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A Tiny Cabin in the Woods For Creative Homesteaders In Vermont

by Rebekah Carey

Natasha Lawyer and Brett Bashaw may be new to Vermont, but they’re no strangers to forging a path and creating their own way of life. You might have first learned about them when they were living in their airstream (the “Tin Can Homestead“), or the van they lived in for six months before that. The Tin Can Homestead, which has a book by the same moniker debuting next month, was the airstream the couple made into a home in Seattle, WA. After a year-and-a-half living in their airstream they were ready for a change. Natasha and Brett sold their vintage home on wheels and used the funds to move cross-country to Burlington, VT and buy a property that used to be farmland and home to maple sugarers — which inspired their new name of Sugarhouse Homestead.

In addition to being homesteaders, Natasha is an illustrator and Brett is a behavioral interventionist, and together they have a small pottery studio (which is nearly done) they enjoy working on in their spare time. Due to an achingly long closing process on the property, some of the preparations they hoped to complete before winter weren’t possible; however, they were able to wire their cabin (a converted shed) and install everything they would need for a wood stove before the cold season began. While the couple’s home is done for now, they’re finishing off their pottery studio next, and once the ground thaws they’ll begin construction on their bath house — one they’re both very much looking forward to.

If you’ve found yourself dreaming of establishing a home in a new-to-you land, follow along for more of Natasha and Brett’s adventures, and the reality of what it’s like to homestead your first property. Rebekah

Photography by Natasha Lawyer of Sugarhouse Homestead

Image above: A peek inside the new Sugarhouse Homestead cabin. “There’s such an amazing history on our land of farmers and maple sugarers and such an amazing maker community in Vermont. Building our pottery business in a place that has such an amazing community of makers has been [incredible] so far and we’ve already made such great friends here.”

Natasha Visiting A Local Ice Fishing Spot Their Homestead On Design*Sponge
1/23

Natasha, doing a little sightseeing at an ice fishing spot. “We decided to move to Vermont ’cause we’d always imagined living in a little cabin in the woods and doing that in Seattle was impossible. Seattle is such a boomtown with all the tech companies moving in and it just got too expensive and overwhelming and full of people (and the traffic and transit system are both terrible). We’d traveled through Vermont when we took a six-month trip through North America and it felt so woodsy and open and reminded [me] a lot of where [I] grew up in the rocky mountains of Canada.”

2/23

“…So we made a plan and started to figure out logistics,” Natasha continues. “When we sold the airstream and packed up everything we owned into our pickup truck to move to Vermont, we had no idea where we would end up. We’d booked an Airbnb for a few weeks but we had no plan after that. The property that we ended up buying was among the first that we saw, 11 acres with a big meadow and acres and acres of maple trees. It just feels so green and open and woodsy and gorgeous, it was such an amazing place to be.”

A Shed Was Converted To Be A Winter Cabin For This Couple In Vermont Tour On Design*Sponge
3/23

“Our home is actually a shed that we’ve converted to a cabin. We added a panel and wired in extra electrical and we also installed an off-grid water solution so we have running water that we carry in from our well,” Natasha explains.

A Tiny House With A Tiny Wood Stove On Design*Sponge
4/23

“It’s 166 square feet. So, so little,” Natasha admits. “Brett and I got used to living in small spaces together when we lived in our Volkswagen van for six months and then our airstream for a year and a half so we’re used to close quarters.”

A Wood Stove Makes The Dry Cabin Bearable In The Vermont Winter Tour On Design*Sponge
5/23

“We took possession of our place in November and after our [long] wait we wanted to move in as quickly as possible. The owners allowed us to wire the cabin and put in the chimney before we took possession and once we owned it we painted, put in our kitchen and pretty much had our place finished up within a month and a half.”

Sugarhouse Homestead's Winter Cabin Features A Decently Sized Kitchen For Such A Small Space Tour On Design*Sponge
6/23

Natasha explains the less-glamorous part of homesteading in winter. Also, can you spot little Pencil on her bed by the fire? “The biggest thing to contend with is that we don’t have a bathroom. Our property closed so late in the year that the ground was frozen and construction of one wasn’t possible. So we rented a port-a-potty for the winter and take our showers at the gym. Homesteading isn’t for the faint of heart. But we’re psyched for spring ’cause we’re going to start construction on our bath house which will be a total game changer.”

A Narrow Shelf In The Kitchen Area Adds Much Needed Storage Tour The Tiny Cabin On Design*Sponge
7/23

A narrow cabinet adds clothes storage in the tiny home; the small opening to the left has also been used to store chopped wood for the wood stove.

