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Couple Finds Tiny House Brings Them Closer Together

When Chris and Malissa Tack built their 140-square foot tiny home on wheels three years ago, blogs and resources on the subject were few and far between. At the time, they only knew of one couple building a tiny house – most were single individuals. Some people aren’t sure they could share a small space with another person, but Chris and Malissa have made it work, and even enjoyed the way it’s shaped their relationship.

They both need to spend significant time at home – Malissa works from home full-time, and Chris does freelance photography and videography in his spare time. They both know their way around little house design, having created two sets of plans for tiny homes and a wide variety of 3-D renderings of small space layouts. They found they needed to make a few adjustments to their behavior and to their original space design to make it work as a live/work/work space for two people, but now they don’t feel constrained by their home’s size.

Chris and Malissa Tack

Chris and Malissa Tack in the tiny home they share.

Malissa and her cat in her tiny home

Malissa and Seth-cat

Tiny house work station

One of two workstations in the home, with fold-down desk.

Tiny Tack House Exterior

The Tiny Tack House with solar panels and an outdoor eating area.

Chris: My coworker has been in our house, he knows what size it is. He was like, “I could do that for myself, but definitely not for two people.” That’s the response we get a lot.

Malissa: And definitely not a married couple, because you’d drive yourself crazy. But I think our relationship has grown so much since living in this space, and having to work so close with each other all the time. You can’t run off to another room to avoid somebody. You’re always going to be there. It has made us communicate so much better.

Chris: It makes you very respectful of personal space and what you’re doing. As I’m sitting here three feet away from Malissa working on my video project, I keep having to hear the same audio over and over again to get the exact spot where I need to cut it. So I’ll put headphones on and spare her having to listen to the same audio 15 times in a row.

Malissa: When we only had the one computer we were working on, we had to adjust our schedules – I would work during the day, he would work during the night. But we started becoming overwhelmed with projects, and needed another workspace for Christopher. We’re much more mindful of how we can help each other out. Even filling our water tank, we do it as a team job. We could do it by ourselves, but we make it an “us” experience. It’s connected us a lot more than our last living experience. It turned out to work out perfectly for us.

Another consideration that couples face is whether a tiny house can accommodate a growing family. Chris and Malissa made smart decisions during construction that keep their future options open:

Malissa: We designed the house to grow with us. We’re a married couple, we’re planning on having a family down the road. We designed our house so that we could take out our bench and cabinet – we laid flooring underneath all of it. We can even add a smaller loft up there, or have the child sleep up with us for a couple years. We worked with the understanding that our life is going to change, and our house has to change with us.

Learn more about my visit with Chris and Malissa, and see more of their amazing home and inspirational story in my Life in a Tiny House Ebook.

If you enjoyed Chris and Mallisa’s tiny house on wheels you’ll absolutely LOVE our free daily tiny house newsletter with even more! Thank you!

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Billy Ulmer

Writer at PAD Tiny Houses
Billy Ulmer is the author of the Life in a Tiny House Ebook, a collection of photos and in-depth interviews with people who designed and built their own tiny homes. He is a co-owner of PADTinyHouses.com.
{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Cahow
    May 13, 2015, 11:08 am

    This is said with utmost respect: I lovingly call couples like this “Merge-ectomies.” We know several couples like this: they literally are ONLY apart when they use the loo…sometimes. Often, one will be showering while the other is…you know. Some of these couples are going on toward a 40 year long marriage so I say, “Bully for them!,” that they have found what works for them. <3

    My husband and I, however, are Lone Wolves. We always have been. It took quite a bit of "Kissing Frogs" on both of our parts to find someone who took NO OFFENSE at needing vast amounts of personal space ALONE. We know ourselves well and our requirements for a healthy relationship for US, and that requires DOORS and more time away from each other than together. We also know quite a few couples such as we are, so it's just finding the person who matches your needs and then you're good to go.

    It's wonderful that things are working out so well for this couple. BEST of luck to them and any future family they create together. 😀

  • john
    May 13, 2015, 11:21 am

    That’s not a house, that’s a trailer!! Thank you very much!!

    • Dawn
      May 13, 2015, 12:19 pm

      Welcome to tiny house talk. Apparently it’s not for you. have a pleasant day. GOODBYE

      • virginia
        May 13, 2015, 3:02 pm

        John,,, how rude can a person be . They have worked very hard not to be living in a trailer . JS..

