My name is Saundra – Lynn Gallows. I am a graphic designer, artist, avid kayaker, and now tiny house builder. My wife’s name is Shannon Gallows. She is a licensed art therapist, a care director for a retirement community, an artist, and also an avid kayaker. We have been together for 7 years, and in that time have traveled far and wide. Traveling and adventures, in general, are a considerable part of our identity. We also have a pug named Charlie, and a Himalayan cat named Leonardo DiCatrio.
I lived in San Francisco and New York City for most of my adult life. I found myself enjoying the tiny spaces integral to the territory. It forced me to be mindful of what I bring into my living space. I love the way it feels to surround yourself with only the things you need and expressly love. I grew up in a country setting though and I found myself longing for those surroundings again as I entered my 30’s. Insert tiny house. 3 and a half years ago we went to an RV convention and walked through the small spaces and both agreed that we could live in a similar space. And fortunately for me, Shannon has also fallen in love with nature and the country. She, dare I say, maybe an even bigger advocate for it than myself.
Initially, it was the desire to leave the city, the wildly cost-prohibitive rental market, and the desire for financial independence that inspired us to go tiny. It was the RV convention that marked a turning point when we realized this was for us and the building research began.
It was difficult figuring out what kind of layout we need. In the fact that we wanted to be sure we were designing it in a way that would work for us. We were fortunate to have my parent’s tennis court available to tape out potential layouts to scale. We would try one out and then walk through it and make changes as needed. We went through many designs before settling on the one we did.
The building process was a journey. That’s the best way to put it. I am not a big user of profanity but many F-bombs were dropped throughout the process. Lol The biggest challenge has been learning so many trades in a relatively short period of time. My dad and I did the framing together. I cherish that time we had together. My dad built his own home so he has provided a wealth of knowledge along the way. The most challenging part has been doing the majority of the work alone. Things that would normally take a short time often take me 5x longer. Holding up 16ft boards, a level, and a nailer all at once with only two hands for example proved to be VERY challenging. Haha Having my wife on the weekends to provide an extra set of hands was invaluable.
It took 3 years to build our tiny house. We used new materials for the main structure and appliances but did most of the finishes using second-hand materials. I worked on the design for over a year and a half in my spare time. We knew we had a few “musts” so it was designed around those.
- Kitchen not next to the bathroom
- Room for a clawfoot tub
- Large closets
- Deep sink
- Rooftop deck
We are both drawn to the ocean so we started there. After many talks we discovered we both adore cape cod and colonial-style homes. We knew we didn’t want to sacrifice headroom to achieve the roof style so we modified the idea to fit our needs. The end is sort of a colonial ranch-style if that’s a thing. The interior has dark stained hand-distressed wood reminiscent of an old ship. We wanted it to suggest a nautical feel without being too overt. When I look at it now though it nods solidly to a bohemian farmhouse aesthetic. This wasn’t necessarily intended, I think our natural tastes evolved into the space on its own.
The most unique features in our tiny house would be: The clawfoot tub, rooftop deck, dishwasher, cat door connected to an “out of the house” litter box utility cabinet, outdoor shower, and planned library are the ones that stand out to us. We realize we may have gone overboard with features but we figured “why the heck not?” Most of it didn’t cost too much extra, it was just about being clever with the design.
The main space-saving feature is our multifunction kitchen cart. It is a storage space for most of our art supplies, and prep space while cooking. Since it is on wheels it rolls it into our “library” to be used as a dining table. It has a fold-out leaf on one side and I plan to add another to the other side so it will be a generous table space.
Our favorite part of the house is the bathroom. We invested a lot of time and budget into it. Having a place to unwind after a full day is a special form of therapy to us. The world seems to be going faster and faster. People are removing their tubs for showers. “Who has time for a bath?” They say. The hours in the day seem to be disappearing right before our eyes. It serves as a reminder to slow down, breathe, and take care of yourself.
