Karo Cabin by Karoleena Homes: Small but Smart

Guest post by Alia Haley

Small homes may not exude grandeur but they sure are full of warmth and smartness. The compact structure of small houses looks very sleek and contemporary. When it comes to setting up a style statement, small homes can never let you down. Karoleena Homes, the well known home designers have come up with the concept of ‘Karo Cabin’. These eco friendly houses are fully modular and movable, which means that all your dreams of having a vacation home or a secondary suite can now come alive. Also, the houses are built with green eco-friendly products, in a climate controlled environment and can be delivered anywhere in the North America accessible by roads or ferry routes.

These homes are Karoleena’s first move into prefab modular housing. The company has advertised it as a holiday home, a backyard studio or a laneway house. A ‘laneway house’ is a dwelling in the service lanes, parallel to the actual streets. In countries like Canada, these are of high importance. In the crowded areas of Vancouver and the west coast, the Eco-density movement is trying to increase the population per square mile. This is being done to reduce the city’s ecological footprint. One of the main aims of this Eco-density mission statement is to encourage the builders and designers to build houses in the open areas. This is where ‘laneway houses’ are looking promising. The idea has further spread to other high density cities like Toronto and the towns on the US Canadian border. It is becoming common now to see secondary structures instead of extensive backyards. With people becoming more aware that instead of growing a small green patch, it is better to house a family in their backyard, the whole culture of growing few plants in the backyard is slowly disappearing.

The houses are advertised as ‘future ready’. The basic unit known as Module A will cost you $129,000. This is excluding the transportation and site work. It includes the home, design and engineering and elements like on-demand hot water, a cantilevered deck, a $5,000 appliance package, Hardie board exterior, a gas fireplace, interior walls which can be moved, double pane windows for efficient use, a modular kitchen and island, low-flow fixtures, and a high efficiency furnace. The module will have 630 square feet including a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room a large cedar overhang and wraparound deck.

The company has several other units too. Some of them being Module B which is 30 x 14 feet, Module C: 20 x 14 feet, and Module X: 10 x 14 feet. You can even expand an existing Karo if needed.

About the author: Alia Haley is a blogger whose favorite portals are of luxury and home décor. Recently she got really impressed with some innovative lamps that she encountered at an exhibition. Her recent work is on home automation and unique house plans.


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Will - September 25, 2011 Reply

The renderings are beautiful but that is a steep price. A $200/sq. ft. tiny house seems….absurd?

    Zer0 - September 25, 2011 Reply

    I agree fully. To be frank, as a first-time buyer a big part of the reason why I want a small house is because it costs much less than a standard home. I don’t have a lot of money and don’t want to take on too much debt. I like the idea of these houses but I would like to see the developers make them more affordable.

      Rosa - October 2, 2011 Reply

      These alleyway houses used to be common in Midwestern cities – in some of the Chicago suburbs and parts of Minneapolis that were developed 1880-1920, you can still find tiny houses built on the alley side of lots, that people then lived in as they built a larger house on the street side of the lot.

      Because of setback and minimum size codes, it’s hard to build this style today – I’d be interested to see which cities are allowing new construction of this type. In my neighborhood there are a number of surviving tiny houses set at the back alley end of lots where the big house burned or was condemned, and a few that were partitioned off into their own independent lot.

Will - September 25, 2011 Reply

The renderings are beautiful but that is a steep price. A $200/sq. ft. tiny house seems….absurd?

I understand that everyone approaches the idea of a tiny house from a different angle, but this seems aimed at the wealthy old person market.

vitus douglas burch - September 25, 2011 Reply

What?!! No floor plan?

Hope Henry - September 25, 2011 Reply

Do-it-yourself slipform walls, you could build this for much less money…add a living roof and cut energy and maintenance costs…

Sorena - September 25, 2011 Reply

Great product, but way, way overpriced–especially considering that it does not come with the land. Price is often the frustrating piece of quality small living.

Susan - September 25, 2011 Reply

Choked on the price! Grak!
For this much money I would expect the land, too, and now we are out of the parameters of the tiny house movement.
It’s very nice looking, but the design includes massive amounts of lumber on the outside, and I don’t see how this could be moved more than once. Sorry, dislike.

Steven Hall - September 25, 2011 Reply

There is a fiction here in Vancouver that has been perpetuated for decades that we have little land available new homes. This may true if we only limit ourselves to single family or singles/couples stand-alone dwellings. This fiction has seen property prices raise to ridiculous levels due to some Malthusian panic.

