We came across the idea of tiny home living when we couldn’t find a place we were excited about living in. We had been looking at a few different houses in the Atlanta area, but we were unsure if we even wanted to lay down roots here. For us, the idea of having a house that could move with us if we wanted to relocate was a huge factor in the decision.
Kalynn: I have always worked in the hospitality industry, but I currently work as a Travel Coordinator in the Film/TV industry. I book all aspects of travel for cast and crew as a freelance worker from production to production. Before we started building the house, I didn’t have any building experience.
Audrey: I have a degree in Sculpture; so, I had some experience with tools and building. I’ve had a few different jobs after graduating, but nothing construction related.
Before starting to build by ourselves, we threw around the idea of having a company build the house for us, but we never found a layout that we liked and couldn’t justify how expensive some of them were. The thought of being able to design everything to our exact specifications was really appealing. What fueled our desire to build ourselves, was having the knowledge of how the house was put together. If anything needed to be fixed in the future, we would have a pretty good grasp on how to handle it ourselves.
There were some debates over what we needed and what would be better where. And, there are probably just a few things we’d change if we could do it over again. We started off designing the home-based off of a 32’ trailer…holy moly…we are very glad we reduced it to a 26’. Even though it is a tiny house, it looks really big from the outside, and we can’t imagine it being even bigger. We designed everything ourselves and felt like we were taking two steps backward, and one step forwards at times. If we wanted more space in one part of the house, we had to take away space from somewhere else, and that was a delicate process. Eventually, we reached a point where we were happy with the way things were and the amount of space we had dedicated to each part of the house.
Kalynn’s dad lives on a piece of land in South Georgia where we ended up building the house (being outside of a major city and all of the zoning, permits, etc. was amazing & he has just about any tool you could ever need). It’s a small town so there aren’t many options for where you can get materials. A lot of the time, we only had a Lowes or a Home Depot to shop at (both of which were an hour of driving round-trip), and even then, they didn’t have some things we needed. So, building in a small town forced us to order what seemed like a ton of things online, and there was some waiting involved and also a lot of returns and re-buying.
One of our biggest challenges was figuring out how to do everything ourselves. We didn’t really have anyone that was building alongside of us for a majority of the build. Kalynn’s dad helped us on a few things here and there and would check our work when we needed him to which was great! It amazes us every day that we figured out how to build an entire house on our own.
It took us a year and a half of building. We worked on the house ‘full-time,’ but we would get so burnt out at times and need to take a few days off.
Kalynn: I took a few jobs during the build, which left Audrey working on the house alone. One out of the country job that lasted two months, one out of state job that lasted three months and one job to get us settled back in Atlanta that started during our last month of building. We probably would have finished the house a lot faster if I wouldn’t have taken these jobs, but it kept us running financially.
We mostly used new materials, but there were a few projects where we were able to repurpose some materials. Both the kitchen and bar countertops were made from repurposed materials as well as the I-beam that supports our stairs. One of the coolest repurposed materials we have has to be our sliding barn door, which was used on one of the film sets Kalynn worked on.
A majority of tiny houses utilize built-in storage and having secret places and compartments to store things, but we wanted to have an open floor plan. While having a ton of storage built-in under the stairs would have been great – we LOVE how open the space feels without it. We have places to store things, but we also didn’t want to have so much storage space that it allowed us to keep collecting things that needed to be stored.
Another element in the design of the house was being able to have a large enough section of roof to accommodate six solar panels. We are completely off-grid, and that allows us to live anywhere we can pull the house too.
As far as the ‘interior’ design goes, we pretty much made everything up as we went. Thankfully it all flows together!
There were a few ideas we had before the start of the build that we couldn’t let go of & we are very glad we didn’t because they are some of our favorite things. The bathroom hexagon tile is spilling out into the kitchen flooring, the orange refrigerator, the ‘garage’ door, a deep loft to accommodate a closet.
