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Jay Shafer on Oprah in 2014: Tiny House Man Expands?

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Oprah shows you Jay Shafer’s 96 square feet tiny home when she had him on the show back in 2007.

Within 90 seconds Jay gives you an entire tour of his house.

Seven years later, in 2014, Oprah received an update from Jay on her #WhereAreTheyNow edition.

Today Jay’s life is different because he’s married and has a family. So is he still living tiny?

Jay Shafer in his 96 Sq. Ft. Tiny House in 2007

Watch the Jay Shafer clip from Oprah’s Where Are They Now? segment in 2014 below:

Jay Shafer on Oprah in 2014

How One Man Lived with Less in a Tiny House

“When Jay Shafer invited Oprah Show cameras into his house, in 2007, viewers were blown away by the size of his place. While most homebuyers search for optimal square footage, Jay was living comfortably—and efficiently—in a 96-square-foot structure. Take a look back at his original appearance. Plus, find out how Jay’s living situation has changed since having a family.” (Source)

Jay with his Family in 2014

Read the original article at Oprah.com.

Go to Jay Shafer’s Four Lights Tiny House Company.

If you enjoyed this video update on Jay Shafer 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!
{ 18 comments… add one }
  • LaMar
    February 21, 2014, 2:43 pm

    Well, I have said all along for permanent long term living a house of around 400 sqft is optimal for a small family and it looks like Jay came to that realization. Yes a single person or couple without kids can make do in a smaller house on wheels but it will get uncomfortable after awhile.

    That is what I was afraid would happen with the house on wheels fad and that is why you see them be built and then a year later they are trying to sell them. For wnat you spend on a house on wheels you could get a piece of land and build a larger permanent house that will retain and increase in value and can always be added on with additions if your family expands or you want some more room.

    Focus on making the house sustainable and off-grid is better but you need a place that works for you and not just a fad house that pushes the extremes IMO.

    For the record- I built my 14×14 off-grid cabin long before Jay was on Oprah and I raised my son there and still live there very comfortably.


    • Jenifer
      February 23, 2014, 8:58 pm

      I agree.

      The biggest problems that one runs into with building smaller homes, though, is zoning and neighborhood regulations.

      This is less common in rural property, but not everyone is meant for rural life. I prefer living in an urban setting. This is why I rent apartments.

      • Cahow
        February 24, 2014, 12:25 pm

        Right you are, Jenifer, about many people not groovin’ on the rural lifestyle. My husband is one of them. He’s a City Person from birth (Glasgow, Scotland) and has lived in cities his entire life. Mind you, he enjoys a nice holiday in the Highlands or at our cottage in the country but it only takes 7 days or so before he finds an excuse to hop in his car and spend a day or two in Chicago. I respect that. I was raised in deeply rural country and could be one of those hermits that lives 60 miles away from anyone but I can’t expect my spouse or kids to follow suit.

        • Jenifer
          February 24, 2014, 12:41 pm

          I was raised in suburbia, have spent summers in rural-rural (as in, the “town” was a gas station/general store/post office, church, and then about 10 houses about 6 acres apart) — mostly off grid and subsistence living — and then discovered city living (finally!) after years in commuting-suburbia about 5 years ago.

          Right now, I’m technically in suburbia and bitchy about it. . . lol. And I’m looking forward to moving into the city. It’s technically a ‘suburb’ as well (sort of like NYC’s boroughs), but it’s walking distance to the down town, and has it’s own little “village” down town as well. In fact, I’m looking to move n between three little “village” down towns, which is a 20 minute walk to the big downtown, where many of my clients are.

    • Byron
      March 3, 2014, 1:59 pm

      I agree with you Lamar, that long term, a bigger space is going to be more livable for the vast majority of people. What I like about the tiny houses is it forces people to be super efficient and creative in the designs. These efficiencies and creative ideas can all be incorporated into slightly larger homes. I work around new construction and it’s amazing to me the amount of wasted space in these 6000 + sq.ft. homes that people feel they have to have. Tiny houses like the one above would be great for short term rentals or getaways where you’re going to be spending the majority of your time outdoors anyway, but long term, I agree most people will need a little more space.

