Tiny House Family

by Kent Griswold on February 24th, 2012. 50 Comments
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Here are some pictures of our tiny house in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We are a family of four (plus one big dog) living in a 8 x 21 ft. tiny house we designed and built ourselves. We have worked our space so that there are two private lofts with separate ladders. Feel free to tour our home.

Our tiny house experiment has helped our family grow closer (not just physically!). It is a daily challenge to practice living in the moment and breathing deeply to find the patience needed to weather the difficulties of family life in such tight quarters. The rewards are a life full of moments of real connection.

We have lived in the tiny house since May of 2011, and have learned many lessons. Through our blog, tinyhousefamily.com, we are sharing the story of our lessons from living tiny.

Best,
Mama
Tinyhousefamily.com

50 Responses to “Tiny House Family”

  1. Angie says:

    I checked out the blog, before posting this – I sure wish there were some photos of the interior to see how they laid out the interior space. If on the blog, I missed the photos.

    But, I like the rain on the tin siding effect they must get. And Blue Ridge Mtns are wonderful, so this must be extra wonderful getting off the rat race. The children must be full of exploring and such, in this kind of place.

    Congratulations on doing it YOUR way.

  2. Dinah says:

    That may work for Blue Ridge Mountains but a family of four won’t work in upstate NY where you are inside five months of the year for winter.

    I enjoy your blog and keep up the hard work.

    The only problem I have with tiny houses is the residents don’t stock pile enough food for prepping. It has been my biggest concern…..

    • Trish says:

      I wonder how my family would work in a tiny house too, and one thing I’ve considered is to add a basement – preferably a walkout. same dimensions. That’s my plan. Never say never!

    • Mama says:

      Hi Dinah,

      We do all of our cooking at home, so we have quite a stock pile of food. We put away a lot of food from our summer garden to eat through the winter. We used a small “shed” made from an old walk-in cooler to store food until we built a 10 X 10 shed to enclose our well. The shed keeps a constant temp. of about 50 degrees F, which works well to store bulk foods and keep vegetables for the winter. It does get challenging at times, especially when it’s freezing out and we have to walk up the hill to get potatoes–but, we are making it work. Best wishes.

    • Rebecca says:

      The key to storing food in a tiny house, as with anything else, is adequate storage. We consider ourselves preppers and have between 3 and 6 months of food stored at any one time. We are building a tiny house that is 12×32 feet and this is what we are doing to solve the food storage issue:
      -We are building in a pantry that will be used for storing day to day items.
      -One or both lofts will be devoted to food storage.
      -Once we are moved in and set up, we intend to build a root cellar to hold root crops and the like over the winter.

      I would not sacrifice our families ability to put food away for hard times unless I had to, but building a tiny house is a great way to live mortgage free, which frees up a lot more resources to do things like buy food in hard times. I personally feel that being in debt is a lot worse than not having adequate food storage.

  3. This is a great post I have a step by step video series of a micro house being built much like it with the gambrel roof in process right now .It is a great design for a roomy loft space .

    You can lay sideways in the loft there is so much head room. Nice looking little house I like the metal and shingles combo.

  4. Hazel says:

    The bright colours are wonderful touches. Off to check out your website.

  5. les car says:

    very nice ~ yes, please post photos of the inside. :)

  6. Trish says:

    Kent, thank you for finding people like this to write about. How wonderful! and how lucky those kids are!

  7. Josh says:

    Neat little place. I’m amazed that so many people can live in such a small space. I don’t think I could do it. I just used my sonic measuring device and my bedroom, closet, and bathroom in my apartment are larger than the 168 square feet of this place, and that’s without kitchen, living room, dining room, etc. I know my brothers and I would have killed each other as children if we had to be so close to each other like that!

  8. sharyn says:

    Many of us would like to know how the washing machine in the outdoor cooler is set up to work without freezing in the winter time. This option seems like a perfect solution for space saving in a tiny house. Details ???

