Elizabeth Turnbull’s Tiny House

Elizabeth Turnbull’s Tiny House


New Englanders:
come build a tiny structure on wheels this summer!

This summer, Elizabeth Turnbull is designing & building her own tiny house to live in as a Yale graduate student.  Come join her!  She  is opening the building process to the community in a series of ‘burgers & barnraising-style’  building parties with family, friends, small house enthusiasts and other interested folks.  The structure is being built on the campus of The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, MA.  Elizabeth will supply all your meals and can even offer places to stay.  Her last two building weekends are July 26/27 and Aug 2/3.  Please RSVP to turnbulltinyhouse@gmail.com if you are interested – you’re welcome to come for a few hours or the whole weekend.

Framed on an 8 x 18 flatbed trailer, Elizabeth’s house has solar power, a composting toilet, a kitchen, a sleeping loft, and a generous workspace.  It has been built with the most environmentally considerate materials she has been able to find.  Her goals for the project are elaborated upon below.

Her local newspaper is following the story, too.  You can check out the first four articles here:

Newburyport Daily News Article 1
Newburyport Daily News Article 2
Newburyport Daily News Article 3
Newburyport Daily News Article 4

Elizabeth says that many organizations and members of the community have offered generous donations and materials.  A roof & hardwood floors have been donated, as well as lights, cedar paneling and interior faux-painting services.  Check it out!  Visit the Turnbull Tiny House.

Big Goals for a Small House

  • Make it beautiful and lovely to inhabit
  • Source reclaimed and recycled materials where possible
  • Build without VOCs, formaldehyde or toxic materials
  • Incorporate energy-efficient LED & halogen lights and minimal appliances
  • Celebrate a small budget!  Sustainability and Economy are sisters and should be treated as such

Minimize  fossil fuel use:

  • Live near enough to Yale to easily walk, bike or use public transit
  • Insulate well with natural materials

Educate and inspire with a running blog exploring the design/build process, detailing my budget, and providing resources for low-budget, low-impact structures

Open the tiny house to the communities at Yale and New Haven as a learning and demonstration opportunity.

(978) 758.1051

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  1. Looks like it went pretty good. Looking at the bare bones picture, seems there’s two tiny lofts… sleeping/storage(?). With the slope on the roof, it’s quite possible to mount the solar panels to it and park it at the right place and she’s good. Nice to see another one complete.

  2. Hey Elizabeth or someone who can contact her for me,

    I recently saw the video about your tiny sustainable house and loved it. I work for the original creators of the recycled glass countertop. Vetrazzo leads all of its competitors with a recycled content of 85%. That’s right 85% of the actual material is glass and 100% of that glass is recycled. If you still need a desk top, coffee table, bathroom vanity, counter/cabinet top or even a cheese board (if you don’t have room or everything else is built) please let us know because we here at Vetrazzo would really like to give you some material for your project. Check out your choices at http://www.vetrazzo.com.

    I saw your last building date was in the beginning of August, but if there is any way we can help you out please let us know. Even if you don’t have any need for Vetrazzo we still think what you are doing is great and sets a perfect example for your peers who are the future and driving force of sustainability.




  3. Where do you p**p ….Waste & water are the only problems in this model. Composting toilets are a no-no in may counties. In the end it will come down to the land not the tiny trailer. There is probably no difference between this and a factory built trailer except for the green aspect. The living model is the same.

  4. Elizabeth, your ingenuity is amazing. The story, reprinted from the Hartford Courant, was reprinted today in the local paper where I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Here is the Courant version from August 12:


    There is a lot of things happening the right way. One of the really bold things is the thinking behind the project. First, figuring out the cost of renting and then using that to build a budget for doing things better. The more I learn about global warming and the continuing rise of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the clearer it is for me that we really do need to get our energy and power our economy in safe ways that do not add carbon to the atmosphere. I know that, and yet I need to figure out how to heat my home without the oil furnace that does the job now. How does my family travel long distances without the Mazda van that we drive. The starting cost to make these two needed changes could easily start at $40,000. It’s not that solutions aren’t available, or close to available, this type of expenditure is a significant investment that can save money within one or two decades. For most people, it means that financing can be a big part of the solution. Elizabeth’s approach on the money end illustrates how a little novel thinking can yield a completely differnt and better result.

  5. That’s interesting. It also was in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here in California today in the Home and Garden section. I’m glad to see Elizabeth and her house getting such great publicity! It should make more people aware of the tiny house and green movements.

  6. I was wondering how long it took Elizabeth and the help she had to make the Tiny House?
    I’m a Junior at the Blue Hill Harbor School in Maine and it’s a project based learning school so I can study what I want to learn about. I had been thinking about building a small house for a while now and looking at Elizabeth’s website has enspired me even more. When did Elizabeth start to build her house?
    Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall?
    If someone could get back to me on my question, that would be great. Thanks so much,

    -Fish (16)

  7. As best as I can determine, her tiny house is empty.

    Her Zoning Variance to occupy this non-conforming structure was denied by the Town of Hamden.

  8. To see the official denial see:


    Elizabeth is a self-admitted optimist. I was, too, until I applied for a Variance to build an oversized backyard shed to store my Patio Furniture over the Winter.

    One neighbor complained. So now my furniture stays outside all year long, to be thrown by the wind against his fence; dirty and scrambled. Instead of being neatly stored away. I guess he “won” LOL.

  9. I was just a a friends house last night, and she has the tinyhouse parked in his backyard. I guess (I don’t know, I’m just assuming) she wasn’t able to get any sort of variance for a composting toilet, so she is using his basement bath. But, it is a beautiful little house!