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College Grad Couple Live Simply in 170 Sq. Ft. Tiny Home (Interview)

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In this post I’m introducing you to Esther and Kenny who are a young couple who have designed, built, and now live simply in their 170 sq. ft. tiny home.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview them and they were nice enough to share their thoughts and experiences with all of us here at Tiny House Talk.

For me it’s always exciting when anybody decides to take charge with a small space. And it especially makes me happy to see young people doing it because I know how helpful it can be for them later on.

Smart Couple Design, Build & Live in 170 Sq. Ft. Tiny Home

Also don’t miss the best part- the interview (and the rest of the photo tour too)- below:

Esther & Kenny’s Tiny House Photo Tour

Interview with Esther & Kenny about their Tiny House Living Situation

THT: Hi Esther & Kenny, so Esther you are a designer and flautist. And Kenny is an architect, engineer and a contractor. You guys live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And you have built a 100% original off grid tiny home on wheels? Is that right?

K&E: In a way, yes!  We never designed or built anything quite like this before, and I wouldn’t call ourselves professional architects, builders or contractors by any means.  But when it came to building our own tiny house, that’s exactly what we became!  We had done some smaller projects before, but doing this start to finish was a huge learning experience, too.  Originally we intended our house to be off-grid, not knowing where it would end up, and wanting to be as flexible as possible.  Now it looks like the tiny’s final home will be hooked up to the grid and to a traditional septic system.

THT: So what really inspired you guys to decide to design and build a tiny house? Can you take us back to that time and tell us about it?

K&E: As recent college graduates we wanted to save money on living expenses, and build something that could be an investment (instead of paying rent).  At that time we worked and lived seasonally on a ranch in southwest Colorado, and our housing was included.  That experience made us want to find a smarter and cheaper way to live in the future.  After considering things like yurts and trailers, we spent a lot of time looking at other tiny houses on the internet, and tried to combine what we thought were the best elements of each in our original design.

Related: Young Couple in New Zealand Design and Build Their Own Tiny Home for $20,000

THT: Have you guys been living in the tiny house yet? If so, for how long?

K&E: We’ve been living, sleeping, and cooking in our house for about six months now.  The bathroom and a few other details aren’t finished yet.  For now, we are parked in a back yard, and share the facilities in the “big house.”  We hope to be in a new location this summer, and have the bathroom finished and the house hooked up to septic, etc. then.

THT: How do you like it so far?

K&E: It’s great, and we didn’t really have to change our lifestyle much.  “Downsizing” wasn’t a big thing for us, since we had moved around a lot in the three years prior and had shed some stuff each time.  Our “stuff” now is mostly tools and camping equipment… things you’d store in a shed – not your house – anyway.  We have had to make some adjustments to our schedules (for part of the day it becomes Esther’s practice room), but other than that it is totally adequate for two people and a dog.

THT: Back to the design/build… How long did it take you to design it? And then how long did it take to build it from start to finish? If you could break that down for us.

K&E: We came up with the idea during the summer of 2012.  We spent a few solid months researching, budgeting, and drawing floor plan after floor plan on graph paper.  We bought the trailer in August of that year, drove up to Denver for our SIP panels in December (we were REALLY committed then!), and began construction on January 1st, 2013.  We spent the next four or five months working on nothing but the house.  Then we had to start making money again, and the detail work has come together bit by bit.  We moved in around October, and have been procrastinating about finishing ever since.

THT: If you wouldn’t mind sharing… around how many hours would you say it took you to build it? And how much did it cost you in materials?

K&E: We spent just under $30,000.  When faced with a spending decision, we always went for the quality material over the cheaper option.  We view the house as an investment, and because of its small size we could actually afford to make it really nice.  Its hard to estimate how many hours we spent, but the bulk of the work took place in the first four months when we worked on it all day every day!

THT: How much total square feet of living space is your tiny house? And what are the dimensions?

K&E: If you count the sleeping and storage lofts the house clocks in around 170 square feet.  The exterior dimensions are 8’6″ by 21′

Related: Another Smart Couple Design and Build Amazing Mortgage-free (And Modern) Tiny House

THT: I understand that Kenny is a general contractor. Would he be willing to design and build more tiny homes for clients? Or any other homes and projects too?