  9. Mama says:

    Here’s Papa’s response to Sharyn’s question:

    Originally I was going to use a system of freeze-proof exterior valves and plumbing that could be easily drained but that wasn’t very user friendly.
    Trial and error has led to the relocation of the washer from the walk-in cooler to our wooden shed. This shed has a floor consisting of indigenous clay topped with quarry sand (similar to the fine pathways in your typical state park) the sand is dirt cheap about $10 a ton, its easy to shovel and screed off. I used salvaged fence as a wood floor on top. There is a 3 inch pipe which acts as a drain for the floor and a conduit for the washer drain line, it all ends up in a dry-well just outside. I chose a simple ring foundation with salvaged 2×6 wall framing, OSB sheathing and local hemlock siding.
    The insulation is what makes it work for us the shed is not bermed or buried like a typical “root cellar”. I hate digging. I used 3″ polyisocyanurate foil-faced boards we had from the house project topped with a layer of R-13 batts. The room is quite stable temperature-wise with a pretty good humidity level from the soil. We installed an Eco-temp lp-gas tankless water heater for hot water and it’s operation helps keep the temp up a little, I may mount it on the exterior during the summer if need be. The old cooler now houses our electric dryer which we need periodically.

  10. cj says:

    I think families are closer when they don’t have so many rooms/doors/walls to separate themselves from each other at every hint of friction. You have to deal with it rather than run away from the problem. Besides, who needs tons of room inside when you have so much outside space? Congratulations on reclaiming your life and living it your own way!

  11. Gracie Rugile says:

    What a cute family you have! I love the closness of living really small, and I suspect you all do too. The kids can’t hide out with a computer. It’s a good thing.

  12. Susan says:

    Just a question for these nice folks and the ones that went to Baja Mexico to fry hot dogs next to the highway with Mack trucks zipping by (I’m JUST saying…) As an elementary school teacher I find that almost all my kids can learn the curriculum just fine. Doesn’t need to be me teaching them, homeschooling is a great opportunity for the family. The difficulty children have in VERY remote situations is de-socialization. Their psycho-social dependency on adults and lack of peer interaction affects them deeply for a lifetime. By dependency I mean adults are their only behavioral cues. And by peer interaction, I mean healthy activities such as 4H Club, Girl Scouts, etc. Some very well-intentioned parents act as a roadblock to these children growing, building, and assuming their own identities as adults. I know that folks are going to let out a hue and cry that there are so many negatives in the “normal” environment that parents are saving their children, not robbing them. Unfortunately all the research proves otherwise. Tiny Houses are great for “Consensual Adults”, but it’s beginning to creep me out to see such experimentation on innocent children. Santa Cruz, CA has a nice model of shared lots with small homes and things like community kitchens that allow normal development in a communal environment that has VERY low impact on our land. I also have a “tiny house” similar to a dacha at 7,300 feet in the Sierras with only spring water and solar and propane power. But it is not for year-round living. My “regular” home is 110 years old in the city of Berkeley, CA and I DO share the living space with several adults. I hang my laundry, bake my own bread and indulge in all my other “left-over hippie” quirks. But isolating children this way is going to lead to a vale of tears for all these parents down the road. I am not the only one that looks at these tiny house families this way. Any number of folks that I show the blog to have expressed such concerns for the children. I celebrate the parents’ accomplishments and pray the kids have friends to play with some day in the near future.

    • Mama says:

      Susan,

      I appreciate you taking the time to voice your concerns for children. I, too, am a teacher (public school) who has concern for children as the future leaders of our world. Your comment brought up a fun breakfast table discussion and a passionate response from Sister and Brother, who have composed their own responses to your concerns (below).

