The Little House On the Channel-The Engagement Party Completed


We hosted an engagement party for 110 people at our 780 Square foot home on the channel.  If you don’t know about The Little House on The Channel click here to read more about it.

Earlier I had shared with how I hoped it would turn out- you can read about my vision for it here.

I believe it turned out better than I had even hoped!  First of all I did not imagine the beautiful white tent extending our indoor living space from the garage by 512 square feet.  I want to give a huge shout out to fellow realtor Dina Mitchell who read my original post and graciously offered the use of her tent.   Not only did it add usable square footage but also it truly made the entire affair feel more formal.  It turned a driveway into a banquet hall.


We put the tables in the tent with white tablecloths.  I purchased bud vases in varying heights and colors from the thrift stores and borrowed a few from my sister.  Lace runners were borrowed from another friend.  We ran the large patio lights in the tent- it was beautiful.

As I stated in my earlier post I am not a fan of having a party in the garage.  I had hoped ” for airy, white, spring feel.”  I believe I achieved that- take a look at the photos.  We hung white icicle lights (a lot of them- some ours, some borrowed) behind the white sheets with lace over the sheets.  My son and his lovely bride to-be hung photos of themselves on long gold cords over the lace.

My husband was going to remove his table saw and a few other pieces from the garage.  He did not have to; we were able to use them as part of the buffet table.  

I covered the buffet tables with the white sheets.  I like to build height on my buffet table.  I used cake pans, bricks, wooden boxes & cardboard boxes for my height; then covered them in sheets and lace.

One of the items left at the Little House when we purchased it (click here to learn more about The Little House on The Channel-Squeezing In) was random pieces of slate.  We had no idea what we would do with them but it was one of the things we just could not get rid of.  My husband came up with the idea to clean one of them up and use it as a cheese tray.  

I borrowed glass trays from friends and family  (because I had purged a number of mine).  We rented chafing dishes for the hot food.

It really was a perfect day.  It did not rain.  It was warm enough so people could sit on the patio and the deck.  People enjoyed long conversations outside and in the tent.  

My son and his fiancé were able to enjoy a relaxed day visiting with family and friends.  

My advice when hosting a large party at your house?  Plan well in advance so you know exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.  I love to use excel spreadsheets for event like this so I have all my thoughts, tasks and lists in one place.  Most importantly enlist the help of family and friends.  Sometimes the real connections can happen during the hard preparatory work.  And the day was made that much sweeter knowing how many hands had helped make it happen!  



If you have not read any of my other posts about “The Little House on The Channel” you would not know that my house is 780 Sq Feet.  Not a tiny house because those are typically under 400 Square feet, but small nonetheless.  

(check out my Little House category for more Little House on the Channel information).


We are hosting an engagement party at our home in the middle of April.  We live in Wisconsin.  The middle of April could be 70 degrees and sunny but most likely will be 40 degrees and raining.  We are expecting approximately 75 people.  We like a challenge!


In our part of the country having parties in your garage is acceptable.  I am not a fan. However, I have no choice if I want to host it at my home.  I am a fan of having lots of friends and family at my house.  Therefore, we will be relying on our garage again for additional living space (see: Little House on The Channel –Hosting Toddlers).  


My goal is to have the party in the garage but not feel like you are in a garage. I am hoping for airy, white, spring feel.


My husband and brother–in-law came up with a way to hang curtains to cover the shelving units and the workbench.  We found 30 white twin sheets on craigslist that we will hang as curtains.  We ordered curtain clips from Ikea to hang said sheets from the cable.  I have been scouring thrift stores for lace tablecloths and curtains to hang with the sheets.  There will be white icicle lights involved somehow behind the curtains and the large bulb patio lights strung from the ceiling.  


My husband stained the concrete garage floor a very pretty marble looking brown.  We even have a large print to hang on the one wall that will not get the curtains.    We will have fresh tulips, white tablecloths, my very fun painted metal chairs and good food.


We will hope for no rain so that we can have a fire in the fire pit and use the restaurant style heat lamp we purchased.  Maybe it will be warm enough that people can lounge on the patio in their spring jackets.  Some may even see if they can catch a fish in the channel.


Of course I am letting you in on all the plans.  I will post again after so you and I can both compare how my thoughts lined up with reality.    Stay Tuned!!

