Photo: Lynn Skillen

My First and Only House

By Carly Peters

Most people move into their first house as newlyweds or young professionals. But AMA member Lynn Skillen bought her first home mid-life and mid-career.

After divorcing in 1969, she spent 12 years travelling for work, residing in rented apartments. When she became an academic at the University of Alberta, she decided it was time to put down roots—and a down payment on a tiny house in 1981.

A look back at an AMA member’s first of many road trips.

A tempest of fortune

Back then, she paid big bucks for her little space, assuming two mortgages. “I didn’t care, I wanted my own washer and dryer,” she laughs, adding she paid one mortgage off the day of the 1987 Edmonton tornado. “I wanted to be able to decorate and design a place to make it my own.” And there was plenty to be done in the 696-square-foot, 1940s cottage.

Over the years, Lynn replaced the carpet in the kitchen with hardwood; she peeled bathroom wallpaper and installed tiles; and swapped out folding-screen room separators for glass doors. She also upped the home’s curb appeal by changing out the single-pane glass on the front and back of the house with charming bay windows. It’s through those windows that she watches the neighbourhood change around her.

Here to stay

Other tiny houses on the block have been replaced with modern infills. She even finds handwritten notes in her mailbox reading “Looking to sell?” But at the age of 80, she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. “I will leave my house when I can no longer manage it, financially or physically,” she says. “I’m at peace in my little home.”

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