Design & DIY

How a family of 5 (and 3 dogs!) live in a beautiful 800 sq. ft. barn house

A family of five and three dogs, in 800 sq. ft.? It can be done! And it can look fantastic too. Kristin Pardy lives with her family on the south coast of Labrador, N.L. in a custom-designed barn house. She also documents her family’s adventures in design and in life on her blog, Little House on Purpose, on YouTube, and on Instagram. We spoke with Kristin about her family, how she designed her home to feel like a cabin every day, and her best decorating tips for small spaces.

About her family

“We are a family of five plus three fur babies. My husband is a Resource Conservation Officer with the provincial government. I’m an EMR for our local ambulance company. Coby is 13, Isla is seven, and we have brand new little Jack who is three months old! We also have two Siberian Huskies and a Labrador husky named Bear, Blue, and Beau.”

About heritage, the land, and the house

“Our land area on the south coast is where most of our Southern Labrador Inuit-Métis people live. Our name is Nunatukavut, and it means “Our Ancient Land.” All the communities in our land area are small in population, but huge in heart.

Because of the small populations, the real estate market isn’t exactly booming. Houses seldom come up for sale and most people, if they can, choose to build their own when they know they want to stay here. This was the case for us. We knew once we secured jobs here that we would be staying to raise our family.

I’ve always loved architecture and home design. We knew we wanted to keep the house small, mostly for cost efficiency, and we were already used to living in small spaces. I designed the barn house myself. I drew it up to be as small as we could possibly get it, while still having everything we needed to fit our family and our lifestyle.

We have a large porch (mudroom) with both front and back doors, and that space is essential for all the gear and outerwear that comes along with Canadian winters. Our kitchen/living area is completely open with a wood-burning fireplace.

woodstove with moose head and snowshoes on the wall behind it, family
Photo by Kristin Pardy

Our one bathroom and master bedroom are also on the main floor and are both small.

master bedroom with window to outside
Photo by Kristin Pardy

Our oldest two kids have large, identical loft bedrooms upstairs, which are both accessed by loft ladders. Our new baby, Jack, was a bit of a surprise, but we don’t plan to add any more square footage to the house. He is room sharing with us for now until he is old enough to room share with one of his siblings.”

little girl on the ladder going up to the loft area, family
Photo by Kristin Pardy

About living in NunatuKavut

“We absolutely adore living in Nunatukavut, and we can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. Labrador is such an incredibly beautiful part of our country, and one of the remaining untouched interiors. Nunatukavut is one of three Indigenous groups in Labrador and our love, appreciation, and respect for the land is such a big shared commonality.

We are completely surrounded by wilderness, wildlife, Boreal forest, mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean. We get to practice and live our culture every day. While we do get to enjoy all the modern conveniences, we also get to live a simple lifestyle that includes berry picking, boating, and fishing in the summer as well as snowmobiling, ice fishing, hunting, and boil-ups in the winter. When I say snowmobiling, I don’t mean hitching your machine up to a trailer and towing it to a trail. I mean snowmobiles become a secondary source of transportation in the winter, and we drive them right up to our doorsteps like we do with cars and trucks.

Our kids have the opportunity to learn the activities and skills that our ancestors have done for thousands of years, and that is priceless.”

About her design aesthetic

“I love so many different design styles, but I would say living in our home is very much like living in a cabin or cottage every day. The walls are tongue-and-groove pine panels, the floor is just sanded and stained plywood planks, and the decor includes lots of plaid throws and pillows with some decorative moose heads and snowshoes thrown in!”

couch in the living area with plaid throws and pillows, family
Photo by Kristin Pardy

About where she shops

“I love to shop on Etsy when I’m looking for something specific. I always find beautiful printables there. I’ve hung some in our living area and in the kid’s bedrooms. The moose head above our fireplace also came from Etsy, but I also like to use things we already have. The snowshoes that we’ve hung on the wall were mine as a child. The small black slate chalkboard in our kitchen belonged to my Nan, as did the old camera on our mantle. I have a tiny ceramic dog on our mantle also that is sentimental. It was given to me with a family story when I graduated from high school.

Living room area with printables and ladder to loft space, family
Photo by Kristin Pardy

Most of our furniture was passed down or a flea market find. Our daughter’s vintage dresser was a flea market score, as was our retro kitchen table. We refinished the red, solid wood dresser in our entry, it belonged to my husband as a teenager and our son’s dresser was passed down to him from my parents. The dresser set in our master bedroom belonged to my Nan, and they happen to fit perfectly in our small closet space. Our queen bed and the double bed in our son’s room were DIY projects that we made ourselves. As for plaid blankets and throws, I’ll grab those wherever I can find them.”

red dresser in the entry way/ living room
Photo by Kristin Pardy

About anything she would change in hindsight

“If I were starting over from scratch there are only two things I would change. I would install kitchen cabinets that reach all the way to the ceiling just because the top of the cabinets is my least favourite spot to clean. I would also design the porch/mudroom a little bit differently to make better use of the space. It’s large enough as it is, but if we ever get the chance we’d like to move around the laundry and hot water area to make more room for sports equipment and outerwear storage.”

About designing for small spaces

“I can appreciate that small spaces won’t work for everyone, but we really love having less space to maintain and clean. If you have the opportunity to design your own small space, I’d encourage you to think hard about how you and your family are going to use and live in the space. What’s your lifestyle? What kind of things are most important to keep and fit into the space? The more you can design the space to work for your lifestyle, the more likely it is to not feel small at all. Fit storage solutions in where you can, and try to use every inch of available space. Wooden crates are my favourite storage solution. They are inexpensive, and you can add as many as you need in a variety of ways to store or display just about anything!”

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