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Young couple debt-free thanks to their DIY tiny house they built themselves

This is Nick and Nora’s Amazing DIY Tiny House Journey. These two are just 21 and 23 years old and spent the last two years building this incredible house themselves.

Please scroll down to tour their tiny home then enjoy an exclusive interview with the couple at the bottom.

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Nick and Nora’s Amazing DIY Tiny House Journey

They're Debt-free thanks to their Tiny House

Images via Nick and Nora’s Tiny House

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Images via Nick and Nora’s Tiny House

Interview with Nick and Nora:

What are your name(s)?
Nick Hinton & Nora Phillips

How many people (and animals) will are living in your tiny house?
Just us two in our tiny house, no pets.

Where do you live?
We live on Bainbridge Island, WA. Just a boat ride away from Seattle.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?
We decided to go tiny because we wanted to make an investment for our future. This seemed to be the best option for us, though unconventional. We are now able to live debt free with low rent costs. The “Tiny House Movement” was a fairly new cultural development when we started this venture over two years ago. We are pleased to see that tiny houses have become more and more common. This tiny house build was a huge challenge for us that we couldn’t pass up pursuing. In the beginning, we hoped to possibly travel with our tiny house and eventually buy a plot of land to place it on. We ended up staying on Bainbridge Island and still hope to buy a piece of land to call our own one day.

How did you first learn about tiny houses?
We first learned about tiny houses through an article in our local paper about a woman who had just built one in our area. We started to do some research and were reading about other tiny house builders and their experiences. We learned about some well known tiny housers like Dee Williams and the ways their tiny houses had made an impact on their lives. In more recent times, people can learn more about tiny houses on television and in documentaries. Check out my blog post “Inspiration, Resources and Info” to find my favorite tiny house info sites.

How long did it take to finish your tiny house?
It took us a little over two years to complete construction properly and begin living in our home.

How did you build your tiny house? Did you have any help? Did you do it yourselves?
We built our tiny house by ourselves with help from my step-father who is an electrician, advice from Nick’s former colleagues at Home Depot, and a very helpful shed book that included step by step instructions on basic building. When all else failed Nick would turn to Google for technical installations like plumbing and propane. We started with a decrepit 70’s camper trailer that we tore down to the metal frame and re-welded. Once we had a good base for our house, we started re-building from the ground up. All manual labor and construction was completely done by us.

How did you find a place to park and live in your tiny house?
We advertised around town looking for rental land to put our house on. We received multiple offers but ended up leaving the house where we built it on Nicks family’s property.This location allows us access to every resource we need, including fresh water, power, septic to drain our grey water tank into, and WiFi.

Before going tiny, what was life like?
Before going tiny, life was mostly the same but we were living separately at our parent’s homes without a space to call our own. We had many more personal belongings that we don’t need to use anymore. Since going tiny we have learned so much about what living in a tiny house is really like and also about what it means to be self sufficient adults.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?
The benefits of going tiny are immense. We have our own home at 21 & 23 that is custom to our needs and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we built it ourselves. This process has benefited our relationship because we know we can compromise and work together even when things get difficult. We have learned so many useful skills together and have navigated through our strengths and weaknesses.

Our home is environmentally friendly and we are very aware of our water, power and composting toilet usage because they are limited resources. These things can often be forgotten about in a “common household” and therefor overused. The tiny house is also financially beneficial because we have no mortgage to pay and can save up our money. Something I love about our house is that there are no limits or restrictions to the changes that can be made, if I want to add an extension to our bench or change an area completely there are no landlords restricting the possibilities of what can be done.

What about some challenges?
It has been a challenge to do things correctly the first time. There were many things that didn’t work functionally for us and had to be changed, including our troff shower, tankless water heater, storage loft ladder, exterior weatherproofing, and pantry storage. A rewarding and beneficial challenge is living a de-cluttered life, it can be difficult to make possessions more necessary and purposeful but it’s definitely a learning curve.

A challenge is also everyday maintenance, this includes our propane switch for cooking that is outside and has to be turned on and off daily, our fresh water tank that has to be re-filled with the hose sometimes twice a day depending on shower usage, and our toilet that has separate tanks for solids and liquids which both fill up quickly. The legality and lack of city codes regarding tiny houses has been a challenge as well.

We’ve run into interesting and unexpected things in our tiny house, such as adapting to each others schedules and noise levels. I’m a light sleeper and its tough, especially since Nick wakes up much earlier than I do and is about 10 feet away from me, both in the bathroom and underneath the loft cooking breakfast. I have been adapting to the M-F mornings with the white noise of a window fan, an eye mask and earplugs.