The Little House On The Chanel: Re-Purpose, Recycle, Re-Use


Re-Purpose,, recycle, Re-use, these are very popular words.  Pinterest has a plethora of ideas on how to repurpose items, HGTV shows are always showing ideas with recycled pieces, even retail stores are selling items claiming repurposed.  


When we purchased the little house it came with most of the former owner’s possessions.  There was 30+ years worth of stuff we needed to sort through.  Click here to see how we tackled the job of sorting all the stuff.

The large majority of items we got rid of.  There were a few pieces of furniture we kept, some dishes, a few antiques and a few unique items.  The most unique item we found was lying in the dirt behind the bushes in the front of the house.  It was a long metal piece with some detailing on it and words.  Here is a picture:


These words are in the middle of the beam.  We did a little research on-line and it appears this was the decorative back piece for a mortising machine for making doors and windows.  Our best guess is it came from one of the old window/door/furniture factories in Oshkosh.  We weren’t really sure what we would do it with it when found it, but we knew we did not want to get rid of it.


We also found old wood siding, some of the original siding from when the home was just a flat roofed boathouse.  We kept that as well.  As we designed the remodel we knew we wanted to use both of these finds in the interior somehow.  


I really wanted a sliding barn door.  Because of the lack of doors our only option was on the bathroom door.  This was a perfect place for one because it gave us more useable space on the inside of the bathroom.  We looked at numerous options for a barn door but we were having difficulty finding one that fit.  The ceiling height by the bathroom door is only 7’6’, meaning our door needed to be shorter than usual.  


I may have mentioned before but I do have a very handy husband.  He decided he could make a barn door out of the wood siding we found.  The wood was already a weathered red color.  He cleaned it up, put together a fabulous door and finished it with a matte varnish.   We brought gate rollers back from Africa with us and we now have a recycled barn door.


The big concern was how would we ‘lock ‘ the door.  We knew guests would not be comfortable if they could not lock it.  That is where the metal piece comes in!  We realized the metal piece would be a perfect fit for the sliding door.  See the photo:



We repurposed the metal piece as the “stopper” for the door.


We wire brushed the metal, scrubbed it and then put this magic oil on it called “Kramer’s Best Antique Improver” (find it at : It made the dry metal come alive again!  As we were cleaning it we noticed red splotches on it.  We attempted to sand them out.  Then we realized it was most likely drips of the paint from the siding of the house, so we left them.  


Probably our favorite part of the remodel is the barn door.  Not only because Wade built it but also because the wood came from the original house.  The metal piece looks like it was always in that spot.  We like it because it is unique.  


I think repurposing, re-using and recycling are great!  I like to have pieces in my home that you can’t pick up at the big box stores.  Let your home be a reflection of you and your family.  Maybe the buffet from your grandma is not in keeping with the latest trend on HGTV, who cares!  If you like it and it brings you joy, then use it.


How Many Square Feet do You Need?


According to a heat map study shown in “Minimalism, A Documentary About Important Things” (Find at: Americans only use about 40% of our living spaces regularly.   The map shows most of the activity in the kitchen/ dining area, then the family room and bathroom. The remainder of the rooms shows minimal use.

Do you have a formal living and dining that you only use on Thanksgiving and Christmas? Square feet in laundry rooms and ‘spare” bedrooms that go underused – space wasted most or all of the year?  The fact that a room is called a dining room or formal living room does not mean that’s the only function you can do there.  

I think this is a great time of year to rethink your rooms.  The snow is falling, the Packers lost and the Spring market is about to begin.  Now may be a perfect time to decide if you “Love It or List It”.  Can you use your space in a different way or is it time to make a move, open a new door?

Formal living room                                                                                                 

Are you a book junkie? Is your family musically inclined? Do you craft or sew?  Do you love to play board games. Consider lining the walls of this room with bookshelves or shelving with attractive doors to hide items.  Place your piano or other instruments in this room.  Add some fun wingback chairs and maybe a writing desk or a game table.

When our children were growing up we had a room that we called the talking room.  There were no electronics allowed in this area. When our boys were little that is where we would listen to them practice reading.  As they grew up we would have reading time together so no one was tempted to watch TV instead of doing homework.  When we had company we would often take the adults to that room while the children played in the living room.  We had many great conversations in that room with our children and with guests.