Kitchen Shelving In The Winter Cabin On The Sugarhouse Homestead Tour On Design*Sponge
8/23

Natasha shares more of the realities of starting fresh on a property, “We don’t have running water! I hooked up an off-grid water pump and we carry our water in from the well in jugs that go below our sink and the water is pumped up to our faucet when we turn it on. Living in a dry cabin takes work!”

The Kitchen Shelving Displays Meaningful Pieces In The Sugarhouse Homestead Cabin Tour On Design*Sponge
9/23

A mix of some of the Sugarhouse Ceramic Co. pieces the couple has made, as well as favorites they’ve collected from fellow makers.

Natasha's Workstation In Her Home That's Under 200 Square Feet Tour On Design*Sponge
10/23

The dining table serves multiple purposes in the small home. “I spend my days working from home as an illustrator or working in our pottery studio and building whichever project we’re focusing on at the moment. Right now we’re trying to wrap up the build on our Sugarhouse Ceramic Co. pottery studio so we can get our business up and running again.”

A Trick Of Small Space Living Is Using Mirrors To Create The Illusion Of More Space Tour The Little Vermont Cabin On Design*Sponge
11/23

In addition to a fold-down desk/table, mirrors are another great way to add the illusion of more space, especially when they reflect windows!

A View Of Where The Dining Area And Bedroom Area Connect Tour On Design*Sponge
12/23

The dining and sleeping areas. Good news? The commute from the bed to work table is very reasonable.

One Of The Couple's Furry Friends Waiting On The Bed Tour On Design*Sponge
13/23

Pinecone sitting pretty on the bed, surely looking out the window to see what muddy adventure awaits her outside.

A Side Table Is Also The Bedside Table In This Bitty Vermont Cabin Tour On Design*Sponge
14/23

It’s more than its petite size that makes the cabin so inviting. Natasha shares that it’s “Cozy. We have firewood piled to the roof and a tiny little wood stove blazing — it’s a lovely place to be, in a tiny cabin in our patch of woods.”

Brett and I moved to Vermont last summer in search of maple syrup and adventure.

The View From Bed In This Diminutive Vermont Cabin On Design*Sponge
15/23

The view from bed. With such a cozy option, and view of the snow outside, we imagine this could be a difficult spot to leave.

A Vintage Cupboard Becomes Home To Collections And A Stylish Media Center Tiny Vermont Cabin Tour On Design*Sponge
16/23

A little peek outside from one of the two windows that run the length of the cabin, plus some favorite ceramic pieces the couple collects.

The Site Of A Memorable First Christmas On Their Property The Sugarhouse Homestead Tour On Design*Sponge
17/23

It’s been less than a year that the couple has been on their property, but they’ve already made memories that will last a lifetime. “Our first Christmas here together was pretty dreamy. Sledding on our hill and making s’mores and having a bonfire on the site of our future farmhouse on the top of a hill.”

A Moment Of Respite In Morning Chores In This Vermont Homestead On Design*Sponge
18/23

“We’re so excited to be living in such an amazing place as homesteaders. Our daily chores are chopping and stacking wood, shoveling snow, and hauling water from our well. We even tapped our maple trees this spring and made maple syrup,” Natasha tells us.

The Property That Surrounds The Winter Cabin On The Sugarhouse Homestead Tour On Design*Sponge
19/23

“We made an offer on our property in July the second week we moved to Vermont,” Natasha explains. “We were living in an Airbnb and our lawyers [kept] telling us we would close in a few weeks. Five months later, after countless Airbnb stays and both us and the sellers firing our lawyers, we finally closed. It was the most stressful five months of our marriage, not knowing if we were ever going to close or if we were going to wait and wait and then lose out on our property.”

Brett Snowshoeing On Their Property In Vermont Tour On Design*Sponge
20/23

Brett, snowshoeing on the couple’s land. Natasha explains where their name originated: “Our property is a bit of farmland set against acres and acres of maple woods. There’s a rock foundation from an old sugarhouse back in our woods and that’s how we came to name our property the Sugarhouse Homestead.”

Tapped Maple Trees For Making Maple Syrup Dot The Vermont Property On Design*Sponge
21/23

“When we decided to make maple syrup this spring we noticed that most of our maples have been tapped before, the history of the people who have lived and worked on this land is marked on the trees in tapholes that are at various states of healing. It’s amazing to think that though we ‘own’ this land, we are just a little part of its life, caretakers of this little forest for a time.”

A Collection Of Sugarhouse Homestead Treasures On Design*Sponge
22/23

Natasha shares what they’re most thankful for about their home: “That we own it! This is the first property Brett and I have ever owned. As an artist who has never had a lot of money, I never thought I would be able to own property so it feels really special to have something that is all our own.”