    • Joyce
      May 13, 2015, 7:35 pm

      Some of the other commenters are correct. Terminology has been: trailer house = mobile home; trailer = anything with wheels that can haul something behind another vehicle; some people consider a ‘trailer’ for living purpose as resembling a ‘matchbox’ because of the high fire risk and usually total destruction by fire; ‘matchbox’ could also be the common shape of most ‘trailers’. Over the years Tiny Homes on Wheels have upgraded in luxury and comfort (based on owner selection) and tend to be more structurally like a standard ‘stick built’ house on a foundation–not as flimsy as the former ‘trailer’ tended to be. Home is what you make for yourself and located where you choose in whatever ‘structure’ you choose. All trailer houses and tiny homes are ‘shelters’ but not all ‘shelters’ are ‘homes’ unless you make them so.

    • Marsha Cowan
      March 24, 2017, 11:00 am

      Hi john, just a quick update here. I spent the summer redoing all the wood inside a trailer that had rotted due to water leaks in the seams, (which is one of the huge differences between tiny stick built houses and trailers. . .trailers have seams where the lateral and horizontal surfaces (sides and roof) come together), and here is what I found.

      It was built with 2x3s in the floor which were glued to the plywood for strength. Without the plywood, the tiny floor joists would give way neath your feet. The exterior vinyl walls were also glued (and stapled) to the outside finish material. There was 1 1/2″ batting in the walls (and ceilings), then the luan (a 1/4″ thick piece of plywood) was glued and stapled to the inside. At that point, the wall was done and sat up and nailed to the floor. Then the ceiling was constructed of 2x3s to which the inside luan and outside vinyl finishes were glued and stapled. The finish material folded an inch across the seams, and was glue and stapled on, and as far as I could see, that was all that held the surfaces of the structure together, except the kitchen cabinets which were glued and nailed to the 2x3s on the lateral surface, and the nailed to the plywood on the floor. I became an expert at working the corner of a straight head screw driver under the corner of a staple to pry it out.

      The heavy air conditioner, the heavy furnace, and appliances all sat on this glued and stapled frame. . .thus the leaks from the weight causing shifts when there was any movement (like coming and going, moving around in the trailer, or wind blowing) in the frame.

      A tiny house is bult with 2x4s on a steel frame, and built using basic stick built construction, and most are put together with screws instead of nails for far more stability. The corners of a tiny house are framed together just like the house in which you live, and in which I am sure you put much confidence. Most tiny house rooves are steel, and the joists have hurricane ties. I would venture to say that most tiny houses could withstand a hurricane and be in tact when it landed; in fact, Alex printed a story about one that did endure a hurricane, and did remain in tact.

      Anyway, a tiny house is like the standard houses built in every neighborhood across this natio, and a trailer is built like a trailer. They are in no way the same. Hope this helps.

      • Marsha Cowan
        March 24, 2017, 11:04 am

        . . .quick correction… It should read “the exterior vinyl walls were glued and stapled to the wall”. There was no other ouside finish material. The finish materials were applied directly to the 2×3 studs on the outside and inside walls. No sheathing.

  • M
    May 13, 2015, 11:37 am

    Trailers are houses that happen to have wheels. Home is: where you hang your hat; where your heart is; where you rest your head; where the joy is; what you make it; all other similar cliches which are cliche because they represent something longstanding and long bearing. Trailers ain’t fer everybody but they weeks fer some.

  • Christina
    May 13, 2015, 12:06 pm

    I love this home! I hope to have a similar tiny home in the not too distant future. Cahow brings up a very interesting point. Five years ago, before my husband passed away, we never would have dreamed of a tiny house since we did each need our own space. Since he had his garage, I can imagine myself also wanting my “space” and a tiny house would have definitely appealed to me as a studio/.office. Now that Dave is gone, I find that I really can’t afford our house and struggle to keep it up by myself. Downsizing definitely appeals to me and as I have learned more about tiny homes, owning one fits my needs perfectly.

    I see the tiny home movement as another option for people to consider when buying a home. It’s not for everyone, but we are all different with our different personalities and needs. Sometimes, as in my case, those needs change. It’s nice to have choices.

