Gallery: Meet the Tiny House Family Who Built an Amazing Mini Home for ...

INHABITAT: Leonardo Da Vinci said "Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it." Do you believe that to be true? Hari: I know that small rooms/dwellings discipline the mind, and in my case, a larger dwelling did weaken my Through

INHABITAT: Leonardo Da Vinci said "Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it." Do you believe that to be true?

Hari: I know that small rooms/dwellings discipline the mind, and in my case, a larger dwelling did weaken my discipline. Through the creative confines of a small space, the mind has to work out a puzzle, which is certainly a discipline— especially when living tiny with a family. Everything has its space, and it has to be put away. It forces me to stay present with each moment. I wrote about how the tiny house has disciplined me in Digging Rocks and Tiny House Reforms a Messy Housekeeper.

INHABITAT: Can you tell us a little bit about the Tiny House Family‘s home and its features?

Hari: Our tiny home is 8’ x 21’ with a full loft. The loft has 3’ of head space. We built two separate lofts for a bit of privacy. There are areas of the house dedicated to office, living, dining, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and wardrobe. Appliances and fixtures include a 12 gallon hot water heater under the kitchen counter, an apartment-sized range, a large hood (which vents the house in minutes), an under-counter refrigerator, a built-in couch and shoe bench (both of which open up for storage), a toilet, a shower, a hand sink and a kitchen sink. Each family member has his/her own cabinet for clothing. The windows and full-light door help bring lots of natural light inside making a connection to the outdoors.

INHABITAT: What made your family decide to build your tiny home?

Hari: It fit into our long-term plan to build a small mortgage-free homestead. After saving for and buying the land, the well and septic, and putting in a driveway, we weren’t left with a lot of money. We were also still in Florida, but we wanted to start building. Building on a flatbed trailer made it possible to start building while still in Florida. It was also possible to build to completion even with our small grubstake. Building tiny also made it easy to find salvaged/overstock/leftover construction materials. When you only need 12 sq. feet of tile, and 100 sq. ft. of flooring, it’s easy to find deals.

INHABITAT: How much did the home cost and how did you keep prices down?

Hari: $12,000. We kept costs down by salvaging, using Craigslist and doing all of the labor ourselves.

INHABITAT: Were any recycled or salvaged materials used to build the home?

Hari: Yes. We first found the trailer, an old mobile home trailer. The kitchen sink came out of a remodel—our neighbor donated it. The shower stall has been sitting in another neighbor’s garage for years. We salvaged the oak for the interior from a local home being demolished. The lights, refrigerator, fabric, are recycled from our former restaurant. We found the framing material, insulation, stove, windows, flooring, on craigslist. I wrote this blog post about the stories behind our salvaging/recycling adventures.

INHABITAT: Leonardo Da Vinci said “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.” Do you believe that to be true?

Hari: I know that small rooms/dwellings discipline the mind, and in my case, a larger dwelling did weaken my discipline. Through the creative confines of a small space, the mind has to work out a puzzle, which is certainly a discipline— especially when living tiny with a family. Everything has its space, and it has to be put away. It forces me to stay present with each moment. I wrote about how the tiny house has disciplined me in Digging Rocks and Tiny House Reforms a Messy Housekeeper.

There is also the discipline of communicating effectively, which goes far beyond stuff. When our family is in harmony, there seems to be much more space. Our relationships have been discipline by the space. We breathe deeply (try to) before reacting, and remember that our moods can clutter the space just like stuff.

INHABITAT: What is your favorite part of the house?

Hari: I love our kitchen with its simple tile/wood back splash, wood counters and shelves. I also enjoy having two small windows next to the sink. Having the items we use everyday on display makes me happy. We put most of our herbs and spices in canning jars and the flour and other grains are in clear containers—the apartment sized range fits the scale and performs the job perfectly. I love the floor to ceiling 4” shelving in the kitchen. It holds all of our glasses, mugs, small dishes and wine bottles. It also makes it easy to purge. Sometimes, I sit on the couch and notice something we haven’t used in a while. It ends up at our local thrift store. We put a restaurant ticket rail up to display the kids’ artwork. The pantry cabinet hides the unattractive pantry stuff; we also use the inside of the door to hang our family calendar. The glass-front bottle cooler from our restaurant works well as our only refrigerator. We don’t have a freezer.