Warmer Times On The Sugarhouse Homestead Property In Vermont Tour On Design*Sponge
23/23

A reminder of sunnier days. Once it looks like this again, it will be time to break ground on the bath house!

SOURCE LIST

Living Room
Wood Stove- Tiny Wood Stove
Wood Rack/Stand And Metal Hearth- Made by Natasha

Kitchen
Table- IKEA
Countertop- IKEA
Espresso Machine- Nespresso
Sink- IKEA
Shelving- Vintage farm boards
Brackets- IKEA
Cabinets- Salvaged
Brass Plant Pots- Schoolhouse Electric
Pendant Light- Olde Brick Lighting

Bedroom Area
Bed- IKEA
Linen Duvet Cover- H&M Home
“Work hard” Print- Schoolhouse Electric
Mail Sorter- Vintage
Nightstand- Patio table from Terrain
Black Bedside Lamp- Target

Paint- Behr, “Bakery Box”

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Comments

  • Oh my gosh, this is basically my dream. (The crazier the world gets, the stronger my desire is to move to a rural space and get back to nature.) One of my favorite tours ever! Thanks for sharing. xo

    • I am so with you, Megan. The older I get, the more I want to simplify my life, have less stuff, and more adventures. Homesteading is probably not for me (I’m just not good at those sorts of things), but there are other ways I can simplify.

  • Pretty sure i learned about Natasha and Brett from DS. I’ve been following their Instagram ever since and can’t wait for their book to drop in my mailbox next month. Thanks for spotlighting these two wonderful people!

  • So impressed by what they have been able to make in such a small space. Curious: is the paint color the same for wall/trim/ceiling? Thanks! Annette

  • Love this — nice job Rebekah and thank you Natasha and Brett for sharing this space with us! I think that tiny wood stove is my favorite part of this tour.

  • Would someone be so kind as to provide me with a clear explanation of what “homesteading” is? Is it that they’re living on a property without basic amenities and utilizing the land while building a larger house that does have those amenities?

    • Homesteading is a term for living partially or fully off one’s own land. It might entail an extensive garden, raising livestock for meat, beekeeping, shearing sheep or rabbits for wool, preserving vegetables you’ve grown, and much more. It’s a way to supplement your intake from others with things you create for yourself, to save money and be mindful about what you use. It’s an intense lifestyle for sure, but I find it pretty admirable.

  • Too bad photos don’t capture that delightful wood smell! This *almost* makes me nostalgic for winter!

  • “It’s amazing to think that though we ‘own’ this land, we are just a little part of its life, caretakers of this little forest for a time.” > This, a million times. It’s such a poetic yet sustainable way to think about how we can be custodians of this world, and leave things better than how we found them.

  • Its a really lovely little space but…where do you keep your clothes? Coming from another gal who lives in a 240 sq ft Tiny cabin in the woods! I find that our clothes and shoes take up so much space in our cabin!

  • Beautiful! I wish you well in your new adventure! I can attest to Seattle’s nutty prices and terrible transit. Vermont is beautiful and owning land must feel wonderful. I love the use of the indoor space.

  • I love it so much. My dream is build a nice house in forest, live with some dogs and cats, I will have the radiator, table wood….
    I am a beginner so everyday I try to learn something new about Interior and Architecture and I love Design Sponge too!
    I’ve learnt so much from this website and this is my best magazine forever!

  • Charming … and impressive. I live in North Country, we have had a very cold winter. And keeping all that white looking white with a wood stove covering everything with ash each time you feed it just makes me even more in awe. Hauling water, showering elsewhere, a dog. Beauty triumphs over all. Its lovely, and I wish them well on a bathroom.

  • I would move in tomorrow. Of course they would need to move out first, because of the squash factor. Utterly dreamy and I am most envious.

  • Really impressive. I admire your resilience and commitment to creating the life you want. And good on you both for getting out of Seattle with your sanity intact – it used to be a nice place but no more!

  • Welcome to Vermont! It’s such a lovely place to live, I miss it dearly. I’m sure you’ll meet many likeminded people up there- have you thought about doing any farmers markets?

  • I love tiny spots that are one of a kind! I own almost nothing (thanks to the PURGE of 2017)and look forward to my own tiny spot some day soon. Mine will be filled with plants and windows. : ) Thanks for sharing. <3 SET UP A SAUNA IN YOUR BATH HOUSE AND YOU CAN PRETEND TO BE NORDIC (and stay cozy and rosy all winter).

  • This is beautiful! This inspired me in different ways–also got me to think about my future home. The forest, the house itself and the decorations came together so well and I could see one has put so much thought in picking out everything for the house.

  • Lovely! Although I had to scroll back up when I realized I’d been staring at all the gorgeous hoyas instead of the exquisitely curated design.

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