Austin’s Tiny Open House

Austin’s Tiny Open House


Austin Hay has grown just as much as his tiny house has. However, the semi-famous young man seemed unfazed by the attention his house was getting on this sunny day in October. Dozens of people visited his tiny build last Saturday, including the parents of Kirsten Dirksen, who filmed Austin when he was 16 years old.

Austin has already been living in his tiny house for the past year-and-a-half while finishing up the final details. He’s been cooking eggs on his stove and cookies in his camp oven, which he received as a Christmas gift. While some of his friends have questioned how he gets up into his sleeping loft on such a small ladder, he proves it to them by clambering monkey-like up into his bed. He did say that on hot nights the loft is pretty miserable and not much fun to sleep in, so in the summer he will most likely crash on the futon in his main room.

Austin’s Lusby design is solid and beautiful with clean lines and good organization. It’s also a nice mix of classic and elegant with touches of Austin’s love of athletics: there’s a space for his snowboard above the futon and a stack of baseball hats hang up in his closet. He changed up the original design of this Tumbleweed by moving the bathroom to the back of the house and running the kitchen against one wall and the closet against the other. The couch, bookshelf, a collapsible table and his work desk are in the front of the house, and in front of the desk is a large picture window with a great view of his family’s backyard. The lights in the main room are glass mason jars.

Austin said that his favorite part of building the house was the interior portion: deciding where he wanted things to go, creating the cabinets and counters and seating area. What he liked the least was the detail work like the trim on the cabinets and the sanding and finishing of the reclaimed wood floor.

“The fine detail work makes everything look nice, but it’s tedious,” he said.

Since undertaking the building of his tiny house in 2010, the process may just have defined what his future will be like. Austin’s plans after a busy senior year in high school are to go to Santa Rose Community College and then eventually become an architect and go into business for himself.

Austin and his aunt Tammy
Kirsten Dirksen’s ( parents came down from Cloverdale, Calif. to visit Austin’s tiny house.

Photos by Christina Nellemann


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]


  1. The upstairs heat problem is common in all these houses. My solution is to have windows that open at loft height, and a 12V fan running off a small solar panel (and battery)on my roof. On the hottest of nights I will also leave my door completely open and hope no unwelcome visitors come along.

    • I think the fan is a good idea. Open windows would bring the air and a fan in the ceiling would draw up the cooler air.

      Perhaps a screen door would keep out any intruders without oppose-able thumb?

      • @TomLee – I’ve been looking at these tiny houses for a couple of years and have never seen a screen door (and very few Dutch doors) on any of them. I would think a screen door, perhaps a disappearing type, would be an asset for ventilation and openness.

        Great job Austin!

        • Could several roll up vent windows be installed thru the roof ?

          The same type as used on enclosed utility trailers?

          I just replaced two completely and each unit was les than fifty dollars. A insulated cloth or foam “plug” can be used in the vents for the colder months when the vents won’t be opened.

          • OR… how about a single solar powered attic fan in the smallest size with the poly housing. They use a small battery for storge and running the unit for short periods at night.

        • If it is too hot inside do what others have done for centuries, sleep outside. Take a blanket as it may get a bit cooler later in the night or early morning. And if the bugs are a problem, build yourself an outside screened sleeping area with some type of roof incase it rains. Maybe an awning on the side with screens attached.

  2. Great job Austin! I have a question about the hot water heater. I’m asking because I need one for my tiny house build. What brand, and does it need to be vented? Thanks!

      • At about 1300 cubic feet of volume he would need to take a 10 hour shower to deplete O2 or even in the tightest wrapped and insulated tiny house have any sort of CO issue. An open window.a 12v fan,a grid powered kitchen vent fan will all easily provide all the air needed. A short shower i.e. 5 to 15 minutes is not an issue anymore than cooking a full meal using both stove top burners and the oven on the camp stove. crack open a window,vent out the moisture produced in the combustion process of a propane unit and enjoy your dinner or shower.
        Use due caution and no need to be an alarmist.

  3. I’m so impressed with this accomplishment! You did a great job. Keep dreaming big and building small! Good luck in college!

  4. Great looking house! Congratulations and well done!

    About the hot loft….we have the same issue in ours. One thing that helps us is in the evening when the temps start to cool off, we close all the downstairs windows and doors, but open just the loft window and turn on the bathroom vent downstairs. It sucks in the cool air so well it lifts the loft window curtains. By having only the one window open it forces as much air as possible into the loft first, then it slowly lowers to the ground floor, cooling the rest of the house. A portable fan in front of same window helps on the really hot nights as well.

  5. Great article! It was a GREAT day with lots of support for Austin on his success. He didn’t stop smiling all day.

    Thank you – from one proud Mom & Dad!

  6. Fantastic job, bet it gives you a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. In any place I’ve lived during hot weather the big deal was keeping windows and doors closed during the heat of the day unless they were on a cool, shady side. Curtains need to be closed as well or cover windows with a film to reduce solar heating. At night you open as many doors and windows as you can below and as many vents or windows as you have above and let the cool air flow in the bottom and out the top. I don’t quite get the theory of using a small volume of air from just one vent, what you’re going for is a large volume of air replacement. The hot air has no choice but to go up and out, the more cool air entering at the bottom the more hot air out. You can improve ventilation by positioning windows and vents to closely correspond to natural air flow patterns and making the interior space as barrier free as possible to avoid dead air pockets. You can have screens on windows and doors and if you’re worried about critters wandering in you can rig up a panel to set over the bottom of the door. If the night air doesn’t cool down much this won’t work well. It can feel stuffy inside too with windows closed. One advantage of a tiny house is you might be able to rig a temporary shade canopy above it to help reduce temperature gain somewhat.

  7. What an amazing accomplishment! This makes me very happy for your future. Unlike most of the young folks today, this will save you the stress of finding housing and the financial burden that can become. Not to mention with your bills being lower, you can attend college with less stress because of it. I’m so happy for you! Keep us updated!

  8. Austin you are an impressive young person! May all your accomplishments be so huge and with such a tiny footprint.
    All the best to you and yours,
    xo Laura

  9. Austin,

    Your place looks really great. I was so excited to see the on demand hot water in your shower and the comments about who to insure it’s safety. I have been thinking of doing this as well. What do you do for kitchen hot water? Also, would you mind sharing what kind of stove you are using. Is it propane or alcohol?

    Congratulations on a job well done!!!

  10. Hey Austin I am glad you are making a change to your life rather than going with the commen rat race all others chose to accept. I am 16 as well and I live in portland I try to gain tiny house awarness and I am a pretty good handy man if I do say so myself. I want a career that makes people look back and think about hw much they really have and how less “STUFF” could strongly improve their lives. Well thank you for finishing I have been waiting for this day. CONDRADULATIONS

  11. I wish i had been as smart when i was his age…the money i could have saved over the past thirty years makes me want to weep…my retirement plans are going to have to make up for my lost time, i plan to build a small home no larger than a two car garage, on land i found very cheaply…to my astonishment the most expensive part so far was fining out just how much it will cost to run utilities and install a septic tank…double the cost of building the actual structure…

  12. I am so inspired by you, Austin! Thank you for sharing your build and allowing folks to take a look at the changes you made to your plan. I am new to the idea of micro/tiny homes but am very interested in building one now. I have a teen son who will soon need his own home away from home and I am thinking this is the perfect solution.
    Good luck with your studies! Your home is beautiful and it will serve you well, I’m sure, for years to come.

  13. Well, I’ve never met Austin, but I am incredibly proud to see a young fellow developing the building skills and financial responsibility like he is! Outstanding job! My hat is off to him!