    • Cahow
      May 13, 2015, 6:05 pm

      I’m sorry that you lost your friend and husband, Christina. That is a loss that some people can struggle through to the other side but then there’s others that are The Walking Dead when their spouse passes. I hope that you’re doing okay, solo, and that you have good friends and family to help fill in the void. BEST of luck in your downsizing and finding your own tiny home to call your own. <3

      • Christina
        May 14, 2015, 8:24 pm

        Thank you, Cahow. You are very kind. I’m doing okay. I miss Dave, we were married for 37 years. I am very lucky to have a wonderful family and friends. I’m looking forward to downsizing and moving into my tiny house. Dave will always be in my heart. Again, I appreciate your kind words and encouragement. 🙂

    • Varenikje
      May 13, 2015, 6:16 pm

      Christina, what you say is a lot of how I feel on this subject. I am just trying to see if a tiny house will work for me to be able to spend time with my children’s families as well as by myself. So some of the things I consider are if a loft would work for me (and what the alternatives are) and how much space there is for guests for dinner or overnight.

      • Christina
        May 14, 2015, 8:51 pm

        Varenikje, there sure is a lot to consider. I do have some problems with my knees, so a sleeping loft would not work for me. Otherwise, I would go for it. I’d like one for storage, though. I’ve found that I get a lot of ideas from looking at the tiny houses featured here, on tiny house listing, and other websites. People are so creative. I’ve seen couch beds, murphy beds and one I really like is a bed that slides under a platform that is used as little desk area.

        I know what you mean about room for having family and friends over. Again I’ve seen some very creative solutions. It’s going to be different from what I am used to. I think, in my case, large get togethers will be in the summer so they can be outside. Otherswise, small get togethers will probably work out best. As you said, so much to consider.

        I wish you good luck!

  • Pam Ainsworth
    May 13, 2015, 12:12 pm

    I believe tiny homes are the future of home owning for the elderly. I would love to get in on a franchise, and promote this fascinating new life era. Can you give me any pointers or an assist? thanks Pamela Ainsworth

    • Cahow
      May 13, 2015, 6:16 pm

      Pam: please don’t think that what I’m about to write is an attempt to “Rain On Your Parade”, but before you put too much energy into a franchise or a similar project, you might want to do some polling at a Senior Center or on a blog.

      This is why I’m stating this: in my business, I’ve had clients for up to 25 years. That means that when they were 50 years young, they are NOW 75 years and much, much older. They’ve gone from Kick Up Your Heels Funsters to multiple surgeries for knee and hip replacements with the need for handicap bars and tubs put into their home.

      When they very sadly leave their homes, whether it’s due to their spouse dying or some horrid disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, they go into Assisted Care Facilities, NOT smaller or tinier homes. Their reasons for staying ‘put’ in their homes until the last possible minute are numerous: 1) Multiple bedrooms to house adult kids/grandkids; 2) They know the area and don’t have to become familiar with an odd/new place; 3) All their friends/church/social group live nearby and they will lose that support system.

      Now, I can only speak of what I know and after 25 years of intimate relationships with these people, most of whom have become personal friends, THIS is how they handle Old Age. Perhaps where you live, you may have different results. Good Luck if you choose to invent a welcoming community for seniors that are still spry and want to downsize substantially! 😀

    • Dianne
      May 13, 2015, 9:26 pm

      There are two places I’ve heard of that offer assistance to people looking to build (or buy outright) a tiny home. These sites don’t cater to elderly specifically but they help people who want/need help. One is Prosper, the other is Lending Club. I don’t have any information about either, so proceed at a pace that comfortable for you. I found them at tinyhouseloans.com. They both offer a chance to invest your money so they can loan it to someone who needs help.

      Being (almost) elderly, I’m completely taken in by the tiny house movement. Having been a cross country truck driver, I’m quite used to living in a very small space. These are almost luxurious by comparison, lol.

  • Michael
    May 13, 2015, 12:40 pm

    Your home looks very comfortable. It is also looks very nice. Hope the three (cat) of you are very HAPPY! Thanks so much for shaing.

  • Michael
    May 13, 2015, 12:41 pm

    Your home looks very comfortable. It is also looks very nice. Hope the three (cat) of you are very HAPPY! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • SteveDenver
    May 13, 2015, 12:49 pm

    A recurring theme — whether families or couples live tiny together — is learning to respect each other and not look for the escape afforded in homes where everyone has their own room in opposite corners of 3000sf.

    I had a learning curve 15 years ago when i had a major health episode: I had to learn to like MYSELF because I couldn’t go out every night and divert attention away from ME.

