My kids tagged along when we photographed Quietude, Denise Franklin’s 280-square-foot cottage in the Okanagan mountains near Oliver, British Columbia, a couple summers ago for Natural Home & Garden. I worried about them, up on a mountaintop without phones, Facebook and other digital distractions. We’d attempted a few tourist attractions down in Vancouver, but the heat had sent us back to the air-conditioned hotel room (and its flat-screen TV) too often.
As usual, I worried for nothing. Stacey and Cree fell in love with Denise, and her home, before they’d even stepped inside. Enthralled with her simple life in a tiny house, they never noticed her lack of TV.
Denise built her mountaintop cottage, which she describes as a place to “pray, meditate, prepare my food and entertain my friends, and a warm place to lay my head at night,” for $28,000. Quietude is tiny, but it’s well designed and it works. Cree admired its compact coziness and immediately scrambled up to try out the sleeping loft. Stacey asked many questions as Denise showed us her vegetable gardens and root cellar shelves lined with preserved fruits and vegetables for the coming winter.
As evening fell, we all sat comfortably around Denise’s dining table and swapped stories with her and architect Henry Yorke Mann as she prepared salmon with fresh-picked carrots and squash for dinner. A cool breeze blew through from the front door to the back, and distant wildfire smoke turned the sunset brilliant as we finished our rhubarb cake. The kids and I slept like logs in a tiny bunk house (not big enough for our luggage), looking forward to Denise’s special oatmeal with preserved home-grown fruit for breakfast.
For my kids and me, Denise’s deeply simple lifestyle was a respite and a revelation. She lives the good life that I hold as a “someday,” growing good food that she eats and shares, keeping up just enough house. She has no mortgage. She takes walks with her dog, skis and makes stained glass. Her home encourages kindness, contentment and sharing. Anything else is superfluous.
“I’ve been in here 11 years, and I feel more thankful every day,” Denise told me. “I still don’t want any more space. I just don’t need.”
Denise is one of my heroes. More importantly, she’s one of my kids’ heroes, too.
Denise has a long-term lease on a half-acre that’s perfect for growing herbs and vegetables. Her simple house–four equal sides supporting a vaulted roof with a skylight in the middle–is designed as a mandala, with an open center and structural members that contribute equally to the whole. “A mandala is a resolved space that’s at peace with itself because it’s complete,” explains architect Henry Yorke Mann, who designed Denise’s home. “This complete, regular geometry helps one be at peace.” Photo by Stuart Bish
Quietude is built from culls salvaged from inexpensive lodgepole pine, the Okanagan’s most prevalent wood. A simple, small propane fireplace is more than ample to heat the home. Photo by Stuart Bish
The wood walls and framing were finished only with drying oil, and the floor with Danish oil. Photo by Stuart Bish
Tiny Houses Create More Freedom