  • Cahow
    February 22, 2014, 11:44 am

    LaMar wrote: “Well, I have said all along for permanent long term living a house of around 400 sq ft is optimal for a small family and it looks like Jay came to that realization.”

    And…”That is what I was afraid would happen with the house on wheels fad and that is why you see them be built and then a year later they are trying to sell them.” LOVE the use of the accurate word “fad”!!!

    Dear LaMar: If you were in front of me, I’d Fist Bump you for your sage comments. All it takes is a little grey in one’s hair and a Plus One or Two or Three = FOUR humans living in a space to ditch the silliness of these under 100 square foot doll houses. By the way, my Grandparent’s first home in the 1920’s had the same footprint as yours (14′ x 14′). Only after they bought their dairy farm and had their kids did they go the traditional farm house on the prairie route.

    Yeah, I’m feisty today, so get your flame throwers out to toast me; I’m cool with that. LaMar’s writings are bang on: these uber micro “houses” are nothing but a social experiment, akin to “How Many People Can You Cram in a Phonebooth or V.W. Beetle.” The very fact that most bloggers that live in under 100 sq. ft. only live in them when conditions are optimal: No bad weather/no serious injuries, just screams “Glamping”. And has anyone ever considered, as my husband has pointed out, that these internet famous folks who “live” in tiny houses spend SO MUCH TIME ON THE ROAD at seminars, that they probably are staying in that tiny house 1/4 of the year? The remaining time, they are either in cushy hotel rooms or sharing space with friends, no doubt in spaces LARGER than 100 sq. ft.

    Every single month, on Tiny House Listing, I see what LaMar mentioned, listing after listing for tiny micro homes that either have NEVER BEEN LIVED IN, because the person got hitched or changed their mind or has BARELY BEEN LIVED IN because “circumstances have changed” in their life, meaning “it sucked living in there!” (I’m not counting the micro houses that are built for sale, only.)

    As LaMar wrote, if these people actually built a home large enough (200+ sq.ft on up) to accommodate an expanded lifestyle, just think of the $$$$ that could be saved! What Jay paid for materials in 2007 have increased exponentially in the seven years since he first built it; and the video doesn’t state if he BUILT the 500 sq. ft. home his “ever expanding family” enjoys or if he bought it as is. So, I guess this answers the question to that blog posting that Alex created months ago about “How much room does a family need?”, in regards to that micro Sweet Pea house.

    Yes, there are folks who try being a vegetarian and stick to it. And there are folks who give up their car for a bike and never turn back. So, too, are the rare-rare-rare people who adopt a micro house lifestyle and NEVER upgrade to a Winter Home or a larger home, like LaMar has proven. But for the bulk of these folks, they gave up their social experiments and are now chowing down on a burger with fries, jumping into their gas burning car and parking in front of their larger than 100 sq. ft. experiment.

    Bahahahahahahaaa…With Age Comes Great Wisdom, right LaMar!?

    • Jenifer
      February 23, 2014, 9:10 pm

      There are families who have been RVers for a long time — families of 3 or 4. People seem to find ways to make their choices and lives work. But, RVs are often designed to have a “two bedroom” feel — there’s usually one door for parents (master bedroom), and children are often sharing the main spaces as living rooms during the day and bedrooms at night. It’s efficient.

      In our own case (as I said above), we rent apartments. This allows us to remain mobile, keep costs down, and experiment with space. It’s amazing how frugal you can be with apartment living.

      Right now, our place is a little large. For people who do not live as we do (minimalist, japanese style/furniture free), our place is ideal for a family of three. It’s two bedrooms, large living room, sweet little dining room and kitchen. Nice bath. Honestly, it’s a lovely place.

      We use the smaller bedroom as a “everything room” — book cases and dresser in there, and that’s where we keep our clothing, DS’s toys, and our books. This leaves two rooms empty — the front room (bigger bedroom), and the living room.

      Our bedding is also kept in this “everything room” by day, and by night, we roll them out in the living room to sleep. While I’m putting DS to bed, Dh goes into the empty front room for his writing/personal time.

      So, we really only need one door.

      We are looking to switch neighborhoods — we think a one-bedroom will suit us. We can put book cases and dressers into the living room, use closets to store bedding during the day, and then still have the two spaces.

