Two Iowan college students built a tiny home for just $489—a fraction of the cost of the average U.S. monthly mortgage. Despite having no prior construction experience, Central College seniors and environmental science majors Amy Andrews and Ethan Van Kooten successfully designed and built this “little house on the prairie” that fits the comforts of home in just 260 square feet of space. The cozy, one-room house is located in the Midwestern town of Pella and was built largely from reclaimed, landfill-bound materials.
According to The Des Moines Register, Andrews and Van Kooten were inspired to build a tiny house for their senior school project after a class trip to Costa Rica, where they were housed in small, solar-powered dwellings. Where the two students lacked in money—the typical tiny house costs $10,000—they made up with hard work and their DIY farmer mindsets. The duo started with a decrepit old granary found on Van Kooten’s family farm that they fixed up and fortified with fiberglass insulation for the roof, as well as foam wall insulation pulled from a dumpster.
Andrews and Van Kooten sourced the majority of their other materials and furnishings from donations, leftovers on the Van Kooten farm, and local structures slated for demolition. The 80-square-foot bedroom loft was made from an old hog feeder and made accessible via a ladder taken from an old deer stand. Battery-powered wall lights and a candle chandelier provide lighting for the vaulted indoor space. Supported by helpful advice from family and the Iowan community, the students completed the tiny home after spending 500 hours of hard labor; half of the $489 tiny home cost was spent on plywood for the ceiling and wood stove piping materials.
Due to the tight budget, Andrews and Van Kooten weren’t able to add everything they wanted to their small dwelling. The tiny home still lacks a water source and an indoor composting toilet. However, the students have plans to add a six-foot porch, solar panels, and a gravity-fed rain barrel system. The home is currently built on skids and located on Van Kooten’s father’s land.
Images via Central College Facebook Page