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Just for the LOVE of it: A tiny challenge

By on September 28, 2020 in Featured Homes with 1 Comment
With all the measurements smaller in a tiny house, Lief Carlsen could easily maneuver around the building project.

By Lief Carlsen

The last thing I needed was another house — even if it was just a tiny house. 

I have a full-size house in Chelan, a house in Arizona, two guest cabins and a motorhome. No, another roof over my head was hard to justify on the grounds of need. 

Nor was I some millionaire who could afford to collect houses the way Jay Leno collects antique cars. 

The truth was, building a tiny house was something I wanted to do and I would justify it one way or another. The justification I came up with was that I would build it to sell it, maybe even start a small business building tiny houses.

With an initial budget of $10,000, I knew I would have to economize. 

Tiny houses are built on flat-bed trailers which, new, cost about $5,000 — half my budget! Clearly I’d have to work around that expense. 

My first thought was to get an old travel trailer for free or next to nothing, strip it down to the frame and axles, and start from there. As luck would have it, my brother, Hans, saved me that effort by offering me his homemade flatbed for $300. I figured I was off to a good start.

Building a tiny house is not that different from building a typical frame house; the difference being that everything is smaller — (duh!). 

On the one hand, that’s good, because I could easily maneuver all the materials by myself. On the other hand, cramming a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living/dining room into a space the size of a typical bathroom requires some serious head scratching.

A full house with sleeping loft, kitchen, bath, table is all here… just on a smaller scale.

I poked around the internet and took the best features from several different tiny homes I saw there. I bounced my ideas off Mary, my wife, and together we came up with a 16-foot by 8-foot house plan that has a full-size shower, flush toilet, sleeping loft, large kitchen counter, dining table, sitting room, air conditioner/heater — plus a wood stove.

I had a blast building it. Start to finish, it took me six weeks. In the end, I overspent my original budget by $3,000 but I got so wrapped up in “doing it right” that missing my target budget wasn’t that painful. 

The project became a sort of work of art for me in the sense that I poured all my creative juices into it and, cost overruns be damned, I wanted it to turn out the way I imagined it.

Having built the tiny house under the presumption that it would be sold, once it was finished, I put it up for sale on several internet sites. It was there for two weeks. There was considerable interest in the form of inquiries but no one wrote a check.

During that two weeks, however, a peculiar change of attitude was taking place in me. It seemed every day I would feel the need to go to where the tiny house was parked just to gaze upon it, walk around it, sit inside it, admire my handiwork. 

After two weeks of indecision I had to admit that I didn’t want to sell my creation. There was too much of me in it. I decided I would find a nice setting for it and give it a permanent home on our property, which I did.

The idea of building tiny homes for profit was still an option. 

Lief created a tiny home all ready for, well, who knows.

Mary suggested I could use my existing tiny house as a model home to show potential customers for whom I could build on demand. 

At first, that idea had appeal but the more I thought about it, the less enthusiastic I was. What I discovered about myself was that the essential part of the process for me had been in the creation, in the bringing to fruition an idea. Once I had completed it, I had no desire to do it again.

Another option that I considered was to rent the tiny house as a vacation rental. The previous year we had rented out our cabins to summer visitors to Chelan with considerable success. 

Would vacationers want to stay in a tiny house? After all, it had all the amenities of a hotel room, albeit with a little less square footage. 

In the end I nixed that idea too. The thought of strangers inhabiting my creation was not appealing. 

Again, analyzing my motivation for this option taught me something about myself. 

I had to admit that far more important than profiting from my $13,000 investment was my desire to know if other people appreciated this product of my imagination. 

If a large number of people were willing to pay to stay in my tiny house I would have the satisfaction of knowing that other people appreciated what I had built. I was simply looking for approval. My protective instinct won out. It was never listed for rent.

So what I have now is essentially an expensive indulgence, not unlike the antique cars that are lovingly restored by car buffs, never or only rarely to be driven. 

It was a labor of love that taught me several things about myself — a “tiny house in the big woods” in which no one lives but dear to my heart nonetheless. 

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  1. Rachel says:

    I want one!

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