“It’s a little tight. Suck it in,” Omahan Annette Huff teases on a walk-through of her tiny getaway house in Manhattan, Kansas. At just 500 square feet, it’s a quick tour. But that’s the point.

The bungalow overflows with convenience and nostalgia for Annette and husband, Steve. The Kansas natives have a lifelong connection to the vibrant college town and the scenic Flint Hills that surround it. The tiny house – in lieu of a hotel room – has allowed them not only to economize on lodging but also truly feel at home when they visit.

“We got the idea from a New York Times article,” says Steve. “I read about a Notre Dame football fan who maintained a tiny house in South Bend, Indiana, because it was impossible to get a hotel room on home game weekends. I commented about that being a great idea for us, and Annette jumped on it.”

The Huffs are alums of Kansas State University and devoted fans of the Wildcats, rarely missing a home football or basketball game. The Omahans also head to Manhattan frequently as trustees of the KSU Foundation and patrons of the arts in the Manhattan area.

Adding to their enjoyment: Annette grew up in the neighborhood; her family’s original home is just down the street and around the corner.

“For me it’s like being back to my roots,” says Annette, whose grandparents homesteaded in nearby Geary County. Childhood friends remain part of her social circle, including the wife of the current president of K-State.

The Huffs purchased the tiny house in February 2005 and launched into an ambitious plan to renovate it with the basic comforts of home for occasional stays for themselves and friends.

“It had its problems,” Annette says of the World War II-era fixer-upper. Some were major.

For one, the basement was caving in. “You wouldn’t have put your dog down there, it was so bad,” Annette recalls.

General contractor Dave Scott lifted the house off its original foundation, constructed a new basement and set the house in place.

A month later, work shifted to the interior. Scott took the walls down to their studs and made modifications to maximize the square footage. Hardwood flooring was installed for visual continuity throughout the main level. White tile was put to use in the home’s two bathrooms for a greater sense of space while maintaining the character of the original 1940s decor.

“Appliances ... furnishings ... everything is in miniature,” Annette says. “You don’t let any space go to waste in a house this size.”

The formerly unusable basement now boasts a guest suite, complete with twin beds, reading nook and full bath.

The contractor had the house ready for christening in September 2005 – just in time to kick off the Wildcats’ football season.

“We can crowd quite a few people in here after a game,” says Annette. “And I can clean up quickly.”

Rooms come to life with natural light and wall art, much of it original. “I change it around all the time,” Annette says, revealing her secret to keeping spaces fresh and interesting. A few heirloom furniture pieces and photographs mingle with traditional furnishings and accessories. The overall look is casual and comfortable, like a favorite pair of khakis and a button-down shirt.

“It was a lot of work, but it’s perfect for what we like to do,” Steve says of their tiny dynamo.

Looking to the future, the Huffs see something bigger coming from their investment. Annette’s hope: “Our little house just might be a catalyst for other renovations in the neighborhood.”

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