This is one family’s adventure in a tiny house on wheels.
From the outside, you’ll notice contrasting horizontal and vertical wood siding as well as multi-colored roof shingles.
When you go inside, you’ll find a kitchen, living room, and bathroom, as well as a child’s bedroom and the parent’s bedroom in the loft. To read our interview with this family, scroll down below.
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Family of Three’s Tiny Home on Wheels
Images © TinyHouse43
Images © TinyHouse43
Interview with TinyHouse43
What are your name(s)?
Meg, Brand, and R.A.D MacG
What do you do for a living?
Meg is an RN in the emergency department, and Brand is a SAHD and college student working toward a laboratory science degree.
How many people will be/are living in your tiny house?
Three people and a kitty, but we also have two Pugs who’ll eventually live with us as well.
Where do you live?
Currently, we are at Riverview RV Park in Loveland, Colorado. In April, we’ll be heading back to the Denton, Texas area.
Why did you decide to go tiny?
The condensed version is that we wanted to build our own house to our tastes/needs, travel the country while our son is young enough to not have to report to school daily, and have a place to live when we buy some land in Washington state and build a slightly larger cottage to create a micro-homestead.
How did you first learn about tiny houses?
Meg came across the 500 sq. ft. Whidby cottage plan from Tumbleweed while researching cottages to downsize into once we bought land in Washington, and she saw the “house-to-go” models at that time. We thought they were cute, but at that moment we weren’t planning to travel – just move straight to WA from TX. A couple years later our lives were forever changed by the birth of our son followed shortly by the death of Meg’s mother, so we went back to the idea of the mobile tiny house on wheels as a way to facilitate our joint childhood dreams – traveling the continent in an Airstream for Meg; building a house from scratch for Brand.
When did you officially start your tiny house?
We picked up our Tumbleweed Barn Raiser, one of their first commissioned, in May 2014, but we didn’t start working on it until August 2014 after spending the summer buying materials.
Is your house completed?
It is 100% livable, but technically it isn’t finished. We still have a good bit of finish work (trim, paint, etc) in several areas, and we want to change a few things after having lived in it for six months through the winter.
Do you have a website, blog, or social media page where we can follow along?
What was your life like before deciding to go tiny?
A rat race! We had plenty of funds for eating out and the occasional dinner, but the bulk of our income went to our giant house, which required a ton of work hours. Meg’s biggest regret was not being able to afford to take the time off to take her mom on an Alaskan cruise before she died.
What is your tiny house design inspired by?
We originally wanted a totally custom design for our tiny house that would pay homage to Hayao Miyazaki, but the reality of our busy schedules and familial obligations led us to look for a shell we could finish. Originally we were thinking of a Cape Cod cottage design similar to the big house we owned, but we found several unique reclaimed materials and we allowed the things we found to dictate the look. Inside Meg combined her love of natural elements, mid-century modern design, steampunk and fantasy literature images, and the colors from the final family portrait taken shortly after her mom’s diagnosis for an eclectic yet comfortable look.
How are you building your tiny house?
Tumbleweed did the framing and sheathing for us, we hired professional closed cell spray foam insulators, and we paid Tiny House Systems to design the electrical-mechanical-plumbing schematics that we installed ourselves. Brand did the vast majority of the work on his own though Meg handled a few smaller exterior projects and a good bit of the interior decorating bits. Brand’s dad helped with some of the plumbing and electrical install, and Meg’s dad built most of the built-in furniture pieces, including everything in R.A.D’s room.
How have you overcome zoning? Where are you keeping your tiny house?
We chose to live in an RV park because we weren’t willing to fly under the radar with a child. As such, we were limited in locations to park that had room for a long term stay, which put us an hour from Meg’s job here in Colorado. Back in Texas, however, we will only be able to park our THOW at Meg’s dad’s place again, not live in it. The sooner municipalities start recognizing THOWs as a safe, long-term alternative housing options, the easier it will be for everyone who wants to live tiny yet must still be near their more traditional jobs sites.
How do you power your tiny house? Any off-grid abilities?
