MORE HISTORY, AND SOME DESIGN CONCEPTS
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When last I wrote about how we wound up living in our Tiny Home, I left off when we had finally drawn up plans (my husband has always been good with plans) and begun building our Tiny Home. We decided we were building a prototype. We wanted to see if “normal” people could do this. I mean ̶ sure, our kids are cute (they get it from their dad; since I’m the one writing the blog, I get to steal and invert his line), but whenever I see the Tiny Home shows on TV, everyone seems so beautiful. They may be a little different from standard suburbia families, but they’re not me and my family. They don’t seem entirely real to me. But then, if we could successfully build and live in a Tiny Home, perhaps we could build them for others, and facilitate others’ entry into the Tiny Home lifestyle. Sure, there are other Tiny Home builders out there, and many of them do a good job. But I’m not certain how many of them began with someone who has production homebuilding experience. While we want to build custom Tiny Homes for people, we have a unique perspective of the ability to streamline and reduce the cost of some of the process because of my husband’s time spent in the homebuilding industry.
And so we built. It took some time. When selling a unique property like Nickerson, you have to find just the right buyer; weactually wooed and entered negotiations with at least three before finally selling the property. We were both working full time. I was pregnant. We had two small children. We had other people working on my husband’s design for us, but they all had other jobs, too. We found a 1980 travel trailer for $100, stripped it down to the trailer bed, and welded the frame so it was a bit wider. The wall frames went up, the subfloor was laid down. Pretty soon, we had something that actually looked a little bit like a Tiny Home.
People suddenly realized we were serious about living in a Tiny Home. It was such a paradigm shift from the life we had been leading that it shocked some, and worried and angered others. There were many discussions. Some were a bit heated. Some were merely curious or confused. Eventually, as our house slowly took shape, both inside and out, people settled into uneasy acceptance of our choice. Because of my husband’s job (it’s harder to quickly build something when working elsewhere full time), a project house four and a half hours away (don’t do that if you can help it; it’s hard to get things done), and the nature of part-time employees who were also doing other work elsewhere, it took more than a year between moving out of Nickerson and moving into our beautiful new Tiny Home (during which time, people probably thought we were never going to get around to moving, and we would just settle into the house in town we had purchased with the intention of flipping). But we did flip that house. And when it sold, we were living in our Tiny Home. Our first dinner party in the Tiny Home was before it was quite livable. We didn’t have electricity, and we didn’t yet have our beautiful tables fashioned from slabs of a tree we took down in front of the flip house. But we had a folding table, some good friends, and some good food, and one of those friends was only in town for the night, since she lives out of state. So we christened our Tiny Home with a fabulous meal, and even better company. And everyone loved it. We had several other dinner parties shortly after actually moving into the Tiny Home, and I was content. We had accomplished what we had said: there were five of us living in a Tiny Home; we were able to have people over for supper; life was good.
We began to speak more seriously of what other people might want if they were purchasing a Tiny Home. Well, I’m the words person (had you noticed?), and decided that if we were to have different models (all able to be customized from their basic design), they needed names. I came up with four models:
Our Tiny Home we call the Entertainer because it is designed so that we can entertain (and partly because I’ve always liked that piece of music). In this model, the focus is on how many people can be comfortably seated and well fed. It has a lot of couch seating, enough table space that (with the proper application of small stools or folding chairs) at least twelve people may be seated, two sleeping lofts, space for both a full-sized washer and a full-sized dryer (stacked on each other), sufficient counter space to prepare food and lay out a buffet for the aforementioned twelve people, and (possibly) just enough room to swing a cat (though why anyone wants to swing a cat stymies me; we’ll get back to the hypothetical (non-swinging) cat later) in the shower. We have a composting toilet, so we don’t have to have a black-water tank (toilet options are numerous and varied; some people feel very strongly about their toilets). It’s built for a full family to really live in. At this point, our Tiny Home is not designed to be fully off-grid. We hook up to a water source with a food-grade hose, and we run a heavy-duty RV plug to an electrical outlet. It could be built to be more self-sufficient, but we didn’t need that right now.
The Explorer design is for the outdoor sports enthusiast. It has two sleeping lofts, but one of them is really just guest space, and probably a little smaller than the kid’s loft in my Tiny Home. It needs to be smaller, because the shed built onto the back of the Explorer has to be larger than mine. It needs space to store and transport a one-person kayak, a mountain bike, skis, backpacking and camping equipment, and the like. There will be an integrated outdoor shower, so you don’t have to take your dirt inside after an adventure. It has water tanks for storage (and probably collection and filtering), and solar panels. It may even have a small wind turbine to generate more electrical power; we haven’t worked out all the details yet. It will have indoor shower and laundry capability; those are standard to all models (people can choose smaller laundry machines if they like). But the Explorer is a bit more rugged than any of the other models. It isn’t designed to be moved extremely frequently, like an RV (the differences between a Tiny Home and an RV are more numerous than some people think), but is more easily mobile than some of the other models. It’s built to take out into the wilderness and live and play.