We have privacy in our tiny home. We are human so we have times that we just want to be alone. There is a library shelf partition adding some privacy to the main loft as well as a closable curtain for the second loft which serves as Shannons paint space, study space, and guest sleeping. We also have roll shades on all windows when we desire extra privacy.
We are able to accommodate 4 guests at a time. 6 if you include us. The spare loft has a queen bed, and our couch folds down to sleep 2. We could push it if we really needed to and accommodate 6 guests plus us if we blow up our air mattress on the living room floor but at that point, the 1 bathroom situation would be pretty uncomfortable.
If you don’t count labor costs we spent $78k and counting on our tiny home. It is located on my parents’ property in the heart of the east SF Bay Area. We have plans to buy our own property in Oregon or Washington in the future though.
It’s absolutely beautiful out here. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves. We are surrounded by trees and wildlife. We wake up to our neighbor’s cattle and horses grazing nearby on most days. It definitely feels like a little retreat. We are definitely fortunate to have this location available to us.
My parents charge us a small fee for the spot. We are using the opportunity to save for a spot of our own.
If we could start everything over I absolutely wish the eaves protruded more. The water mixes with dust and created streaks down the side of the house. Since our house is white it shows up pretty easily. It’s nothing a pressure washer won’t fix though. I also wish I used more repurposed materials in the initial shell building process. It would have been a more sustainable way to build and would have eased the strain on our budget. It’s a win-win. Sure you have to be more creative but I feel like that is part is engrained in the process. Tiny Houses on wheels are inherently different from traditional foundation homes.
Building this home has afforded us the opportunity to consider being home/property owners. The Bay Area is so expensive that for most people it’s not an option to buy. Unless you want to be house poor which didn’t appeal to us. Since doing this we have been able to save for a big purchase, retirement, and have more free time to spare to boot. We hope that with our newfound financial independence we will be able to put more time into our more creative endeavors. I am also thankful for all of the people in the tiny house community. Everyone has been so welcoming and eager to help! We also have learned by example how to live more sustainably. It wasn’t our initial intent but we are so glad we were educated and are now employing these values.
Surprisingly downsizing process was not as much challenging as I thought it would be. Shannon is very good at letting things go. It’s a little more challenging for me. I find though that if I am in the right headspace for it I can get the most done. I wouldn’t recommend tackling it when you aren’t in the right headspace. You won’t get very much done and it just ends in a headache. Lighting a candle and taking a few deep breaths before starting has really helped. It’s a lot easier knowing that I have kept physical photographs to keep memories alive. The other stuff is just stuff.
The most challenging part about living in a tiny house is laundry. It needs to be put away immediately. Having just a few things left out can quickly make space feel like hoardersville even when you don’t have a lot of possessions. The best part is realizing you can get by with so much less. It’s an absolutely liberating feeling. I also think it has improved our communication in our relationship. There is a deep sense of respect towards each other. Both towards our needs individually and together as a couple.
I am incredibly thankful for the skills I have accumulated, and for the space created from stuff I have let go of. I plan to apply the building knowledge towards a near-future mobile tiny coffee business venture. It has truly changed the trajectory of both of our lives. If you want to go tiny. Of course, you can plan but at some point, you have to just breathe, take a leap of faith, and get started. Also, start downsizing NOW. Right now. Do it! You will thank me later.
You can find us on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/tinyhometwobirds and YouTube @Tinyhometwobirds
Our tiny house is a 10’x30’ bumper pull trailer. We will need to acquire a “wide load” permit when we move it which is relatively easy to apply for and is not prohibitively expensive. I believe it’s in the $60-$100 range but varies by state. House total weight is around 18500lbs. If you include the lofts our house is 489 sq ft. Plus the rooftop deck is an additional 100 sq ft. It’s definitely pushing the boundaries of what some consider a tiny house to be. We are happy with the extra 1.5’ in width though. It works for us.