Home of the Month: Cottage Cool In Markleville
The smallest house in Madison County launched its owners into a big spotlight of home-design fans—and clients—around the world.
Almost nothing is what it seems on the internet. One of the few exceptions is the minimalist home of Angie and Alex Wendricks in Markleville, just outside Pendleton. Thousands of people admire the house on Angie’s blog and Instagram account, and the purity they see—and the clutter that’s absent—are authentic. The couple lives just as simply as photos suggest. The cozy home measures 1,400 square feet, the bare minimum allowed by Madison County. Half of that square footage is garage space, and the attic is empty.
The couple DIY-ed much of the interior finishing and built a social-media mini-empire by documenting the process. Enhanced by Angie’s mastery of the artfully messy bed and other styling skills, the fresh look has attracted an online following and even sparked a photo-styling business.
The petite farmhouse-style home is centered on an expanse of manicured clover, nary a boxwood or Japanese maple in sight. The Wendrickses maintain a “no shoes” policy, and for good reason: With white walls, high white ceilings, and white pine floors, it’s a wonder anyone is allowed to step foot inside at all, let alone Angie and Alex’s two dogs, Bug and Olive. The only hint of color in the house comes from blushing zinnias seen through the kitchen window, just outside the “she-shed,” Angie’s photo studio.
Angie styles images in the house every day for her blog, County Road Living, using natural light and her iPhone. (Alex works at Eli Lilly and tinkers with his motorcycle in his free time.) Her images have been featured on Dwell.com and in Country Living magazine, and 77,000 people follow her Instagram account, @countyroadliving. Artisans and makers who dig Angie’s vibe now send her products (pillows, sheets, mugs) to place around the house, hoping she will blog about them, for payment in cash or goods. “On Instagram, the first question people ask is, ‘Where did you get that?’” she explains.
The answer is often Indiana. For the past five years, Angie and Alex have taken to country cruising near their home in Markleville in search of dilapidated barns to root through (with permission from the owners). A long kitchen shelf came from a barn built in the 1900s, next to a house that used to be a glass factory and was the first home in Pendleton with electricity. Rustic antique wooden shelving from Busby’s New & Used Furniture in Anderson showcases a curated mix of white and cream dishware. The white pine floors, from Lumber Liquidators, are coated with high-gloss white paint that allows the grain and knots to peek through, yet is easy to wipe clean. A long dining table is from Locally Grown Gardens—the couple added casters to raise it to a proper height for eating.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you, though—finishing out the interior was difficult. So was finding a builder to work with. Bob Riffey of Riffey Enterprises in Pendleton was the only general contractor even remotely interested in the project, Angie says, because of the home’s tiny footprint. “Bob went above and beyond,” she says. “We decided we would spray-paint the interior of the house ourselves, and he gave us tips on how to use the equipment.”
The couple handled much of the interior work themselves. Without a lot of prior experience in renovation, they watched YouTube videos so they could build a winding staircase to the lofted bedroom. The odd angles made the job more difficult than it appears. Every task took about 10 times longer than expected, Angie says. Nevertheless, they refinished an old library door for their front entrance and sandblasted sinks, dining room chairs, and that claw-foot tub. The latter took Alex two full days, then Paul Dickerson from Quality Reglazing made it and three sinks glossy and new. At least the last part was easy: Dickerson makes house calls.
“You put in the hard work in some areas to save money so you can spend it on other things,” Angie says. Their splurges include quartz countertops from Lowe’s, a Regency wood-burning stove, and custom bathroom fixtures from Sign of the Crab online.
Other than a hovering row of Ikea kitchen cabinets and a few well-placed wicker baskets brimming with nubby knit blankets, there’s not much in the way of storage. For Angie, minimalism came first, then came the house. “People ask me all the time, ‘Where is all your stuff?’ or ‘Where is your other house?’” says Angie. “They don’t believe this is the way I really live.” But it’s true. For every bark-lid canister or vintage pie box Angie brings home, she boots another item out the door. When she shops, it’s for fresh flowers or a candle, something useful she won’t have to store. Alex has three closets. She has only one.
Big plans await this tiny home. The income it has attracted is modest, but growing. The couple is converting Angie’s studio shed into an Airbnb suite, and recently rented out the house for a photo shoot. Even more valuable, though, are the friends they have made from their online community. During travels around the world, they have met up with some of those minimalists. But they don’t bring back souvenirs.