Savannah’s Tiny Cottages: Total Charm in 300 Square Feet

Gypsy Wagon

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with tiny abodes. Tree houses, gypsy wagons, log cabins, and Airstream Bambis have all sparked my imagination over the years.

When we lived in London I discovered Ikea and was totally enthralled by the tiny “model flats” they’d set up throughout the store to showcase ingenious solutions for spaces ranging from 80 to 300 square feet. And today’s “Tiny House Movement” makes me smile with its creativity and contemplation of how much space we really need to live a comfortable life.

On our recent RTW we had a chance to live in lots of “petite apartments,” and our favorite was the very cool Athens studio. Measuring in at 26 square meters (280 square feet) it was a great example of stylish form and function.

01_Living area


So when we were planning our re-entry to the US, we brainstormed all the special cities we wanted to live in for a month. Savannah was at the top of the list. Our goal was to stay in an apartment in the Historic District, but that’s not a cheap proposition. I needed to find a small place to fit our modest budget.

And I found it! The handsome “Architect’s Cottage” is 309 square feet of bliss. The structure dates back to 1900 when the row of homes was built as lodging for railroad workers. The development later became apartments, and this unit was the office and laundry room! Not long ago the buildings were rescued from neglect and converted to condos.

Savannah cottages

You’d be surprised what you can squeeze into 300 square feet. The cottage features a great room with living, dining and kitchen together, and uses clever solutions like space-expanding mirrors, slim appliances, and a TV tucked in the fireplace! Add to that: heart pine floors, maritime accents, and African carvings and you’ve got the warmth of home.

Living room

A door opens to our favorite hangout spot –  a space-expanding covered deck.


Not only is the cottage aesthetically pleasing with its eclectic mix of old and new – the space-smart solutions pack a punch. Not bad for such a small package.

Of course, living in small spaces is nothing new to New Yorkers, Europeans, Tokyo residents … and the list goes on and on. But after doing some research, it appears that 300 square feet is the magic number.

For example, the innovative “Katrina Cottages” were designed by talented architect Marianne Cusato as an appealing alternative to the dismal FEMA trailers provided as temporary housing for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. How big are the cottages? 308 square feet!


Then there’s the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company that provides plans and tools to build small houses that are so clever they’ll boggle your mind. One of their popular plans is called “The Harbinger” … and you guessed it – 310 square feet.


Last, but not least is one of my personal faves. The Austin American-Statesman reported on newlyweds Mike and Natalie Young who renovated a school bus as their love nest.


And I bet you know what the square footage adds up to. Yep! 300.


Although living in 300 square feet may not be everyone’s cup of tea, we have found it an interesting exercise in learning just how much space we really need. We’ve discovered that we love an outdoor space to sit and garden, and we need several different task areas inside (just like those Ikea “model flats”). As James likes to remind me, we camped for 5 months in a 9’ x 7’ tent … that’s just 63 square feet! But we did have the “great outdoors” as our playground.

What about you? Any experiences in small space living out there? We’d love to hear from you.


T & J Tent

Photo Credits: 1. Evelyn Simak 7. Ben Brown 8. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company 9, 10. Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

70 thoughts

  1. I love small homes! With proper design solutions, I really think they’re the way forward. Not only do they use less resources, but I think the potential impact they have on the urban environment is really exciting. I loved living in Asia where different functional areas were mixed together within the city (sometimes within a single building), rather than residential areas being separated from everything else.

    1. We are definitely of a like mind. Since we were just in New Orleans I was researching “Katrina Cottages” and discovered that they’ve gained a second life as “small houses” used in clusters throughout the USA. That made me smile! All the best, Terri

    1. Thanks Jennifer. Yeah, we thought the the bus was cool as well. With each passing year, we get more and more into simplicity. At this point in our lives we want more experiences, not things. In our traveling life, we have discovered how little it actually takes to be happy and have a rewarding lifestyle. And at the core of this, is a small living space, with only a few important things.

  2. I think I found the Savannah cottage on – looks lovely – but could you post the links for that and the Athen’s place? I travel solo, so small is great.

    1. Hi Kathy, We generally use when we’re in the States because you can easily search by size and price – it seems far superior to VRBO. Although I did find the Savannah cottage listed on both. ( The owners are lovely people who dealt with us very fairly when a family emergency called us away before our contract was complete. The excellent company we dealt with in Athens is HOMZ ( and they have a great selection of small spaces. I hope this is helpful. ~Terri

  3. Thanks! I hated Savannah when I had to go to visit the mother-in-law-from-hell, but when I paid a flying visit a couple of years ago just to see the town I loved it, and need to to go back.