There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of single family homes in the area bounded by UBC and Boundary Rd and 16th Ave and the Fraser River. Two such dwellings could be converted to a 3 or 4 storey walk-up such as the one I live in. Our 3 storey building has 4 two-bedroom, 4 one-bedroom and 2 smallish one-bedroom suites.

My one-bedroom suite has, from what I can tell from the layout above, more square footage than these cabins; let’s just say that my living room is 295 sq/ft.

Vancouver is actually very sparsely populated.

terminalcitygirl - September 25, 2011 Reply

Vancouver is in a big property bubble. Big. We are not running out of land, not even close. As Steven Hall says this is a myth that has been used over the last decade to drive up prices to a ridiculous level. Anyone these days who aspires to own a home has tofactor in a basement suite and/ or a laneway house but honestly who really wants strangers living in their basement or back yard?! Buy a house and become a property manager too! No thanks. I’ve looked at a few laneway houses too and they are dumb. no green space, a view of back alley with the garbage and recycling trucks rumbling mere inches from your bedroom window and the homeless bottle collectors clattering up and down the alley rooting through the bins. I can’t wait for this stupid property bubble to pop and people to get a reality check.

    alice - September 25, 2011 Reply

    No kidding! Just as an example, $499,000 will buy you a 1490 sq ft house on a 33×62 lot,built in 1913 and the house is pretty much a teardown or major fixer-upper. It’s on a horribly busy street near one of the main truck routes. That’s the only place under $500,000 on MLS today in the city of Vancouver. 41 more places are listed between $500,000 and $700,000. A 560 sq ft apartment that needs renos is $199,900, and there are a couple of converted hotel rooms at 198 sq ft for around $169,000. This is in the city of Vancouver, there are cheaper properties in the burbs, but not by that much until you get farther from the main metro area. The cheapest 1 bedroom 590 sq ft townhouse is listed at $314,900.

      Francesco - October 1, 2011 Reply

      Guys, these have been normal prices here in Western European capital cities … I mean after all Vancouver is the capital of an adminstrative region twice the size of our countries here…I can speak first-hand about Rome, London and Paris. The prices you quote are still lower than what I see here. Paris is on an average 8,000 euros/sqmeter (about C$1,500/sqft), and that means that fanciest neighborhoods stay at 11,000 euros. We’re all going to land at some point. It can’t go on like this. Italy’s market is already deflating, but Paris-London’s not so.

terminalcitygirl - September 25, 2011 Reply

oh but i quite like the design of the home featured but the price is ridiculous.

    deborah - September 25, 2011 Reply

    “Alia Haley is a blogger whose favorite portals are of luxury and home décor.” I think this is the reason. This blogger is not concerned with the cost aspec of housing where as most of the fans here are concerned with the bottom line…$$$

deborah - September 25, 2011 Reply

Two thumbs DOWN!

Josh - September 25, 2011 Reply

Out of curiosity, I imported the floorplan picture into AutoCAD to take some measurements. I had to take some measurements to try to determine scale. The bed is about the right length to width ratio to be a queen size, and at that scale, the entry door would be about 36 inches; seems about right to me. However, that would put the interior dimensions (not deducting for walls or mechanical storage space, fireplace, etc.) around 500 square feet. According to the website, this is supposed to be 630 square feet of interior space. I’m not sure how they come up with that number. I guess they’re including the deck, and don’t understand what the word “interior” means.

As an apartment dweller, I find myself comparing the size of my apartment, and those I’ve lived in previously, to these small house designs and wondering how much space would really be necessary to live comfortably. Obviously, the answer to that question is different for everyone, but this would be pretty small even for a one-bedroom apartment (in most places). I love the look of this little thing, but at that price, I think it’s absurd. I agree with those that think this is the antithesis of the tiny house concept for most people. To myself, and I think many others, the idea of tiny houses is a less expensive alternative to conventional housing. You could find some very adequate housing in most markets for the price of this – and this price doesn’t even include land and site preparation which will cost another arm and a leg. This really seems much better suited to a vacation home for a wealthy person as opposed to an alternative form of housing.

alice - September 25, 2011 Reply

$200/sq ft is fairly standard for regular construction in Vancouver. Not all laneway houses eliminate green space in yards or need to be this expensive or are for market rental. Many use the existing garage space and some are used for family members who would otherwise not be able to afford their own lot and house. That said, it’s definitely not affordable housing by any rational definition. We have a 4 generation house with separate apartments for various family members built in what was formerly a ridiculously large single family house and it works well. (Very handy for borrowing eggs and sugar!) There’s still the garage we could build an apartment on top of for one more family member but so far it’s not in the plans. There are many huge single family homes in this area that could be converted into more sensible housing and increase the density without altering the outward appearance of the neighbourhood, but only if people give up owning a car. Having to provide a parking spot for each dwelling is sometimes a legal requirement and a real pain, especially since it’s a short walk to good public transportation and an excellent biking and walking area. The main shopping street is lined with single story buildings, many of which are being replaced with 4 to 6 story apartments with retail below. Unfortunately most are priced way above what is reasonable for people just starting out. There is a real need for small and tiny apartments at reasonable prices to rent or own which could be greatly enhanced by providing common amenities such as guest rooms and indoor and outdoor gathering places.