    Many times it’s been said that the true test of a new relationship is to take a road trip. There is a lot to discover about someone when you’re close together for extended times. It sounds like this couple have similar visions and goals, which meshes with a quote about love I treasure greatly:

    • Bonny McDaniel
      May 13, 2015, 4:23 pm

      We did go on an extended ‘road trip’…of twelve years! I’m a very independent woman and my husband likes a lot of quiet time to himself but we both made it work within a 32’ motor home with no slide outs. I’m with Steve about taking a road trip, even one of a year or so to see if you can live together in about 200 sq ft. It can be done but, first, you do have to be good friends that respect each other and the needs of the other. Some chores are ‘together’ jobs and others are assigned jobs. Get used to what the other wants to do and when…such as watching TV, taking a walk, playing with the dog. A lot of the habits in a larger living space will spill over to the smaller space but many will affect the other. You might like to play fetch with the dog in the big hallway in the 2,500 sq ft house but it becomes a big problem in the itsy-bitsy hallway in the tiny house, trailer, or motor home. Each has to adjust and not be stubborn. Meal preparation, also, is a different situation in a tiny space. It can be done and you can come out of a marriage even stronger, if you BOTH give and take…we are still married (over 45 years) and love the twelve years we spent in that motor home. Go for it!

      • SteveDenver
        May 13, 2015, 4:34 pm

        I love hearing about couples who have learned to appreciate and respect each other as evidence of their love. I’ve known couples who compete against each other, insult and degrade (just joking), and exhibit a strange glee when the the other stumbles or fails. I don’t think they could ever live tiny together.

      • Bonny McDaniel
        May 13, 2015, 5:53 pm

        Yes, Steve. The secret word is ‘respect’. I think respect for others is evidence of good character, whether it is your spouse or not.

  • Gail Dolly
    May 13, 2015, 1:02 pm

    I happen to live in a double-wide TRAILER (it makes me crazy when people call it that!) which has 1,812 square feet … most of which is wasted space. My house was constructed by a local TRAILER company which was listed in a “best of” book I read on the subject. It has served us well for the 21+ years we have lived in it and we are just now going through to do a “cosmetic” makeover … the structure is sound and will probably last 200 years. We did have to put a new roof on (this IS Florida, after all) but the home itself is sturdy and comfortable and I was sure to make it energy-efficient when it was built by including 2″x6″ exterior walls, double-glazed windows, etc.

    I am hoping to build a tiny home for a dear friend of mine who desperately needs housing. I figure if I can spend $100 a month for a year it’ll be a done deal. She can use our well and I am looking into solar panels, etc.

    Some people are simply negative in all matters and LOVE to rain on other people’s parades. I personally think this movement should extend all over the WORLD. The McMansions I see are disgusting, self-indulgent, and immoral in a place such as the US where our homeless and poorly housed population is expanding daily.

    Bah humbug to anyone who isn’t enthusiastic about these tiny treasures!

  • Brian Melanson
    May 13, 2015, 1:14 pm

    Love the use of space. My wife and I have been in a 184 sq ft tiny home for 3 years. We have a 2yr old girl. With any luck we will build another Tiny House frame and make it into 2 bedrooms and a bathroom.
    We spend about 4 months of the year at our Trapline and that Tiny Home is 128sq ft. We utilize the small space with shelving and everything in home has its place.
    I enjoy seeing other couples doing this. We have been debt free now for almost 2 full years. It’s helped us get ahead in life, the goal was to save to buy a big house, but after being in our tiny home for so long, were only feeling the need for space so our daughter can have her own room. We do spend a lot of time outside. And in the Yukon Territory with 7 months of winter is sure is nice to not have to cut a lot of firewood to keep the home warm.
    Living in this small space has made our relationship grow. We ended up being even more truer to each other and allowed us to go from Husband and wife to forever best friends and built a bond that nothing will ever break.
    Cheers to everyone who’s taking that step to be debt free and not trying to keep up with the Joneses.

  • Sandra Honeycutt
    May 13, 2015, 1:38 pm

    I enjoyed reading the perception of the different people. We have lived in our home for 27 yrs. It was a fixer uper, we renovated and paid it off 17 yrs ago. I have been interested in little houses for my son, he’s alone and is disabled. It would give him the independence he values and it’s affordable and it isn’t too much for him to care for. He’s now interested to. Thanks for your newsletter. Reading about real people answers a lot of questions.