      There are a few assumptions you’ve made that we want to clarify for you:
      1)We do not live remotely–we live in a rural environment. Our land (3 acres) is 1 mile from school and 2 miles from town.
      2)Our children are not home-schooled. They are successful students in public school.
      3)Our children have lots of friends and regular playdates (at the tiny house and at friends’ houses)
      4)The tiny house is a step in a long-term plan. We have made a conscious decision to stay mortgage-free. We are saving as we go, with our final goal being a house (about 1,000 sq. ft.), so that we can each have a small room for our own creative endeavors. In the end, what we will have taught (and are teaching) our children is that one does not have to buy into the cultural belief that a house has to be a certain size, and one must own certain things for happiness. We will have taught them that to reach a goal, one needs a solid plan and the ability to sacrifice desires in order to fulfill REAL needs. We will have taught them that a life without debt means true freedom. I wish you nothing but the best.

      TO ALL FAMILIES CONSIDERING A TINY HOUSE:

      This is a real option, with so many lessons and joys. There are obviously people ready to judge the decision to go against the mainstream, but as you will read from our kids’ passionate responses below, this choice has been a blessing to our family. We encourage you to go for it!

      From Brother (age 7):

      Reader’s Response – Living in this tiny house doesn’t affect me in a bad way. We play outside a lot. I have a lot of friends. They even come over for playdates, and we have fun in the woods.

      From Sister (age 8):

      Living in a tiny house affects us in a good way. Every Saturday and Sunday, we play imaginary games outside. We have great adventures with our neighbor friends. They don’t even need an invitation to come over! Last week, we all went sledding together. Mama and Papa are not evil scientists and would never experiment on me. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Incidently, we DO go to public school and love it.

      The tiny house does not scar us for life, but it teaches us stuff. Here are some things the tiny house taught us:
      1) TVs take away your privledge to go outside.
      2) We have learned to get along and communicate with each other a lot better.
      3) We can live in a small space and still have a good life.

      Here’s to the simple life!
      Tiny House Family

      • Brook says:

        I have a ton of confidence that you and your family will be so much better humans for your efforts. Simple shelter has always been the first step of homesteading and you will learn so much along the way. You will have a sufficiency and skill set that very few people will have. Your understanding of the world will come from living in the world feeling the seasons on your skin, watching the world grow and change. And by taking responsibility for your built environment you will be a better member of the human race. Those friends will keep coming over. Your life choices will teach you art, architecture, permaculture, natural history, astronomy and so much more. You aren’t alone. In the larger history yours is the normal way and apartments and suburbs are a fad.

  13. [...] our life in the tiny house. It was in response to a well-meaning (I presume) woman who commented on tinyhouseblog.com. She says, “it’s beginning to creep me out to see such experimentation on innocent [...]

  14. Rebecca says:

    I just want to say that I love your site and your house. This was an inspiration to me. We are building are own tiny house, and this was a great reminder that it can be done, even with a family. Thank you!

  15. Susan says:

    Thanks for your heartfelt reply. I am so glad the children have playmates and plenty of fresh air. I grew up in a TV-less household and read books instead. I also had fun with the chickens and cats and various animals my parents kept. Living in that environment made me very self-sufficient- I’ve held some kind of a job since I was 14. Milking the neighbor’s goats while they were gone was one of my cooler jobs. They let me take the milk home and my grama taught me how to make a simple kind of cheese with it. When we wanted fish we would walk down the hill to the docks and “haggle” with the fishermen bringing in the catch. Sometimes we would luck out and have venison from the hills behind our house. Where did all this take place? In what WAS a sleepy little fishing town called Sausalito, CA. It’s now a big fat tourist trap with no chance of that lifestyle anymore. So if your mom and dad are trying to provide you with the kind of life that I had when I was young, I say go for it! Of course, the town had a little school and I had plenty of playmates just as you do. It sounds like your mom and dad have really made sure you are well provided for. That is terrific. There are some parents that want to go on an eternal vacation somewhere that their kids don’t have friends of any kind and it makes for a lonely lifestyle for the young ones. There was a very famous poet here in California who decided he wanted to escape all the unhappiness of the Great Depression and moved his family out to the high desert. He kind of played Native American. He even admitted it was an experiment. His wife was very lonely and the children all grew up to sort of hate him for deciding to dump them someplace so remote. Even though he is long gone, and his kids are in their 70′s they are not proud of any of his poetry-do NOT want to talk about him, and have had tough lives. Just imagine if you were a cat who never got to go outside and suddenly your owner died and you had to make it on your own in the woods. It’s what happens to young folks when they go away to college sometimes. But it sure sounds like you are very lucky with such great parents…at least they’re not frying hotdogs for dinner on the side of the road! Take care and enjoy all that fresh air:)

  16. cj says:

    Interestingly, these ‘isolated’ children produce books that are encouraged reading, become presidents, inventors, etc. Of course, there are some very ‘socialized’ children that become serial killers as well.