INHABITAT: Do you ever feel cramped living in your small home?

Hari: On cold or rainy days, our house shrinks. With the option of going outside for space removed, I do feel cramped. I feel cramped when I am trying to write and the kids are playing with the dog and asking me questions. But, we’ve gotten used to it after living here for a year. When I feel cramped, I am fighting against what is happening in the moment. If I am edgy and needing space, I need to bundle up and go outside or climb up into my loft with a book. Sometimes, it means I just have to stop writing, put away the laundry, the dining room, pick up the dishes, put away the toys and 15 minutes later, I have my space back. The key to not feeling crammed is staying present – and putting things away!

INHABITAT: Do you have any advice for people who want to emulate you and live small?

Hari: For folks wanting to emulate us and live small, the first step is deciding and committing to a new lifestyle. Then start paring down your possessions. Wardrobes need to be minimal. Everything needs to serve at least 2 purposes, or it goes.

Design your space around the regular activities in your life. We knew we needed a full kitchen because Karl is a chef and we have a big garden. We live in a rural area and cook almost all of our meals at home. So, in our tiny house, a lot of space is dedicated to the kitchen.

Make sure you go with your gut, and don’t compromise on fixtures or facilities. It was important to me to have a hand sink in the bathroom, even though there is a kitchen sink right across the way. It was a challenge to find a sink to fit between the shower and the toilet, especially since we were trying to salvage everything. We ended up buying the sink new because it is a specialty item. When I am brushing my teeth in the bathroom, and there is a sink full of dishes in the kitchen, I’m really glad I didn’t compromise on the bathroom sink.

Figure out how to organize all of your stuff so that the every day things become the decorations. I like using clear canning jars to contain items. We can see the items, we know where everything is at a glance, yet it is contained and doesn’t look cluttery. I love shallow shelves! We can see everything and nothing gets shoved in the back of a cabinet and forgotten.

Be ready to step out of the consumer culture. There is no where to put extra stuff!

If you have a partner or family, be ready for an inward adventure and practice asking for what you need with respect. Practice finding your space within. When our son, Archer, was in his social emotional music class, his teacher shared a sweet story: She had a whole first grade class laying on the floor and listening to a chime ring until it got silent. When it stopped, she asked the kids what they noticed. Archer said, “I feel a lot of space.” I felt proud hearing his teacher tell me this story.

Build a shed to house recreational gear, extra food (in our case, we can a lot of food from our garden) and your washer/dryer.

Make sure your have some outdoor living space. We use our deck a lot! In nice weather, it is our living room. We even have a fire pit for cold months. Stainless steel prep tables (salvaged from a burned down restaurant) are a fabulous way to bring food prep and buffets outside.

Be sure everyone in your family is committed to the adventure and be clear about why you are doing it.

Celebrate your achievements! For us, the difficult times are a bit easier when we celebrate that we are living mortgage-free, with a small environmental footprint—our mission from the start! Every now and then, especially when I’m feeling cramped or Karl is wishing we were further along, we stop and remind ourselves: We have a lovely three acres of land in one of our favorite places, the Blue Ridge Mountains. We live on our land with a well full of pure, delicious water, we have a septic and we don’t owe money on any of it!

INHABITAT: What are the next steps for the Tiny House Family?

Hari: We are going to break ground on the first phase of our small home this summer. We are constructing a 16’ x 24’ main house which will include a loft, kitchen, bathroom and living room. Eventually, we will add two wings for the bedrooms. When the entire house is complete, it will be around 1,000 square feet. The tiny house will become guest/office space.

+ Tiny House Family


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  1. Craig Schaffer May 12, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    i hope i can have one like that someday…looks so peaceful

  2. Tom Rose March 10, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I plan to move to a small house and after looking at many tiny house websites for some ideas, I must say that your house was the most realistic I’ve seen. Many websites had these crazy houses that were obviously staged to make the space look bigger than they were. They must have thrown just about everything they own into the back yard before taking pictures. So, I give you credit for snapping the photos as life really is. Well Done!

