Meet Brooke, a conservationist who has lovingly restored and built an almost-tiny home in Saskatchewan from practically the ground up. With the help of her capable dad, she poured herself into what was once a fixer-upper and is now a charming refuge built for one. Every nook & cranny of this place is thoughtfully designed with space-saving storage and picturesque moments.
Antique lovers, tiny home aficionados, and out-of-the-box storage thinkers—you’ve been warned. You will fall in love. My favourite part about this chat? Hearing her refreshing take on minimalism. Hint: you get to keep your favourite mugs!
Ready to take a gander through this sweet home? Read along with the music Brooke has on repeat below.
When did this beautiful home become yours?
About a year ago. That’s when I got my job here in Saskatchewan. Looking back, it was a very tumultuous time. My plan B was to work on the family farm full-time and I actually wanted to build a tiny home. I kept telling my dad that was my plan and he kept saying we’re not doing that! I think he’s a lot happier that I just bought a house. It is pretty tiny, so it’s still kind of a tiny home. And I just didn’t need to build it from scratch!
I love how much you made this place your own.
I’ve had so much help, which has been really nice. My parents live a block away. Plus, my dad worked for a contractor for quite a while so I haven’t had to pay for any labour. I really wouldn’t have been able to do it without his help. He can do everything. He has done plumbing, leveled the floors. My mum and brother have helped too so it’s been a whole family affair.
Can you share a bit about these awesome cubbies?
Yes! The stairway that goes into the basement was all just wasted space so I made it into my closet. It helps me keep things tidy. I’m constantly folding and putting things back in place because otherwise I’m just staring at the mess. At first my dad had no idea what I wanted. had to draw it out so many times and then it completely clicked. He just said, “Oh, that’s really cool!” That felt very validating.
How has the process of building your home affected the way you see yourself?
Actually quite a lot. I got the job, and then I got the house, but prior to that, I was moving all the time. I’ve been out of school for two years now and constantly doing short-term work. I’ve only realized over the past couple of months that I’ve been operating with this base level of anxiety since high school. I wasn’t fully aware of it because I was always on the move, figuring out what to do next. I was in perpetual motion. I actually used to say that was my favourite thing, and I think that can be okay—it just depends on how you’re funnelling that energy. Today, I’ve been forced to settle down because of my mortgage and my job, which I love. I’m here. I’ve put all of this time and investment into this one place, and for the first time, I have slowed down completely. I’ve set down roots.
I’ve focused so much more on what goes on in my head as opposed to focusing on what goes on in my external life. There has been a lot of personal growth in general. I reached out and got therapy for the first time, too, which is always something that I thought I should do, but when you’re busy, you always find a reason not to. Having this house played a big part in reaching out for the first time. I just thought, “Okay, I’m here for a while. You have the opportunity to think about what’s going on in here versus what’s going on out there.”
What are some of the most important practices you use to stay rooted during COVID?
You know, the timing of getting this house and doing all of the renovations was really nice because it gave me something to keep busy with. I think a lot of the negative feelings that people were dealing with early on escalated as time went on, and I was able to avoid that pattern because I was working on this huge, time-consuming project. I was also with my family a ton. And it’s nice living in a small town. It has never felt locked down. I’ll go to the post office and see someone from high school that I know. It all feels somewhat normal still. So, to some extent, the negative experiences brought on by COVID have been tempered for me.
That said, whenever I’m stressed or anxious, I’ll go running. We’ve had a lot of cold weather this year, so I took up yoga, too. I had this thought that I would just never be a yoga person. I always said, “That’s not for me.” And then I started practicing yoga and thought, “Wait a second. This is kind of nice!” I think it parallels the whole slowing down theme of my life right now. My brain is literally not as busy, for the first time, so I can finally settle in and enjoy yoga in ways I haven’t before.
How do you challenge your negative thinking when it bubbles up?
I’ve always been a firm believer that no one cares about me as much as I care about me. Okay, maybe my mom. But it’s actually been very freeing to realize that in a social situation, if i do something awkward, no one cares. No one is going to remember. So why stress over it? Why stress over so many things? Things that would have stressed me out in the past don’t stress me out anymore because of this. I’ll force myself to remember that whatever mistake I made or awkward moment I’m thinking about didn’t negatively affect anybody.
What are some of your favourite ways to unwind in your home?
Realizing that I can just be myself and do the things that I want has been amazing. I bake a lot, and cook a lot. I’m a really organized person and am pretty obsessed with time management. I’m very controlling over a lot of things in my life. But when I bake and cook, I rarely follow recipes. That is a powerful outlet for me. Because I’m also recognizing that I’m allowed to be multiple things. That we all can be. There are such depths inside of us. I can make sure my house is super clean and organize my bookshelf by height, but also throw anything into a recipe and just see how it goes. I’m an entirely different person when I’m cooking.
Miranda: Being able to accept that parts of our identity are contradictory is so powerful. We can discover a new part of ourselves that may scare us or may not fit into the understanding of who “we” are as neatly as we hoped, but that exploration is a part of our growth.
What made you want to buy this house in particular? A gut feeling? Location? Something else?
I just thought that there was so much I could do with this house. I’m also very goal-oriented and so the fact that it was a project made it all the more exciting. Being able to change it and make it truly my house made it so exciting. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. There are so many projects still on the to-do list. I’m going to paint it a nice grey-blue.
My house is like me. It’s going to constantly evolve. Which is kind of fun! A house is definitely more permanent than any rental, and I’m not going to change the structure anymore. But recognizing that I can constantly change it and improve it is very freeing.
How has being a conservationist affected your design philosophy?
When I was living in Vancouver, I did this project to go zero-waste. It has really informed my whole life since then. Owning a house, right off the bat, is not good for your carbon footprint. I’ve offset the emissions from my house, which isn’t a lot, but it’s something. Prior to owning the house and thinking I wanted to go tiny, I kept reading about the minimalist movement. This ethos has gained a lot of traction, especially in the sustainability circles. In a way, it feels like if you want to live a sustainable lifestyle, you need to live a minimalist lifestyle. And that’s true to some degree, but I read an Instagram post that changed my mindset entirely.
I was feeling slightly guilty. I kept thinking that I was a bad environmentalist because I own a home, and I live in it alone, and I don’t want a roommate. But this post was saying that minimalism is not the best way to look at the environmental and sustainability movement. We should look at it from the lens of maximalism.
The whole idea of maximalism is to maximize the joy that we’re getting out of whatever we’re doing. To maximize our impact where we can and how we can. To not be so focused on minimizing everything. Don’t worry about that pair of shoes you only wear once a year if you love that pair of shoes. I have way too many clothes to call myself a minimalist. Way too many mugs. My house is full of things, but the only thing I bought new is a TV console (note from Miranda: which is creatively repurposed as a kitchen counter!). Everything else I’ve found in alleyways or I got from my grandparents, parents, or neighbours. That’s another dimension to maximalism versus minimalist. If you are living a minimalist lifestyle, but you’ve bought every single thing you have, then that’s not as sustainable.
Ultimately, living a sustainable lifestyle is not a one size fits all package. I want to maximize the joy I get out of things. That gives me more energy to make even greener changes that are sustainable for my way of life.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Brooke for sharing her beautiful home with us. Feel free to say hello at @brick_ford.
Plus, if you’re into vintage threads, hop over to Brooke’s side gig, Yankee Valley Vintage. She has the cutest items up for grabs.