Could you live comfortably in 800 sq feet on .01 acres of land? See how this couple does it!

Cape Cod Home  /  Early Summer 2019 / ,

Writer: Allyson Plessner / Photographer: Dan Cutrona 

The Little House that Could

Standing at only 800 square feet on 0.1 acres of land,
this tiny Osterville home still has just enough room
for Marc and Pattie LePain to live creatively

It takes a special person to live in a tiny space—to allow their creativity and ambition to shine within the confines of a small home. For those that grew up amongst the ruckus of siblings, constantly looking over their shoulder for the next surprise wrestling match or moment to catch a toy thief red handed, space seems essential. But for Marc and Pattie LePain, large rooms aren’t necessary to make their home bright, lively and welcoming. Living in a small home is a lifestyle choice for this couple, who renovated their 20 by 20 foot space in Osterville two years ago, bringing it to a whopping 800 square feet, and it’s a lifestyle that they have completely made their own. From Marc’s secret cabinet of brown paper-covered books to Pattie’s lovingly collected antiques, every inch of their home, tiny as it may be, screams character, and for a couple with so much personality to share, 800 square feet is all they need.

As if it was plucked straight from the pages of a storybook, the LePain’s tiny home sits on just 0.1 acres of land. Whitewashed wooden walls, just a shade lighter than the white floorboards, leave this open floor plan feeling airy, welcoming and not at all cramped in spite of the size. “Before retirement, I was a professor at Assumption College in Worcester for many years, and in the fall of 2015 I was teaching at our campus in Rome. Pattie found this property in Osterville online, all the way from Rome,” explains Marc with a chuckle. “It was simple, small and within walking distance of Osterville Village.”

The decision to renovate their new beloved space was an easy one. “We’re used to living in close quarters from our time in Rome and before that, in Florence,” explains Marc, “but it didn’t take long to realize that we needed a bit more space. Plus, Pattie needed a new project.” Pattie developed a passion for design and home renovation after restoring the couple’s previous homes, including one from 1748. “Her imagination is just amazing,” says Marc lovingly about his wife.

To complete the renovation, the LePains turned to a true Osterville expert, Scott Peacock, owner of Scott Peacock Building & Remodeling. “We pretty much built as close to the edge as the building codes would allow,” explains Peacock. Because of where the septic system sits on the property, the addition created an L-shaped floor plan. “By putting the addition where we did, we actually ended up creating two great spaces—a new mudroom and bedroom inside, and a quaint sitting area outside,” says Peacock. “It was a really fun project for us, as builders, to be able to think outside the box like that.”

The LePain’s home started as an old garage with casement windows placed high off the ground. “The structure was what we call slab-on-grade,” says Peacock, “meaning that the home sat pretty much right on the ground. We did a monolithic pour right down on top of that grade, and then set the bedroom just a step up from the base of the house.” Having completed that monolithic pour, meaning that Peacock and his team put the concrete down for the floor all in one pour, the next challenge was ensuring that the addition flowed with the existing space and created a cohesive design.

“One of our biggest challenges was tying in the rooflines,” explains Peacock. “Where we connected to the house was the lowest point on the existing roofline, and we were already limited with an extremely low ceiling height. That was probably the toughest obstacle—making it all flow.” But, it was an obstacle that Peacock and his team overcame, providing the LePain’s with just a bit more space and a private bedroom away from the open layout of the rest of their home. “It was nice to work with such a small property and not build a monster of a home,” says Peacock. “At no point did they say ‘Wow, I wish we had one more foot.’ It ended up being just what they needed—something manageable.”

The original space was roughly 500 square feet. That area is now home to the living room, dining area and kitchen—all in one! You can see each area from the front door and all the way out to the backyard, but, thanks to Pattie’s keen eye for design, the space doesn’t feel the least bit cramped.

“This home is completely their personality,” says Peacock about the LePain’s. “What you see is what you get.” Pattie’s eye for design is what really brings the small space to life. Collections from her travels, like dolls from Italy and France, salvaged beadboard in the bathroom, and an antique tub, add just the right amount of personality. Having downsized when they moved into this space, everything in the LePain’s home is special and important to them—like Marc’s precious book collection, creatively stored in the cupboard so that Pattie can use the shelf space in the home for her charmingly eclectic collection of dishes. “Those are all books that I cherish, and when you’ve been teaching books as long as I have, you learn that they can easily wear. So I used an old trick from school and protect them with brown paper.” It’s a charming reminder of just how personal this small space is for Marc and Pattie.

Creative space savers—like using cupboards as makeshift libraries and custom barn doors for the entry to the bedroom and en suite—make the space efficient. And touches, like white shiplap walls and vaulted ceilings in the bedroom—both thanks to Pattie’s keen eye—make it feel bright, welcoming and distinctly Cape Cod. Outside the home, the home is bordered by a layer of rocks, broken up only by a single walkway and a few plants. “We loved working with Scott and his entire team, and his son, Michael, actually did our landscaping,” explains Marc. The rock was Pattie’s idea, and it fits the stylish simplicity of the rest of the home. At the very back of the property, beyond the custom cedar door is a firepit for Marc and Pattie to enjoy alone or with company—last year they hosted 15 people for Thanksgiving. “And we’re going to do it again this Easter,” says Marc.

Pattie and Marc’s new bedroom offers them a private space that is all their own. Note the custom barn door at the back of the room, leading to the en suite. This is just one of the fabulous custom doors that Peacock’s team created for the couple.

“We don’t need more space. More space just means more housekeeping,” says Marc with a laugh. They say “home is where the heart is,” and perhaps what that truly means is that home is the place you put your heart into as Marc and Pattie—a couple who have enjoyed many homes together all over the world—have done in every inch of their tiny home. Mother Teresa once advised, “do small things with great love.” It’s a message that is abundantly clear within the walls of this small Osterville abode.

Allyson Plessner

Allyson Plessner is a former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life and now works for the publication as a staff writer and digital media coordinator. Born in Florida, Allyson has been a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. She is a recent alumna of the College of Charleston, located in Charleston, South Carolina, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in both English and Spanish. In her free time, Allyson is an avid sailor, beach-goer, and—like her fellow Cape Cod Life colleagues—a dog-lover.