They ditched a 5,000-square-foot home for something much, much smaller.
ByKimberley Mok Kimberley MokWriter
Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007.
Learn about our editorial processPublished April 13, 2022 02:00PM EDTFact checked byKatherine Martinko Fact checked byKatherine Martinko
Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto.
Learn about our fact checking processNews
The stereotypical view of tiny houses is that it's usually people of younger generations who are building, buying, and living in them, since conventional housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable and out of reach for first-time homebuyers.
But go deeper past these stereotypes, and one will see that there is also a good number of people from older (and likely wiser) generations who are also consciously downsizing and deliberately choosing to go tiny. They might be retirees, widows and widowers, individuals with reduced mobility, or perhaps empty nesters who are looking to break out of the box of social conformity, and who are opting for tiny living because they are genuinely concerned about the state of the planet's health.
Julia and Robert are one such older couple who recently decided to ditch their enormous 5,000-square-foot (465 square meters) home for a 300-square-foot (28-square-meter) tiny house they built with their own two hands. It's a remarkable transition, and their home is full of clever design ideas that make it truly their own, as seen here in this video tour via Tiny House Giant Journey:
The couple became interested in tiny houses a few years ago after seeing some tiny home tours online. Intrigued, and wanting a change from their high-maintenance, suburban lifestyle as new empty nesters, they began to do extensive research into the subject, as well as eventually taking a tiny home building course.
As Robert explains in the video, the social pressure around them to "keep up" was strong, and some people did not understand why the couple chose to go down this new path:
"There were definitely people who were questioning the motives of 'why would you do this?' And to them, it was a downgrade. They couldn't see the benefit of it. They only saw the negatives of going from large to small. [But because we wanted to travel], that was one of the key reasons we chose to do a tiny house versus some of the other alternatives. Yes, this tiny home is on the upper end, but [to us] there has been absolutely no compromise."
The tiny home is built out of a steel structural frame and uses a gooseneck trailer as a base, which is more stable and easier to handle on the road.
The roof features plenty of solar panels, which are hooked up to the equivalent of two Tesla Powerwalls. There is a small roof deck here, too, where the couple can sit and enjoy the view.
Inside, the central zone of the home is allocated for the kitchen, as the couple loves to entertain and have guests over.
During good weather, the interior of the home can spill out to the exterior, thanks to the home's large set of folding glass patio doors and windows, which transform part of the kitchen counter into a garden bar, when the modular exterior deck is assembled outside.
The kitchen is Julia's pride and joy and is equipped with all the things she needs to bake and cook. There's a four-burner gas stove, a full-sized dishwasher, a mini-refrigerator, a steam oven, a slide-out "baking station" and "coffee station", a sink, and slide-out vertical pantry shelves that maximize space.
There is also a slide-out vertical drawer for storing a folding ladder, perfect for grabbing those things that are higher up.
Julia also bakes pizzas and bread in the compact wood stove, which is also the main source of heat for the home.
Near the kitchen, we have an area that functions both as Robert's standing desk and work area, with this large monitor serving as part of his computer setup.
Amazingly, with the flipping around of his keyboard table, and the addition of a support leg, it transforms into a counter for guests to chat and sip drinks.
In addition, the monitor is mounted to an adjustable arm that allows it to move up and down, and turn around, so it can be used as a television screen in both the lounge and up in the bedroom.
The half-flight of stairs that go up to the lounge have an ingenious secret hidden within: It's the place where the home's batteries are stored!
Going up the stairs, we are now in the multipurpose lounge, which has a height-adjustable table, allowing the couple to have guests sit down for dinner, or when it's lowered, can be modified to become a guest bed.
On the other side of the home, past the kitchen, we have the bathroom, which has a shower that Julia made herself. Besides this, we have the washer and dryer and a composting toilet which sits in an enclosed room.
Above the bathroom, and up the lovely stairs that curve up, we have the bedroom. Cross ventilation is maximized here with the windows, and the couple has made sure to integrate lots of storage in the cabinets and in the underfloor cubbies.
The couple uses a converted Volvo 780 semi as their tow vehicle and uses an electric Smart car to move around when they are stationed somewhere.
While this setup may seem excessive to some, it's important to see these things in perspective, and in relation to the couple's previous lifestyle, which they characterized as much more "wasteful and extravagant." If one crunches the numbers, it's likely that the year-round carbon impact of heating and cooling a 5,000-square-foot home (and the suburban lifestyle that goes with it) would be much greater than this solar-powered tiny house, towed by a truck.
In total, the couple estimates that they spent $125,000 on materials and equipment for their tiny house, in addition to their own labor to build it. Ultimately, Julia and Robert's story shows that the act of downsizing itself matters—and whether it's into a simpler, smaller house, or into more of an energy-efficient but deluxe domain, it doesn't matter—the point is to just do it.
To see more, visit Tiny Living Living Large.