Formal Dining Room                                                                                       

Probably the number one room I hear homeowners say they never use is the formal dining room. Consider turning this space into a home office or study. More and more people are able to work at home, at least part of the time.  Managing a household generates papers, files and bills galore. Children also benefit from a designated study area for homework and school projects.

Obviously with Wi-Fi and laptops, all these work and study activities can happen anywhere in a home.  But designating one room as the study/work zone may help everyone stay focused and keep the paperwork to one area.

Tiny Bedroom                                                                                                                  

If you have a bedroom so tiny that it’s barely fits a twin bed consider turning it into a walk-in closet or additional bathroom.  Converting to a closet can be as easy as hanging shelving and rods.  Then when you go to sell if the new owner needs it as a bedroom it is easy to convert back.  If you have a little money to invest and could use an extra bathroom, a too-small bedroom makes for a good, efficient bathroom – especially if it’s located next to another bathroom, so the plumbing already exists.

Laundry Room                                                                                                      

Just because the name of the room starts with laundry that is not the only activity that can happen in this room.  Many homes have laundry rooms with a plethora of cupboard space.  Consider storing board games here, your sewing machine and supplies.  You could even put your printer in this room if you have counter space.  

LIST IT                                                                                            

Or have you decided your home does not fit the way you live?  Give me a call! I will provide you with a market analysis so you know the value of your home in today’s market.  Then get it ready for sale.  Click here for ideas on getting your home ready to sell.

We can find you a home that fits the way you live in the amount of square feet you need.

The Little House on the Channel- Overnight Guests


Have I mentioned my house is 780 Square feet with 1 bedroom and 1½ baths?  Not a house most people would consider having overnight company.  Obviously we are not most people.  We love to entertain and have family and friends spend the night so we needed to come up with a plan.


We do have a large 2.5 car garage.  Thankfully during the remodel we put in new windows, doors and insulated it. Wade put in a heater so he could work on projects in the winter. He reinforced the floor joists for the attic space and put stairs in so we could store items above the garage.  It is really quite roomy up there, actually big enough for 2 twin beds, a dresser, even a port-a-crib …hmmm a place where visitors can sleep.   


We sectioned off an area in the middle of the upstairs of the garage, put in walls, carpet, trim, a door.  There is enough room on the sides for storage.  There is even enough room before you enter the little room for a couch, rocking chair, end table and a TV. Once you are up there you don’t even feel like you are in a garage.  One of our guests started calling it the Annex.  We are now calling it that because we think that sounds better than a room above a garage.  


I know some of you are asking what about a bathroom?  For the most part it is our sons who use this area when they are visiting.  They are young and male and therefore middle of the night visits are not required.  However I have slept out there when we have given our room up to company.  The solution was to order a portable toilet and pop up privacy tent.  The great thing is now in the summer we will be able to bring along on the pontoon boat for the coffee cruises!


The Annex is not for everyone.  A few of our guests have slept on cots or our couch in the living room.  The living room sleeping guests have to basically not mind being in the same room as Wade and I.  Other guests have arrived in time for the coffee cruise in the morning; stayed until the sunset cruise at night and then happily retreated to a hotel nearby.   


We love our Little House on the Channel.  We continue to learn new ways to “stretch” our space and enjoy it with others.  We have learned that even though we are not big on square footage we can still go big on hospitality.


The little House on the Channel- Hosting Toddlers

In December we not only had 2 additional adults stay for a week, but we also hosted a 2 and 4 year-old.  As you may have heard we had one of the warmest Novembers on record.  We had visions of campfires on the patio, snowman building, sledding-you know fun outdoor winter activities for the kids.  It was warm right up until 2 days before they arrived. The temperatures were in the single digits with below zero wind chills while they were visiting.


The biggest concern was what to do with all the energy that comes with toddlers.    600 square feet on the first floor of the little house does not leave a lot of running room (especially with my Christmas tree up and decorated with the glass ornaments). The frigid temps limited outdoor play.  


So does my car really need a roof over it?  The answer was no.  We cleared out as much space as we could on the first floor of the garage, bought the patio furniture in, and a play area was born!  We borrowed a riding car from a friend and invested in a big wheel.  We borrowed a train set from friends.  My husband filled an empty toolbox with real tools and he turned a refrigerator box into a garage for the riding toys.  The toddlers spent hours playing in the garage.


