Tiny Living – Big Benefits

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They’re called She Sheds, Granny Pods, Zen Dens … and the tiny house movement is big business. Living more simply has a lot of appeal to those wanting more “experiences” and less “keeping up with the Joneses,” and the benefits are enormous if you are interested in learning another way to live your life.  The trend has taken hold in recent years, as evidenced by the number of television shows like HGTV’s “Tiny House, Big Living,” and numerous websites and blogs, even tiny house hotels and communities, devoted to space-efficient living. But this concept is more than having a smaller space in which to reside.

Modern Tiny Living

There are two vastly different demographics that find the most appeal in living small, according to Dan Hamilton, founder of Modern Tiny Living, a building and design company for tiny homes in Columbus, Ohio – millennials and baby boomers. “Millennials are looking for a faster way out of debt while building equity and are more apt to want to spend their money on experiences instead of things,” Dan said. “Baby boomers are a generation of empty nesters looking to downsize.”

 There is no set size as to what qualifies as a tiny home, but generally speaking, something under 400 square feet would fit the definition.  Contrary to what the name might imply, tiny living is not “miniaturized” but rather scaled down and simplified to what brings the owners the greatest joy in daily living.

Tiny houses can serve several purposes and range from $20,000 up to $65,000+, depending on upgrades and options, Dan said. The millennial generation often finds traditional housing out of their budget due to college loans, so tiny homes are a great way for them to live affordably before they decide where to settle, while also paying towards an asset. Retiring baby boomers often use tiny houses as guest homes or extra bedrooms on their property, as rentals to generate income, as office or business space, or as small vacation homes.

If a tiny home has wheels, it can be parked anywhere an RV is accepted, and moved when the owner wants to try new scenery, plus it feels more like a “real house.” If you are looking for a more permanent structure, homes can be placed on a foundation like a regular house with a septic system, water and electric. Whether a tiny house is simplistic or tricked out like a high-end RV, it is often built with better quality materials, appliances and insulation presently used in homes and rentals. Before placing a tiny house anywhere, Dan advises checking the area’s zoning laws.

Tiny houses can serve a variety of purposes for owners. 
Tiny homes on wheels can go anywhere RVs are accepted. 

Little Cabin in the Woods

Retirees Dave and Deborah Ward own a tiny log house in Marietta, Ohio, that is often called “charming” by the frequent visitors to their bonus home. Deborah always wanted to own a log cabin so when they saw a tiny one at a sportsman show a few years ago, it planted a seed.  “I am the one with most of the ideas,” Deborah laughed. “He makes them happen.”

The couple married later in life, so they each had a home – his in Beaver, Pennsylvania, and hers in Dalton, Ohio, where she owned horses her entire life. A few years ago, Deborah’s dream came true when they purchased a tiny log home from an Amish builder in Ohio and had it placed on Dave’s property in Marietta, where he grew up. Since they divide their time between homes, the small house fit their needs. Their three horses – Jake, Pistol Pete, and Hoss – and a pony, Snickers, go with them between Deborah’s farm and their Marietta place. A small pre-constructed barn equipped with underground electric and city water also sets on their 45 acres. “Some people call this a play house,” Dave laughed, “We call it our little mini ranch.”

Measuring just over 300 square feet, the western motif pine cabin features solid wood tongue and groove 2×6 construction with rubber between each log, cedar beams in the living area and a metal roof. With no ceiling insulation to act as a buffer, the couple enjoys listening to the rhythmic sound of rain of the roof. “It sounds like a drum,” Dave said. “The closest most people come to experiencing that is when it rains and they are sitting in a car.”

One frequent comment Dave and Deborah hear is, “Wow, you could actually live in here. It looks a lot bigger inside.” In order to keep a small home neat, Deborah said, “Everything has to have a place, and everything has to be in its place.” She is able to cook as she would at their other homes, even without an oven, making use of a roaster, crock pot, hot plate, and electric skillet. “She can even make cakes here!” Dave said. The home is not heated but stays toasty during colder months by use of a small electric fireplace and a space heater, and they use electric blankets if it gets very cold.

Finding creative storage solutions is as important as paring down to what is essential in a small home. Dave and Deborah use large pull-out drawers under the bed and make use of every surface. The wooden ladder leading up to the open area above the bathroom (which they use for storage) holds DVDs and books to keep them entertained on rainy days. They added an additional cabinet in the kitchen and Dave built some corner shelves in the living area. They converted a screened porch into a mudroom for boots and coats, which also allows them to have room for a full-size refrigerator.

"Everything has to have a place, and everything has to be in its place."

Creative storage solutions help tiny homeowners make the most of their space.

If you think a tiny home is too small for entertaining, think again. The cabin can sleep five comfortably on the “stacked” queen, double and single bed areas.  There is also outside hookup for an RV and plenty of room for tents if more guests arrive. “We love to have company,” Deborah said. “This place is for us but we like for people to come and enjoy it with us.”

The couple also has a great space overlooking the woods with a roomy deck, which Dave designed and built – a good tip for small home owners to extend their living area into the outdoors. Guests and grandkids can find plenty to do there with trails for hiking and horseback riding, a fire ring for cookouts, and a large hammock for relaxing or reading a book.

“Our lifestyle is mostly outdoors,” Dave said. “When our ‘city folks’ friends come to visit, this place gives them a break. They love the tranquility, the solitude, and it’s very therapeutic.”

Convert a Shed

Another alternative to purchasing a tiny home is to convert an existing structure, like an outbuilding or storage shed, into a new small space. Whether you already have a building on your property or if you purchase a prefab shed, the cost can be minimized by using reclaimed building materials or fixtures from a Habitat ReStore.

When revamping another structure, consider adding a skylight to brighten up your tiny house.  Add a porch to extend your space into the outdoors, like Dave and Deborah did. Look for dual purpose features and multi-functional furniture to outfit your new tiny space, making use of every possible spot for storage.

Ideas for converting a shed are just a click away on Pinterest – you will find everything from building plans to clever storage solutions to decorating tips. The Tumbleweed DIY Book of Backyard Sheds and Tiny Houses also offers ideas, drawings and extensive how-to’s for six Tumbleweed box bungalows.

Creating a space for a retreat, an additional bedroom, a music room, an art studio or a craft workshop can be a dream come true for many. The older we get, we often feel the urge to let go of so many “things” that no longer seem important, so a tiny house can be the perfect “downsize” for some. A small home or shed can serve as a backup plan, a vacation spot or a source of income for others. Some may want to make a smaller environmental impact or get back to nature. Whatever your motivation to “go tiny,” young and old are seeing the value in having more freedom to do the things they enjoy and the living smaller philosophy allows them to make a shorter list of what is truly important to their quality of life.

For more information on tiny homes and tiny home living, visit moderntinyliving.com

To read about a college student's idea of tiny living, read another blog from Woodcraft - Tarzan's Tiny House Adventures.

Your local Woodcraft store can assist with all the tools and supplies you may need for building, renovating or maintaining a tiny home. Stop in and chat with our associates – they may have ideas you haven’t thought of! 

We hope you’ll be inspired!

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