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Carmen, Tim and Lauren’s Lived-In French Storybook THOW

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This is Carmen, Tim and Lauren’s lived-in French Storybook THOW that they had built for them by Tiny Idahomes.

We shared “just off the lot” pictures of the house earlier this year, but now the family has made it home! Be sure to check out the original post here, and then enjoy our picture tour of the finished version below. Plus, read our interview with Carmen about their transition to tiny life at the end of the post. She has a really great story you don’t want to miss.

If you want a home like it, check out Tiny Idahomes.

Related: French Storyteller Tiny House by Tiny Idahomes

This Family’s French Storybook Tiny House

Images via Carmen and Tim

Here’s the living room/kitchen inside the home. Cool!

The loft bedroom inside the house. The blue trim is great.

I really love sliding doors for the bathroom.

The counter top in this house is cool! Love the spice rack.

I like the fridge and the convection oven. Cool heater, too!

The mirror door on the inside of the bathroom. Makes it spacious.

Look at all the storage in the bathroom. That’s a great idea.

They added this wall and door to the main bedroom.

There’s always a way to fit books in a tiny house! And CDs.

Hey! There’s even a keyboard. What a cute home. Love it.

Images via Carmen and Tim

Interview with Carmen:

What are your name(s)?
Carmen, Tim, and Lauren (14)

How many people (and animals) will are living in your tiny house?
3 currently, plus a cat or three in the future.

Where do you live?
Rural area, Pacific NW

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?
Easier to clean house and minimal to no yard work/maintenance; Less burden of ownership; Able to retire sooner (financial);
House is customized to fit us really well instead of a generic large house where we have to adapt to it; Free up time and energy to do fun things; Ability to move easily; Less impact on the planet; No annual “property taxes.”

How did you first learn about tiny houses?

How long did it take to finish your tiny house?
We started in a 4200 sq ft house full of stuff. I read Marie Kondo’s “Magic Art of Tidying” book and it really did change my life. We started downsizing immediately, (selling and giving away almost 14,000 books, bookshelves, furniture, etc) and I started working on tiny house plans. We moved several times, dropping square footage by at least half with every move (4200, 1200, 600, 200ish). The process took about 3 years total.

How did you build your tiny house? Did you have any help? Did you do it yourselves?
We went to Tiny Idahomes, and Jesse and Anca Collinsworth (owners/builders) were able to do our build for us. Jesse took my line drawings and my details and executed them nearly perfectly. A big chunk of our downsizing was choosing what to keep. I didn’t choose what to get rid of. That is too exhausting. I made the decision early on, after reading Marie Kondo’s book that everything was going to go unless it was necessary or “sparked joy”. So I knew immediately what we were keeping. I analyzed how we used space, I analyzed how systems would work in a tiny house, etc. Then I put together our floor plan. For ideas, I studied tiny houses on the internet, went to Colorado tiny house jamboree, and I have read architectural and design books my whole life.

My husband was not interested at all in living in a tiny house, so I knew I would be doing a solo build. I was working full time and have some serious physical limitations. So I knew the build would be slow and difficult, and I estimated it would take me about 4 years to do the build. (Pay as you go style.)

So then I calculated the build cost: 4 year’s rent, 4 year’s utility bills, 4 year’s build site rental, Tool cost (starting with nothing but hammer and screwdriver), Utility cost at build site, Materials cost (trailer, house building materials, plus things like counter tops, sinks, refrigerator, windows, etc), Electrician and Plumber cost (I’d farm those 2 jobs out), Physical and emotional cost to me and my family.

So the REAL cost of building my house would have far exceeded what it actually ended up costing me by going to a builder. And the final “project” was really well done by an experienced builder (and only took a few months instead of years).

How did you find a place to park and live in your tiny house?
We have moved 3 times since Dec 2016 when we got our house. Our first spot we asked our landlady at the time if she had a place we could park it. $200/ mo plus electric, but we didn’t even stay a full month.
We then moved into an RV park: $390/ mo plus electric. We were there through the winter.
We moved to where we are currently a couple of months ago. We are on a friend’s land, parked by a beautiful creek in the woods, not visible from any road or from any other houses. My husband does accounting work as barter, so no charge for parking or utilities.
We really have had no issues finding spots to park. I think the difficulties in parking are in cities/large towns. Since moving where we are currently, we have had several other offers of parking spots by friends who want us on their property just to keep an eye on things while they are gone. No charge to us.