  3. Katherine Compton November 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I love your tiny home! But I am worried about that tree off your deck. It looks like an Empress Tree and if so, you may want to pull it out of there immediately! I say this as I live in an apartment complex built back in the early 70\\\’s, with many of these trees. Slowly they have had to be replaced at often quite a cost as their roots go straight to any nearby plumbing, breaking through and causing many expensive hassles. Yes they do grow into great big beautiful shade trees, but even upon chopping down the wood is useless as when it dries it just crumbles, no using to build with nor burn. In the fall they drop inch plus seed pod clusters and very large leaves. A maple or fruit bearing tree may be better. I just don\\\’t want to see you dealing with such a major hassle.

  4. John Zerbiak August 7, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Great Story! I built one for about 12k too using this guide it helped me with design and budget. I highly suggest it.

  5. donnamcgjomo April 21, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I keep coming back to the idea of building and living in a small home. Three bedrooms and all that go with it is just too much at this stage in life. On the other hand I’m way old enough to want to throw out all my creature comforts.
    Best of luck to you and your family.

  6. Tim Helmer March 14, 2014 at 4:06 am

    Well done, hey it’s small even by Japanese standards but I like the finish you put on the interior. You’ve proved that good things really do come in small packages. This is the future of human habitation on our Earth. It’s a very frugal use of resources but you’re all smiling so what really is the cost? Thanks for the look (at my future). 😉

  7. mo0oz37 December 17, 2013 at 4:28 am

    i am sara i am from america i am 11 years old and i want to do a smallwood house with my friends we want to made it of our salf and we want to now a good place to do a smallwood house to set inside it and play with out bathroom and foodroom an thank you

  8. Michelle Cammilleri September 5, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I love it! It’s awesome to see the success of your plan as it unfolds!

  9. Holly Goodhead June 19, 2013 at 11:49 am

    If Mayor Bloomberg would let me I’d put tiny houses on every rooftop in Manhattan for affordable housing. 450 sq.ft. is about the size of an average 1bdroom in NYC. I raised 4 teenagers and 2 babies in one. BUT we had the entire city at our fingertips so if someone wanted to escape they could just go to the stairwell or the roof – or in my case the corner coffee shop.

  10. AnthonyRizzo October 5, 2012 at 10:31 am

    This family of 4 has 2 youngish children and while admirable to see a family of more than 1 or 2 living in a tiny dwelling I am curious to know if a family of 5 or 6 with teenage children could make a go of a similar dwelling and if so what kind of configuration would be necessary to create private space for all family members. I imagine bunk bed nooks with sliding French frosted glass doors on each level for privacy would probably work well especially if the nooks have a couple of built in shelves and a bedside accessible nightlight. By the way, brilliant job on the use of salvaged material. It looks very warm and inviting.

  11. Natkarch September 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I bet Archer will be a talanted architect

  12. SarahMars August 1, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I honestly think this is fabulous! Where I live, I see these ridiculously sized homes that make my toes curl, and not in a good way. What is the need for these monster homes? I give this family a kudos! I hope more and more people will realize just how much more efficient this is!

  13. tinylover July 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I love this article, and I love this family’s bravery for embracing what most of North America thinks is an embarrassment. I agree with the comment about Hong Kong and the rest of the world – this space is a palace to most of the people on the planet. Plumbing? Heat? Waterproof? Safe?? Shame on us.

  14. carleyLHK June 27, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    This maybe unusual in the USA but the average flat size in Hong Kong is just over 450 sq feet. With many flats for entire families being well below that. Traveling makes me reflect the size of homes people think is necessary, normal and expected is really created by culture not facts.

    Good to see the benefits of efficiency and having a light impact being taken up by this family!

  15. handson May 31, 2012 at 3:50 am

    I had a 16×24 cabin on 5acres until the downturn. Your place looks great. Congratulations on living mortgage free!

  16. tmoon May 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    The plant in image 5.. is it a sunflower or a young Paulownia tree? If it is Paulownia, they are highly invasive in the Southeastern U.S. Please look up information on it and remove it to maintain your area’s native habitat.

    ~~ lovely home, by the way, hoping to do something similar! ~~

  17. teacher2 May 2, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for sharing this story!

  18. bushdame May 1, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Neither the photos nor the story are loading, it would be great to see and read this inspirational story….thanks!

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