I also cleaned out one of my little storage areas upstairs in our bedroom.  It is an area of the house where the roof slants down.  I put down a sleeping bag and placed pillows and books in there.  The older child was allowed to go up there while the younger one was napping to play quietly, read and/or take a nap.  (The child will never admit to falling asleep up there- but it happened)


I moved all of my breakable ornaments to the top of the tree, got out the plastic plates and cups and put away other items that I would have been sad if they had accidently been broken.  


We had a great week, lots of laughing, and snuggling and “fixing” things with the tools.  I am so happy we could figure out the space to accommodate our dear friends and their children.  


I think no matter what size your home is you can host overnight guests even if they bring toddlers!  The key is making the space work so they feel welcome and comfortable.  

The Little House on The Channel – Christmas edition

This is our first Christmas in the Little House! Given that the house is 780 Sq feet I was a little apprehensive about decorating. Would I even have room for a tree? Where would the tree go? Could I have more than 1 tree as I have had for the past number of years?

We really only had one location that a Christmas tree would fit on the inside. I love real trees so a fake one for my only indoor tree was not an option. My husband measured the space so that we did not purchase a tree too large for the space! (We always purchase trees off the lot after one very “Griswold Christmas tree cutting” episode). We found a lovely short and slender enough tree at the second lot we stopped at. Because of the size of the tree I chose mostly our glass ornaments to decorate with this year. Next year I may choose the wooden ones.

One of the many advantages I have found living in a small house is you can change the look of the whole home in a few easy steps. I covered my couch pillows with Christmas pillowcases, took down the decorations on the ledge and put up my nativities, got the Christmas quilt and kitchen towels and TADA…Christmas.

I couldn’t stop myself and did have to put up a second tree. We went to a thrift store and purchased a fake tree- I am okay with fake trees as long as I have one real tree. We purchased the shatterproof ornaments and placed it outside on our deck. Now in the morning I can drink my coffee and look at both of my Christmas trees.

My husband helped with my need for Christmas decorating by putting up outside lights on the front of the house and garage and on some of our little trees and bushes. I think it looks like a Christmas card!

Having a little house has made me really choose what some of my favorite decorations are, what ones really mean something to me or to my family. Less decorating time gives me more time for family and friends, which is what the season is really for!!

The Little House on the Channel Pt 3 -How Do you Live?

My husband and I live in a 1-bedroom/1.5 bath 780 Square foot home on a lovely little channel across the street from a lake.  If you came to my house you would be surprised to see a very normal sized kitchen. Roughly 250 Square Feet (SF) of the 780 SF is devoted to the kitchen/dining area, almost 1/3 of the entire home. In fact my kitchen is bigger than a friend of mine who lives in a 1600+SF house.  

We love to entertain. We love to have a variety of people around our dining table.  Having a kitchen that was large enough for multiple cooks in it at the same time was important to us.  We also wanted a breakfast bar or an island that people could sit at to visit with us while we prepped food.  A “normal” sized kitchen was a priority when we were discussing the remodeling of the home.  

How do you LIVE in your House?  When you are looking for your next home think about this question.  Do you like to entertain?  Do you need an office or a craft room? Do you need multiple living spaces?  A large gourmet kitchen might sound sexy but if you never cook maybe that doesn’t make the cut.  Where as a family do you spend your time?  What hobbies do you have?

Also consider what your needs will be in 5 years.  Is the number of people living in your home going to increase or decrease?  Will the living spaces work when you have your teenager and 6 of their friends over?  Are your physical abilities going to change?  Is laundry in the basement going to become a burden?

The more you understand how you live the easier it will be for you to communicate to your Realtor your wants and needs.   An experienced agent will be able to help you find the right house that you can then turn into a home.

The Little House On the Channel Pt 2- Remodeling

When we purchased the Little House it was covered in brown; brown carpeting including the bathroom and kitchen; brown paneling, brown window coverings.  It was a rather dark and somewhat dreary looking place.  Now, if I do have to say so myself, it is adorable.




Our remodeling project required us to basically tear the home down to the studs and start over.  We took out a wall to make a larger kitchen, put in new insulation, new drywall, new hardwood floors, updated electrical/plumbing, new bathroom, all new fixtures, appliances, furnace, a/c and more.  Basically we have a completely new house on the inside.


