“Naked Snapper” from Tortoise Shell Homes

by Mike Maydell

Why tiny houses? The reasons are many and most of the ones given on the Tiny House Blog hold true for me. As a kid I liked forts made out of card board boxes and staying in small cottages. This house just compacts and simplifies my life.

I wanted a larger tiny home for two people, with a real bathroom etc. I choose Tortoise Shell Homes because the steel construction allows for a larger home with less weight. Also I wanted to add a Dormer loft, and Bill Kastrinos customizes any model to your specs. My house is 230 square feet. (not including lofts) and weighs 11,500-12,000 pounds with everything in it.

Tortoise Shell Home

This makes it harder to move than smaller models, but much more livable at the same time. I use propane for: on demand H20, range/oven, and heater. Cost is $15-30/month (summer vs winter) for gas and I take long hot showers. The Fridge and lights are electric, the LG washer/dryer all-in-one combo is also 110v. So far this has been less than $25/month and is included in my rent.


My friend rented me part of her lovely yard and charges me $450/month for rent/power/water. I pay a local septic company $85-100/month to pump my septic tank. Add the cost of propane and my monthly bill for everything is well under $600/month. The house cost close to $35k finished because I used higher end materials (cedar smells good) and chose nice appliances.


The whole process took about 6 months with two friends helping me out. There were many change of plans for the simple reason of: things that look good on paper don’t always transfer over well. After 6 months of real world use and fine tuning, I love this place. It has everything one needs and is movable. See the long slide show for start to finish photos below.




loft and stairs

Nate and Lisa’s Tortoise Shell Home

Guest post by Lisa

When my husband and I first moved to the country after 20 years of living in the big city, we talked a lot about the different possibilities for housing. We were both sick of apartments. We fantasized about the different natural building techniques like cob and straw bale, but worried about exorbitant land prices here in California.

About five or six years ago we stumbled upon Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed website and were completely charmed. This was pre-Oprah, before he was so famous. We had a free private consultation with him within the first few weeks after he moved out to California. A couple years later we went to one of his open houses, and recently went to his first showing of his new Craftsman style cottage. We love his work, but his prices were too high for our budget. Building it ourselves seemed too difficult, though I’m sure it is possible for some people.

The tiny house bug had us. We now knew how we could own our own home without land or a mortgage, but we needed a place to put the house. Continue reading