    Rosa - October 2, 2011 Reply

    Alice, has Vancouver always allowed the laneway houses, or was code changed to make infill possible? There was a movement here to allow for new/remodeled alleyway housing in the ’90s when prices were high, but it failed. I’d love to know if a similar movement succeeded in Vancouver.

BigGoofyGuy - September 25, 2011 Reply

$129,000.00 seems like a lot of money for such a small house. There are ‘senior’ housing in the area that is similar price but it comes with land and don’t have to be transported any where.

laura - September 25, 2011 Reply

Why do all of these tiny homes so expensive? You would be better off buying a mobile home.

    Bob H - September 26, 2011 Reply

    I agree an upscale mobile mobile home would sell for a fraction of this price( for those concern with $$$$ ). Remember most of these manufactured tiny homes shown here a include a tidy profit for the builders. Profit is not a bad thing, however if the cost is too high, you will have to get involved and do some or all of the work yourselves. Price out some materials, I think you will be surprised at how little that amount would be.

frank - September 25, 2011 Reply

I toured this modern cabin at the home show last spring. It is very livable and very nicely finished. $200 a square foot is a pretty reasonable price considering the level of finish, all appliances and light fixtures are included, as is a nice-sized deck.

I don’t know why some posters seem to think that tiny has to mean cheap. Tiny houses range from the low-end of about $50/sqft (http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house-for-sale/slabtown-customs-cube/) to $200+/sqft for top-quality design and finishes (http://tinyhouseblog.com/stick-built/oregon-cottage-company/). Jay Shafer will sell you a 172 sqft Popomo for $45,000. That’s $260/sqft. Personally, I think the Karo cabin is a better deal.

    Josh - September 26, 2011 Reply

    $200 a square foot is a pretty reasonable price considering the level of finish, all appliances and light fixtures are included, as is a nice-sized deck.

    I don’t consider a deck to be part of the square footage of a home, and when you subtract that, it appears to be in excess of $250 per square foot, and I’m sure the site prep and having utilities connected, etc. is going to add another good chunk of change to the per-square-foot cost.

    I don’t know why some posters seem to think that tiny has to mean cheap.

    Small doesn’t have to be inexpensive, obviously. I guess the point that you’re missing is that for many, if not most, one of the most attractive features of the idea of a tiny house is that it would alleviate some of the financial burdens of home ownership by reducing space, thereby reducing heating and cooling costs, but probably most importantly – it would, ideally, relieve a person of the encumbrance of a long-term home mortgage. $130K plus all the associated costs with purchasing land and getting it ready for this house isn’t a particularly cheap alternative for those who want to downsize their bills and are also willing to downsize their lives by reducing the space they live in.

    Jay Shafer will sell you a 172 sqft Popomo for $45,000. That’s $260/sqft.

    Yeah, and that’s absurd too. And I don’t consider the Popomo to be a good example of a realistic alternative housing. I live in an apartment, and the bedroom in that thing is smaller than my bedroom closet. I couldn’t even fit my bed in the bedroom of that box on wheels (according to the dimensions on the website). By the looks of the plan, you’d have to sleep in a twin bed – which is fine if you’re a kid or are just totally repulsive and won’t ever have anyone to share your bed with you!

    I like that this thing is a decent size that I think would be livable (as opposed to things like a Popomo), but at that price it seems to really defy one of the fundamental principles (for many) of wanting to transition to a tiny house.

      frank - September 26, 2011 Reply

      Josh, the deck area is NOT included in the 630 sqft. The cabin is 14 x 45. The plan posted does not show the 14 x 5 mechanical and storage room at the bedroom end, although they mention it in the description and it is visible in their video and some of the renderings. Since it is a modular building, the dimensions are taken from the wall center-lines. If measured from the exterior sheathing, as is normally done, the area would be a bit larger, about 650 sqft.

