls it a bedstee.” (Pronounced bedstay.) A single mattress tucks neatly inside the nook, designed with enough headspace for an afternoon lounge with a good novel.
Tacoma’s brother suggested the interior’s aspen plywood sheathing, a non-engineered option with a lower price tag than its stamped counterparts, and he sourced the upcycled door and window. But thrifty choices couldn’t combat the pandemic-fueled exponential rise in material costs. “It cost twice as much to build as it would have last year, but had I waited just one more week to order, it would have been three times the price.”
Even if it came in over budget, the bunkie is no less idyllic in its new home. Hidden in the quiet pine forest of their Kimberley property, tucked between their sauna and chicken coop, it’s just down the fern-lined path from the two studios of Tacoma and her husband, painter David Marshak. It’s a dreamy little enclave of creativity—and endless projects.