Living Large in a Tiny House

These diminutive residences are big on style, sustainability and quality of life.

Last month, I visited the Tiny House Show at Shelter Cove Park upon the invitation of promoter and builder Ben Kennedy and his partners in New South Living, Amity Perry and Steve Rambsy.

O.K., so I have a 3,000-square-foot live-work loft studio. Why would someone want a Tiny House? I wondered who would want to go to a Tiny House Show? Well, after I left the show, along with thousands of others, I had an entirely different feeling about these little jewels. Let’s look at all the reasons why people are choosing Tiny Homes.

Downsizing from an 800-square-foot apartment that costs $1,300 per month, plus utilities, to a 300-square-foot home that costs $600 per month, including land, is appealing to many folks in the Lowcountry and across the nation. Tiny Homes are affordable, with prices ranging from $20,000 to $60,000, depending on the interior finishes.

If you’re in college and live in a Tiny House, you can just about own it by the time you graduate, move it to the town of your first job, sell it or rent it out after you leave school and use the money you saved from the rent income to make a down payment on a larger home—or enjoy the extra cash. Or, you can continue to rent it out after school so that it pays for your college loan.

Many new owners have multiple Tiny Homes: one in the mountains for those fall color vacations, one in Florida for winter visits and one out west to enjoy Big Sky Country. These homes can then be rented out when they are not in use. This way, guests help cover the payments, and you get a free vacation that doesn’t cost you a nickel.

One smart couple is using a Tiny House as a mobile food truck, traveling around from festival to festival, cooking and serving out of a specially designed kitchen. It even has an outdoor snack bar under an awning. When they’re not open for business, this entrepreneurial couple travels to the next festival, hooked up to their pick-up truck. Best of all, they have their own shower, toilet and murphy bed, with all the comforts of home.

Some folks are using Tiny Homes for a getaway retreat by their lake property or as a hunting lodge in the woods. Others are using them as a guest house or mother-in-law suite in their backyard. Talk about a built-in happy babysitter for the grandkids!

I spoke to one young lady who loves her house. “With my limited amount of funds from my job and the high rent in Bluffton, I could not see how to ever get ahead, much less owning my own home,” she explained. “With the Tiny House, I’m saving money to put in the bank every month, improving my credit and building equity. I was amazed at how much junk I collected that I didn’t need!”

Another young couple mirrored the same thoughts. “We both work and are not ready to start a family yet, but want our own house later, so we can. Owning a Tiny House allows us to save for the down payment, and when we buy a house, we can rent the Tiny House for income. It makes good sense. If we find a better job in another town, we can just hook it up and move!”

As I walked through the show, I saw people from all walks of life and all ages. Some were just curious, interested in learning about Tiny Houses, but most had a genuine interest in seeing the creative use of space in the interiors.

I learned that Tiny Homes are very sustainable, making extensive use of recycled and reclaimed materials. A solar panel can heat water so you never have to pay the electric company for a drop of hot water again. Plus, Tiny Home owners can enjoy the latest technology and highest efficiency equipment in heating and cooling. The “smart” thermostat allows owners to program the system depending on the time of day or season. Plus, kitchens generally have stainless steel appliances and stone countertops.

Tiny Homes are well-built, well-insulated and environmentally sustainable. Imagine having a $40 per month electric bill—one can only wish! It’s also very cool that you can monitor security through your cell phone and not spend money on an alarm or a security service.

Once inside, you do not feel cramped. There’s no wasted space, of course, with plenty of little niches and shelves for functional storage or objects of art. Consider a comfortable sofa with storage underneath the cushions to maximize available space.

With high-fashion tile and fixtures in an oversized shower, you don’t have to worry about dropping your soap. In most cases, there are hardwood floors, which invite throwing down the right area rug to add color and warmth. In addition, there is plenty of wall space for artwork and open shelves for usable pots and vases. What looks like a desk during the day drops down and a bed folds out of the wall at night. And, like any home, you can spend much of your time outside in the yard or on the terrace.

You may remember when Ben Kennedy built a Tiny Home on May River Road a few years ago and then donated it to a flood victim family in Columbia. Ben talked about the many “villages” that have clustered Tiny Homes, with all the facilities that are needed, including common water sources and septic tanks. Open green areas outside can be used as a community vegetable garden, or an open lawn can double as a picnic or cookout area with an outdoor fire pit, playground or sculpture.

De-cluttering your life can give you a feeling of freedom. When you move, think of all the stuff you have lugged around all these years and ask yourself, “Why did I buy this?”

Tiny Homes invite you to do more with less and to simplify your life. Plus, they’re quick and easy to clean. For you folks who love to clean, I’m sorry for your loss. With a Tiny Home, you’re going to have more time to do other things.

Article By Randoph Stewart