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Rehabilitation Therapists Debt-Free $25,000 THOW in San Diego

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Meet Trysh and Saul Martinez and their self-built $25,000 THOW. If you just showed me pictures of the home and had me guess how much it cost, I would have easily said somewhere between $70k-$90k. Somehow using mostly reclaimed materials and Craigslist finds, the couple managed to build a tremendous tiny house without taking on debt to get it.

A few super cool features include the 7-foot-long drawers they tucked under the kitchen for clothing and shoe storage, and a closet loft entirely dedicated to hanging clothing. Those two features allowed them to have very little wall storage, leaving the place feeling beautiful and open.

They work as rehabilitation therapists in San Diego (@tryshka on Instagram), and despite a difficult search, found a place to park their home in the metropolis via Craigslist. We got to do a Q&A with the couple, which you can read at the end of the post, and we also included a link to their video tour with Living Big in a Tiny House.

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Trysh & Saul’s $25k DIY Tiny Home in San Diego

Here’s the couple hard at work. You can see how they raised the kitchen floor.

Look at those GIANT drawers. Keep scrolling to see them completed.

Saul built the entire thing, WHILE working more-than-full time.

The finished product: 7 feet wide x 22 feet long x 12 feet high

Wow! Look at all that hanging storage.

Headroom galore in their compact loft.

It’s amazing how much space a skylight adds.

Their ladder hangs on the wall when not needed.

Those stylish cabinets? Reclaimed! Thanks, Craigslist.

The drawers, in all their glory. Look at those Kon-Mari-ed clothes.

They fit a huge farmhouse sink into this kitchen.

I have always wanted one of these drawers.

The living room has a large comfortable couch.

You step back down to get into the bathroom.

Little shelf and light fixtures in the bedroom.

A reclaimed cast iron clawfoot tub is the focal point of this bathroom.

Q&A with Trysh: San Diego Tiny Life

What are your name(s)? Saul and Trysh Martinez

How many people (and animals) are living in your tiny house? Just the two of us

Where do you live? We live in San Diego

How long have you lived tiny? We are approaching a year of full time tiny house living in August!

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time? We are rehabilitation therapists. Saul is an occupational therapist and I am a speech-language pathologist.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny? We decided to go tiny primarily for financial reasons. My husband and I both have student loans and we didn’t want to take out any more loans/mortgage or pay for ongoing rent. The financial reasons were reinforced by our plans to be travel rehab therapists, like travel nurses, but rehabilitation therapists who work for 13-week hospital contracts all over the country. By living tiny, we are seeking financial freedom and more conscious and purposeful living with less material things to focus on the more important aspects in life.

How did you first learn about tiny house life? We spontaneously encountered the tinyhouse lifestyle on social media/online but we wanted to see the real thing so we both made our way north to Eugene, OR to visit a tiny house manufacturer (Tru Tiny). We were so impressed by their builds and they were so welcoming and patient with our questions! They even let us take our time to tour the houses they had that day. It really inspired us to go for it!

Did you build your tiny house or buy it? We build the tiny house ourselves. Saul built it while working a full-time job and an extra/on-call/per-diem job — so he would head straight to building the house after work.

If you built it, did you have any help? Did you do it yourselves? It was a DIY house with some help on electrical, plumbing, roofing, and custom cabinets. The rest was all DIY.

Are you comfortable sharing how much your tiny home cost? The cost was around $25,000.

What are bills/utilites like compared to before? All we have to pay for to sustain living tiny is our rent for the plot. We pay our landlord a flat rate that already includes utilities.

How did you find a place to park and live in your tiny house? Finding a place to park was one of unexpected challenges of going tiny. We had searched through craiglist and facebook pages very thoroughly until we found our landlord.

Before going tiny, what was life like? We lived pretty typical lives. Our living situation history involved renting apartments/rooms like most everyone else.

