By Julie Sheer
Josh Wynne built a small house on his rural property on Florida's Gulf Coast for his father, Mike Wynne, to age in place, making it stylish as well as functional and sustainable. He incorporated many features to accommodate Mike, who has health issues that limit his mobility. The small size makes it easier to get around in and means less cleaning and maintenance, Wynne says.

"All favor a retiree on a fixed income who is inevitably going to have changing needs through the course of ownership," Wynne says. He dubbed what he calls the "tiny-ish" house "Mike's Hammock." After Hurricane Irma came through recently and left the house unscathed, it confirmed to him that he'd built a structure that could withstand a big storm.

House at a Glance

  • Who lives here: Mike Wynne
  • Location: Nokomis, Florida
  • Size: 604 square feet (56 square meters); one bedroom, one bathroom. (Outdoor porches and a mechanical/utility space add 436 square feet.)
  • Designer and builder: Josh Wynne Construction

The house was cantilevered above its foundation to protect the native Sabal palms that surround it, giving it the appearance of floating in the trees. Wynne says only one tree had to be removed and he planted three in its place. Built efficiently with mostly local and recycled materials, he says it resulted in less than one dumpster of waste for the entire project.

The Southern yellow pine for the framing material is lumber from the construction site of a nearby housing development and was treated with boric acid for termite control.

Engineered wood was used for the roof framing and didn't require a crane to install. "It minimizes impacts by utilizing trees that are younger and using them more efficiently than solid-sawn lumber," says Wynne. Some of the siding is corrugated metal, installed vertically to match Wynne's nearby barn.

Wood paneling inside the home is the same Southern yellow pine that was used for the framing. Wynne had an energy-efficient central cooling and heating system custom-made and said the energy bill averages only $25 a month, even in summer. "We designed a smart, double-wall exposed metal duct to distribute the air efficiently while simultaneously adding to the interior decor."

The kitchen layout was intended to accommodate the possibility of mobility impairment. Wynne omitted upper cabinets and used Ikea cabinet bases with only full-extension drawers and no cabinets to make access easier.

Wavy tile from Porcelanosa accents one wall, with windows providing a view from the front of the home toward Wynne's barn. The peninsula features locally made concrete countertops and an integrated sink.

The simply furnished, compact space makes it easy to get from the kitchen to the great room, and the pitched ceiling expands the space vertically.

Wynne sized the doors to accommodate a wheelchair. Pocket doors in the kitchen and bathroom are each 2 feet 10 inches wide. The front door is 3 feet wide, with a transom window that serves several purposes, says Wynne.

"The transom window is designed to let in north light and also to create the columnar visual effect at the entry that allows you to see the contiguous connection of the wall and ceiling cladding from inside and out."

Pine shiplap ceiling, walls and flooring give the bedroom a modern cabin-like feel. Sliding glass doors lead to the back deck and provide nature views. "The rear of the home faces true west and the sunset is viewed across a long marsh and wetland that features wading birds, marsh flowers and lots of animals," Wynne says.

A mirrored wardrobe gives the illusion of an expanded space. "I used the mirror to stretch the space and continue the lines created by the shiplap," says Wynne. The same view of the outdoors can be seen in the mirror while lying in bed.

Wynne built the bathroom 72 inches wide to allow for a walker or wheelchair. He has since added a teak fold-down seat in the shower and backing for installation of a grab bar, if one becomes necessary.

Winds in excess of 110 miles an hour during Hurricane Irma brought down several trees around the small house, Wynne says. A 30-foot palm hit a floor-to-ceiling window but did no damage to the home, he says.

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