One Family Opts For Tiny In Their Weekend Retreat Escape
Categories: Homes / Dwellings
For Glenn and Lawson Smith, smaller was better when they built a weekend retreat on St. George Island two years ago.
“We’ve traveled extensively and have stayed in all kinds of vacation beach rentals,” says Lawson. “At one time, we even owned a large beach house.”
When designing their 325-square-foot beach cottage off the Panhandle, they sacrificed size, but not comfort.
Glenn and Lawson Smith’s periwinkle blue coastal-cracker exterior is a nod to the architectural vernacular of the early settlers in the northern Panhandle.
“We chose a tiny house for its simplicity, size, small environmental footprint, beauty and affordability,” says Lawson.
The tiny house is a two-hour drive from their home in Havana. The Smiths stay at their beach house once or twice a month. They spend time there with their blended family of five college-aged kids.
Glenn, 54, is a retired 25-year travel agent and airline employee who manages vacation rentals along northwestern Florida’s Gulf Coast. Lawson, 51, is a longtime educator and director of educational services at a small Christian school.
“It’s a great place for Glenn and I to get away alone,” says Lawson.
After five years of extensive Internet research, the Smiths chose SignaTour Campers as their tiny house RV builder.
“They’re licensed RV manufacturers who build to the exacting specifications of an RV, so our cottage is licensed and titled by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles,” Lawson says of the house that occupies an 8-foot-by-24-foot footprint. “We like this so much better than a large home because it has changed the way we interact with each other. It’s a great place to re-connect with our kids. When all the kids are here, no one is isolated in separate rooms. We focus on each other.”
The upscale, customized interior is decorated in hues of warm lemon, blue and green, mimicking the bright Florida sun and warm ocean waters. Lawson chose French doors, a hardwood bamboo floor, beadboard walls and convenient amenities such as a full-sized bathroom shower.
“Inside, it feels much bigger than what you’d expect,” says Glenn. “The high ceilings, windows, abundant hidden storage areas and generous outdoor living spaces give us all the room we need to be comfortable. With our lofts and couches, it sleeps seven.”
The home—tucked in scrub palms, oaks, rosemary and pines—occupies a small portion of their one-third-acre lot.
“It has a small environmental impact,” says Glenn. “We rely on solar panels, propane and two small, quiet Honda generators to power our central heat and air. We have city water hookup. Our RV tiny house has the usual 40-gallon holding tanks for gray and black water, so we have these tanks pumped out regularly by a local sewage company.”
Kitchen comforts were crucial to Lawson. She has a built-in spice rack in her 40-square-foot kitchen. She easily whips up bacon and eggs for breakfast or a fresh seafood dinner.
“It’s quick and easy to clean,” Lawson says. “When we’re ready to leave, we have our tiny house sparkling clean from top to bottom in less than 30 minutes. I love that. It’s everything we envisioned.”
For the Smiths, the home’s $50,000 price tag was affordable. Tiny house costs vary widely depending on size, choice of amenities and furnishings.
“We don’t have to worry about a mortgage to pay for it, so we feel like we have financial freedom,” says Glenn. “The home is sturdy. The exterior and roof were built to withstand winds in excess of 180 miles per hour, and it has impact-resistant windows. But if a powerful storm is predicted, we have the option to simply tow it out of harm’s way.”
Those who see it on their Facebook page often ask for a tour when in the area.
“People like it because it’s something outside the box,” says Glenn.
Land by the beach can be a little pricey, so many beach-lovers opt to keep the home cost down while enjoying the outdoors more...