The Tiny Houses of HabeRae - Tiny House Blog

The Tiny Houses of HabeRae

Like many other cities, my hometown of Reno, Nev. has seen more and more people leave the suburbs to make their home in a more condensed urban environment to save on housing and gas costs. Several buildings in the downtown Reno corridor have been redeveloped to include housing for city living. Kelly Rae and Pam Haberman of HabeRae Investments Inc. are creating tiny, beautiful urban infill houses while keeping the history of many of these buildings alive.

Kelly and Pam have been redeveloping properties since 1998 and are most well known for their 8 on Center project, but their most recent projects are getting some attention for their tiny size, aesthetics and green design. They have won local awards for historic preservation, environmental design and community improvement.

“Just because a place is small does not mean it should be lacking in style, quality and affordability,” Kelly said.

They were kind enough to take me on a tour of their wonderful little projects which are all within a few miles of each other.

2 on Watt

2 on Watt

One of their designs is the 2 on Watt project. These little twin houses stand side by side down a back alley in the Old Southwest part of downtown Reno. They are cottage style, with private back yards and public front porches. Both homes have washer/dryer combos, custom tile, beautiful mahogany floors and an abundance of light.

2 More on Watt Front Cottage

The 2 More on Watt project is down the street and contains two farmhouses from the early 1900s. When Kelly and Pam purchased the property and began to tear down the walls of the smaller farmhouse, the newspapers used for insulation had the date 1915 on them. Some of the newspapers were also in Italian and contained want ads from New York City. Kelly and Pam figured that the houses once belonged to members of a group of Italian immigrants who came to the Reno area during that time.

The smaller farmhouse at the 2 More on Watt location is 160 square feet with a full bath and a studio living and sleeping space. A one piece kitchen unit from A.J. Madison forms the tiny kitchen. The larger house in front is 450 square feet.

HabeRae strives to keep their designs looking like the local aesthetic, but prefer the modern, clean look. They also strive to reuse and recycle everything on their sites including old building materials and rocks and stumps used in landscaping. They even turned a large, discarded satellite dish into a beautiful planter.

SoDo 4

SoDo 4 Interior

SoDo 4 Interior

One of their other designs, the SoDo 4 (SoDo means South of Downtown in Reno-speak) consists of four brick cottages that were once used to house train engineers who worked on the old Virginia & Truckee Railroad that ran through Reno in the early 1900s. The three studios are 276 square feet with a sleeping loft and the one bedroom house in the back is 350 square feet. They are used now as rentals, but with each project HabeRae designs and builds in private outdoor spaces and gardening areas.

Their latest project has been converting a firehouse from 1953 from a run-down homeless shelter into an urban living and working space that is truly redefining this part of downtown Reno. The 11 at the Firehouse has nine studio units that are 350 square feet with a sleeping loft, full bath and kitchen and stackable washer and dryer. They have attempted to keep as much of the original Art Deco structure as possible, and the original tile floors are still being used. The tenants are a professional group ranging from college professors to attorneys. The bottom floor of the 11 at the Firehouse project is filled in with a funky beauty salon and a deli and coffee shop.

Pam told me that they really want to create another living unit from the hose tower of the firehouse. It would be a single unit with stacked rooms and windows looking out onto downtown and the mountains.

11 at the Firehouse Apartment Interior

“Our belief is that small, meaningful, well thought out urban infill can infuse a blighted area with wonderful energy. Small places to live and work on a small footprint leave a small impact on this precious earth.”

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Brad Carlisle - April 19, 2010 Reply

How are your projects weathering the recession?

    Kelly Rae - April 19, 2010 Reply


    Our projects and the properties that we still currently own and operate as rentals are doing great during this terrible time in our economy. We always strive to work with our residents if they should lose their job or have a reduction of income. If they are a good tenant we will lower the rent until they get back on their feet. We take care of our properties and they have nice extras and that is why we are rarely vacant.

    We kicked off the firehouse project dead middle of the recession and it was and still is popular with everyone. We are getting ready to launch another urban adaptive reuse project that we already have tenants ready to move into. We believe there is always a market for big city style in the small town atmosphere of Reno.

    thanks for looking,

      ginmar - April 21, 2010 Reply

      Are there any pictures of the sleeping lofts or the one-piece kitchen unit?

      Mariah McCord - May 27, 2014 Reply

      I would so love for you to come to Texas and develop something like this for us. We are here in DFW.

Susan Juetten - April 19, 2010 Reply

Wow. Even I, a wide-open space freak, love these, especially the little brick house. Hooray to these visionary women in my region.

Judy - April 19, 2010 Reply

Love them!

We used to live in Reno, although many years ago. My husband is a UNR alum.I worked at what was then Washoe Med, and rode my bike to work from Sparks, much of the route along the river.

gmh - April 19, 2010 Reply

Very cool project- I could live like this, especially since they have washers and dryers!

I love the house number on the pale green one… 975.5

deborah - April 20, 2010 Reply

Lovely! And the homeless people went where?

    Kelly Rae - April 20, 2010 Reply


    the homeless shelter had relocated 3 years prior to us acquiring the building. the city of reno built a brand new, 10 million dollar facility for the homeless. meanwhile, the firehouse was simply abandoned. when we got it, it was covered in graffiti and all the windows were broken out.


JJ Jacobs - April 20, 2010 Reply

Excellent projects — how were they received by the planning officials and did you receive any incentives from the City for these? I do commercial real estate development in Sacramento and would love to do something like this in our area….especially if there were a way to get the City on board with the idea.

    eileensc - April 22, 2010 Reply

    JJ, I’m a teacher in Sacramento and I would kill to have one of these places to rent. Lots of loft conversions downtown but I can’t afford them. I’ve dreamed about building one of my own but again, not affordable for me at this time.

Benjamin - April 20, 2010 Reply

Excellent work!

Put me on the waiting list for the Hose Tower!

june - May 18, 2010 Reply

wow!! so neat. planning on a week in reno since we are planning our relocation from ny to reno nv. we have definitely put your projects on our ‘must see’ list. keep up the great work.

Cherie Worley - June 20, 2011 Reply

Is there anywhere we can see more pictures of these cool houses’ interiors?

    Kent Griswold - June 20, 2011 Reply

    I would go to their website and contact them for more pictures.

    Christina Nellemann - June 21, 2011 Reply

    Cherie, most of the HabeRae homes are occupied by renters or owners, but Kelly and Pam might have some interior photos to share of when they were empty.

Michael Craig - October 23, 2013 Reply

Hi kelly and Pam,

I live between reno and orange county. I love your work. Would love to meet you, check out my website there may be some synergy.


Michael Craig

gloria fagundes - July 19, 2014 Reply

I am so interested in small homes,please send me info of any in reno or sparks

Dale Kirkpatrick - March 23, 2015 Reply

I am looking very seriously at buying a “tiny home” in the Reno area…does anyone out there have one for sale? If so, send me the details, asking price and photos…

rick moss - October 15, 2016 Reply

Beautiful work. I have a few questions. On the brick house for example is that considered a trailer or a perm house?
And can you tell what something like that cost outfitted like i see in the pictures? (Great Work by the way)

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