    There are many that consider the over ‘socialization’ to be a frightening experiment. In certain situations; it has proven to be nothing more than over stimulation. I am referring to educators themselves.

    Not all homeschooled children are locked away and not all children living in the burbs are allowed to join organizations. Due to morals and child safety, I personally, would never have let my child join the scouts.

  17. Mama says:

    Sister said it best: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That goes for all of us! Enjoy your day.

  18. Shakes says:

    I think it’s inspirational. We have been looking for designs and your abode is beautiful.

    Don’t worry about the occasional narrow-minded person, its easy to put down on others when no one can see how poorly you live. One can say whatever they want, but a photo says a 1,000 words. Just like a child.

    Beautiful house and Family, wish my kids got along so well, its always he poked me (back) or its my turn to watch t.v. (before we got rid of it) family shouldn’t be about what you have but who you have in your life. If we didn’t have anyone we would probably be misers too.

    P.S. Yes, that is my *Real* name (I’m Italian)

  19. [...] Monday Grab Bag of Links … February 27, 2012By adminArchitecture. Light Stage House, Japan Round Bookcase Hovering Above Davis’ Writing Studio Old Garage Makeover: Fabulous Home 9 utopian architectural projects Tiny House Family [...]

  20. Melanie Gaball says:

    Hello tiny house family!
    I love that you are so passionate about simplifying your life. My name is Melanie Gaball, I am a student journalist at California State University and I am doing a story about the phenonmenon of tiny houses. I would really love to get a phone interview with you to ask you a few questions about tiny house living! :) My email is melaniegaball@gmail.com, let me know if you are interested. Have a wonderful day!

  21. Mama says:

    Thanks, Melanie! It is very liberating to simplify life. I just sent off an email. Thanks for your interest. :)

  22. [...] were featured on the Tiny House Blog, too, that has more photos of the house and details about how they make it work (laundry, food [...]

  23. Michelle says:

    Hi,
    I’m sorry if this is posted somewhere here or on your blog. I’m wondering if you bought the land you have your house on or are sharing with another family? Buying a lot is one thing keeping us from downsizing so substantially.

    Thank you for your time

  24. Jerrett says:

    Hey, this may of been covered already, but does your house have A/C. Thanks

  25. [...] Tiny House Blog - story [...]

  26. I definitely see a TV show in this–and a book deal.
    This would be a great idea for the HG channel; however, because you seem to have a mainstream appeal (probably because of the economy), you could pitch to mainstream networks too. But then your simplicity would be gobbled up in celebrity–never mind. ;)

  27. Tabetha says:

    I believe Susan has somehow been misinformed about homeschooling. I homeschool my 6 children, and the are some of the most social children I have ever met. While being homeschooled, my children learn to relate to people of multiple age ranges They have learned to communicate well with adults, older children, and younger children. They also get their fair share of time with friends their own ages! When I take them places, they begin conversations with adults almost better than I do! Somehow homeschooling has gotten a de-socialization reputation that it does not deserve.

  28. Tabetha says:

    By the way,, I love how everybody is so polite in the comments…with no major bickering! My comment also was well-meaning. :)

  29. […] small home on a flatbed trailer. Inhabitat Most of the construction was completed by Karl. Tiny House Blog The family also grows their own crops and cares for livestock. Sightline They have found a way […]

  30. […] build their small home on a flatbed trailer.   Most of the construction was completed by Karl.   The family also grows their own crops and cares for livestock.   They have found a way to […]

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