The main idea behind the house design was light and open space. We have a ton of windows that allow light to flood in and make the space seem bigger and more open. Since we are running on solar, the fewer lights we have to turn on during the day means we have more power to use once the sun goes down.
We have a gear shed that holds all of our solar equipment, batteries, and electrical box. A set of bi-fold doors on the back end of our house open out to access all of that equipment and allows us to have some extra storage space. The door itself is one of our biggest projects (it still needs a little work). One of our design elements that we couldn’t give up on was creating the door to be multifunctional. We were avid rock climbers before we started building, so we incorporated a grid of t-nuts into the design so we could have a small climbing wall on the outside of those doors.
We have two storage boxes inside of the bathroom ceiling to store miscellaneous items that would otherwise clutter a bathroom. We also built a fold-up countertop over the washing machine to give us space to fold laundry when they are down, but easily access the washing machine by folding them up. **We do not have a dryer**
Audrey: We just got our Hobbit wood stove installed the other day. It hasn’t been crazy cold yet, but right now, that’s my favorite part of the house. Overall, being completely solar powered has been mind-blowing and very rewarding.
Kalynn: My favorite part is our kitchen countertop. Seeing the transformation of a few cedar boards that were sent to us as the bottom of a shipping pallet go from ‘scrap’ to a countertop was so awesome. I also love the stairs & the wood floors!
Our overall cost was around $85,000, but a decent chunk of that was spent on our solar system. This also included the cost of appliances, a bit of furniture & really everything in the house that we didn’t already own.
Currently, we are located just south of Atlanta, Georgia, in an RV Park. We are looking for a more permanent home base, but are having to get pretty creative given the zoning ordinances in the city. We lived in Atlanta previous to building the tiny house, and we were really set on coming back closer to the city to pick up where we left off. It wasn’t very easy to find a location inside the city that would take tiny houses. Where we now have water and electricity built into the ‘rent’ if we need it. Our ‘rent’ is $590 a month, which, to us, seems a bit high, but it is our best option for the time being.
Our downsizing process happened in phases. We had about 3 or 4 different phases of donating and selling things to make sure we weren’t keeping items that we hadn’t used in a while. We both had some things that we had a pretty difficult time deciding if we wanted to keep or not.
The best and the worst things about living in a tiny house:
Audrey: One of the best things is how quickly you can get the house cleaned, but one of the worst is how quickly the house can get dirty.
Kalynn: My least favorite thing is the composting toilet. It works great, but emptying/cleaning it is something nobody really likes to do.
We are a lot more conscious of our spending, what we buy (is it a need or a want), and have reduced our consumption in general.
If we could start over, we would plan the budget more precisely. Before framing the house, we hadn’t planned a whole lot as far as what ‘finishing’ materials we would use or where we were going to get them. We also never imagined just how many boxes of nails, screws, tubes of caulk, etc., etc., etc. we would use. Our budget accounted for just a few of each of the items we *thought* we’d need. We needed so much more.
Also, we didn’t consult any professionals on the framework design. If we had, maybe we would have known that the pitch of one side of the roof should have been much steeper. It is just a tiny bit pitched, and that caused a few issues when we were installing the skylight. Eek!
This experience has given us both the confidence to try anything we set our minds to. This was such a mentally and physically challenging project, but pushing through those challenges was so rewarding.
Our piece of advice to others who are interested in going tiny is to just start building. It was a piece of advice that was given to us that really resonated. We were spending so much time researching on solar, toilets, insulation, pros and cons of everything, paint color; you name it. Things that wouldn’t come up until a lot further in the process. It was a constant information overload without any decisions being made, and it seemed like it would never really be a good time to start. Once we started building, there was still time to research and plan, but you’re not going to get it done if you don’t start building.
The outside measurements of our tiny house are 8.5ft wide, 26ft long. The height (with solar panels) is just over the legal road limit at 13’ 8”. The house weights quite a bit more than we thought it would, but still under our trailer’s recommended weight load, at 17,600 lbs. The amount of usable floor space is 287sqft.
For more info & pictures, you can check our IG @our_little_utopia