  4. I am a true convert to living small. Less to clean, less to upkeep, low energy bills. My home is known by the neighbours as the “doll house”. Though almost twice as large as your optimum small (580 sq. ft.) it is still tiny enough to illicit lots of people pointing and gaping as they walk by. Somehow we have managed to fit a baby grand piano, two full drum kits, congas, at least 12 guitars and a design studio all in along with the standard bedroom and kitchen. And we love it and are quite smug about it too!

    1. Leslie, That’s amazing! To be able to squeeze all that fun into 580 sq. ft. you must be a master of space planning. Is this your house in Manitoba or Progresso? All the best, Terri

      1. The Doll House is our Winnipeg home. The Progreso house is much larger but because we are used to living small we are planning to reno it to have some long term rental units to help finance our South of the Border life. Someday I will write a post about the contrast between the two and show pictures. The difference is striking! Have started really looking forward to your blog and your pics.

    2. whoa! i’d love to see pics, lulua! i have a beloved upright, and my sons are “down” to 3 guitars, a drum kit, and a djembe – once i have my tiny house, would like it just “big” enough to fit in music (and lots of books…no kindle for me), and a space to do my art. best to you! olga (a moon lover also)

    1. Thanks Almarinda, I’m a simplifier like you. We’ve downsized our possessions and live in a small home … and it sure feels good! 🙂 Good luck with your goal to simplify. All the best, Terri

    1. Hi leoamimallover, So glad you stopped by! It sounds like you’ve got the travelbug too! We’re curious, today you and LOTS of other people have been looking at this post – THANKS! 🙂 We were wondering what inspired you to come and look at this specific blog post? Thanks for coming! All the best, Terri and James

      1. good morning, terri and james! and thank you for responding so quickly. yes, i’ve always had the travel bug and have been on 4 continents (still not enough), traveling and living. as a matter of fact, my most recent move was my 81st since turning 15 (my mother calculates that using that figure, i have probably moved over 100 times in my life) – gypsy blood in me, to be sure! however, for the first time in my life, i find myself yearning for a permanent home. a year or so ago, i started reading (and bookmarking) articles on miniscule apartments, but that wasn’t satisfactory, as i don’t particularly care for big cities, though i grew up in them. then, one day on facebook (i’m relatively new to that, only a couple of months), a posting from “living off the grid” popped up, i popped in to their site, and fell head over heels in love with “tiny houses”. now, i have an e-folder for “tiny houses”, was on the “grid” site yesterday, and there was a gypsy caravan that had comments alongside of it, one of which mentioned you two! i was in awe of what you have accomplished, whether it’s your enduring commitment to each other (i have terrible luck in that area, so adept at letting the wrong man into my life, sigh…) or to your lifestyle. so, now, i just hope/dream that someday, i can find a piece of land that sings “HOME” to me, build myself a tiny house, and have the funds available to take off alone wherever my and spirit guide me.

        probably more than you wanted to know! just realize what an inspiration you two are, and how grateful i am for your generosity (and friendliness) in acknowledging and answering my post – thank you and blessings on you both!


      2. Wow Olga, That’s incredible! You definitely win the “Wanderlust Award!” Like you I love the “tiny houses” – what a cool living experience. Have you found Tammy Strobel’s website “Rowdy Kittens” ( She and her husband live in a tiny house and tell great stories. Thanks so much for telling us where you found the link to us. That explains the spike in views we had. Wishing you all the best, Terri

      3. loved, rowdykittens and all of their links! thanks for sharing that. your site is so wonderful, making me look around at my space, reconsider everything, how i’m living, what i need, where i want to go (literally and figuratively)! all joy to you both always! here’s hoping we meet sometime in a fascinating part of the world…ta! olga

  5. Thank you for “liking” my blog on Ojo Caliente, New Mexico. I enjoyed your blog on the small spaces, and love your profile…sounds very much like me and my husband…not high school sweethearts but all the rest. Remember “All who wander are not lost” …Tolkien

    1. Your photos of Ojo Caliente are gorgeous! I love that area of the country and you captured it beautifully. I’m a big fan of that quote – always a good reminder. 🙂 All the best, Terri

  6. Oh, I so relate! I, too, have always had a fascination with teeny tiny living spaces. I laughed out loud when I read you like to visit IKEA to see the model spaces. EXACTLY! Sometimes I look around my home office and try to imagine how I’d set it up as a complete living space if for some reason I was forced to retain myself to this one room. It’s fun! Great photos!

