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Small, Quirky Homes of History!

The recent vogue for tiny homes includes a lot of beautiful, whimsical designs, like this tiny cottage made of windows in Venice, California, or this 100-square foot treehouse retreat in Nashville, or this lovely pre built cottage/RV.

Craftsman Minime in Venice Beach.


But what goes around comes around, and there are some very interesting examples of small, quirky homes in the US.

25 years ago, Dan Pauly of Elk River, MN, a 4th generation woodworker, builds these adorable little cottages for camping, guests, saunas, and sheds. You may have seen them at the Minnesota State Fair.


A storybook home in Elm Grove, WI.

In the 1920s and 1930s, maybe inspired by the homes returning soldiers saw during their European service in WWI and film greats like Walt Disney and Charlie Chaplin, a craze for Storybook Homes began in Los Angeles and made it’s way through the nation. The homes tend to be small and feature steep roofs, curved lines, lots of gables, turrets, and cozy corners, tiny windows, rounded doors and ceilings, and winding paths up to the front door. One of the earliest known examples of a storybook home in Los Angeles is known as “The Witch House.”  In 1924, a man named Hugh Comstock is sometimes credited with popularizing the design after he complained to his wife, Mayotta, about her handmade dolls waiting to be sold taking up the entire house! She told him he should build her another house to keep them in, and he built the first of the family’s three fairytale homes, which he named Hansel. Of course, then he had to build Gretel, too!  Comstock designed many other homes for the town of Carmel, California, and the town is a popular tourist attraction today. But you don’t have to go to California to find storybook homes. A Milwaukee man recently restored this gorgeous storybook home with a wavy shingle roof in Elk Grove, Wisconsin. Or we were able to find a photo of this gorgeous A-frame storybook home in Madison. Some home builder’s catalogs offering premade plans also offered an opportunity for people around the nation to build their own storybook homes. We think we’ve seen homes with similar inspiration here in Wausau. Do you live in one?

The interior of one of the Charlie Chaplin cottages, Los Angeles, CA.

Shotgun Home in New Orleans, LA.


In New Orleans, the unique style of Shotgun Homes are experiencing a revival. A shotgun house is a narrow house without a hallway, usually with the kitchen at the back of the home- the city legend is that at one time there was a real estate tax based upon the size of the home’s front rather than the square footage, but it’s more likely that the Creole people brought the home style to New Orleans from Africa via Haiti and the West Indies. Many of the homes that have been built as part of the post-Katrina renovations of the city have been based upon the architecture of the shotgun houses, and original shotgun homes are being restored. There are other examples of the shotgun style of home in Florida that are being restored to address an affordable housing crisis. One shotgun home that was featured on a reality show called Fixer Upper in Waco, Texas was listed for $1 Million!

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