What makes your tiny house special?
Our home feels special to us because we have put our heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into building it and making it our own in every way. Everything from the appliances to decor have been chosen carefully and it feels special to have those things surrounding you. Its special just to have our own home together.

What is your favorite part of your tiny house?
My favorite thing about our house is the feeling of being cozy, hearing rain on our metal roof and being wrapped in a warm blanket. There is nothing cozier than a smaller space and I’m not sure what I would do with all of the empty spaces in a larger home by comparison. Another favorite thing is accessibility, everything is in a close proximity to each other. Its handy to be working on something at the table and then swivel my chair around to easily grab something out of the fridge.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?
Our advice to anyone starting their tiny house journey is just to try to do it yourself, and know that its okay to do it imperfectly. Don’t expect vanity but strive for it to your desire. Just because its a tiny house doesn’t mean that everything has to be itty bitty, the space just needs to be thought out carefully. Indulge on things that are important to you, (like a full sized bathroom sink for me) or a queen sized bed (that I wish we had). Customize your own experience and home aesthetic the best that you can. Have someone by your side to support you when it gets tough and your doubting your sanity for ever trying to do such a big project.

Do you have a website, blog, or social media page where we can follow along?
Yes: www.nicknoratinyhouse.wordpress.com Check out the “What it began as” post to see photos of the original 70’s trailer.


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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.
{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Claude
    November 1, 2016, 10:35 am

    I admire your courage and imagination. Very well done.

    • Natalie
      November 2, 2016, 7:18 am

      Glad you liked it 🙂 — Tiny House Talk Team

  • Gigi
    November 1, 2016, 11:15 am

    Nicka and Nora, congrats on your perseverance and on a job well done. Not everyone can achieve what you have accomplished at such young ages. Your tiny house is adorable.

    • Natalie
      November 2, 2016, 7:19 am

      I agree 🙂 Glad you liked it 🙂 — Tiny House Talk Team

  • Janet
    November 1, 2016, 12:10 pm

    Outstanding article. To be so young, yet so insightful is very encouraging. I went to college in the 70’s and we paid for it with part time jobs during the school year and full time jobs during the summer. We graduated loan-free and debt-free. I cannot imagine graduating with the debt you incur these days – not fair. Your two are so smart to start out this way and grow into the life you want without that debt hanging around your neck. Good luck to you – always.

    • Natalie
      November 2, 2016, 7:19 am

      It’s so impressive! Glad you liked it 🙂 — Tiny House Talk Team

  • Marsha Cowan
    November 1, 2016, 4:38 pm

    Really inspiring story…and absolutely beautiful tiny house. I love the sitting nook, and the door next to it. The whole house is wonderful

    • Natalie
      November 2, 2016, 7:19 am

      It really is 🙂 Glad you liked it 🙂 — Tiny House Talk Team

  • Barbar
    November 1, 2016, 8:08 pm

    You two did an awesome job!

    • Natalie
      November 2, 2016, 7:20 am

      I’m in love! — Tiny House Talk Team

    November 2, 2016, 12:37 pm

    Very nice job…! As always, love to see and hear the stories of folks who did it them selves….!

    • Natalie
      November 3, 2016, 9:14 am

      Me too, Zachary! — Tiny House Talk Team

  • jm
    November 3, 2016, 10:57 am

    It would be nice if you could just lift the house off the trailer and set it on a conventional foundation, utility hookups…when you find and buy that plot of land where you are prepared to establish roots. And if you do move you are selling a conventional tiny home. Has some benefits…

    • Natalie
      November 4, 2016, 9:28 am

      That would be awesome! — Tiny House Talk Team

    November 5, 2016, 10:03 am

    What a beautifully well done TH! It looks great on the inside as well as the outside. Lovely home for a lovely couple.

    • Natalie
      November 7, 2016, 9:31 am

      It really is! — Tiny House Talk Team

  • Danielle DiLisio
    March 12, 2017, 9:29 pm

    Very charming!

  • Sheila
    March 23, 2020, 4:16 pm

    This is inviting, warm and colors are perfect. I love the fridge. Everything I love. Not fond of compost toilets. They can be changed easily. Not knocking them. I truly love this tiny home. Chalk board is very cool. Excellent job and wish nothing but the best for you both.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 24, 2020, 2:28 pm

      Totally agree! Very warm and inviting.

  • Dyane
    March 24, 2020, 7:27 pm

    I noticed a dog in two of your photos, is he yours?

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 25, 2020, 2:05 pm

      Yes the dog is theirs 🙂

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