Is there anything from your old life that you miss? Saul doesn’t miss anything from pre-tiny house living. I would probably say a traditional toilet/plumbing system is something that I do miss but I don’t really think about until someone asks us this question haha We have a chemical toilet, like a porta potty that we have to empty every so often.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny? We appreciate: lower/cheaper rent (price comparison to apartments in San Diego to what we pay is pretty immense), having our own space and owning our own house without any debt, the ability to move but keep the same space/house, an external motivator to reduce our purchases and keep our life minimal and with as little expenses as possible — if we don’t have the space for it, we can’t buy it! Tiny house living teaches us to be more resourceful and to be mindful of the things that we otherwise would have taken for granted. Both of us didn’t really need large spaces for our things/living even before living together. The house has everything we need and most of the things that we wanted.

What about some challenges? Looking for land and the thought of having to move abruptly is pretty stressful! Tiny house city ordinances in San Diego have recently changed (more lenient for allowing tiny houses now) but prior to that, we felt like we were walking on eggshells and feared having to move/get cited by the city. Should we decide to move, it would take another long and thorough search to find the perfect land we could park at. Makes the mobility aspect tougher in reality.

What makes your tiny home special? We have ample storage for clothing, we have a repurposed 4-ft cast iron claw foot tub, we have custom storage including 7-ft drawers underneath our kitchen floor (to maximize height/space to address the wheelwells), and the fact that Saul built it all by himself. I think it makes it special that he put so much heart and effort into the build that I still get to admire every aspect of the house and am still in awe that he had done all of this!

What is your favorite part of your tiny home? Saul’s favorite part of the house is the kitchen because it has a lot of room to prep and cook via the galley-style kitchen with the 7-ft counter space. My favorite part of the house is the bathroom. I love the shiplap walls and the unique 4-ft cast iron tub we have in it!

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny? Do the research (watch youtube videos, ask other DIY tiny house builders, etc) and look into all the different ways and approaches you could do to maximize your budget/time/space while making it as custom and unique as you’d want your house to be. Identifying your priority areas (anticipated most frequently used areas of the house) always helps in deciding square footage and amenities.

Anything I didn’t ask about that we should know? Our tiny is 7 feet wide x 22 feet long x 12 feet high. We built the house with a mindful approach of spending as little on it as possible. Most of our materials were repurposed and very minimal of them were brand new. For example, our flooring was completely free! Saul found a craigslist listing on it with a family giving them away since they were renovating the house. Our kitchen cabinets were also from a craigslist ad for a minimal cost, we just repurposed them with paint and new hardware making it look brand new. Our cast-iron clawfoot tub was also a craigslist find. Some people also donated a few things like our front door. Our windows were all from a cheap price at Habitat for Humanity Restore, none of our windows were full priced/brand new. It really is the bare minimum, as minimal and true to the roots of tiny living as can be! We only have things that we need and it is already more than enough to sustain our daily living.

VIDEO: Couple Build Incredible Tiny House For One Year’s Rent

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Our big thanks to Trysh for sharing! 🙏

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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.
{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Theresa Perdue
    August 1, 2020, 1:46 pm

    I have seen a lot of tiny houses, both built by the owner and built by a company but I don’t believe I have seen the kitchen raised for drawers before and I must say that is a fantastic idea. I am pretty sure it will be copied more than once. The whole house is beautiful and I haven’t even seen the video yet so I am definitely looking forward to it.

    • James D.
      August 2, 2020, 2:57 am

      Not a new idea, any raised floor space can and often is used for storage. People have used it for trundle beds, pull out benches and tables, drawers, crawlspace for utilities, have floor panels that can be pulled off or opened like a door to access the storage space from above… Over a larger space you can also have pop up tables and seating or hidden things like some people have even put a bathtub into the floor and it’s hidden when not in use…

      The Alpha house from New Frontier Tiny Homes is an example you can quickly look up that used that space for storage and transforming the living space to different usages.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      August 3, 2020, 12:16 pm

      I’ve seen oodles of tiny homes and I’ve never seen 7 ft drawers like these either, Theresa! They’re brilliant!

  • Suzee B
    August 2, 2020, 10:35 am

    Perfect …. don’t think I’ve ever seen a tiny home nicer than this. So well planned and beautifully decorated! 10+!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      August 3, 2020, 12:14 pm

      So glad you loved it so much!

  • Sheila
    August 28, 2020, 11:12 am

    Wow! All I can say it classy, clean and built beautifully! Love everything about this tiny home. The closet above looks nice. Spice rack is real cool. 🙂

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