[this is a reprint of a feature article I wrote for our local newspaper, published June 1, 2015.]
Tiny Houses are built on dual-axle trailer foundations both for mobility and exemption from zoning and building codes. In August of 2012 when work dried up in Arizona we simply hitched up and moved our house to Santa Fe, NM. I blogged about our tiny adventures at http://clotheslinetinyhomes.com. photo by Carrie Caverly
by Carrie Caverly
In the land of “McMansions” where the average house size has swelled to 2,600sf, a petite countercultural version of home is rolling into the neighborhood: the Tiny House.
“Drawn by the prospect of financial freedom, a simpler lifestyle and limiting one’s environmental footprint, more buyers are opting to downsize—in some cases, to space no larger than 300 sq. ft.”—Tiny House Nation reality TV show.
Small living quarters are not entirely novel, or inherently hip, but they are enjoying wild popularity. No longer the sole realm of online bloggers, tiny houses are all over the media, featured on Oprah, in Forbes magazine, CNN, the BBC, and a slew of local news stations. There are two documentary films now: Tiny: The Movie, streamable on Netflix, and Small is Beautiful: A Tiny House Documentary, with select screenings starting in April 2015. There are three reality TV shows: Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Hunters, and Tiny House Builders. Fortune magazine lists micro dwellings in the top 5 home trends of 2015, saying “micro and tiny are huge.”
By Carrie Caverly. October 30, 2014 (an article I wrote for Tiny House Magazine…) When we built our Tiny House in 2012 we wanted it to be temporary – a stepping stone toward owning our own self-sufficient home, mortgage free. And even though I struggled with living in 200 SF for a year and a half, I feel so much gratitude for our tiny house because (two years later) it actually did enable us to buy land and start building a modest home of our own, without borrowing money. Our first rental lot in Prescott, AZ. Set up for an RV, this site was tucked into a residential neighborhood and I cropped them out of this photo, but there are neighbors 50 feet away on both sides.
We’re back in the Tiny House after 10 months of renting a big house. It feels really good- small, sure- but good. Cozy, clean, bright and light.
Tiny House interior – we added some plants and artwork and it’s feeling quite beautiful and homey.
I might be over personifying an animal, but I think Rio is totally BUMMED to be back in the tiny house! haha. He doesn’t have any carpets to roll around and play on. Sorry buddy, you’re at the bottom of this totem pole. Maybe if you learned how to hang sheetrock??
We moved our tiny house up to our land in Colorado!
leaving Santa Fe, where we lived in the tiny house for 18 months. it was bittersweet leaving our family’s land, we really enjoyed living next door to Shane’s parents.
Welcome to colorful Colorado! the tiny house was in great shape after being parked for 9 months in Santa Fe.
trying out different locations for the tiny house… it will be parked 180 degrees from this phot0. it creates two nice outdoor courtyards and shields our main house from wind and the road.
It’s going to be the sweetest guest house! except no guests yet, because we’ll be living in it!
starting October 1st we will be living in the tiny house again full time while we finish building our house. We’re both excited to be back in the tiny house, though I’m sure it will be an adjustment after being in a large house for 10 months… Rio’s really stressing. haha.
We will finish out the office and the utility room in the main house prior to moving into the tiny house so we’ll have work space and laundry, as well as the pump needed to get running water out of the well.
the south view of our main house and the tiny house. we decided to rotate the tiny house 180 degrees from the placement shown in this photo, allows for great views from the tiny house living area, and we can obscure the gooseneck hitch with a wall/gate connected to the main house porch.
check out the progress we’ve made on our main house! stucco is done, rough plumbing and electrical are done so we can get it spray foamed in a week… living in the tiny house again will allow us to save about $1,100 a month that we would be paying in rent and heat at a rental house. we’ll put that into our main house that we’re building out of pocket.
We decided, since we’re not really building many tiny houses ** to reveal our big drywall secret that we used when we built our tiny house!
We used a product called TrimTex Magic Corner in lieu of conventional joint tape / mesh. Magic Corner is an expansion bead made for vaulted ceilings where drywall joints almost always crack. It’s plastic with a rubber expansion panel that can flex, if necessary. We used it on every joint. It wouldn’t be great on outside corners, fyi…
Tiny house drywall trim to allow for expansion – Trim Tex Magic Corner.
Well… I feel a little sheepish about not writing for so long! But. It is my blog. ;)
Actually though, I feel more sheepish because we moved out of the tiny house in December… and I am just now posting about it! Yes. That’s right. We no longer live in our tiny house. What happened? Well, ultimately, the Tiny House was just not meeting our needs.
We still have it, and will be using it as a guest house on our new property. But it was just too small! Both Shane and I agreed that we could live in a tiny house ALONE no problem. Haha? We lived in it full time from May 2012 through November 2013 – 18 months – a year and a half. I’d say we gave it a good run.
We’re now renting a full size home with 24′-0″ high ceilings! We could literally stand our tiny house on end in the living room of this new house. Heating this big house does indeed suck and cost a lot, but it’s worth it. And… we’ve purchased a piece of land and are in the process of designing our own home that we’re going to build ourselves debt-free. We’re trying to keep it under 1,000 SF, which is surprisingly difficult!
I am very grateful for the opportunity we had to design, build and live full-time in our own tiny home. It was an excellent design experiment on what is truly necessary in a home and how much space feels right.
