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Upgrading by downsizing

By on December 28, 2020 in Featured Homes with 0 Comments
With two lofts, one at each end, tiny house owner Rudy Herrera has the flexibility to use the second one for storage or for a second bedroom. The peaked roof adds dimension, and its rustic board ceiling complements the easy-care engineered wood flooring.

Builder believes tiny homes have large variety of  uses

By Susan Lagsdin

If 2020 was the year of staying home more than we ever intended, then 2021 might be the year of more intentionally choosing what we want our home to be.

Attention has turned to tiny houses (defined broadly as a habitable residence from 120 to 400 square feet in area) as singles and seniors, couples and families are calculating what’s nice versus what’s necessary.

Cosme Hernandez is the CEO of Wenatchee’s Tiny House Cribs and a strong advocate of upgrading by downsizing. 

In the past three years, with other Washington builders, he’s testified to state legislators and helped determine laws to guide the industry, and he’s still laboring to keep tiny houses affordable within the latest 2019 zoning and building code regulations.

Coming from migrant roots, Cosme was an ambitious student but left college his senior year to scope out the world of work and find mentors. “Choosing role models when you’re looking at a career is like going to the gym,” said Cosme. “You see the guy who’s ripped and ask him what he did to get there….” 

He settled on housing and said his two strongest motivators are to provide homes for people, in any form, and to help his family both here and back in California.

A comfy  corner with an antique clock, a reading lamp and a warm traditional style fireplace doesn’t mimic a real house – this is a real house. Rudy’s choice of accessories leaves him room to display favorite photos, mementos and a collection of steins.

An agile entrepreneur at 28, Cosme collaborates on projects that range from fabricating trailer chassis to full-scale home construction. Currently he’s planning a small home (1,250 square foot) development in East Wenatchee in which some of the 13 main houses would have a tiny home as an accessory development unit (ADU) on the site.

He’s eager to talk about the uses of a tiny house besides full-time living: a vacation retreat, an office or studio, a guest cottage, a “mother-in-law” (or adult child, or caretaker) space, a short-term rental unit, even an emergency second home after a disaster like a flood or wildfire.

Before you meet an actual tiny house owner, here are some myth-busters.

Everything inside is diminutive: Tiny sink, tiny stove, tiny toilet, tiny bed, tiny table, tiny couch… Nope. Any of those precious items of daily living can be full size. 

They probably should not all be full size, or you’d eat up the floor space, but a surprising amount of comfort can be found in judicious choices. 

Will a queen bed do? Does a fold-up dining table suit you? Will you trade a slightly smaller shower for a wide-body toilet? All-in-one washer/dryer combos and big flatscreen TVs sweeten the mix, as does boat-style storage in unexpected places.

It looks like an elf houses on the exterior: “Cute” is often the operative term when, for instance, cedar shingle siding meets paned window and green shutters with shamrock cutouts. 

Though a long rectangle is the typical footprint, the materials, color, door and roofline detail — just as with stick-built homes of any size — can create many different looks from a sleek metallic cube to a half-timbered Tudor, a log cabin or an adobe-look casita.

Take it on all your vacations: The trailer base and wheels that you see on a tiny house, whether on the highway or on a permanent lot, were probably intended for transport to the site and don’t automatically make it a travel trailer. 

There’s no need to forego stylish design elements, like the tile, cabinetry and beams in this roomy bathroom. Most tiny homes give a choice of a shower/tub combo or a walk-in shower. Baskets and hooks keep the look spacious.

The materials, appliances and accessories that favor a permanent residence don’t necessarily lend themselves to rapid long-haul travel. 

Frequent weekend trips on the highway to the ocean or across mountain passes to a wilderness destination need a lighter camping vehicle.

Fill it full-time with a full-size family: A tiny home (typical maximum is 10 feet by 40 feet) whether it has its wheels on or not, and which meets specific zoning and building codes, can be a permanent home. 

But consider your present belongings (like kitchen ware, sporting gear, clothing, bedding, books, toys, artwork, knick-knacks, antiques, collections) your hobbies, the kids, the dogs and your love of hosting dinner parties before you succumb to the temptation to sell it all and go small.

Cosme Hernandez, CEO of Tiny House Cribs, is a strong advocate for home ownership. He works with other designers and builders on a wide variety of local projects from do-it-yourself to developments. Photo by Mike Irwin

Two years ago, Rudy Herrera purchased a 221-square-foot residence from Tiny House Cribs for $75,000, and he continues to live comfortably in it. 

Downsizing came easily to him. At 80, he’s single, he’s healthy, his five adult children are doing well, and his active, independent life includes part-time work and skiing at Mission Ridge. 

A video on the Tiny House Cribs website shows his home with full-sized appliances and fixtures, still-unfilled storage space and plenty of walking about and elbow room.

Rudy initially placed the home on a golf course lot in Quincy (with, he shows in the video, “My tiny shed and my tiny cars, a Mini-Cooper and Ford Ranger.”) 

Just this December he moved it to a different site in Ephrata, and the relatively simple portability of his full-time home proved its worth. 

Tiny homes may not be the tsunami of future housing, but they’re causing ripples in the market, judging from dozens of online sources and TV features. 

If this is an intriguing option for fulltime or flexible housing and you want to look locally, you’ll find more designs, as well as updates on regulations, on the Tiny House Cribs website.

Cosme’s a convert of efficient home production — it’s his passion and his livelihood. 

As for Rudy Herrera’s advice to undecided tiny house lookers? It’s encouraging: “Don’t be afraid of ’em. They’re a lot less worry, a lot less maintenance. Tiny house living is really going to simplify your life — you’ll love it.”

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