We hear a lot of the same questions when people see the before and after: “When you first walked in could you visualize it differently?” “How did you ever come up with the ideas?” “How did you decide what to do first?”


Here is how we tackled the job

  1. We used a 3 ring binder to keep our ideas, receipts, measurements, contractor quotes…all things “Little House” went into the binder. It was not just an ordinary binder.  It was the one with all the pocketed dividers.  We had a tab for appliances, bathroom, lighting, flooring, heating, kitchen; all the categories that made sense to us.
  2. Make a budget to correspond with the tabbed categories you have in the binder. The one guarantee I can give you about remodeling is you will over spend your time and your money.
  3. We created boards on Pinterest for the different categories as well. We spent hours on-line looking at photos of kitchens, bath, lights, landscaping, barn doors… again anything that we wanted to change or create.  We each had our own boards and compared notes and ideas.
  4. We also spent hours at home improvement stores…wandering, taking notes, comparing prices & gleaning ideas.
  5. We listened to wise people. We give full credit to many who helped “design” the Little House.  We spent many a meal with family and friends and as we discussed our thoughts they helped us think through and gave us great ideas.
  6. My husband is really smart about all this remodeling stuff! He can do a lot of things himself, but he is also smart enough to know when to call in the professionals.  We hired electricians, plumbers, drywallers, framers, carpenters & general labor
  7. We have great family and friends who were willing to help. The Little House really was a group effort.  Many wonderful people gave their time to help us.  They helped rip out the old carpet, pulled staples from the subfloor, pulled out bushes, hung lights, laid wood floors, laid ceramic tile, finish carpentry, grunt labor, painted, you name it they did it.

I don’t think building a new home or a major remodel is for everyone.  It may be for you at some point, but just not your season.   We are very happy with our remodeled Little House on The Channel!  It was the right house for us at the right time in our life.



The Little House On the Channel Pt 1-Squeezing In

I live in a 780 Sq Ft house with no basement.  This fact surprises a lot of people since I sell homes for a living. We were willing to attempt to squeeze into this house so we could live on the water.  We really wanted less to maintain so we had more time to enjoy.  

We had to downsize to fit into our newly renovated little house.  Thankfully I have a good friend who coached us through the process of possession purging (Click here to learn some tips ).  It was not easy!  I was surprised to find out how much emotion a small glass dish can evoke at the thought of sending it to Goodwill.  


Not only did we have to purge our possessions but the Little House came with all of the former owner’s belongings as well!!  Obviously it is almost unheard of to purchase a home with all of the existing stuff, but you might end up sorting through someone else’s home at some point (a relative or friend who is unable to sort their own things or who has passed away- see Moving Others).


Here is how I tackled the job:

  1. Every item had to pass the test to stay
    • Was it still useful?  And the bigger question- did I still use it?
    • Why was I keeping it?  Was it really a family heirloom or did I just feel guilty for getting rid of the cribbage board my aunt gave me?
    • Can I take a picture of it so I can keep the memory? (but not keep the milk can turned into a floor lamp)
    • How much it will it cost to re-buy it at Goodwill for the one time I want to use it in 3 years?
    • Could I modify into something else that would be useful in my little house?
    • How does it work in my new space?  
  2. The items I got rid of also had to pass a test so I could determine the best way to get rid of them
    • How much is it worth?  
    • Should I sell it on Craigslist?
    • Does someone I know need it?
    • Dumpster or thrift store?


A big hurdle to get over is the “It might be worth something, I should sell it” dilemma. Here are my thoughts:

  1. For 98.5% of the items you are getting rid of consider this: You already spent the money on the item when you purchased it so stop thinking about recouping it.  Hopefully you enjoyed it, or it served the purpose it was originally intended for.  Donate it to a worthy cause so they can make a little money and keep looking forward.  
  2. If you really think it is worth something you could try to sell on Craigslist, Ebay or take to a consignment store.  
  3. You could have a garage sale but consider how much your time is worth and how much you really think you will make-might be more cost effective to take to the thrift store.

Downsizing sounds sexy, but it is a lot of work and there are a lot of decisions to make.  For my husband and I it is working to live with less.  We watch a lot more sunsets and I have only missed by divided relish tray once!