      I do realize that many people are looking for less-expensive options (I specifically linked to a low-cost alternative), but that was not the point. My point was that there are many reasons for people to gravitate to smaller homes. Minimizing costs is only one. Other reasons include sustainability, wanting a cozy home, not being able to keep up with the cleaning/maintenance of a larger home, wanting to simplify one’s life, and so on. The tiny and small house movements are about just that: tiny/small houses. Insisting that cost concerns be the only valid motivation just fractures the movement, making it weaker. When arguing for things like small house technology (ex. appropriately sized appliances and HVAC) and small-house-friendly regulations, it is better for all tiny/small house proponents to band together, regardless of their motivations.

      People often complain that Shafer’s plans and houses are absurdly overpriced. But if they were, he wouldn’t have been able to stay in business for so many years. I wouldn’t buy a Popomo for that price either, but there must be people who will. Karoleena has also been in business for a while, and probably have a pretty good idea of their market. $200/sqft is probably very competitive for the vacation cabin market they are targeting. I know they have sold at least one; the Karo cabin they were displaying at home shows last spring was one they completed for a customer.

        Josh - September 27, 2011 Reply

        Josh, the deck area is NOT included in the 630 sqft. The cabin is 14 x 45. The plan posted does not show the 14 x 5 mechanical and storage room at the bedroom end, although they mention it in the description and it is visible in their video and some of the renderings.

        How silly of me to use their floor plan as reference, and to assume that when they said “interior” dimensions, they actually meant “interior.”

Shawn - September 26, 2011 Reply

Small doesn’t have to mean cheap, but there are way better options out there than this

kate - September 26, 2011 Reply

For $139,900, I can buy a 6 bedroom farm house on 7.8 acres of land. I can house my family and aging family members. I can farm and use greenly and productively ever bit of that land. To me, that is a greater investment, a greener way of life, and a better quality of life than spending so much money on this place and living in some alley way.

    Aaron - September 26, 2011 Reply

    Where is this magical property? Sounds like a great deal to me.

    In regards to the house, it is nice, though like people have said it is very pricey. You can get a fully functional cabin at a similar size for $30,000 or so. Less than $20k if you don’t mind a smaller space. Then again, $130k for a well made new home is still a lot cheaper than anything around me in NJ. Though factor in land and other expenses, this may be up there in total price as well. To each their own, obviously others ways to go.

Irene - September 26, 2011 Reply

This house costs as much as a low-end condo of about 1100 square feet in East Brunswick, NJ (near where I live). I’d rather have the beautifully designed, small (not tiny) home. It’s made of green materials, it’s well designed, modern. It is not the same as a low-end tiny home, but I appreciate seeing another way small can be done. Some want to live small and greener but want higher-end than a cabin with a rainwater recovery system (which I like, too). Love seeing the full spectrum of what is out there. 🙂

Mary - September 26, 2011 Reply

I think the house could be lovely. I read this blog because I believe a well designed smaller space can be more functional, more environmentally kind, and can save owners time with upkeep, money on property taxes, and could actually be resold – unlike a mobile home that just loses its value. I was just talking to my European partner this weekend about why there are so many hideous, out-of-the-drawer, giant vinyl clad houses all over the U.S. Almost everyone here would rather have a house made of crappy material with cheap appliances than pay for a well-designed, long-lasting, and beautiful home. U.S. homebuilding is rarely about craftsmanship or longevity – it is about profit. And as consumers, we are obsessed with finding the cheapest product. I think comparing this home to a trailer or a six-bedroom farm house is beside the point.

    Kate S. - September 26, 2011 Reply

    Mary, you are right. Comparing this to a 6 bedroom farm house as I suggested isn’t really the point. It’s part of the equation, though, because there are so many parts to the Tiny House movement. Whether it’s cost, simplicity, environmental impact, efficiency, travel, space or simply personal preference, there are many avenues on which to explore (and debate) the Tiny House movement. I LOVE this blog and live with my husband and 3 young children in an 880 square foot cottage (2 bedroom, 1 bath, dining, living, galley kitchen, 3 seasons porch.) My pitch was based on the cost and suggested purpose. To me, that isn’t appealing for this particular model. Not saying it should be canned completely, just not for me.

    Yes, you are also completely right about the crappy houses being built in America. People want it big, cheap and fast. I drive by so many of these going up and I think, “They’re not going to last hundreds of years like these beautiful historic houses I love.”

    My own cottage was built in 1950, and was put up pretty cheaply for that era. Even so, it is more well built than most of what is going up new around me. Two steel support beams in the basement support the bulk of the structure. The other beams are not pine, but some really REALLY hard wood. You can’t even hammer a nail into the beams without a significant amount of hard pounding! The sub floor is hardwood, not plywood. The studs are not pine, either. My kitchen cabinets are original to the house and still in great shape. They are enameled metal. Yellowed with age, but that’s really it.

