SEAGROVE BEACH — With its white siding, bright red door and beach-chic interior, the tony cottage belonging to John Walden and Mary McGuigan on Walton County Road 395, a stone’s throw from the intersection with County Road 30A, aesthetically falls in line with the surrounding architecture.
But one thing makes this home very different from the surrounding multi-million-dollar beach mansions: its size.
Including the deck and outdoor shower, Walden and McGuigan’s house clocks in at just under 300 square feet. That’s big enough for a queen-sized bed, a small table with two chairs, a mini-fridge, an end table and not much else.
“It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, I understand that,” Walden said on a cloudy Monday afternoon while, standing in his home, which is big enough for about four adults. “But it’s everything we need."
The home has been a true labor of love for Walden, a retired engineer from South Florida who took a year to build the house from the ground up.
He purchased the 0.272-acre lot with about 200 feet of frontage on CR 395 in January 2015, and began building that July. After about a year of construction, he and McGuigan moved in last July.
The home includes a space separate from the main room that is big enough for a bathtub, a toilet and a sink. It also has an outdoor shower, air conditioning, full electric and plumbing hookups and satellite dish television.
Despite its small size, Walden is hesitant to label his home a ‘"tiny house, a design craze that has been made popular by television shows such as HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters.”
“It’s not really a tiny house, it’s more of a small cottage,” said Walden, who added that his home isn’t mobile and doesn’t have space-saving features that are typical of other tiny houses. “The best way to describe it is like a glorified studio.”
Walden said the cost to build the house was more than $100,000, not including the land. Still, with neighboring homes selling for upwards of $1 million, Walden’s home is a steal. Not to mention that his overall cost of living is generally much cheaper.
“This is the greatest part,” he said. “My gas, power, water and sewer bills combined are less than my cellphone bill."
Enjoy the outside
McGuigan, a kindergarten teacher at Bay Elementary, said Walden always has had a fascination with all things tiny.
“He’s always been interested in small things,” she said. “Like a few small places that would interconnect.”
Walden and McGuigan eventually plan to build a second small house that will act as the bedroom while the existing house will be a living room of sorts. They also would like to add a kitchen.
“We want to add one or two buildings,” Walden said. “Maybe an outdoor kitchen, bar and grill situation to complement the architecture, and maybe a bed shed.”
For Walden and McGuigan, living in a small house isn’t simply a living arrangement — it’s a lifestyle. The empty nesters cook most of their meals outdoors on their grill and have learned to use their space as best they can. But still, adjusting to living in such a small space hasn’t been easy, and McGuigan said she knows it’s certainly not for everyone.
“There are really three things to know about living in a tiny house,” she said. “One, you’ve got to really like the person you’re living with. Two, you’ve got to get rid of everything and simplify. And three, you’ve got to enjoy going outside.”