Here are my observations on the Pros and Cons of Tiny Living:
CONS of TINY HOUSE LIVING:
- No home office space. We both work for ourselves (a builder and a designer) and need space for filing, accounting, bidding, designing, planning, and creating.
- No personal space. When a couple gets married they are still two individual humans with individual needs. The book, A Pattern Language, writes that a house for a couple needs separate spaces for each individual (pattern 77). A Tiny House just doesn’t provide this on it’s own. Perhaps with a shop and a studio we could have made it work. Perhaps our own train? With 3-4 cars…
- Not enough storage space – for everyday items or for bulk storage. Getting things out and putting them away was a complex puzzle. We were always losing stuff, believe it or not. Too tucked away maybe?
- Hitting elbows on walls… Hitting elbows on each other… tripping over the dog… Claustrophobic.
- No room for yoga… or just stretching out on the floor… playing with the dog. I’ve spent a lot of time laying out on the living room rug in our new rental house… feels so spacious!
- Really hot in the summer. Mobile Tiny Houses cannot have large roof overhangs, allowing for too much solar gain in the summer.
- Small Kitchen = we started eating a lot of Trader Joe’s frozen dinners that only required one pan to cook. Ugh. Not healthy.
- No privacy.
- Toilets… I’ve written about tiny house toilet woes and options a lot… and decided that flushing toilets are the nectar of the gods. We’re going to be adding a flush RV toilet connected to a septic system.
- No bathtub.
PROS of TINY HOUSE LIVING:
- You’re always close to a window when you’re inside = intimate connection to the outdoors.
- Very cozy in the winter – easy to warm up and keep warm.
- Affordable to build – you can own your own home! Freedom from a mortgage!
- Mobile. Great if you’re not sure where you want to live.
- Very cheap to live in. We paid $300 – $400 a month rent for land + maybe $40 a month for propane and electricity. Easy to save up money for… a bigger house.
- Very efficient to clean. And very efficient to communicate with others in the house – no intercom system required!
- Easy to renovate – you own it and it’s inexpensive to make changes.
- Small environmental footprint.
- Great conversation starter! You live in a what? How big?? Oh wow.
- Fosters community. Claustrophobia will drive you out into public where you can sprawl out on the floors of cafes and coffee shops. Also, you’ll develop a … memorable relationship with your neighbors when you fire up that incinerating toilet.
I decided that a tiny house could work for one (or two extroverted people) who work full time outside of the home in their own private offices, eat hot pockets for dinner, and whose only hobbies involve reading books on a Kindle or watching YouTube videos on their laptop computer…
Thanks for following along on our incredible journey – the people we’ve met through this blog have made it quite enjoyable.
We finished and delivered the Beehive Mini Mart tiny house a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share a few more photos:
I think I already posted this photo in the recent post about moving the tiny house… but I love it! So I am forcing you to look at it again! Because I can. The ominous clouds… the irony of the “colorful” colorado sign on a gray day…
The tiny house on the move: at the Colorado-New Mexico border.
the finished tiny house at night…
Look at the beautiful symmetry and wonderful oversized steps that make this porch a fabulous spot to sit and hang out.
the adorable tiny house porch railings!
the tiny house from the … front? back? the hitch end anyway.
A utility closet built on the trailer tongue houses propane tanks, etc. The large window on the side slides open and will be the serving window for customers looking for the perfect cappuccino. Or pint of local honey. Or… t.b.d.
the finished interior of the tiny house. beetle kill / blue-stain pine. engineered wood flooring.
What would you use this mobile tiny store for? A community reading room? A coffee shop? I’m curious! Let me know in the comments below.
Just a quick post to tell you we’re moving the Byer Beehive Tiny House / Tiny Mart to Crestone, CO today! I’ll do a more thorough post of the finished details later… but we’re hitching up right now….
Clothesline Tiny Homes is moving our latest project – The Beehive Mobile Mini Mart Tiny House – up to Crestone, Colorado today!
Hitching the Tiny House up to the truck. Clothesline Tiny Homes is sad to see our client’s tiny house leave.. but we’re happy for him and know the tiny house is going to a great home!
Hope all is well, and I’ll talk to you soon!
Well, here is a long overdue update on our progress building the Beehive Mobile Mini Mart for our client in Colorado. The last post I wrote about it we were doing exterior siding, staining and painting and we’ve now finished out the interior.
Shane found beautiful beetle kill / blue-stain pine siding for the Tiny House interior walls at our local lumber yard.
We ended up using EcoTouch fiberglass insulation. Zero voc’s and almost the R-value of foam. I went to a lecture on foam insulation and while it performs, it’s hard to feel good about putting a chemical product into the world that will never go away… Have you seen the film “Garbage Island”?? It’s sad. Plastic never goes away, it just gets smaller and smaller.
I can be such a bleeding environmentalist… here’s a quote from Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold:
wow, another story about us living in a tiny house and our website is going crazy! almost 8,000 hits today.
this one was on “Mail Online” a UK online news website. a really great story they wrote, click the photo below to read the story.
Article about living in our tiny house…
And I really need to do a post about progress on our current tiny house project underway, the Beehive Mobile Mini Mart. Soon! We’re just so busy working on it, I haven’t had time to blog.