story by Janice Henshaw | photography by Nunn Other Photography –
Can you imagine living in a space that is 30 feet long and 8.5 feet wide – approximately 350 square feet? Try measuring it out somewhere in your home or outside on the lawn to get a good idea of what a tiny home of that size feels like. Add in some cabinets, a bathroom and a kitchen, all of which take up floor space. Start deciding what possessions you would have to give up to fit into that space. Perhaps the big screen TV(s)? The treadmill? Your walls of books? Your favourite kitchen appliances? And how about … your shoes?
Are you starting to feel free – and excited – about losing the weight of “things” and possessions? Or are you shaking your head with relief that it’s just a thought experiment and repeating, “No way, no way!” Are you wondering why on earth anyone would want to make those choices?
Well, for Amy and Craig, the situation was like this: they are recent university graduates and fully employed; Amy works for the Department of Defence and Craig works as a two-way radio technician, you may see him climbing 200-foot high communications towers for repairs. As enthusiastic soccer players, they love running, hiking and green spaces, but living in a 500-square-foot rental apartment in downtown Victoria meant they were surrounded by buildings, city noise, couldn’t have pets, and they had to drive anytime they wanted to go hiking. Amy and Craig started to explore alternative housing options and fell in love with the idea of building a tiny house. They could afford it if they built the home on their family’s rural property. Did they have the experience to build a home? “No,” says Craig. “My grandpa was a shipwright and he taught me a lot, but I had only built some tables.”
Amy and Craig went ahead with the project, adhering to provincial building requirements while knowing that current bylaws in most areas prohibit the occupancy of tiny homes. With soaring house prices and scarce rental availability, however, they are hoping that perhaps bylaws will one day be changed to allow the use of tiny homes as a reasonable and creative option for built-out cities and rural areas. And its not just tiny home residents who could benefit: for homeowners struggling with mortgage payments, renting out space on their property to tiny home dwellers could help alleviate their financial stress.
Amy and Craig spent a lot of time in the design phase, incorporating what they liked in other tiny homes in their own design. They walked through a 24-foot tiny home which was a fortunate experience because they knew right away that it wasn’t big enough for them. “You can’t do too much research,” says Amy. “There are tons of tiny homes online, which is very convenient. We watched videos and checked out how to do things every step of the way. It’s great to hear about mistakes instead of making them yourselves.”
To provide a base for their home, Amy and Craig purchased a new $10,000, 30-foot triple axle trailer and began construction. The most challenging part of the building process for them was finding time to do all the work. They worked weekends and evenings starting in February and, nearly finished, they moved in nine months later. The total cost for their tiny home, including the trailer, was $57,000.
The outside of the home is very attractive, finished in blue vertical board-and-batten siding, cedar window trim and stained cedar shakes. The roof is a combination of metal and torch on asphalt. The central living area has a vaulted ceiling with two skylights that rises to almost 11 feet, creating an interesting roof profile and a more spacious feeling inside.
Adding to that feeling of lightness are white walls and multiple windows, which look attractive trimmed in stained cedar. Small fir beams and live edge shelving add darker accents. At each end, there is a loft, one for storage, and one for the bedroom. The loft ceiling height is 3.5 feet, which sounds low, but windows and two large skylights over the bed dispel that feeling as they open up to the sky. A queen mattress has storage room all around.
Luckily they have friends in all the trades; Angus Hayman (Oak and Arrow Construction) led them through the framing and structural portion and Josh Menzies (Menzies Plumbing & Heating) took on the plumbing and heating components. Amy says they splurged on the white farmhouse sink for the kitchen and it looks great with custom-made cabinets that were built by Wayne Hennessy (Hennessy Millworks). Painted in Sherwin Williams’ Riverway, they are a rich contrast to the Carrara Bianca-Formica Laminate countertops. For cooking, there is a good-sized electric stove with an oven as well as a barbecue mounted outside on a covered deck. Adding a festive air are mini party lights that change colour and plants that are mounted in a metal ceiling trellis.
The house has a bathroom, including a shower, and beside it is a walk-in storage closet. On the other side of the kitchen the living space has a built-in couch with storage underneath and a side storage cubby. An electric fireplace in the living room adds to the ambience in winter. The large window by the main door swings open from the top so that its surface can be used as a food and beverage bar. Flooring is Russet Meadow Hickory Laminate.
Now that their tiny home is almost finished, Amy and Craig look back and realize that at the start they really didn’t know how this project was going to turn out, but both agree that it has exceeded their expectations. Amy says she found the work rewarding and she is very proud of their “comfy nest.” Craig says: “It was a really fun project and we have learned a lot.” With green space all around them, they now have more time to enjoy running and playing with their energetic new Vizsla puppy named Murphy, and to dream about their next project.
Note: If you are contemplating building a tiny home visit the building codes department in your area to determine the legal requirements. In many areas, tiny homes are not yet permitted.