As a minimalist with an interest in sustainability, excited by the challenge of living in small spaces with a fear of geographical commitment, you could say I’m an ideal candidate for the tiny home lifestyle. But this wasn’t always the case.
Living in a space more than eight times smaller than the average American home didn’t appeal to me until I moved to Washington, D.C. in 2010, where the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment was roughly $2,000 per month. In that market, my budget afforded me a studio apartment with less than 300 square feet. To my surprise, I found that not only could I tolerate life in a micro dwelling, but I liked it. The dramatic purging of my belongings ultimately led to a feeling of liberation, not deprivation.
When I stumbled upon the tiny house movement in 2012, I was smitten by the thought of designing my own miniature abode on wheels. At the time, it seemed little more than a romantic idea–fun to ponder while living vicariously through others’ blogs that chronicled their tiny home journeys.
In 2014, I left the congested Northeast for the comparatively wide open spaces of Central Texas. Even so, rent isn’t cheap in a city with a 95 percent occupancy rate. No longer content with daydreaming about my tiny home, I’m making real strides toward pint-sized living.
Recently, I set out to find those living the dream first-hand, in hopes of gaining knowledge to achieve my own dreams. Here are three Austin tiny home owners who have minimized their space in the interest of maximizing their freedom, in one way or another.
Larry “Roly” Rolon: 260 Square Feet
Larry “Roly” Rolon is a Renaissance man: artist, actor, surfer and lover of all things repurposed. For Rolon, living tiny means living creatively and, in doing so, enhancing the planet. “I didn’t see the need for a big house,” Rolon said. “It’s about leaving a smaller [ecological] footprint.” With that in mind, he purchased a tiny home designed and built by TexZen Tiny Home Co.
For the tiny home seeker who isn’t drawn to manual labor, or for those who want to procure financing via an RV loan, TexZen Tiny Home Co. is an option. All of their homes are RVIA certified and constructed using residential quality materials.
Rolon’s home features granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and a stackable washer and dryer. At a price tag of just under $70,000, his monthly mortgage payment is $1,000 per month. This amount may come as sticker shock to some, but consider this: Rolon will own his home free and clear in less than 5 years.
Ryan Adams: 190 Square Feet
A natural craftsman and graduate of The University of Texas Design School, Ryan Adams possesses the skills necessary to design and construct a tiny home from the trailer up. One year, $15,000 and 200 days of labor later, he and wife Robin have a home to call their own.
With no monthly mortgage payment and the freedom to pick up and leave when the desire for a change of scenery beckons, this couple is confident they made the right decision in choosing to live tiny. But maintaining a relationship in a small space isn’t without its unique challenges. As Robin put it, “Since there is no separation of physical space, open communication and respecting the other person’s need for alone time is key.”
Nearly all of the materials Adams used to build the couple’s home are recycled, including much of the interior wood which is salvaged pine from Bastrop, TX. Since natural light is of utmost importance in any space, Adams designed the home around windows he was able to find on Craigslist and through other reclaimed sources. Now that he has finished building his own home, Adams is offering design, construction and consulting services to other tiny home hopefuls.
Lori Kline: 120 Square Feet
With the help of her father, Lori Kline built her tiny home from steel rather than wood, citing that steel is stronger, lighter and basically indestructible. The cost of building materials (no labor) came to somewhere between $35-40,000 and Kline owns her home outright. She refers to the style of her tiny home as “industrial retro.”
A typical tiny home weighs between 10-12,000 pounds. Kline’s home, currently for sale, weighs a total of 6,000 pounds and includes custom, self-locking cabinets, making it easy to pick up and move when the mood strikes.
The money she would normally spend on a mortgage is being saved toward her retirement. With more than 47 countries already under her travel belt, she aspires to see as much of planet Earth as humanly possible. When asked what she likes most about living in a tiny home, Kline told me, “I feel free not being tied to a bunch of stuff and I like that I’m out of the real estate game.”
@theAustinot wants to know:
How tiny would you be willing to go?