    1. Hi Melinda, I’m so glad you stopped by! We are definitely of like minds – as a kid I used to plan ways to live in my closet! 🙂 I’ve never met anyone else who also has a fascination with Ikea model spaces. I remember the first one I ever saw – we had just moved from Dallas TX to London and I was adjusting to smaller spaces. When I walked in Ikea, I saw the answer to all my space challenges. Now, wherever we are in the world, if there’s an Ikea, we have to go see their model spaces – and it changes from culture to culture! The most fun one was just outside of Athens. Have fun re-imagining your home office. All the best, Terri

  7. I LOVE this article, and thanks for the great photos!! I have such a fascination for those tiny spaces, and I’m just amazed at how clever those designers are who create such functionality! Have you read about the guy who NYC who started — and now lives in a super tiny apartment but can have 8 people to dinner? So cool ….
    keep up your great work! (and thanks for following Heifer 12 x 12!)

    1. Thank you so much Betty! It sounds like we’re both fascinated by tiny spaces and how to make the most of them. As a kid I used to try to figure out how I could live in my closet! 🙂

      Graham Hill, the founder of really has his finger on the pulse of the topic – and practices what he preaches.

      James and I are now “Simplifiers” and enjoy living in spaces that are just the right size for us. Right now that means a 1 bedroom condo that we can easily lock up and go traveling. So glad you stopped by Betty. All the best, Terri

  8. Just found your blog which was recommended as a site I’d like from WP and am enjoying reading your posts. Since we’ve changed our lifestyle radically in the last 2 years to become perpetual travelers we’re discovering the joys of less: less stuff, less space, less than we thought we needed, etc. Love these little homes! Looking forward to reading more. Anita

    1. Hi Anita and Richard, I’m so glad you stopped by. I just read your incredible story and I’m hooked! James and I have taken a similar approach as you to life and absolutely love it. And it all started with drastically downsizing our stuff and space … and just simplifying our lives. I’m looking forward to digging in to your blog, too. All the best, Terri

  9. Very cool. The Savannah condos remind me of the musician’s row in New Orleans. I can’t imagine that those houses are much bigger.

    We’ve stayed in my other’s RV camper, which is pretty small. Or I guess the correct term would be “cozy.” Luckily, I like small spaces. Anyone else might feel claustrophobic. 😉

    1. Thanks Juliann … and what a great comparison to Musician’s Row in New Orleans! I’m with you about liking small spaces – especially if you have access to the Great Outdoors! 🙂 ~Terri

  10. Having lived in other people’s homes throughout Australia and the UK, I’m used to living in small spaces and moving many times for many different jobs/reasons. I’m obsessively organised and I have to be, as disorder upsets my ability to function.

    When I had to quit work 3 1/2 years ago and still has some money, I checked out the the Tiny House Movement and became a big fan of ‘living in small spaces’. I had this fantasy of buying a block of land in a country town and building the ultimate Tiny House with all my ideas of storage and furnishing on a minimum budget.

    Never happened. I’ve had to spend a lot of that ‘nest egg’ on medical bills and just daily living (as my Govt Disability Pension doesn’t cover all my living expenses and certainly not the rent I pay for my inner city flat).

    When I run out of ‘spare’ (or my ‘nest egg’) money, no doubt I will have to move and find an alternative way of living. I guess all my experience of living in a small space will come to the fore and be put to good use again.

    1. Vicki, it’s wonderful that you have so much experience and interest in living in small spaces.

      Like you I’ve always been fascinated by tiny houses and figuring out the best use of space. And I love your idea of building the ultimate tiny house. I’ve really enjoyed following Tammy Strobel as she’s turned that dream into a reality. If you’re not familiar with her, here’s her website.

      So if you decide to make a change to “an alternative way of living”in the future, this might come in handy. All the best, Terri

  11. I hope you don’t mind as I feel I’ve bonded with you immediately! My real name is Terrie!
    What a great article with brilliant pics. I think my smallest experience is a tiny tent when my husband and I used to go camping. However, we have downsized our home so that it is easy to look after and the garden doesn’t take ages to keep tidy!
    Keep the blogs coming!