K&E: Kenny does woodworking professionally in and around Albuquerque, and will definitely be the builder of our next home on a foundation, but he is not a professional contractor.  We are open to building another house for someone else (and we certainly learned a lot about what we would do differently next time!).  We’ve also been encouraged to draw up plans.

THT: Where else can our readers find out about you guys online? Can you share our websites and Facebook Pages with us so we can all learn more about you?

K&E: We kept a blog detailing our construction experience at www.kennyandestherstinyhouse.blogspot.com.  Esther is also a professional musician and her site is www.estherfredrickson.com

THT: Thank you so much for your time!


I hope you enjoyed this interview with Kenny & Esther as much as I did! If you want to learn more about them head on over to their blog here.

If you enjoyed this story on how two smart young college grads designed and built and now are living tiny and simply in their own 170 sq. ft. home you’ll love our free daily tiny house newsletter with more!

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Cahow
    April 24, 2014, 3:21 pm

    Very adorable couple and I love how they outfitted their tiny home. A proper range…yes!!!! And they must love to cook with all those cast iron pans hanging from the ceiling. Well done, you two, well done! I was momentarily caught off guard by the aerial shot: at first glimpse, it looked like they had an animal pelt on the wall but it was just the dawg, from above. LOL

    I know that everyone’s different so I just have a thought or two, nothing negative…just wondering. Currently, they are parked in someone’s back yard to use the facilities in the larger home and they spent around $30,000.00 to create their home. I’m just wondering why they didn’t keep that $30K in the bank, stay in the larger home (relative, maybe?) and then use the $30K + interest for an already built small home with land…especially since they are ultimately going On The Grid. Again, nothing negative or judgmental toward these two, just wondering about the choice they made.

    My husband and I, when newly married, lived with my beloved MIL for two years and kept all our wedding money and both of our incomes to roll into our first home. Without that rent-free time spent with M.I.L., it would have been very difficult to get a foot into the housing market. But, we did all the cleaning/yard work/shared cooking duties and drove her anywhere she wanted to go, so we weren’t deadbeats. Plus, when we moved to Chicago from Mpls. and bought a two flat, she came with us and lived rent/utility free in the 1st floor unit until the end of her days, so we paid it forward to that charming lady. R.I.P., Miss Mary. You are sorely missed.

    • April 25, 2014, 11:31 am

      Thanks for your comment. In hindsight, we may have done things a bit differently, but are pleased with what we have. Now we have our own space, can live in the tiny house while we work over time on our house on a foundation, and in the end either keep tiny for a guesthouse or studio space, or sell it and recoup some of our money. Maybe not the cheapest/easiest way to do things, but we our proud to live in our creation.

  • Comet
    April 24, 2014, 4:17 pm

    That kitchen is better designed and has FAR more counter space than the one in my actual land based HOUSE! And it would be easier for me to actually use. Sigh.

    Love that dog!

  • RockyMissouri
    April 24, 2014, 6:12 pm

    A delightful little place…!!

  • Sally
    April 25, 2014, 12:02 am

    So nice! Very cozy, and I love all that counter space. that’s always a big concern with us crafters. Congratulations, you two, love home and wise choices. And that dog! Wow!

    • April 25, 2014, 11:33 am

      Thanks! Didn’t realize so many pictures of our dog would end up in the piece. She’s famous now!

  • Rhion
    April 26, 2014, 8:50 pm

    I really like the livability of this place, it’s perfect. Everything is top notch, and good quality. Yes, of course, hindsight is 20/20 on how a few bucks could be saved here and there, but in the end, this gives you something all important that people often discount: When in a relationship, it is vital to have some space for each other. Even if I were to live with my absolute favourite family or friends during the first year or so of my marriage to my hubby, I would have gone stark raving mad. At least if it was to be in his family’s typical home (a two bedroom apartment, and yes, his parents wanted us to live with them – and pay rent, and do all of the chores, and do all of the errands, in spite of it being cheaper for us to not move, and to live where we were, where our work was), or even my mom’s house which was 3bd/2bath, the way it was set up, everyone would be right up on each other. There would be…ahem…no breaking in of furniture etc.