      As DS gets older, he may want his “own” room — and we’d happily put him into the bedroom to sleep (since he’ll go to bed earlier), and then DH and I will roll out our bedding in the living room.

      It’s actually a very easy way to use space — and it provides us with a bit more opportunity in terms of rentals.

      The only trouble is, some landlords don’t want to rent one-bedroom places to us. It has everything to do with how they perceive space rather than how we actually use it.

      • Cahow
        February 24, 2014, 12:51 pm

        Jenifer wrote: “In our own case (as I said above), we rent apartments. This allows us to remain mobile, keep costs down, and experiment with space. It’s amazing how frugal you can be with apartment living.”

        Don’t I know it, Jenifer! Don’t I know it! NO ONE that owns a house can say it’s “cheap”, and that’s even if the entire mortgage is paid off, like ours is! Taxes increase, water bills and trash pick up continue to climb (apartment dwellers aren’t stuck paying these bills!) and then there’s the absolute guarantee that SOMETHING major will ALWAYS need to be done every.frickin’.year. to the place. Furnace’s go out. Stoves/refrigerators stop working. A sump pump burns out. Ice dams cause leaks in the roof! Everything I mentioned, has happened to US in the past 15 years and these are minor things! I have friends who own homes that have had $30,000!!! worth of sewer repairs needed in their 150 y.o. heritage home, because the tiles going to the street are as ancient as the home! I’ve had friends buy homes where “improvements” were jerry-rigged and not caught by the inspectors and they had to pay-the-piper when it came time! My husband and I joke that the ONLY reason why we own a home is so we can get our money back at the end: bought cottage for $35,000 in 1997/valued at $235,000 now and that’s with only the barest of improvements. Really, the value raised due to location/location/location; we had nothing to do with it.

        Jenifer also wrote: ” It has everything to do with how they perceive space rather than how we actually use it.”

        I’m right there with you, Jenifer, and applaud you bucking the traditional use of rooms! Our very first apartment was in a backwater of Chicago that was not “hip” enough at that time and we scored one of the “apartment homes” that were popular in the very early 1900’s. These were actual apartments, to be rented, but for “people of means”…translating into MEGA SQUARE FOOTAGE and GORGEOUS DETAILING! The area had escaped gentrification at that time (1980-1990) and the neighborhood was populated by the original German settlers; most neighbors were 60-90 years old. It was very “uncool” to life there; safe, but laughed at.

        The 3 bedroom apartment had 2,200 square feet and we raised our three kids in it until tweenage years. It had incredible built in fireplaces, floor to ceiling china cabinets/buffet out of quarter sawn oak, a sun room, a Butler’s pantry that measured 10’x 10′, and the foyer was 12′ x 20′ big!

        My husband is an easy going chap, so when we moved in and the kids were tykes or not even born, I said, “The BEST rooms are the ones that will be used LEAST…let’s change it up!”, he smiled and just agreed. So, the massive 25′ x 25′ living room became our master bedroom, with the sunroom coming directly off of the bedroom. This is also one of the two rooms that had a working fire place and floor to ceiling bookcases. One bedroom became the nursery; the other bedroom with glass French doors became the our daughter’s room and the MASSIVE dining room with bay windows became a combination lounge/dining room since it adjoined the kitchen, which was so large, we could place a table for 4 in there. At first we had NO idea what to do with the giant foyer until I struck on the idea of turning it into another “lounge” of sorts by placing uber-cushy chairs and sofas in it with reading lamps and tables and placing portable floor to ceiling bookcases on each wall. Then, it just became a wicked cool place to hang out: there were two windows in the foyer and because we were the top floor, we had a sky light in the ceiling, too!

        Ultimately, we moved for a better school system since the kids were now in their tweens and the building was going to be converted into a condo, due to gentrification. But, 15 years later, I know I STILL “left my heart” back in that place. <3 I miss it terribly.

        • Jenifer
          February 24, 2014, 1:04 pm

          Sounds like an awesome place. 🙂

          We bought our first condo in 1999. It doubled in value and didn’t lose anything in the crash, and we were conservative and had managed to pay off 2/3 of the mortgage. But, when we bought it, we thought of it as a “starter home” and we used it as an investment in that way. It was good for us as an investment.