Before going tiny, what was life like?
Chaotic! I never had enough time to get things done. Our big house was impossible to keep clean. I could spend an entire day cleaning with no noticeable impact. I hated having a messy, cluttered house. Since the house took so much effort, I had little energy to enjoy other things. Winters were the worst. $600 electric bills, and we still froze with rooms just above freezing. Think electric furnaces in a 4200 sq ft house with single-pane walls/rooms of glass. Seriously, entire floor-to-ceiling windows over almost half of the house. The views were awesome. Cost estimates to replace windows was over $90,000.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?
My husband has admitted that he loves our tiny house. He never said that about any previous house! I love that our bathtub is big enough to actually get us covered by water instead of half of us sticking out, like what happens in a standard bath tub. (Tim is 6’4″. We just don’t fit in smaller tubs, barrels, sinks, etc).

I love the kitchen, which really works well for us. I often cook with my daughter, and the kitchen is perfect for us both to be able to work together. I’m 6’3″, and the counters are at 42″. For the first time in my life I don’t have to hunch over to cook or wash dishes – no more back pain when cooking!  I love that we aren’t tied to the grid. No black water tank needed with a composting toilet.

I love that I am surrounded with things that are highly functional and spark joy – our bathroom sink is an art glass bowl my daughter gave me; 3 chandeliers I bought years ago; drawer pulls are mostly from our big house; our favorite books; our entire DVD collection (several thousand, all in paper sleeves and sorted in boxes. Both lofts have shelves that were built so DVD boxes could just fit on the floor under them. We chose not to rely on internet, since we will be off-grid most of the time, and I don’t want to digitize them all).

Saturday mornings are slow, lazy mornings with breakfast in bed, instead of an all-weekend rush to get things done. My house really makes me happy – I feel like I am living in art.

Not having to constantly care for stuff in a large house really allows us to experience a lot of new stuff. Lauren and I are planning to thru-hike the 2,659 mile Pacific Crest Trail next year – 2018. So we have a lot to learn between now and then to get ready. Lauren is excited, as well, and she gets to determine our 2019 adventure.

What about some challenges?
My husband was pretty much a hoarder his whole life. He loves the tiny house, and has heard me talk about minimizing for 3 years. And I hear him tell friends how great it is. But he still clutters every horizontal surface, and tries to fill any empty space. He has a hard time throwing anything away.

I decided that I wasn’t positive how our living room/guest room/dining room was going to work. So our builder didn’t add a sofa or anything. I had kept a table we could use in the interim, and 3 folding chairs. We sat down the other day and finally came up with a plan, so now we need to find a builder. (6′ long Sleeper sofa, folding table, 2 comfy chairs, and a big corbel. It’s gonna be gorgeous!)

What makes your tiny house special?
I think our house is special because of 3 things: It was designed specifically to meet our needs on grid or off grid, we kept it to a French Storybook style, and we kept to our colors (black, white, grey, and silver neutrals, teal/turquoise, pink and purple accent colors.) Currently there isn’t much pink or purple, but more is planned in the living room and dining room. Finding things that are highly functional, go with our French Storybook style, and are the correct colors is really difficult! I’m currently hunting for a step stool and spice jars. I’d rather make do with what we have and wait to find the right pieces than get something that doesn’t spark joy and have to replace it down the road.

Part of the structure that is unique for us were pre-built components that will get us to where we want the house to be in the future. I guess I have a “prepper” mentality, and plan a lot of off-grid living.
House is: Pre-plumbed so wood stove can provide our hot water. Pre-plumbed for water catchment system Pre-wired for Tesla Power Wall. Pre-wired for solar panels and/or wind generator.

What is your favorite part of your tiny house?
I love that the house seems to make our lives so much easier. We don’t have to adapt for it, it is adapted already for us.
My bathroom is my happy place. Although as we get more and more done on the house, it gets harder and harder to limit myself to one thing. Maybe the shutters. They are amazingly functional!
I also love doing dishes now, shockingly! I bought a cast-aluminum (will NEVER rust) window box and mounted it on its side over the kitchen window. We added shims so it would just barely tilt so if anything slides, it will go toward window, not at us. It works as our drain rack, and our glasses live there. Water drips through and goes right into the sink. Every morning, someone (usually Tim) puts everything away. No dishes drying on the counter. My brain doesn’t register dishes in the rack as clutter, so my kitchen feels clean and tidy without the bother of drying and putting away the dishes.

What, if anything, would you change about your tiny house now that you’ve lived in it?
The master bedroom wall sconces need to be mounted higher.

