Thinking small, living large

Channel cottage charms into modular havens.
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Small Cottage interior
This park model home on Lake Macatawa in West Michigan features custom details including a cultured marble shower, cherry wood flooring and cabinetry inspired by a classic wooden boat bow.

From backyard gardens to lakeside lots, cute little cottages are popping up all over the place these days. They’re portable, pre-built, and move-in ready when they arrive at your location, with sticker prices that will surprise you (in a good way). 

Park model homes are one option gaining in popularity. These are actually RVs, but you can’t drive off into the sunset in one. They’re more like permanent vacation homes, small enough to be set up in an RV park — that is, no more than 400 square feet — where they remain. (With add-ons, they can expand up to 700 square feet and still qualify.)

Small Cottages interior kitchen

John Miedema, president of Vacationland Sales in Hopkins, has sold many to the nearby residents of Sandy Pines. “They’re very well-built, and we’ve put them on private personal property, too,” he notes. “Some people live in one up here for six months and have another one down south somewhere that they live in for the other six months.” 

Doug Butterworth, owner of Creekside Custom Homes & Renovations in Hudsonville, specializes in high-end lakeside homes that are usually closer to 5,000 square feet than the 500-square-foot park model home he built a few years ago. He took on the one-time-only challenge for a special customer and created a luxuriously customized cottage that now overlooks Lake Macatawa from a Holland RV park. Featuring cherry wood floors, a cultured marble shower and custom cabinetry modeled after an old-style wood boat bow, it’s so spectacular you don’t even notice its size.  

Small Cottages built-in sectionalBecause the owner spared no expense, that one-of-a-kind unit cost considerably more than the normal $30,000 to $60,000 most park model homes go for. But Miedema says there are many amenities and options that be added to standard units, from screened porches to sleeping lofts.

Another option? The modern shed. A whole new take on pre-built backyard storage units, these are now designed and used for just about anything from yoga studios to pool changing rooms to bunkhouses. Starting at about $3,000 for a basic 12-foot by 16-foot model, they can be custom-designed with higher ceilings, bigger windows and all kinds of easy-living perks, including electrical wiring. 

“People find it hard to believe they can get so much in a ready-to-deliver building,” says Andy Schrock, sales and marketing representative with K-Mar Structures in Fremont, a local manufacturer. 

Exterior Tiny Cottage HouseSteve Essex of Essex Outdoor Design in West Olives agrees. He’s designed and sold more than a dozen modern sheds after displaying them at the Michigan Home and Garden Show for the past couple of years. “They’re real attention-getters,” he says. “People stop by and you can see the wheels turning. They’re on to the idea of multi-use space.” 

With standing seam metal roofs, vertical board-and-batten siding and French doors, it’s no wonder heads turn. His custom units start at about $5,000 and can go all the way up to $28,000.

Learn more about this less-is-more approach at vacationlandsales.com; essexoutdoordesign.com and minibarnsonline.com.

— Keasha Palmer, Michigan BLUE Magazine.

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