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Living Small: Family Builds Diminutive House on Garage Footprint

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This area serves as a living room and entryway and shares space with the kitchen; an artisan concrete-covered counter gives the kitchen a sense of separation.
This area serves as a living room and entryway and shares space with the kitchen; an artisan concrete-covered counter gives the kitchen a sense of separation.

By Carla Occaso.
This story follows up on our May 15 coverage of the Watts’ project.
What do you do if your beautiful 2,200-square-foot gambrel residence in an idyllic corner of Montpelier starts to cost too much in taxes? Raze the garage, build a house with fewer than 500 square feet in its place, and then rent the big house to pay the taxes. And that’s exactly what Peter and Mary Beth Watt have just finished doing with their Hinckley Street property.
“We can’t afford our property taxes,” Peter told The Bridge, adding that his three daughters are now in their 20s and 30s and two of them no longer live at home. When he and Mary Beth move into the wee house, the youngest daughter will take a minuscule bedroom separated from her parents’ master bedroom by a moveable wall that doubles as a wall-sized chest of drawers. If she moves out, Peter and Mary Beth can pivot the partition, push it up against a parallel wall and enjoy a room twice the size. A wall doubling as a large bureau is just one of the home’s space-saving features.
There are three to four rooms in all—a kitchen/family room, a bathroom and either one or two bedrooms, depending on the partition. A water heater is hidden in a wall behind the kitchen. The pine walls came from Fontaine Millwork and Forestry of East Montpelier. Floors and countertops are a deep gray concrete. (“The latest thing in countertops is concrete,” Peter said.) The ceiling materials came from Allen Lumber, the stove from Vermont Castings, the lighting fixtures from Hubbardton Forge. The home has radiant floor heat and will have solar panels to heat water.
You just have to drive along Hinckley Street to see that good things come in small packages.
Peter and Mary Beth Watt of Montpelier built this house of fewer than 500 square feet on the footprint of their garage in order to rent out their existing, big house to pay for burgeoning property taxes.
Peter and Mary Beth Watt of Montpelier built this house of fewer than 500 square feet on the footprint of their garage in order to rent out their existing, big house to pay for burgeoning property taxes.

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