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This Tiny Vintage Cottage is Big on Charm

This Tiny Vintage Cottage is Big on Charm

Vintage dining area with white table, blue chairs, jute rug and horse painting
Written by Kris Christensen
Photography by Bret Gum
Styling by Sarah Bennett

Full of treasures, natural light and zero clutter, this Etsy seller’s tiny vintage cottage in Oregon has a rich history of creative determination. The story of the Corvallis Cottage begins with three young World War II veterans under the age of 25, one electric saw and a hay field.

Vintage cottage living room with blue and green sofa, leather chair, and trunk coffee table
One sizable item is an exception to Sarah’s policy of favoring bright white, and that’s the stunning sofa with a blue and green floral pattern. “I manifested that sofa!” she proudly exclaims about the stunning $30 Craigslist score. Sarah told her husband she was determined to find a blue-and-green floral print sofa and discovered this one that surpassed her expectations. The green coffee table trunk is a clever DIY with midcentury-style peg legs added to give it necessary height. The woven pouf is from IKEA.

This is what the cottage’s current inhabitants, Sarah Bennett and her husband, learned upon receiving a letter from the granddaughter of one of the three GIs. The letter details the investment of time and resources the three men poured into the process of building the home.

Vintage gallery wall over blue and green sofa in a vintage cottage
“It has to draw me in,” Sarah says, referring to her process for choosing art to display and sell. In addition to prints with sayings, she’s also attracted to earthy pieces and those with a feminine subject, such as the paint-by-number pieces and the minimalist nude line drawing that hangs above her sofa.

As for many young veterans in the post-World War II era, benefits offered by the GI Bill brought the letter-writer’s grandfather to pursue higher education in a new town. He set out from Portland, Oregon, in 1947, with his brother, father and a childhood friend, sharing the goal of building their own college residence. Each young man invested $1,000 and many hours of sweat equity that began the same summer morning the group arrived on the property.

Vintage dining area with white table, blue chairs, jute rug and horse painting
Simple and strategic, the bright white shade on the dining table blends against the wall to create a visually uncomplicated space. The two turquoise chairs are former school seats that Sarah found in a Massachusetts antiques shop. A circular jute rug from Serena & Lily anchors the setting with interesting texture.

The first day saw a new foundation dug out of the hay field covering the area and poured over firm soil. For the next several weeks, the men camped on the property, showered once a week during return trips to Portland and used only one electric saw with a 200-foot connection to the nearest power source. The result still stands as a tiny, but efficient, 504-square-foot cottage.

Vintage white farmhouse kitchen sink with sunflower in a vase.
The kitchen sink is original to the building, witha built-in draining area where dishes can safely dry.

Over 70 years later, Corvallis Cottage has seen few changes, with no additions or extensions to modernize the small structure’s footprint.

Many of the original features, such as the farmhouse-style kitchen sink, still offer period charm that reflects back to the decade in which this vintage cottage was built.

A vintage pink cabinet has been turned into a bar station. A horse art print hangs above on the wall.
The pale pink cabinet with its raw wood drawer doubles as a bar station, where ingredients wait to be mixed into cocktails. Overhead, the vintage horse print adds a vibrant pop of color into the space

Yet as charming as the vintage cottage is, renting such a home is not for the faint of heart. Vintage lovers Sarah Bennett and her husband, however, have risen to the occasion undaunted. They choose to honor the home’s handmade history and embrace its limitations without sacrificing their personal style.

Vintage school desk with mirror overhead and a giant mailbox repurposed into a trashcan
A petite school desk occupies the wall across from the seating area and accompanying it is a curving green mirror and an unusual trashcan. Unlike most garbage receptacles, this piece has sentimental value, having lived a former life as Sarah’s parents’ mailbox. When they upgraded to a newer model, Sarah and her husband turned the piece on end, added casters and gave it a second chance. When the trash is full, the red flag goes up to signal it’s ready to be emptied.

Sarah describes her home décor style as “light and airy Bohemian vintage,” and uses an all-white backdrop, light natural finishes and pretty pops of color to achieve the look. These decisions are not merely subjective preferences, but also function on a practical level to suit her needs.

Small room with vintage green cart, rattan wall hanging, and shipping space in a vintage cottage.
This space in the laundry room stores and displays many of Sarah’s vintage wares. She explains, “We made a built in bench in the laundry nook area, and I divided up spaces within the bench for product, shipping materials, and I made built-in open shelving as well.”

Bright white walls were the first change the couple made to personalize the place on moving in. “White walls are necessary for me since I sell vintage goods from home and take all my product shots in our house, Sarah says. “I also knew I needed to paint all the walls white to make our small space feel more open and airy.”

A rattan peacock chair in a white bedroom vintage cottage bedroom. A macrame textile hanging is positioned above the bed
A thrifted rattan peacock chair is the bedroom’s highlight piece, with its warm natural finish and intricate woven construction. Sarah uses similar finishes throughout the space and balances them against white walls, with pink accessories layered in.

The open and airy feeling is further encouraged by painting other large surfaces white also. The dining table, Sarah’s office desk and the bedding all visually recede into the background, creating a uniform look that allows colorful pieces to garner all the attention.

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These items are either artisan-designed or vintage pieces sourced from garage sales, antique stores, estate sales and flea markets. “I’m really drawn to earthy collections, vintage patterns and lighter palettes,” Sarah explains. “I love finding unique, one-of-a kind items and almost always buy secondhand, which is aligned with my belief in recycling.”

A paint-by-number portrait with two Russel Wright tea cups
Paint-by-number pieces are experiencing a resurgence in appreciation, and Sarah recognizes the personality they can offer to a space. This one was purchased at an estate sale. It’s displayed here with two Russel Wright midcentury teacups and a miniature rattan chair, similar to the one in the bedroom.

Before anything can come into her home, however,each item is held to careful scrutiny. Sarah says, “Living in small quarters really forces me to be very intentional about the objects I’m purchasing and integrating into our home. I also try to be mindful of how much is around us; because it is a small space, it can feel overwhelming quickly if there are too many décor pieces. It’s actually a great challenge that I enjoy taking on.”

A small Mid Century Modern bookshelf with a blanket, pottery and a lantern in it.

Although bright white covers the majority of surfaces and the size of her home necessitates a strict approach to the volume of her décor, Sarah’s home does not approach a minimalist aesthetic.

Her selection of floral patterns and pieces with vintage patina, and the personality apparent in so many design choices, lend a homey quality of coziness to each room. Sarah says, “Also, weaving lots of greenery in to my home is really important to me. Plants add life and comfort to a space. I like to refer to the houseplants as our quiet little friends!”

Shelving with plants and vintage pottery
Sarah Bennett mixes sentimental décor, inventory for her Etsy shop and a collection of plants into vignettes in this shelving unit. A common color scheme of golden yellow, green and white joins these disparate pieces together into a cohesive display. With items constantly coming and going, this space is constantly evolving.

With a careful approach to color and the strategic display of vintage treasures, Sarah and her husband have added their chapter to the story of Corvallis Cottage. In a time when most other houses of this pedigree have met with many changes, it’s refreshing to see a home with history continue to live on in the spirit of its creation.

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