    Long-lasting quality is part of the tiny house (and should be for any house) equation.

cj - September 26, 2011 Reply

I don’t know why some posters think a reasonable common sense approach to a build is being ‘cheap’.

    frank - September 26, 2011 Reply

    I realize you are just trolling but nevertheless I will take a second to point out the obvious: There is a big difference between “cheap” = “inexpensive” and “being cheap” = “stingy”.

Kurt - September 27, 2011 Reply

I like the design. If I lived alone, or could have it as a vacation property, I’d definitely consider it.

Brand - September 27, 2011 Reply

I like the overall aesthetic, but the price is ridiculous. You could have a traditional site-built 600 sq.ft. home of an identical design for much less. The points about Vancouver real estate don’t compute for me–this unit is priced without land, improvement fees or site construction services.

Also, Vancouver must be very misty and cool. In Colorado, that much glass would incinerate the occupants. Pretty, though, and the outdoor fireplace is cool.

Krisan - October 1, 2011 Reply

Give up my extensive garden, which feeds half of my neighborhood, to house a family?? I’d have to think hard about that, even if it was my own grown kids. And what about property taxes on that kind of construction? Couldn’t do it here in Florida, anyway, talk about incinerating the occupants. Sorry, but trading green for concrete with grocery prices these days doesn’t work for me at all.

Karen - October 1, 2011 Reply

Are you kidding me? $129,000 for a “tiny house”??
Kind of defeats the affordability part of the whole concept, doesn’t it? I’m buidling my own tiny house (8’x20′). I don’t expect the structure to cost more than $10,000, including double pane windows and door. Plus, about $15,000 in appliances and a rain water catchment system. No way would I give $50K for a pre-built tiny house, much as I admire them, much less plunk down $129,000.00–without any land, or solar array, or wind turbine, greenhouse, or storage shed, or garage, or . . . anything else truly necessary for a self-sufficient lifestyle on or off-grid. This is a JOKE! Right?

Rebecca - October 1, 2011 Reply

I bought a former school portable building and had it moved to my 14 acres for $5500. Including pond, utilities, and installing a kitchen and bathroom, plus land… I’m in for about $60k. This is nearly paid for on a 10 year mortgage. It is in Texas within commuting distance of Dallas. 660 square feet and I designed the interior myself. I did all but the plumbing and wiring. Right now you can buy homes for 30k in many towns. I am considering buying a 100-1300 sf home near the coast for about 30k. I will be able to pay cash. Time to reconsider living in massive cities which are difficult at best for a lifetime commitment to job and mortgage.

Walter - October 1, 2011 Reply

This is where I think the small house movement stalls out. $129K for a 1br/ba house? Let’s get that down to about $50-60K and I can see it happening on a larger scale. I thought that was the whole idea behind automation and modular building. As much as I’d love to “live small” I don’t see trading my 1950s beautiful mid-century with all its cool features (for which I paid less than $129K!)and also give up 2 extra bedrooms and another bath, a sunroom and a formal living room. It just doesn’t compute!

William Brock - October 1, 2011 Reply

I agree, this is overpriced and silly…you have to have more money than brains if you are going to pay this much for a trailer size shoebox when you could have it built for $20,000. by someone else…….This company is in fantasy land…!

Sandra Van Dyk - October 1, 2011 Reply

OK, this house is more than I would pay because I am looking for lower cost housing but I am really glad that the tiny house movement is big enough to fit a wide range of buyers. I think we should celebrate the diversity of designers, builders and home owners interested in tiny houses in many price ranges. That very diversity will strengthen the impact of our movement.

Norma Nelson - October 1, 2011 Reply

I am still scratching my head, is that a mistake in the pricing I really don’t see all that material adding up to that plus profit, I see the thought behind this is profit and not showing how you can live happy in a small home..

Heidi - October 2, 2011 Reply

I love this and it is expensive, however, there must be a market for it. If you cannot afford it a mobile home is a great option or a yurt. Like everything fine craftsmanship has to cost something. You get what you pay for.

Monica - October 10, 2011 Reply

On-demand hot water is the most wasteful energy intensive perk a house can offer. Not an environmentally friendly alternative!

john - September 2, 2012 Reply

For all those that are complaining about 200 dollars/sqft, they should post where they are living. Try being gouged for $300 in Fort McMurray alberta.

Michael Anderson - June 8, 2017 Reply

I like the looks of the Karoleena. Especially after looking at the available houses resale and new construction. Seems to all look alike. And look at some of the so called totally rehabbed. Such poor quality workmanship!! Sad to see “lipstick on a pig”.
I was hoping the price is Canadian not USD$$.
I will call for pricing.
Alabama , sometimes Florida.

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