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Landscaping Ideas That Work

The Lure of Little Houses

My own little house by our pond in Vermont.
Photo/Illustration: Julie Moir Messervy

I’ve long been a collector of little houses. As a young girl, I’d make stick forts in the woods, set up house under the baby grand piano, and imagine inhabiting the belfry of my local church. I’ve always yearned for a secret hideaway in my life—a tiny house of my own where I could write, think, and even sleep close to nature. 

A pond on our property here in Vermont was in definite need of a destination point.  So when a little post and beam structure built by students from a nearby technical career center came up for auction a few years ago, it seemed like just what I’d been dreaming of.

At 10’ by 12’ it was just the right size—and it even had a 12:12 pitched roof, a 45-degree angle to match the barn-like gable on our house. It would look perfect down the hill across our two-acre pond. We outbid the next highest bidder by a dollar and became the proud owners of our own little house.

Next we needed to put a roof on and clad the building. For this I turned to a local master carpenter, who installed a sheet-metal roof and clad the structure in shiplap pine, which will take on a lovely patina over time. He made screens to fit each bay of the timber frame and a custom screen door that matches the clean lines of the building.

At last, I had my dream house—a tiny, airy retreat open to the sights and sounds of nature—perfect for private reverie, a companionable chat, or a delicious afternoon nap.

Even with a little house of my own, I can still never get enough of them. The photo gallery below shows several little houses featured in Landscaping Ideas That Work. I hope they will inspire your own “little house dreams!”

The plantings on the roof of this simple yet elegant outbuilding share a color palette with the plants alongside the path—an effective strategy for anchoring the structure in the landscape. From Landscaping Ideas That Work, page 167.Design: Bluegreen. Photo: Bluegreen|Jason Dewey.
This repurposed cottage with its south-facing window serves as a rustic greenhouse and blends perfectly with the surrounding architecture. From Landscaping Ideas That Work, page 179.Design: Lynda Sutton. Photo: Eric Roth.
My own little house by our pond in Vermont | Photo: Julie Moir Messervy
Setting your shed at the far edge fo your property makes it feel as though it’s remote, while drawing the eye—and foot—to visit. From Landscaping Ideas That Work, page 74.Design: Kate Adams. Photo: Eric Roth.
Climbing hydrangea vine has overtaken this tool shed, showing the horticulural bias of its owner. From Landscaping Ideas That Work, page 75.Design and photo: Suzanne Albinson.
The slightly zany paint job on the garden house and bench lifts the spirits and keeps this garden from being too “pretty.”Design: Marianne Zwahlen. Photo: Mark Lohman.

Text adapted from “Tiny Hideaways” by Julie Moir Messervy, Vermont Magazine, Jan/Feb 2011 and “Post and Beam Bliss” on the JMMDS blog, August 2010. Photo captions from Landscaping Ideas That Work, Taunton Press, 2014.

View Comments


  1. user-7007781 08/21/2015

    Love this article! I love the natural look with the small houses. Here is a picture of a small house in a meadow in Somers NY. Not a functional house, but I love the meadow with the house in the distance!
    Eddie Bazinet

    1. justine4569 06/27/2016

      I currently profit close to six to eight thousand bucks /a month with an online job i found on internet. So if you are prepared to do simple freelance work for 2-5 hours /a day from comfort of your home and make decent profit for doing it... Try this work http://ow.ly/lKR8300yJWT


  2. user-7002900 01/25/2018

    Let's build little paradise at our own yard. https://tinyurl.com/ycs8oncc

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