The Entrepreneur is generally designed for one or two people, although it could certainly accommodate a small family. This design is for the student or businessperson that needs dedicated desk and work space. It could also be adapted for a fairly serious gamer needing an entertainment center. The Entrepreneur will not be able to seat as many people for meals, but would have enough space to eat or to have a few people over for a study session or business meeting. It may be a stretch to imagine purchasing a home in college, but for less than one would pay in rent (apartment, shared house, or dorm) in four years of college, a Tiny Home could be owned outright ̶ and you’d have a home to take with you wherever you decide to move afterward. If you are starting a business, and own a Tiny Home, you never have to worry about losing your home to the back if your business takes a little longer to become successful than initially planned ̶ and you have that built in office space! (Sorry. I’ve become a little cynical in this description. I’m not sure why. Regardless, I really like the concept of this model. I think we’re planning on building one for Beautiful when she’s in high school, so she can have the freedom to explore her college and career options. Actually, she will build it herself, or at least have a major hand in doing so. Hands-on experience is a good thing to have, and knowing what goes into building something is probably worth more than the house’s weight in gold when it comes to practical solutions and repairs.)
This model is where we get back to the (hypothetical) cat (As opposed to Schrödinger’s Cat, which is something entirely different, although also hypothetical). The Existentialist is designed to be a guest house or a home for either a single person or a contented duo. It has only one sleeping loft, which is largely designed to be a guest bedroom. There is a master bedroom downstairs, comfortable seating and television area, and a small but efficient kitchen. There’s a small desk space and extra cubby holes for storing or displaying treasures. The space where in most other models there is a second loft has a few tiers of shelving, high enough and wide enough to make a cat very happy (or hold the books one needs to contemplate existentialism). As with other models, the laundry and bathroom spaces are customizable according to preference, as are the water and power sources.
The Erudite Option
Each of these models has a fully defined Erudite Option; after building our Tiny Home and living in it for a short time, we began to miss our books. The Erudite Option provides a decent amount of bookshelf space so you don’t have to entirely dispense with your library (or shot glass collection, I suppose…although that would probably be rather less erudite than a library).
You probably noticed everything starts with the letter E. The only reason for that is because I’m a logophile ̶ a word lover. I like to play with words, and if I can come up with appropriate descriptors for my design concepts that all start with the same letter (making them easier for at least me to remember), I will certainly do so. It’s just something that makes me happy.
By the time we moved into our Tiny Home, my husband was working in sales; it’s another in an interesting and varied line of jobs that has led to his unique capacity to desire to build and sell Tiny Homes. He has been a production homebuilder, a property manager, a resort manager, a college professor, a property flipper, a small-business owner, middle-management and purported heir-apparent in a successful business (so successful, in fact, that a larger company bought it and his heir-apparent status fell by the wayside), and a mentor. I had been a full-time mom of three for just over a year. We took some time to settle in and determine what worked well and what needed improvement in our Tiny Home prototype before throwing the concept to the vagaries of the four winds and the even-more-varied internet to see if we could serve others with our designs and desires to provide affordable Tiny Homes for sale.
At last (It’s been almost three years since we (slowly) began building our Tiny Home; four since we decided we would), we have come to a place where we are able to begin marketing and building Tiny Homes. Our dream is to help others realize their dreams. It’s why this blog is called Tiny House Freedom; we are so much more free now to do what we desire than we were when we were tied to so much square footage. What will you do with your freedom? It’s why we call the business Tiny House Tool: Our Tiny Home is a tool to facilitate our dreams, and maybe yours as well.
And so I leave it to you: Have I covered the most likely concepts for Tiny Home living? What did I miss? Do I need to come up with another model or two? Do the model concepts make sense? Given the options of the Entertainer, Entrepreneur, Explorer, or Existentialist, which would you choose? Would you want yours to be Erudite? Why? What suits your fancy? What are your dreams? Will they be more easily realized if you had a Tiny Home to live in? Where will you put it? What kind of toilet suits your fancy (not to worry; I’ll talk all about toilets one of these days)? How did you wind up at this point on your journey? Talk to me, and I’ll see what we can do for you.
Katrina Jones is a: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Believer, Writer, and the Chief of Strategy for Tiny House Tool- a business that exists for the purpose of helping attain freedom through frugal living, tiny house dwelling, and smart decision making. To Learn more, take the Tiny House Survey Here.