    1. It’s always a treat to meet another Terrie! 🙂 Thanks for your kind words. Like you, we’ve downsized our home too, so now it’s easy to close the door and go traveling. I love it. Thanks so much for stopping by. All the best, Terri

  12. Wonderful post! As someone who has lived in many tiny Manhattan studio apartments, I am also obsessed with small spaces. I even once considered buying one of those tumbleweed houses and throwing it up on a cheap plot of land upstate. I even have a tiny dog (chihuahua) that would fit perfectly. Thanks for the great read. A book I enjoyed while trying to decorate: The Not so Big House.

    1. Thank you so much Kiki! Manhattan studios apartments must be the ultimate challenge! We lived in London for several years and learned to embrace tiny spaces. And I love the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. I can just picture one in upstate NY. I also enjoyed Susanka’s books and found them really helpful when we renovated a little 1-bedroom condo here on St. Simons Island. I am so glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

    1. Hi Patricia and Hank, So glad you stopped by. I just read about your fantastic adventure … and I’m in awe. What an amazing life journey. And I totally agree that boats have the most ingenious design for small space living. I think boat designers wrote the book. So what’s next for the two of you? All the best, Terri

  13. We downsized from 900 sqf to 350 in 2012 and you are right.. there is something almost magical about that size. I love it and don’t want to change it any time soon. One question.. when you rent an apartment for just one or two months, how do you usually find it. I know airbnb and homeaway are good but tend to be a bit expensive. We have a very tight budget, so was wondering if you have any other tips?

    1. Congratulations! That’s quite an accomplishment – and as I alway say – Less To Clean! 🙂 Yay!

      And for your apartment question … When we’re staying longer than a month I always try to go local to get the best rates. For example, when we lived in Athens, Greece and Charleston, SC, USA I found our apartment by googling local rental companies and owners, then corresponding with them directly. By cutting out the “middle man” you can reduce the price. Even if they didn’t have what we wanted, I asked if they knew anyone else who had rental properties available. Their referrals often lead to a great place.

      Thanks for asking such a good question. All the best, Terri

    1. Anne, it was a surprisingly wonderful “extended camping trip” that we enjoyed immensely. The only Cube I know of is that cute little square car made by Nissan, but that’s probably not what you’re talking about. Now I’m curious. Please tell. 🙂 ~Terri

      1. Anne, that is beyond cool! I am so impressed with how they reimagined the space. I watched several other videos of other versions that were also wonderful. Thanks for sending the link. So, do you think you could live in one? ~Terri

    1. Many thanks Brick! Being a vagabond has taught me how little space I really need – especially if I have the great outdoors as a playground! So glad you stopped by. ~Terri

  14. Love this post! I like a small space (now that we don’t have kids!)– less to maintain and furnish– only filled with the things you really love. And you found some beautiful ones!

    1. Rhonda, it’s been a joy to embrace simplicity and unclutter our lives. I’ve always been fascinated by small, creative living spaces – especially when you have the great outdoors as a playground. Any space that requires less cleaning gets my vote~ 🙂 ~Terri

      1. Uncluttered is good. We lived one year in Costa Rica to go to Spanish language school and only took a few boxes– it was a free-ing feeling…

    1. Thanks so much for reblogging our post Savannah’s Tiny Cottages. We’re big believers in finding ways to simplify our lives, and it’s always fun to discover just how much space we really need. 🙂 All the best, Terri & James

  15. Lovely post!
    Planning our move back stateside we had (and still have) a strong desire to live in a tiny house! We often go down to the Solar Living Center and gawp. M. and I think it is a: a rejection of modern consumerism and b: a reflection on one’s love for outside spaces.
    We also planned on camping for three months (in England) when we thought we were going to have a three month period with no roof to call our own before the move. Fortunately for us the move happened faster than expected because it turned out the time we planned on camping their were torrential storms and floods!

    1. Thank you so much Jo. So glad that you stopped by. I’m sure that camping for 3 months with 3 girls would have been a memorable adventure, but with the horrible weather it’s probably good that didn’t happen. 🙂 I love the creativity that seems to go hand-in-hand with living in smaller homes. I think that’s a big part of the appeal for me. So what type of home did you decide on when you moved back to the States? ~Terri

  16. Thanks for “liking” my recent blog – Camping at Cabin City. I love this blog on living in small spaces for a couple of reasons. One, my husband and I are going to be living on the road in a very small pop-up for much of the upcoming months. It isn’t much bigger than some of the tents we’ve camped in when we were tent camping. The pop-up can’t be “remodeled” like some of the wonderful creative homes you’ve shown here, since we don’t have solid walls and everything has to fold down, but we do use our limited space as efficiently as possible. I am curious to know how others living in small pop-ups also have adapted to that space. The other reason I am interested in your blog is that our “home-base” will be either a small unattractive apartment or a very small house. I’m curious to find out if they are around that magical 300 square-foot number and I’d like to learn more about how to make our space (once we figure out which one it will be) into a space as charming and efficient as the ones you’ve shown here. Thanks, Carol PS – I’ll try to include some photos of the pop-up (whose name is Pony) in one of my next blogs.

