The Tale of Two Tiny Houses

I have been called a “tiny home enthusiast.” In an effort to live in a more sustainable and eco-fashioned home, I began to explore the tiny house way of life in 2013. I bought my first tiny home in 2014 and placed it on a large area of land in Colorado. It had everything I could have ever wanted and that I had dreamt that living in a tiny home would be. However, after living in that 375 square foot home for a year, I began to see a number of flaws and changes that would make my tiny house living more comfortable. This is when I decided to start over and purchase my second tiny home.

Structures
My first tiny house was a pre-fab on wheels that I purchased from a manufacturer. I was drawn to the pre-fabricated home because of the simplicity of picking from one of the software’s layouts and having it dropped at the location of my choice. The downside of this being that it was made with cheap materials that made for poor insulation. Colorado winters can be long and cold. I replaced the windows and front door to weatherize the house in an attempt to conserve heat, but the house continued to feel drafty. It didn’t align with my eco-home that I had dreamt about having.

My second tiny home was renovated by my husband on two acres of land in Boise, Idaho. The original structure was an old dairy farm granary that we converted into our new home with the help of a home renovation loan. We used reclaimed lumber and materials that more tightly aligned with my morals. The exterior design more closely resembled the cottage feel that I had originally had in mind, and felt more of a natural fit.

Kitchen
The pre-fab house had an unusually large kitchen that I felt dominated the house. I saw this as a huge flaw in the design and vowed that I would have a much smaller area if I were to ever move.

I love to cook, and so the most needed space that I require in a kitchen is counter space (for preparation). A half fridge and mini-stove serve me just fine, but I must have the counter space. The solution that we found in our Boise tiny home was to install a hinged countertop that could be propped up inline with the wall when not in use, or laid down when the extra space was needed. With the renovation loan, we splurged on granite countertops. It added the natural feel that I was lacking in the pre-fab house and eliminated the need for cutting boards (one less thing to find storage space for).

Bathroom
Everytime that I used the restroom in the pre-fab home, I felt like I was in Japan. The toilet was placed below the on demand water heater that made up my shower. There was not a separate bathing area; just a drain in the floor and a detachable shower head. It was a glorified hose that lacked water pressure and left my entire bathroom (sink, counter, etc.) covered in water. I had to squeegee the entire room afterwards.

In my Boise home, we made sure to accommodate space for a closed door shower, but still had to come to terms with not having an actual tub. The great addition to this bathroom was a dual sink. The hot water heater was placed underneath the sink where there was also plenty of room for storage for things like shoes and extra toiletries. Instead of the water heater above the toilet, we installed a small cabinet to store towels and our extra set of sheets for our bed.

Multiple levels
While living in the Colorado home, my husband and I had very little personal space from each other. You mentally prepare for such a thing, but there were really only two places to escape each other, the living room or bedroom. In the event of an argument, one of us would “claim” the living room so we wouldn’t be pushed out to spend the turbulent time sitting on the edge of our bed.

In the Boise home, we created more spaces to relax that felt more divided and segmented throughout the home. One very helpful added element was the additional level that our Boise home had. The bottom level was 300 square feet and the added loft gave us another 125 square feet of separated space. In the upper level was our bed and a small reading area, with a window to the view of our garden. On the bottom level, we added a bay window for another relaxing space that had a curtain that could be drawn for added privacy.

Changes For the Better
Living in a tiny home is a serious commitment, especially when sharing the space with another person. Taking the time to thoroughly research where to add space and effort in your home to satisfy your wants and needs will ensure a happy home. There are a wide amount of options with the gaining popularity of tiny homes, so invest in seeking out what would make you most comfortable before pulling the trigger.

Author bio: W.M. Chandler is a Colorado native and works best with her head in the clouds. She is an avid researcher and enjoys writing about unfamiliar subjects. She writes passionately about nature and the outdoors, human connections and relationships, nutrition and politics.
Twitter: @wmchandler1212

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Leah - April 14, 2017 Reply

My husband and I would love to have a tiny house! But are we getting too old to do it? He’s 79 and I’m 69…It always seems like “young people” are the only ones we hear about ?

    W.M. Chandler - April 24, 2017 Reply

    Leah,

    Age is not a limiting factor! If you find a home that has already been built up by another person or couple, it makes it much easier to get started. The initial planning and building process can be difficult and exhausting. I would recommend finding tiny home that is for sale that comes with the land that it is on. It will alleviate a lot of headaches for you. I hope this helps.

Maria - April 17, 2017 Reply

I live in a condo; it’s like a tiny house–its a real small condo!

Choice Furniture Superstore - April 18, 2017 Reply

Nice post.

Luke McQuade - April 23, 2017 Reply

Great Article! Thank you for sharing about your experience. I am at the pre-purchase/pre-build phase of the Tiny Home On Wheels (THOW)experience. One of the biggest challenges I am having is finding land to rent (for a number of years until we possibly move to the western portion of Colorado or somewhere in Utah or N.M.). We’d like to rent a portion of land connected to another person’s residence in an area close to where we work. If money weren’t an issue, my wife and I would just buy a house somewhere nearby (we live just North of Seattle, WA), rent the house and then put our Tiny Home in the backyard. But, unfortunately money is an issue. We are two professionals in education but current rent, child-care, college tuition, car, T@B Trailer and other monthly bills associated with living month to month don’t make such a purchase possible. How does one find land that is legal to rent and place a THOW on (with water and electric hook-ups)? Yes, I’ve tried various Tiny Home websites and Craigslist and the typical answer I get is to talk with the city planner of where I might want to move so that I can know exactly what the Zoning, Code and Land Use rules, laws, permits, permit costs, etc. are. This doesn’t even include the research/information gathering/interpreting I’m going to have to do (and possibly pay a lawyer to do as well)regarding who built the tiny home, if the tiny home is a accessory dwelling unit, if it is going to stay on wheels, if the wheels can come off and the house secured to a “permanent” foundation (which I wouldn’t want to be permanent because we’d like to move after a number of years), whether it’s to ANSI or other type codes, etc. Is it just me, or do other people wanting to live in THOWs have similar concerns/experiences? The TV shows about THOWs are really cool but I wonder why they don’t talk much, much,much more about finding land to rent/own to put your THOW on (with minimal time, effort and money being spent to do so). It seems like the THOW land acquisition (rent or own) process might be difficult. I thank anyone in advance for their constructive replies, feedback, suggestions and encouragement. Sincerely, Luke McQuade

W.M. Chandler - April 24, 2017 Reply

Luke,

I would look at http://minimotives.com/. They have a lot of legal information that I found VERY helpful.

Good luck and keep persisting! It’s worth it in the long run.

Bonnie - April 25, 2017 Reply

I also would like to buy a tiny house but I have the same problem not knowing where to put it. I was thinking maybe a trailer community. Sorry I do not think they are called that anymore. Most of those houses are above ground I do not know if you can rent a space,I do not see why they would not, there are all hookups there. If anyone knows the rules please let me know. Thanks!

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