          But for a home to be an investment, you have to live there at least 10 years and in a good economy. And you have to be a little lucky, too — we were, because the community was building more houses (and larger houses) and the school district was very good. So, ours was a little place — the last of the little places built — so it was a desirable “starter home” for other young couples too. We sold it in 1 day — before it went on the market, technically.

          Now we rent because we are so much more mobile. I learned living overseas (where we couldn’t buy until we gained residence, and we never did), that renting is a great way to “try on” different neighborhoods and lifestyles.

          I learned a lot about myself:

          **I really, truly hate commuting — so I want to be within walking distance of the major things we do like my son’s schooling and work. I want to be able to walk or quick bike ride to these things.

          **I am a mobile person — truth is, I do like to pick up and move. Right now, DH and I are homesick and pretty miserable. We miss our cottage in NZ (480 sq ft on the beach front). That was our home and we miss it so terribly.

          Right now, we live in a nice city (well, in a suburb of it) 30minutes from DS’s school and our work. It’s a real PITA to commute and miss my old home and way of life at the same time.

          So, because we are miserable, we are asking ourselves — do we want to move somewhere else? Is there another area in the country that would be a better fit for us? Provide us with more opportunity/etc? We haven’t been able to answer that question. . . but not-buying a place is a great idea, just in case we decide to move.

          ** i love it being someone else’s problem — like you said, all of those expenses? So much better when it’s someone-else’s problem! *so much better* Having a landlord makes life easy, and honestly, choosing to live smaller allows me to live in the best neighborhoods at a fraction of the cost, because those neighborhoods generally only have HUGE houses that are expensive to purchase and even more expensive to maintain.

          We always end up in the fancy neighborhoods. They have the best amenities, and we just live in a little place there. And we take care of it and make it our own and are happy. It just works out. 🙂

        • Cahow
          February 24, 2014, 1:26 pm

          Ah, you’re a Kindred Spirit, Jenifer! We, too, suffer from “Itchy Foot” syndrome and that’s why we have two homes: a city condo we share with 2 students and a country cottage…so we have the BEST of both worlds.

          You and your husband sound ‘rock solid’ in regards to the two of you knowing how to work WITH the system and not against it. Knock on Wood, we’ve been blessed with how our home’s prices have skyrocketed but we did massive research into the areas, looking at trends in gentrification and buying into those areas when they were “down on their heels”. Then, all you need to do is wait: your money doubles or triples in time! We bought our vintage townhouse in Lincoln Park when there was extreme urban flight and no one wanted to live “in the city”. One “original” re-settler bought his adjoining townhouse in 1974 for $52,500.00; he sold it four years ago for THREE MILLION DOLLARS! When he moved in, that area of Lincoln Park was drug dealers/hookers and the wonderful homes had been broken up into multiple units. Now, 50 years later, aside from The Gold Coast, it is THEE place to reside. Our home quadrupled in price from when we bought it and became our retirement fund and how we were able to pay for the cottage in cash. Our cottage purchase was the same: everyone out here wanted to live “on the lake”. Screw that!, we thought…we can bike or walk to the frickin’ lake!, which is 1/4 of a mile from us. We also bought the cottage on what is now zoned “commercial land”, which guarantees that it will be popular, down the road. The cottage is a dump, but it’s OUR dump and we’ve both agreed to not place a penny in remodeling it; we simply keep it “up to code” and keep the money in our bank rather than petting our vanity with turning it into something it’s not.

          Having the choice of City/Country has calmed our need to constantly move because we’re one car trip away from a different lifestyle. But, if we didn’t have both choices, I know I’d be looking at the ads on craigslist all the time. 😀

        • Jenifer
          February 24, 2014, 9:15 pm

          For sure!

          If you know you are going to stay in a given area (chicago and around), I can’t fault the investment. It’s a sound one, and I do that same research. When we bought our condo, I did a fair bit of looking around and saw where the town planners were heading, so it definitely served us well!