Having said that, we are still “settling in” and getting things done. Each small change has a big impact. We got our Kimberly wood stove chimney pipe installed in April. Lauren and I installed window screens shortly thereafter (regular screens wouldn’t work, since we need to be able to reach through our open windows to adjust our shutters. We now have screens that are magnetic, and sit inside the window. So we can easily adjust our shutters.)
I got a laptop for Mother’s day from one of my sons, so the big tower went away -it was always in the master loft in the way.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?
1. Figure out what you must keep.
2. Figure out how you use space.
3. Rethink all household systems, and re-set them for your tiny house. (Laundry, dish washing, etc) For example, we got a plunging, areating “washer” from Amazon for about $20, and wash laundry in our kitchen sink or bathtub, depending on size of load. Then we centrifuge the laundry in our centrifuge. 3 minutes get clothes about 95% dry. We have retractable clothes lines in the living room under the ceiling fan/chandelier. In the winter, we now have the nearby wood stove to finish drying the clothes. Most things dry in about 30 minutes, but jeans take a couple of hours for the pockets to get fully dry. Although washing clothes is a bit more work, I prefer this to laundromat or washer/dryer in the house. (Dryers are the bane of my existence. Do you know how impossible it is to find feminine clothes at my height, just to have the dryer shrink them??!!!) We average 1 load/week, so it really is an easy system.

Related: French Quarter THOW by Incredible Tiny Homes

Want a tiny house like this one? Contact Tiny Idahomes on their website here.


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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Beth Grant DeRoos
    July 3, 2017, 3:45 pm

    It’s a nice THOW but having lived in France I guess I am missing the whole French Storybook style thing and what that is supposed to mean.

  • Tom Osterdock
    July 3, 2017, 4:11 pm

    I really like what you have done. Great house and you have made me rethink some of my systems and roof line. I like the gabled roof but this wagon top roof would appear to give more space. Are you still planning the powerwall? how many panels are you looking at and are you looking at powerwall or powerwall 2?

  • keepyourpower
    July 3, 2017, 7:43 pm

    Would love to see the tub and the living area, when she finishes it.

    Where does the child sleep? How old is the child?

    • jamie
      July 6, 2017, 11:07 am

      There is a loft at each end, I assume the daughters room is the one with the keyboard? You can see the ladder against the wall and manhole in the shot with the kitchen sink. Took me a second look to work it out.

      Such an inspirational story with it too. She sounds like an amazing lady

  • Marsha Cowan
    July 3, 2017, 8:29 pm

    Amazing house! I love the closes in bedroom lofts with their stairs and ladders! The whole home is beautiful.

  • Marsha Cowan
    July 3, 2017, 8:30 pm

    Agh! That should be “closed in lofts. . .”. Lol!

  • Carmen
    July 5, 2017, 12:04 pm

    Lauren’s loft is over the kitchen and deck. It is pictured above (she has the keyboard in her room). She is 14.
    French Storybook is a style that is depicted in children’s books and movies when the story is a fairy tale. Generally there are 2 styles – German and French (more rare in our culture are Asian themed fairy tales). Anyway, German themed fairy tales have predominant timber framing on the houses, leiderhosen on the men, etc. Think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the movie sets around the castle toward the end of the movie.
    French Storybook style is more to my taste. Think Cinderella (Watch the Brandi/Whitney Huston version and really look at the house Cinderella lives in. Very French Storybook.
    Or Julia Robert’s “Mirror Mirror”, or Drew Barrymore in “Ever After,” but that set was more realistic, not really very Storybook.
    French Storybook has 2 variations – opulent, and rustic. My house leans more toward opulent French Storybook. (5 Chandeliers in @200 sq ft, opulent drawer pulls, rich fabrics, color scheme) The corbells, the functional shutters, and the opulent front doorknob give the style away before you ever get inside the house.
    We are planning a powerwall still…hoping to do that this summer. Which one will really depend on what is available at the time.

    • jamie
      July 6, 2017, 11:12 am

      Thanks for the interview it was so inspiring, I have the same skill as your husband in that I can fill any horizontal space in seconds (sometimes I even amaze myself) I am filled with hope and also motivation to downsize further.

  • Carmen
    July 6, 2017, 11:59 am

    Good luck, Jaime!

    February 15, 2018, 2:56 pm

    Carmen,Tim and Lauren
    I just love your tiny home it’s everything i want,specially closed in lofts,that’s my dream to be able to purchase one of this awesome tiny houses on wheels.Thank you so much for sharing,also one day i’ll be able to share mine.Good luck to you all and God Bless.

    • Carmen Garrison
      March 15, 2018, 12:51 pm

      Best of luck Elzabeth!

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