I'm a New Yorker who stayed in a tiny house for the first time and it was the perfect retreat from city life

tiny house exterior and kitchen
I stayed in a tiny house in North Carolina and thought it was comfortable enough for a longer stay.
Erin McDowell/Insider
  • I'm a New Yorker who stayed in a tiny house for the first time during a trip to North Carolina.
  • The house was located in rural Efland, North Carolina, and was a perfect retreat from city life.
  • Rustic touches like a galvanized bathtub and the property's many animals added to the experience.

I arrived at the tiny house in Efland, North Carolina, on a hot summer afternoon.

tiny house chicken coop and garden
The chicken coop.
Erin McDowell/Insider

I recently traveled from New York to North Carolina to write a few stories on fast food and tour some apartments. I decided to try staying in a tiny house for the first time for two nights while I was there to see if it was something I'd do again. The Airbnb cost $150 per night, and I stayed for two nights.

I've lived in New York City for three years, and have become quite accustomed to the comforts of city life. However, I grew up on a farm in England, and then another in Connecticut, so I was interested to see whether the more rustic lifestyle could tempt me to leave New York. 

Before my arrival, I was notified of where to park and the passcode to get into the "tiny getaway." When I arrived, I could see the chicken coop and sprawling garden. I was told in the listing for the tiny house that the property was home to multiple chickens, so I should wear sensible shoes for walking around — and to watch where I stepped.

One of the owners of the tiny house was gardening when I arrived.

hillsborough north carolina
The garden at the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

After introducing myself, I walked down the short path to the tiny house. I only had a duffel bag with me, which ended up being convenient to walk down to the tiny house with. If I had had multiple rolling suitcases, that might have been a little more troublesome.

When I arrived, the tiny house looked even more quaint in person.

tiny house exterior
The outside of the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

The house was painted a cheerful blue color with a yellow door. It was nestled among the trees a short distance from the owners' house.

Some fairy lights were strung up outside the front door, with a few signs placed about to show where to walk. However, I found that getting from one point of the property to my car or the surrounding nature was self-explanatory. 

There was a bench with colorful cushions outside the tiny house.

a bench outside the tiny house
The outside of the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

This would have been a great spot to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. However, I'm not a huge fan of getting bit by mosquitoes and other bugs, and this was simply unavoidable in such a rural setting. There was bug spray provided, which helped, but I still didn't find myself wanting to spend extended periods of time outdoors.

After using the code to get into the tiny house, I took some time to look around.

hooks near the entrance to the tiny house
Inside the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

Right when I walked in, there were some hooks hung up on either side of the door to hang my jacket and my handbag. A bright red sheer curtain covered the door, adding privacy and color to the space.

There was a daybed adorned with colorful blankets and pillows right when I walked into the tiny house.

the day bed inside the tiny house
The daybed.
Erin McDowell/Insider

The daybed offered additional sleeping arrangements if you had more than two guests, or if you didn't want to use the lofted bedroom, which is located up a somewhat steep spiral staircase. I mainly ended up using the daybed as a couch for watching movies or reading when I wasn't out reporting.

Before coming to the tiny house, I worried about how comfortable I would be in such a rural setting. However, touches throughout made me feel right at home.

a shelving unit near the day bed
A shelf with fake candles and a reed diffuser.
Erin McDowell/Insider

The place smelled absolutely amazing thanks to a reed diffuser located on the first floor, and a remote-controlled AC unit located near the ceiling allowed me a refuge from the humid North Carolina summer weather. 

The most stunning part about the tiny house, I thought, was the view.

tiny house interior view through the windows into the woods
The table and stools inside the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

Large windows located on the side of the house allowed me a perfect look out into the surrounding woods. I felt like I was in a treehouse, with all the comforts of a real house. There was a high-top table with two stools that I ended up eating dinner and breakfast at, which I really enjoyed.

The tiny house had a full-sized kitchen and everything you needed to make a meal.

the tiny house kitchen
The kitchen.
Erin McDowell/Insider

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tiny house had full-sized appliances — this definitely isn't always a given in a pint-sized dwelling.