We are currently using a 30A plug at the RV park, but we plan to eventually have a portable solar system. We tried to reduce our electrical load as much as we could, including all LED lighting and some sections of 12V wiring for various appliances.
How do you handle your laundry?
We use the RV park laundromat, but we are researching the various off-grid options for when we travel. Once day, we’d like to have a bicycle-powered washer!
Where do you get your water?
We are hooked up to the RV park supply via heated water hose and filter, but we also have a 40-gallon fresh water tank and 12V pump for when we travel or are otherwise off-grid.
What kind of toilet do you use?
We have a Nature’s Head, but we’re thinking about either hacking it to allow the urine to divert directly into the grey water system under the house or upgrading to the larger capacity Separette Villa that already removes the liquids that way.
How do you heat/cool your tiny home?
We’ve been using an electric radiator most of the winter because it hasn’t been cold enough to justify using our Kimberly wood stove as much as we’d like. We have access to reliable electricity now, but long term the Kimberly will be our primary heat source. We have a ceiling fan in the great room and a wall-mount fan for the loft, plus R.A.D has a small desk-sized fan for his room if needed. We have double hung windows to help better facilitate air circulation as well.
How much did your tiny house cost you? Are you paying it cash or did you get some kind of loan for it?
Our house was paid for with a combo of an interest-free Bank of Dad loan for the Barn Raiser, working a ton of overtime, a few unexpected work bonuses, and the sale of our big house. We did have to use credit cards for a few unexpected expenses as well, so priority numero uno is to pay that all off. We didn’t do a thorough job tracking every expense, but we’d estimate we spent about $45-50k total including the $16k Barn Raiser and a lot of high-end fixtures, appliances, and materials. Yes, others may build their house for less, but our house is built to our needs and desires for now and the future. That’s priceless!
What do you think you’ll miss, or do you miss, about living in a “normal” house?
The garden tub! A real computer desk and chair! Seriously, that’s it.
How are you dealing with downsizing your stuff?
We used yard sales, charitable donations, Craigslist ads, and giving stuff to family/friends to rid ourselves of about 90% of our stuff. We’re storing a few irreplaceable things at Meg’s dad’s house, but we still edit our belongings regularly, including what we thought we just had to keep.
How have your friends and family reacted to your lifestyle change?
We’re blessed that our family has been supportive, and while we still get the occasional concerned comments from friends, overall they think it’s pretty cool despite knowing they themselves could never live tiny.
Was going tiny harder than you thought? How so?
Yes and no. We absolutely LOVE our space, even unfinished as it is, but the parking challenges all THOWs still face have affected our ability to justify staying in Colorado. The drive to Meg’s work is just too far and costly, and she’s not willing to work 60-72 hour weeks just to be able to stay here and achieve our main goal to pay off our remaining debt. The actual tiny house living, however, is fantastic!
What would you say was the biggest challenge for you?
Trying to build the house with Meg working night shifts for two jobs plus overtime with Brand attending college classes and watching the kiddo (who only attended school two days per week) was rough and is the primary reason so much detail work is left to complete.
What has been the biggest benefit you’ve experienced so far?
Even though Colorado turned out to be too expensive for us to easily pay off our remaining debt while living here, without our tiny house we couldn’t have even afforded to live here at all. We’ve really loved experiencing a real, snowy winter, and the tiny house made that possible.
Do you think you will live tiny forever?
We never intended the THOW to be our forever home, but we have no intention of ever selling it either. We want to build a “dock” of sorts that will connect the THOW to the Whidby cottage via screened porch to create a dog trot style house and yet let the THOW still be mobile if we want to travel with it. Plus, it’ll be a great guest house or home for Meg’s dad if we ever convince him to move to Washington with us.
What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?
While we knew what we were getting ourselves into by having to take on extra debt during our build, we definitely don’t recommend it to others. Had Meg not had a job transfer that brought us to Colorado to start opening new hospitals last fall, we wouldn’t have had such a time or funds crunch. So, our advice is to take your time as much as possible and be realistic with your finances both before and after your build. No sense making it harder on yourself than it already is building your own tiny home!
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