    So, couples need some private space to decompress. Whether you two decide to remain living in your tiny home, or whatever else, you two have gone through vital bonding time as well as bonding over building your tiny home. Those two things are the foundations of your actual home, your actual life together. That’s beautiful.

    And I’m rambling, sorry!

  • Heather
    May 7, 2014, 11:16 am

    I am curious as to the brand of your little wood burning stove. I am currently building a VERY tiny home [70sqft] and am in the market for a very tiny wood stove but I am having little luck locating one!! Thanks!

    • Marsha Cowan
      October 4, 2014, 12:02 pm

      Heather, check into marine wood heaters. They are tiny but put out lots of heat and use tiny pieces of wood. They are built for boats, so would be great in a tiny house, and of course there is the cuteness factor. They are soooo adorable looking!

  • Kenny
    May 11, 2014, 9:12 am

    The woodstove is called The Hobbit, made by Salamander stoves in England. It’s an awesome little stove.

  • Meli
    September 15, 2014, 10:06 pm

    Adorable dog. Nice design I also love my cast iron cookware & my canning jars & all of their many functions. Thanks for sharing & nice stove as well!

  • Marsha Cowan
    October 4, 2014, 11:59 am

    I realy, really love the layout of this tiny house plan. It is so beautiful and practical. I love the wood heater nd how it was placed, and the loft gable storage is wonderful. Very well done!

  • Theo
    October 19, 2015, 7:11 pm

    I really like the looks, however $30K? I could buy a fully furnished travel trailer, or even a motor home, for a whole lot less, and move right in. And another loft. I suggest that all the people who are gaga over lofts sleep in one for a few weeks, then see how they like lofts. I’m 7 4, which has nothing at all to do with why I do hate lofts. I have hated them from the time I was a kid.

    • Peter Piper
      April 26, 2016, 6:52 pm

      I guess we think alike. I like things that serve two purposes so I’d have a couch that lets down into a bed and save the loft for storage.

  • Nanny M
    October 20, 2015, 6:47 am

    Lovely, comfy-looking quality home. Nice work you too!

  • November 3, 2015, 12:19 am

    Absolutely love this! I truly wish my husband and I would have been smarter when we first got married and tried something like this. I cannot imagine what a great start it would have given to our marriage rather than the typical “American Dream” we chased for 8 years. Sigh….can’t change the past, can we?

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Trish Dee
    April 24, 2016, 12:43 pm

    I like the feeling of this tiny house. It’s very inviting with clean lines and has a very practical layout. Nicely done.

  • Joanne Cabe
    April 24, 2016, 12:53 pm

    I love your tastes, it looks perfect the way it is! I also love the hip roof & the extra loft space from the dormers! I am in the process of building a similar sized cabin myself – but wasn’t brave enough to tackle those things, as it’s the first major framing job I’ve taken on, I’m glad you have the skills too pull it off beautifully. Makes me more sure I want to frame in for a future stove/range [I have been wrestling with the idea & really will miss having one, so have been thinking, when I build my cabinets to frame them so it’s easy to make a couple cuts in the counter & be ready to slide one in.] As far as the cost; mine is coming out even higher due to having to use special chemical free materials [I have MCS.] It is amazing how much it can cost for a small space, but I’ve always heard it is more expensive / sq foot for smaller places [a one time expense], but then your living expenses in it should be lower from then on. Good luck & keep enjoying!

  • Theo
    April 24, 2016, 4:59 pm

    Well, one of the few designs I can say that I like. Except for the sleeping loft that is, hate those. Looks like nice woodwork too.

  • Judy
    April 24, 2016, 9:38 pm

    Hi Very nice. A question- how much did the tiny house end up weighing? Thanks, Judy

  • kristina nadreau
    April 25, 2016, 2:27 pm

    The front door is beautiful.

  • Gloria M Moran
    April 25, 2016, 11:52 pm

    I like the design of this house except for the loft. I need to have sleeping quarters on the main floor.

  • March 8, 2017, 4:37 pm

    It seems that animals explicity manifest the feelings, this “puppy” show serenity. Happy day, in free way.

    March 13, 2017, 12:36 pm


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