Today I am featuring a very special house. Melissa’s 500 square foot house in Denver, Colorado may be small in stature but it is loaded with family history and precious memories. You see, it has been in her family since the 1930′s.
I first saw Melissa’s house featured on the Tiny House Blog and was instantly smitten with the cute 1916 cottage and the fact that Melissa inherited it from her grandmother. I contacted Melissa and asked her for more information. She not only had an amazing story to share, she had old family photos of the home.
I’ll let Melissa tell the house’s story in her own words…
Located in Denver, CO my house has so much rich family history! My grandparents moved into the house in 1936. They came from Corsica, SD and picked Colorado because the doctor said the climate would be good for my grandfather’s asthma. They moved with my grandma’s two sisters, and my uncle, who was an infant at them time. My Grandmother was also pregnant with their second child.
Previous to them moving in, the house only had 2 owners that I know of – the original builder and a lady who bought the house for rental property. Even that must be an interesting story – a lady in the early 30’s owning property all around the Denver area as rental income! As far as I could tell she did not live in the house. My grandmother would tell me stories about how dirty the house was when they moved in. I guess no one had lived in it for a while! They quickly made it a home and began farming all the land around it. At the time, the railroad owned the land to the south and up until the early 80’s they ran trains.
The original footprint of the house was 413 square feet and in anticipation of their fourth child (my mom), they added on to the back of the structure. And, in 1944, my mom was born! The back room became the kids’ bedroom/laundry room.
In 1956 the property went up for sale and my grandparents jumped at the chance to buy it. They bought the lot the house is on and the lot directly east of the house. They paid about $4200!
Since they were now homeowners, they converted the pantry to the bathroom (the house had an outhouse up until that point) and added some upgrades – a kitchen sink, bathtub, toilet, bathroom sink, and another stand alone pantry.
My grandfather was always working on the house and gardening. When I moved in it was fun to see all the upgrades he had added – from the windowsill in the bedroom that my kitty loves to lay on and sun himself, to the closet by the front door, and the cupboard in the bathroom I couldn’t live without. I have made sure to keep these and incorporate them into my own upgrades.
The sunburst on the gable of the house is original to the structure and the architecture students from the University would drop by and sketch it. I made sure to keep it when I upgraded the siding and I even added my own flare and painted it purple.
When my grandmother had a stroke in October 0f 2001, she wasn’t able to live at home anymore and she went to live with my parents at their house. She was so sad to not be in her home and was even more heartbroken at the prospect of losing the home. It broke her heart to think the house would be torn down and sold for the lot as so many lovely old homes are today. My mom and I promised her we would keep it in the family and take care of it just as she had for 66 years.
When she passed away in 2002, I moved in and made some of my own upgrades. I tore out the wall between the bedroom and kitchen to make one open, spacious room. I put in hardwood floors, upgraded the electrical to accommodate a dryer, added new light fixtures, remodeled the bathroom, and put in plantation shutters among other things.
My favorite project has been my ongoing garden every year. I feel very connected to my grandmother when I am out in the garden and with most of the shrubs and trees she planted more than 50 years ago.
One of the most challenging aspects of living in a small space is lack of storage! When I was remodeling the space, I was more interested in the aesthetic appeal and didn’t understand how to make the space functional.
When I was looking for furniture to decorate my space, I needed something that was beautiful, functional, AND would fit in my space. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be!!
All of the chain stores had nice looking furniture, but nothing I would be able to even get in the front door! Everything was so large and overwhelming. I was so very lucky to have found OrWaDesigns on Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/OrWaDesigns/about?ref=announce). They design beautiful, stylish AND functional furniture – EVERYTHING I was looking for in my pieces.
I love their designs and philosophy and their specialty is custom furniture - “our customers can customize the size, colors, shelving, etc…… This is much better than having to fit your space to the furniture. Now you can fit the furniture to your space!” I love that and feel like so many Americans have forgotten about functionality and buy big pieces to simply fill space.
THANK YOU! I am thrilled to be able to share my lovely home with you and your readers. I feel so comfortable and at home here – more so than I have ever felt in any of my previous houses. I haven’t felt like I sacrificed anything by living in a small space. I still have big dogs, I entertain friends, I cook large meals, and I often have guests stay with me. It’s the perfect space and feels even more perfect because there is so much family history here. Thank you again for letting me share my story.
Thank you to Melissa for letting us enjoy these old (and recent) photos of your cherished home.
On a personal note, I find this story very touching since the house has been in the same family for many years, and Melissa continues to be a custodian of not only the house, but also her family history.
On both my mom’s side of the family and my dad’s side of the family, my grandparents “homesteads” have been sold off for various reasons (mostly financial). The two houses I am thinking of are still standing but they have passed on to new owners who would have little to no idea of the past generations who grew up there and the family history entwined within those walls.
That’s why I think Melissa’s house is so special - and such a rarity these days.
I’m sure her grandmother is smiling down on her and the little sunburst house in Denver.