Tiny vacation home brings focus

by Donna Benton

For years, Barron and Marla McCormack of Conway passed by a ramshackle shed that was tucked into the woods near their weekend home on Greers Ferry Lake. They never gave it much thought until they became the owners of it a couple years ago.

The tiny structure was built more than 30 years ago from landscape timbers. Measuring only 225 square feet, Marla says it was a tiny home before tiny homes were the “next big thing.” For many years, it was only home for a family of squirrels. It had fallen into disrepair, and the McCormacks thought that it might be destined for a bonfire.

“I decided to discuss its fate with Greg Hardyns, our local carpenter,” Marla said. “He convinced me he could reinforce it and put in a new floor, and it would be a nice storage room or workshop.”

The McCormacks decided to try and save the structure, and once the floor was repaired, Marla began to imagine much more than a storage shed for this tiny space. “I love fixing places up and trying to save them or just make them look better,” Marla said. “I’m the decorator at Sherwin-Williams in Conway, and it’s something I truly enjoy. Paint can make a huge difference, but this cabin needed much more than paint. It was my biggest test yet and one of my greatest personal accomplishments.”

The owners worked alongside the carpenter from designing all the way to furnishing the tiny house. In a tiny home, it takes a lot of thought and planning to maximize the use of the space, and Marla praises the talent and creativity of her carpenter, Hardyns, whose ideas made the small home comfortable and functional. The McCormack Family all had a part in restoring this tiny home, from sealing the home with 11 cases of caulk, painting and staining to building a sectional from twin mattresses that also serves as a sleeping area when family and friends visit the lake.

A lake scene was painted by Marla’s great uncle, William “Bud” Carr, and her father, Raymond Patterson, built a corner cabinet and mirror from wood reclaimed from her grandfather’s barn. The owners are happy that their sons, Jake and Sam, still like to come to the lake and spend time with the family, and the tiny home is a great place for them to entertain their friends.

Marla said the best thing about the tiny house is that there is no cell phone reception. “There is always plenty to do — hiking, four-wheeling, campfires, fishing, kayaking, wakeboarding and just plain old swimming in beautiful Greers Ferry Lake. You have to engage with nature and the people around you rather than having your head stuck in a smartphone. After all, I think life is meant to be lived to the fullest with the people you love.”

Marla said the tiny house may have changed her values a bit. “I love the idea of a tiny house because it has helped me re-evaluate what is important. It makes you ask questions of yourself like, ‘Do I really need this?’ and ‘Do I really want to take up my time cleaning or maintaining it?’ I think I’d rather be on the lake or sitting around a huge fire after a big dinner with family and friends.

“A tiny house encourages you to step back and decide what you really value.”


Donna Benton is a maker of customr home furnishings and specializes in classic painted finishes for antique and vintage furniture. You can see her work at WaterHouseMarket.com