    1. Hi Carol, I’m so glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post. We also have a teeny-tiny half pop-up (we just traded up from tent camping for many years) and love it. Here’s a link to it. We call ours “Doodle” (because the car is named “Snicker.” 🙂 I know – wacky!

      We have lived in lots of small spaces and have found that the 3 determining factors that help us feel comfortable are creativity, ceiling higher that 8′, and access to great outdoor space that becomes and extension of our living space. You and Clifford are so creative that you’ll have no problem with that! 🙂 And you love the outdoors, so I’m guessing that will be a high priority for you too. So glad you stopped by. All the best, Terri

  17. I love this! I grew up in a neighborhood of HUGE houses but my husband and I just bought our first home and intentionally chose a small one because we’re trying to simplify and live with less (less space and especially less stuff). When my in-laws come visit and remark that we need to upgrade to a bigger space, we just smile because we know we’re really content with what we have! Great post and great blog.

    1. Thank you so much Kimberly. You and your husband are so smart to simplify and choose a small home. It leaves so much more time for other fun things … and each other. And that’s what it’s really all about. 🙂 We used to own larger homes, but we realized that we just didn’t need all that space, expense, and hassle. I’m so glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

  18. I love this idea. Right now, we live in a “too big” house but we love the setting and so will stay at least until retirement. Then, I’d like to downsize in a BIG (or should I say small?) way.

    1. Hi Kym! It’s always fun to meet another fan of small homes. We too have lived in several “too big” houses, and after many downsizings we’re happy to be in a small home. It fits our lifestyle perfectly – and there’s so much less to clean. 🙂 Yay! Hopefully, whenever you’re ready to make a change, you’ll be able to find another wonderful setting to love. So glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

    1. Ruth, that is so fascinating! When we spoke with the architect who had done the recent renovation he told us that the structure dates back to 1900 when the row of homes was built as lodging for railroad workers. The development later became apartments, and this unit was the office and laundry room! Not long ago the buildings were rescued from neglect and converted to condos. Your description certainly sounds like the houses you were seeking. I would love to know if you find out any more. Thanks so much for stopping by. All the best, Terri

      1. The architect’s comment is interesting to me. I’ll have to check the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for that time period. The curious thing to me is that the railroad is on the opposite side of town, and that the railroad was in place for many years in Savannah before 1900, so why would these have been built circa 1900 for working-class people who wouldn’t have ready transportation to work? Perhaps there was another rail line being built; I’ll have to look into that. There was a streetcar system, but I don’t know much beyond that fact. Some of the folks I’m researching were heavily involved in the railroad. One in particular was Alexander Robert Lawton, who died in the 1890s.

      2. Ruth, I was curious about the railroad on the east side of Savannah as well, so I did a bit of research. As it turns out, the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad Yard was on the east side, and very close to these small cottages. This link will take you to a map of the state of Georgia from 1877. If you scroll to the upper right corner you’ll see the Savannah map and the rail yard on the east side of town. BTW, the David Rumsey map collection and website are fabulous, and if you don’t already use it, it might be helpful in your research. ~James;sort:pub_list_no_initialsort%2Cpub_date%2Cpub_list_no%2Cseries_no;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=4&trs=5

  19. i just made a move to a smaller abode that I share with the lady of my heart. It’s admittedly double your optimum, but over the last 15 years I’ve gone from 300sqm to 87 sqm and now 60sqm. It’s so liberating to get rid of all the junk one feels compelled to fill space with. On the road I’ll happily go for months with a 70 liter back pack and want for nothing (well, excluding a bulging wallet). To bring this lifestyle home releases so much time. And, more importantly, funds that I have a lot more fun with than wasting on some doo-dah to tuck in some vacant corner.

    1. I totally agree with you, Fredrik, about the feeling of liberation that comes with eliminating all the junk in our lives. Congratulations to you for taking the bold move that many never will. We’ve lived in abodes of all shapes and sizes, but we both truly prefer a small home (we call it our “basecamp”). By living small we can dedicate our limited funds to travel … and that is wonderful! I’m so glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

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