Maja Larsson and her Irish husband Declan Clarke live simply and with little impact on the environment in a tiny house in Småland in Sweden with their two daughters. Their philosophy is to reduce, reuse and recycle, fully embracing the joy of Small …
“For ten years we have lived in this small old timber cottage (of 40sqm) in the part of Sweden called Småland, an archetypal Swedish inland landscape with forests, farms, lakes, small villages and towns.
Our house was built around 1850 and contains one room and a kitchen downstairs and two very small bedrooms for the kids in the loft. Declan and I sleep in a homemade trundle bed in the living room that we turn into a single bed during the day, just like in the old days.
Home to us is a warm and cosy place where we like to spend time with family and friends. Our home is very old fashioned. All the furniture we either made ourselves or bought in antique stores. We like to surround ourselves with old stuff that has a story.
I love our living room where we eat at the big table, sleep in our trundle bed and sit beside the fire, which heats the entire house. My favourite pieces in the house are the chairs which we have painted in different colours. I love old chairs!
On our wish list is to put old wallpapers in the kitchen and the room downstairs, it would suit the house. But the thought of emptying the house in order to put up the wallpaper convinces us that we are actually quite happy to leave it the way it is. We don’t have any new project on our to-do list, these days it’s more about maintaining what we have – renovating windows, painting, and taking care of the garden.
When we first moved here there were no rooms upstairs, just the empty attic. So we insulated it with wood fibre insulation that let the house breathe, panelled the walls with wood and made room for beds. We also painted the walls and ceilings and built our kitchen. We then built a small verandah with old windows at the front door to create a bigger hallway. Outside the house we have built a green wagon for some extra space for guests and ourselves – the interior is inspired by the Peaky Blinders series.
Since we don’t have (and don’t want, for various reasons) running water in the cottage, we built a small separate washhouse so we can heat water for a shower or bath and do the laundry. It’s only a few steps from the cottage and is sheltered from the north wind. The washhouse is built from natural materials: wooden panelling, flax insulation and linseed oil paint and the doors and windows are secondhand. We pump water from the well and carry it in to the washhouse in buckets. There’s a big container with a fireplace under which we can heat a hundred litres of water. That’s the water we use every day for doing the dishes, showering, bathing and washing clothes.
A couple of years after the washhouse was ready, we built the greenhouse on the western side of it. In early spring we grow lettuce and spinach in the greenhouse, and we sow and keep seedlings of other plants there before we plant them outside.
When the lettuce and spinach is harvested and the seedlings are moved outside, we plant the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. After they are all harvested, we put compost and silage on the beds and let them rest over the winter, and then the process starts all over again in early spring.
We have a big kitchen garden where we grow much of our food, such as potatoes, onions, pumpkins, leek, corn, beans, carrots, cabbage and turnips. And flowers. The winters in Sweden are long and cold so it’s nice to fill the garden with colour in the summer. We grow organically and use the mulching method, which means you keep the soil around the plants covered with cut grass, leaves or old silage to fertilise, prevent weeds and keep the moisture in the soil.
We have four cats and 15 hens. This year, Declan built a pink mobile henhouse on an old secondhand horse trailer. So now we can move the wagon around in the garden so that the hens can eat fresh grass all spring, summer and autumn. In wintertime they will live in the shed again where there is electricity for light and some heat.
I am a sourdough baker and work in a small bakery that also runs a mill. I’m also studying photography at a school nearby. Declan works part time as a carpenter for a small company in our closest village.
We’re trying to live life simply and with little impact on the environment, by working less, spending less money and instead being home more with each other and our children, Karla, who is ten and Maj-Britt, who is seven. We also love spending time in nature, hiking, cycling, canoeing, meeting friends and travelling by train in Europe.
As winter approaches, the kids are looking forward to ice skating on the frozen lakes, building snow sculptures and whizzing down the hills on their sleighs. We also like to hike in wintertime, it’s so beautiful in a snow-covered forest. And in winter as the days are darker, we spend a lot of time in the cottage.
I like to knit, bake bread and cakes, listen to music and audiobooks, drink coffee with friends and sit beside the fire with a cat on my lap. Declan likes to spend time in our little workshop in the shed where he makes and repairs small pieces. We have no TV but we do have a laptop where we can watch movies and series. Last winter, we watched all the Harry Potter movies with the kids.”
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