          For us, though, we don’t know where we want to retire. We know it’s not where we are now, though when we first moved here, we thought about buying a live-income (two apartment houses are common here — often built that way in the 1910/20s. They are really affordable and many of the neighborhoods are gentrifying (i found one on the “bad block” of two gentrifying areas, right across the street from DS’s school for only $89k for the two, two-bed apartments with a smidge of land!).

          But, part of us feels like — as we talked about today — possibly moving to another state, or even another country. We’re looking at trying to live abroad again, and we might be able to do it in 6-month stints (under different kinds of “consultants” visas — allowing us to travel.

          So a home as an investment isn’t that valuable to us — not as much as cash is. We put everything into index funds (we do a single index fun for our income, and then our retirement is more diversified across mutual, index, and other investments) — so that we have easy cash but high returns.

          Anyway, we are trying to get our possessions way-down. DH says that, ideally, we’ll be in one place for a school year (when DS is in school), and then spend the summer traveling abroad. I think it sounds like an option.

          But then we’ll need to decide where we want to spend the 3/4 of the year. I’m thinking a small town in between San Diego and LA might work out for us. Particularly if we can find a crappy cottage a few blocks from a beach. 🙂

  • Cahow
    February 22, 2014, 11:48 am

    Oh, and if you’re doing the math: Jay lived in 96 sq.ft. for X-amount of time. He now has FOUR humans living in the same space and they have a FIVE HUNDRED sq. ft. home. So, that means he’s allocating a whopping ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE sq.ft. per person, including the two wee ones!

    It doesn’t take much time to realize that DOORS and WALLS are the best Peace-Keepers for family harmony. LOL

  • Robin
    February 23, 2014, 2:02 am

    Plans for sale?

  • Cahow
    February 25, 2014, 12:22 pm

    Jenifer wrote: ” They are really affordable and many of the neighborhoods are gentrifying (i found one on the “bad block” of two gentrifying areas, right across the street from DS’s school for only $89k for the two, two-bed apartments with a smidge of land!).”

    Dear Jenifer: I don’t know your age and that can play a LARGE factor in how a person is planning their life. But, if I may make a suggestion, if the above apartments are affordable to you to buy, live in and then rent out…DO IT!!!!

    As my Granpa told me a million years ago, “God stopped making land after the 3rd day!”, and I’ve taken that reminder to heart. ALL the folks I know who are comfortable and protected for life invested in real estate and now that they are in their 70’s and 80’s, they are still enjoying the money that those income producing properties create for them.

    We’re actually seriously discussing buying a couple of condos or small frame homes on a bus line in Chicago. Why? It was announced yesterday that a $70 million dollar Digital Lab will be built in the heart of Lincoln Park: “According to the proposal, the Digital Lab, when it ramps up, will have 80 full-time employees and an annual operating budget of $22 million.University of Illinois staffers at UI Labs — a U. of I. nonprofit spinoff — are the nucleus of the group, working out of Microsoft offices in the AON Building in Chicago.” THIS will put Chicago at the hub of the digital age, drawing in tons of new jobs and employees…all who need somewhere to live! So, we’ve got our real estate agent looking at affordable properties for us to buy, some including garages and yards for people who come with families.

    So, even if your family ends up not living in them, you still have bought them when they were undervalued and affordable. Just something to ponder. 😀

  • Athena
    March 11, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Um……..for some of us, Jay’s 96 square feet would be a luxurious step up; try living in a box some time.

    • Hunter
      June 20, 2014, 9:35 am

      Well said.

  • vstanley
    June 24, 2014, 7:18 am

    What is the tiny house movement for/ Mobility? Affordability? Simplicity?
    The only reality that satisfies two of those needs is a small house that can be added on to at will.The mobility part is such a minority that it isnt really a factor.That is my opinion.
    Tiny is too tiny400-600 sqft is more realistic.
    Jennifer and CAHOW are not your typical family.They sound like your typical RE speculators.Profit,location,Location.Return.

    • sc
      September 30, 2014, 11:21 am

      what do you mean realistic? what is realistic depends on your budget, health needs, local codes, size of family, etc. for a retiree who wants to spend part of the year with children or take care of a sick relative or a student. a 200 sqft house will be more realistic than a 400 ft permanent house. if you are talking about a family of 4 or more, then 500 and above makes sense.

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