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Originally published February 20, 2011 at 7:32 PM | Page modified February 21, 2011 at 12:14 PM

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Seattle Home Show finds visitors thinking smaller

As a measure of the mood at the 2011 Seattle Home Show, consider that one of the hottest displays features cabins a scant 200 square feet in size.

Seattle Times staff reporter

As a measure of the mood at the 2011 Seattle Home Show, consider that one of the hottest displays features cabins a scant 200 square feet in size.

Not many folks are making the tiny wood structures their primary residences — yet — but sales last year grew more than 50 percent, said Chad Taylor, president of Marysville-based Coast Cabins & Sheds.

The economic downturn has made it tougher to upgrade to a bigger house, so many people are eager for an affordable way to add an office, storage space or mother-in-law unit, he said.

The company added branches in North Bend and Buckley in Pierce County, and plans to double the size of its production facility, Taylor said. "Our do-it-yourself kits are really popular," he said.

Mary and Bruce Enter, of Whidbey Island, were considering one of the mini-houses for a piece of waterfront property they hope to sell.

"You've got to come up with something creative in today's environment," Mary Enter said.

Excess was in short supply at this year's show, and many vendors said they aren't sure it will ever flourish again as in the boom years.

"I don't think people are going to be back in the McMansion frame of mind," said salesman Don Shelton, who was staffing Timberland Homes' model home. At 1,638 square feet, it was the largest in the show. But this year's rambler was less than half the size of the version the company displayed in 2007.

If new-home sales are still slow, remodelers were more hopeful this year.

"It's still a little bit flat," admitted Tim Russell, sales manager for Westhill Integrated Home Improvement in Woodinville. Homeowners have been more likely to repair than replace or remodel, he said. But that means there's pent-up demand, which could create an uptick in the market as people become more secure in their jobs and the value of their homes.

"I don't know if we'll ever see the glory days again," Russell said. "But there's some hope on the horizon."

Lisa and Glenn Severijn, who were collecting bids and ideas, personify that glimmer. The Woodinville couple tried to sell their house, but got no acceptable offers. So they've decided to go ahead with a bedroom upgrade they've been considering for a couple of years.

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"The economy has picked up,"said Lisa Severijn. "We feel more confident."

The Seattle Home Show continues through Sunday at Qwest Field Event Center.

Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or sdoughton@seattletimes.com

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