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Newlyweds find cozy comfort in smallest house in Grand Forks

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Dominique, left, and Rachel Koehmstedt in their tiny house. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service2 / 3
Dominique, left, and Rachel Koehmstedt. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service3 / 3

Editor's note: In a time when tiny houses are celebrated over mega-mansions on popular TV shows, we wanted to find out what it's like to live in Grand Forks' smallest house.

GRAND FORKS — Once upon a time there was a teeny-tiny house with a teeny-tiny pumpkin and two teeny-tiny hay bales out front.

For six months now, a pair of twenty-something tenants and their not-so-teeny dogs have made their home in what the city assessor's office has deemed the smallest house in Grand Forks. Nestled on a full-size lot with a canopy of mature trees, the 1955 house with neat, blue shutters and trim has only 303 square feet of living space on its main floor. A finished basement doubles that, and a heated garage — aka "womanly cave" — almost triples it.

When you add it all up, newlyweds Rachel and Dominique Koehmstedt say that's not so small. Who could ask for anything more? The couple say it's just the right size for them and their friendly dogs, Loki and Luna — a husky and German shepherd, respectively.

"It's cozy for our first place together, and it brings us closer," Rachel says.

"We're like homebodies," Dominique adds. "We like to stay at home and watch movies and lie on the couch. We're perfectly content like that."

In fact, the women were taken by surprise recently to learn their home had earned the town's diminutive distinction.

All of a sudden, the mirrors plastered on every wall made more sense. Decorators say mirrors can make a room look larger. And here all along, Dominique had thought the former tenant had just been vain.

"They must have really liked to look at themselves," she said. "There were a lot of mirrors in here. They were everywhere."

Dominique said they chose the rental house after first shopping around for apartments. They found plenty of apartments that would accept dogs — large ones, too — but they would say, "Oh, never mind," once they learned of the breeds.

So far, Loki and Luna have been well-behaved as pups in paradise. It's a dog-friendly neighborhood, and the smaller house "makes it easier for Luna to watch out for us," Rachel says.

Big benefits

And though neither had watched a single episode of HGTV's crazy-popular tiny-house series — "Tiny House, Big Living," "Tiny House Builders," "Tiny House Hunters" or "Tiny Luxury" — both women say they definitely can see the attraction of living small.

"You can clean the whole house in 30 minutes," Dominique says.

"Or an hour if you want to do deep cleaning," Rachel adds. Plus: "You can be in one room and talk to the person in the other room."

The heat bill is low, and the vacuum needs to be plugged in only once. Double bonus.

The house may be small, but it does not short itself on amenities. The main floor includes a living room with built-in nooks, a bedroom big enough for a queen-size bed, as well as a half bath and a pretty spacious back entry and landing. The downstairs includes a full galley kitchen with a double sink, full-size refrigerator, oven/stove, microwave and dishwasher.

A cozy high-top table and two chairs are tucked into the kitchen's corner. A full bath also squeezes in a full-size washer and dryer.

The Koehmstedts say there really are few downsides to the house. The biggest one, though, might be its closet space. As active outdoors people, they have a lot of gear and clothes. But that's nothing a few totes won't fix.

And so what, they say, if someone has to stand when a guest comes to dinner. The garage, stocked with games and a TV, works well for larger groups of company.

Thanksgiving? No worries on that, either. Family lives almost around the corner.

The house may be small, but they say there's always room for love in a teeny-tiny house. It's the perfect place to live happily ever after.

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