What if a person wants to take advantage of the benefits of a tiny house, but wants to keep their own home? A junior second unit might be the answer. These tiny studio apartments are built out of spare bedrooms in an existing house and contain everything needed for small, simple living. Rachel Ginis of Lilypad Homes owns a LEED and general contracting business in Marin County, Calif. and lives in her own 230 square foot junior unit—built out of the master bedroom in her home.
“After my daughter went off to college and I started Lilypad I decided to cut my overhead by moving into the efficiency apartment I created from the master bedroom in my home,” Rachel said. “To develop the apartment I converted a walk-in closet into a small kitchen and added an exterior door leading out to a deck that looks out to the wetlands and Mount Tamalpias. The apartment is laid out so that it feels like a diverse collection of rooms all in one. There are five distinct areas: the kitchen, the bathroom, the seating/sleeping area, the office/dressing area and, what I call with amusement, the great room.”
According to Rachel, Lilypad helps to create more efficient, sustainable and affordable homes in one of the most expensive places in the U.S. Rachel also mentioned that these types of apartments help to empower other people, particularly women, who are struggling to meet expenses.
Other benefits of this type of tiny house is that existing homes already have the infrastructure required to serve the needs of their designed occupancy. In the case of creating a Lilypad apartment, all the water, energy, parking, road use, etc. for the home has already been calculated in the original permit.
“By efficiently utilizing the spare bedrooms in homes we use resources more efficiently and do not create an additional burden on the existing infrastructure,” Rachel said.
Various challenges do come along with this type of construction including the permitting expenses and county requirements associated with converting spare bedrooms. This can make the process four or more times as much the cost of new construction. The Lilypad Flexible Housing Initiative is in the process of creating a simple and inexpensive permitting track for the creation of second units made specifically from repurposing spare bedrooms. LilypadFHI is also creating a portfolio of lending partners who will provide funding for the development of this type of second unit.
For Rachel, the process, the simple living aspect and the sense of community has been worth it.
“It has been an amazing experience pairing down my life to fit into a much smaller space,” she said. “The exercise deciding what was truly necessary and important to me was both insightful and freeing. I left my home furnished for renters, so not only did I create a wonderful small home for myself, but also I left a charming home behind to share with others. It is a truly rewarding experience to create affordable housing for people.”
Photos by Jocelyn Knight and Lilypad Homes