    • Alex
      May 13, 2015, 3:15 pm

      Thanks Sandra I’m glad it’s helpful for you and your son. Best wishes! -Alex

  • John
    May 13, 2015, 2:30 pm

    Their website has plenty of pictures of their beautiful tiny house showing every possible detail. http://chrisandmalissa.com/

    • May 13, 2015, 7:13 pm

      Thanks for the link to their website, John. I enjoyed and pinned almost all of their wonderful designs for tiny/small homes. Plus enjoyed photos taken inside their Tack House.
      Judging from the contents of their tiny fridge…..they eat very well. 🙂

  • Brian
    May 13, 2015, 2:53 pm

    Hi Chris and Malissa. What a super home you have made for yourselves and what a success your story is and a great insight to living tiny. Thankyou for sharing and cheers from Australia.

  • Camille
    May 13, 2015, 4:34 pm

    I want to live smaller, we do not use a lot of our space and have too much junk. I could see how a couple could live in a small space like that BUT how could anyone have sex with a child in their bed or 5 feet away from them. Is that called birth control?

    • Varenikje
      May 13, 2015, 6:45 pm

      Yes, it’s called natural family planning. No, actually, being single, I hadn’t thought of that.

    • Jennifer
      May 13, 2015, 8:48 pm

      Drop-in day care or trading nights with a friend (they take the kids one weekend, you take them the next).

    • Jennifer
      May 13, 2015, 8:48 pm

      Drop-in day care or trading nights with a friend (they take the kids one weekend, you take them the next).

  • eaufraiche
    May 13, 2015, 9:15 pm

    Loved the house!
    And does it seem that lots of people are crabby today??? What’s THAT all about?

  • Catherine Wilson
    May 13, 2015, 9:56 pm

    Bravo to you Gail Dolly! I too have a friend who is homeless and would love to build her a tiny home. Trouble is, I would have to host it illegally on my property. Otherwise, she will be forced to rent in a trailer park and this is still money she will not have. I also think that Tiny could be a great option for lots of seniors. Not everyone in this life has a company pension and supplemental retirement plans. Life can be a roller coaster ride sometimes and you just never know if you will be one of those people that “falls” through the cracks.

  • Karen R
    May 13, 2015, 10:37 pm

    First, Gail, no one should refer to your mobile home as a “trailer.” The word “travel” should always precede the word “trailer.”

    Pam, there are many people I know – widowed, divorced, single, and retired – who would love to move into a tiny home community. Cahow is correct that a lot of seniors hold onto their homes as long as possible. But there are others who are more realistic or less financially healthy who are looking for options. I live in Williamsburg, Virginia, where many people retire. Some build their dream homes, ridiculous monstrosities, only to have to leave them in a few years, but others need an affordable option. With high rents and low salaries, workers also need options. Tiny Houses are the answer for so many. Developers of tiny communities are needed!

    My husband and I full time RVed for years with one of our daughters (the other was grown), then returned to the RV when the younger daughter went to college. We were comfortable, but we chose to have more space in our tiny home.

    We all need to decide what we want in our home – rooms, baths, storage, bedroom placement, laundry, space for possessions, etc. – and design or purchase the size and floor plan that fits. I can live with my husband in 150 square feet, but I don’t want to; 420 square feet is just fine, however. Other couples can only live together if they rarely pass in the (wide!) hall. The trick is to know oneself!

  • Susanne
    May 13, 2015, 11:02 pm

    Camille, if a couple has children they could have two lofts, most people do, and those of course (and luckily!) are more than 5 ft apart and could be built in a way that the said child/children will not fall out. There previously was a house posted here where the two lofts were connected also, so the children could go from one side to the other without going to the bottom floor first.:)

  • Danette Billups
    May 18, 2015, 12:14 pm

    I think they have built a beautiful home!

  • May 24, 2015, 12:19 pm

    I have no idea how 2 people could share such a tiny space. My tiny 8′ x 24′ home is WAY to small for full time living for just myself. Of course tiny homes look so enchanting and appear to be a dream of a mortgage free life for so many. The thing is you can still buy a small home on land with resale value for far less than it costs to buy many upper end tiny homes. Tiny home life comes with it’s own set of headaches which so many don’t talk about. Tiny house listings if filled daily with tiny homes that owners had no place to park legally after they invested time, sweat and money into building their dream home. Do your homework before going tiny is good advice.

    Glad that this couple can make it work for them as they have a beautiful home that seems happy and perfect for their needs. Cute couple and home.

    March 23, 2017, 7:20 pm

    Well I would think it would be hard not to in a tiny house…!

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