Just like with the rest of the house, handmade elements really added to the experience.

the tiny house kitchen
The kitchen.
Erin McDowell/Insider

Rustic wood shelves housed all the dishes, which mainly came in sets of twos. Built-in shelving contained all the spices you could need to make a meal.

The owners also left me some farm-fresh eggs straight from their own chickens.

fresh eggs left in the tiny house
Fresh eggs left in the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

I thought this was a really unique touch and made me feel at home with the surrounding animals and nature.

There was no dishwasher in the tiny house, but there was a large farm sink.

the kitchen sink inside the tiny house
The kitchen sink.
Erin McDowell/Insider

There was dish soap available in a mason jar-shaped holder, which I thought was a cute rustic-inspired touch.

There was also a bookshelf inside the tiny house with a welcome book that listed all the house rules and gave some recommendations for things to do in the area.

a book shelf inside the tiny house with the welcome book
A bookshelf with the welcome book.
Erin McDowell/Insider

The book included a map of the property, what to do before checking out, and a list of restaurants, shops, hikes, and other activities to check out while staying there.

String lights were hung up throughout the space, giving the house a warm, inviting glow.

a spiral staircase inside the tiny house
The spiral staircase leading up to the loft.
Erin McDowell/Insider

Off of the main living space and the kitchen were the small office space and the bathroom.

A wooden desk overlooked the front of the property.

the tiny house office
The office area of the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

During my free time, I used the space to read my book and work a bit on my computer. I imagined that this house would make for a perfect writer's retreat, free from any city noise or outside distractions. 

There was also a large armoire and two chairs located inside the office space for more clothing storage and seating.

The bathroom was the smallest space in the house.

a sun mosaic in the bathroom of the tiny house
A tile mosaic on the floor of the bathroom.
Erin McDowell/Insider

There was a tile mosaic depicting a sun on the concrete floor of the bathroom — something designed by the owners, I presumed.

There was a small bathroom sink that worked perfectly for one person.

tiny house bathroom
The bathroom.
Erin McDowell/Insider

However, I imagined it would be next to impossible for two people to squeeze into the small space in the morning. There was also no large bathroom mirror located directly above the sink, thanks to the window that overlooked the property. Instead, there was one located just to the left of it, in addition to a smaller makeup mirror.

I found the space comfortable enough to do some light makeup, but I decided to just keep my beauty routine really simple while I was there. I didn't even attempt to blowdry or style my hair while I was there, so I'm not sure what that would entail.

One of the most interesting parts of staying in the tiny house was the shower.

the shower inside the tiny house
The galvanized bathtub.
Erin McDowell/Insider

When I arrived, I took note of the galvanized tub. It was a hand-rigged shower using reclaimed pipes and operated by a water heater. 

When I ended up using the shower before going to dinner, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to operate. To get hot water in the shower, I was instructed in the welcome manual to first turn the hot water on from the sink, and then adjust the now turned-on electric water heater to my desired temperature.

I thought the water pressure was fantastic, although the shower water hitting the bottom of the tub was very loud. However, it was also admittedly a little cramped and required stepping in and out of the high edges of the tub. If you're less able than I am, this might pose a bit of an issue.

After settling into the house, I decided to take a spin around the property right outside.

chickens walking around a rural property
Chickens walking outside the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

When I stepped out of the house, I noticed that three of the property's chickens had gathered near the porch. One of them ended up digging up a spot for it to sit in the dirt, while the others pecked at the ground near the tiny house and in the surrounding wooded areas.

I also saw a black and white cat roaming about one afternoon, who was friendly enough to let me pet them. I grew up on a farm with chickens, so I felt comfortable being near them. However, I didn't get too close in order to not frighten them away. 

There were two red Adirondack chairs facing the woods and the nearby creek.

two red chairs outside looking over the woods
Chairs set up outside the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

The tiny house's yard was well-maintained and simply beautiful. 

