North Salem NY Real Estate | Make the Most of a Small Living Space

The following is an excerpt from Compact Cabins by Gerald Rowan (Storey Publishing, 2010). Whether it’s a first or second home, at the lake, in the woods, on a mountaintop or at the ocean’s edge, a small-footprint cabin may be the perfect housing option for you, and Compact Cabins has 62 interpretations of the cabin getaway dream that are affordable and energy-efficient without skimping on comfort or style. This excerpt is from Chapter 2, “Design: Architecture, Logistics, Environment.”


Though cabins may have a small footprint, with good design, they can offer a comfortable living space. The challenge is to create that feeling of space in a small cabin. I find that, in particular, high ceilings and strategically placed windows make even very small cabins feel comfortable.

High Ceilings

High ceilings give a sense of roominess and space in even a small footprint. They also let in more light and make ventilation easier, and increasing ceiling height yields space with less expense than adding floor space.

The additional ceiling height can be used for storage. (After all, small cabins, by definition, have small storage spaces.) For example, two rows of cabinets could be hung in the kitchen, one over the other, doubling the kitchen storage. A small, folding kitchen stool provides access to the higher set of cabinets. In the bedroom, additional shelving could be mounted on the walls. Using clear plastic storage tubs on this shelving would add visible, climate- and insect-proof storage. In the living room, a kayak or canoe could be stored by hanging it from the ceiling with a pulley system. That same pulley system could double as a wash line to dry wet clothing on rainy days.

One drawback with high ceilings is that warm air rises and collects near the peak of the roof during the heating season. Installing a simple auxiliary duct system can overcome this problem. Install a duct with an air intake near the high point of the cabin roof and extending down to near the floor. Equip that duct with a small circulation fan that is reversible. In the winter, the fan is set to draw warm air from near the ceiling and recirculate it to the floor. In the summer, the fan is set to reverse the airflow, drawing cool air from near the floor and circulating it near the roof. Install a thermostat near the top end of the duct, and airflow will change automatically.

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