A short walk away from the house, there was a babbling creek and a hammock.

creek and hammock near the tiny house
A hammock hung up near the creek.
Erin McDowell/Insider

I came out here once in the morning to drink my coffee and enjoy some serenity in nature. As someone who usually wakes up and immediately jumps in to work or scrolls on my phone, this felt like a much-needed break from the business that is life in a big city. 

When dinnertime rolled around, I decided to take a drive into the nearest town to get some takeout.

hillsborough north carolina
A street in downtown Hillsborough, North Carolina.
Erin McDowell/Insider

Downtown Hillsborough, North Carolina, was located about ten minutes away from the house and offered shops, restaurants, and more. I placed my dinner order over the phone, and it was ready by the time I hopped in my car and arrived at the restaurant.

After parking my car in a large lot, I walked down the street to pick up my dinner.

hillsborough north carolina
A street in downtown Hillsborough, North Carolina.
Erin McDowell/Insider

On the way, I passed galleries, stores, and a cute wine shop, where I picked up a bottle of local rosé. I decided to order spaghetti and meatballs, plus a side of Gruyere mashed potatoes, from Antonia's Restaurant, a local Italian eatery. 

When I arrived back at the tiny house, food in hand, I set up a movie on my laptop and ate at the table.

hillsborough north carolina
My laptop displaying a movie and a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.
Erin McDowell/Insider

There's no television in the tiny house, but I didn't mind that. I decided to watch "Twilight," which was a perfect choice given the many trees surrounding me. 

The food was absolutely delicious, and I had more than enough for two dinners, despite only getting the half-portion of spaghetti and meatballs. It was a perfect cozy night in.

After eating my dinner and changing into my pajamas, I decided to settle into bed for the night.

a sign for guests telling them to shut lights off before going to bed
A sign notifying guests to turn the lights off before going to bed.
Erin McDowell/Insider

A sign near the door explained that I should turn off all the lights before going to bed in order to avoid disturbing "the natural flow of wildlife." I thought this was really nice and made me reconsider how I usually live and its impact on nature. That was one of the biggest takeaways from my stay — the owners of the tiny house clearly work with nature, rather than against it. 

After climbing up the spiral staircase to the lofted bedroom, I made sure to watch my head on the low ceiling.

a wooden sign that reads "watch your head"
A sign in the lofted bedroom telling guests to watch their heads.
Erin McDowell/Insider

I'm not especially tall, but I nearly bumped my head a few times climbing up and down from the bedroom.

The bedroom is pretty high up, with some branches acting as a barrier between the lofted area and the downstairs.

a view from the upstairs loft of the tiny house
The view from the lofted bedroom.
Erin McDowell/Insider

This space is probably most suitable for adults, simply for safety reasons.

The bedroom was super cozy and comfortable.

the tiny house bedroom
The bed.
Erin McDowell/Insider

Some fairy lights added even more ambiance to the room, while windows on the side of the bed and directly across from it gave even more views into the surrounding nature. Before drifting off to sleep, I found myself more relaxed than I had been in a very long time. I've stayed in quite a few Airbnbs in my life, but I'd never stayed in one that made me feel so peaceful and at home. 

The bed itself was extremely comfortable, and I slept through the night effortlessly, with no roommates or cars honking outside to wake me from my slumber. 

When I woke up on the morning I was scheduled to check out, I was admittedly sad to be leaving.

the path up to the tiny house
The path leading out of the tiny house.
Erin McDowell/Insider

I really connected with this way of life, from the animals living throughout the property to the handmade touches featured throughout the home that gave me insight into who the owners were and what they valued in life. 

Despite being located just a stone's throw away from the owners' dwelling, I only saw them on the one occasion when I first arrived, which made the experience feel very private and comfortable.

The peace I felt staying in the tiny house outweighed any desire for more space. While some areas were cramped, and I don't know if I'd want to duck my head every time I went into my bedroom, I realized that all of these negatives were combated by the near-magical feeling I got every time I walked back into the tiny house. I only wish that my stay had been longer, so I could have done more activities and soaked up the peace for a few more nights.

Every tiny home is unique, but I would definitely stay in one again. I would also book another stay at this tiny getaway in a heartbeat the next time I need a weekend away from the city. 

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.'s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.

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