You may already know Marsha Cowan. She who recently sold her Tiny Red Bus, remember?
Marsha has also built another tiny cottage before, on a 14′ trailer, you can see that one here. It’s known as The Darling Tiny House and one of our wonderful readers even shared an illustration of it here. And before that, she built one called The Nest. So she’s no stranger to building! And today, I’m here to share the continuation of Marsha’s tiny house journey with you. So grab a hot cup of tea or coffee and enjoy, in her own words and images, below. 🙂
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Marsha Builds Her Next Tiny Home for Only $4.5k
The tiny red bus sold a few weeks ago to a wonderful lady in California, so I used that money to build this tiny dry 5 1/2′ x 9′ camper at my wonderful friends’ house where we worked all day everyday for twelve days to build this and get me back to my AZ town where my classes had already started. I couldn’t have finished it so quickly if my friends had not been there to help me. It has a portaplug that supplies electricity to the inside by hooking up to an extension cord with four outlets and two usb ports and also has a surge protector on it. Otherwise, this camper is pretty much like all my others. . . Rustic and primitive. I still haul water inside from the spigot, and I still use the camp facilities, so life is simple.
There is a portable on demand water heater on the other side of this storage shed, so soon I will hook it up and have hot water when I want it.
On demand hot water heater.
Bay window out back. Inside it gives me a 12″ deep shelf.
Front door has wire mesh screen and sturdier screen for protection.
This loveseat, which is 52″ across, folds out into a full sized mattress, 8″ memory foam. Very comfortable. When pulled out, it leaves about 15″ of space in front of the kitchen counter in which to walk or come and go out the door if necessary.
Floor and front of sofa.
Tiny “door knocker” 🙂
There is a vent in the ceiling inside that draws hot air up and into the attic and out these roof vents. There will be a cover over the ceiling vent in the cold weather, but the roof vents will stay open to let out humidity. There is wire mesh screen behind the decorative screen just like in the front door.
Decided on shelves over the sofa and kitchen in leiu of a loft. The rest of the ceiling is high and gives a wonderful feeling of space in here.
Tiny sturdy laundry sink (specially ordered at building store) and butane stove. That is a tiny white refrigerator you see on the shelf, and a tiny trash can beside it that I have used for 4 years. My old bus tags are on the wall. The antique porcelain potty is used only for storing washclothes and hand towels. The cooler stores my socks. Lol! Everything has to store something in this tiny camper!
Summer Clothes are in crates. Winter clothes are in plastic storage bins in the storage shed.
Shelves over the sofa
Blinds are drawn up to let in the prestorm breezes in these pictures. Otherwise, they really help keep the sun out.
My rv court owner painted this miniature of my tiny red bus a couple years ago for a Christmas present.
I have a friend who does stained glass, and has given me about five stained glass fixtures for my windows over the past several years. These are peppers.
Curtain goes over the door at night for privacy. Otherwise, hang on the end of the rod.
Still have the antique family chair.
Tiny cutting board
Much of the inside finish on the sofa, counter, and shelves was done with these small pieces of wood cut off wooden crates. Not through with them yet.
Porcelain pot for holding water. I “got a round tuit” attached to the shelf underneath the basket. Lol! Gift from my friends. We also got permanent markers and wrote our names and all kinds of things inside the walls for posterity before we put the insulation up. It was a fun build! Oh, including the trailer, which was bought new, the build cost just at $4500.
Marsha’s Past Tiny Homes
Our big thanks to Marsha Cowan for sharing her wonderful new tiny home with us!
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Very cute and well organized. I doesn’t appear to be as small as the measurements given in the description. Very nice little home!
Thank Dyane. I have been in it for three weeks now, and it is very easy and comfortable to live in, and stays cool even on 90 degree days. Still a work in progress.
Where is the bathroom?
It states in the article this is a dry, rustic/primitive tiny house, and that she uses the camp facilities.
There is no bathroom yet, though I have plans to convert the shed into a toilet area where I will use a portable flushing toilet tha my children gave me for my birthday. Have to reconfigure the door first. Presently, I am using the portajohn nearby, and I still bath in the sink.
$4500 including a NEW trailer? What? We’ve priced out trailers and new ones cost more than $4500… I don’t understand how this was possible, let alone $4500 for the entire build.
Reclaiming and recycling can help reduce costs significantly versus buying everything new… and there are cheaper trailers you could use to build a basic Tiny House like this rather than go all out and get a custom built trailer specifically made for building a Tiny House on…
Mind the dimensions 5 1/2′ x 9′… The trailer was probably one of those small utility trailers you can tow behind a car to carry some stuff strapped to it and should be well below a thousand even new…
My trailer is 9′ x 5 1/2′ , bought at Lowes in Casa Grande on sale for $1130 in August. It has a 3500 lb. axle and 1750lb each tires. They may still have a sale going on if you’re in the area. The trailers on sale had little dings here and there, like a ding in the tire cover, but I assure you, it was a good buy.
You are amazing and should put your program on U Tube. I only wish I could refurbish our beautiful 40ft 5th wheel and be able to rent it out to help us with our rental storage. Being able to watch your process as you worked to create this beautiful, comfortable home is mind boggling. Have you ever thought of doing it as a business?? Crystal
Cute! How would you say it’s different or better than your bus? congrats!
Not necessarily better, but not mobile. As my life got more active, I found myself driving my home around everywhere which got expensive. Now my home can sit and I can drive a car.
Looks like another charmer. I’d love to see more pix.
Iwould like to know how much and where you bought the memory foam? Also there is a wooden plack above your couch I would like too know the whole saying can only read the 1st and last lines. thankyou deb in VT.
BE THE KIND OF WOMAN
that when your feet hit the floor
each morning the devil says
“Oh Crap, she’s up!”
The plaque says “Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says, ‘Oh crap! She’s up!’
I bought the memory foam from Walmart for about $239. It came in a large box all rolled up. My friend and I unrolled it, and afte 48 hours, we off three inches from one end, and then cut the rest into 24” deep pieces. I went online to see if anyone had made a folding bed like the one I wanted and found one video showing how to sew the pockets and how to place the foam in the pockets so it would fold like an accordian. It has worked beautifully!
. . .oh, I used two canvas type cloth painter’s cloths that come in packages for about $11 each to make the bed, then used the scraps for the curtains and door cover.
Very nice but where is the bathroom or portable potty?
It states in the article this is a dry, rustic/primitive tiny house, and that she uses the camp facilities.
Another beautiful build! Each one you’ve done has been charming. And the thing that really hit me today while reading this post? I really don’t need to wait until I can save and build my dream tiny home… I can scale the dream down a little and so it now!
Why on earth wait any longer?! What I really want is to have some things that are mine and have sentimental value with me while I tour some of our great nation. That is very doable at this point in life with a $4k tiny home.
Thank you dear lady for helping me see the light! And btw what are you pulling this beauty with?
Michael, you said it. Marsha’s cozy spaces always captivate me and now I know it’s because of what you say: they’re doable. She’s living the dream with grace and fire if not so much cash on the counter. I love that affirmation she’s posted. I bet it’s her through and through.
I am fortunate to have many great friends with big trucks! Lol!
The tiny camper weighs under 3000 lbs., so could probably be hauled by an SUV.
Btw, because I had to build it within 2 wks of flying into Arizona, I had no time to find and reuse materials, so all the materials are new from Lowes. The redwood trim on the outside and inside are picket fencing, 1×6″ on the outside, 1×4″ on the inside. Comparitably inexpensive. Both the outside and the inside are 1/2″ plywood which gives a total of an inch diagonal bracing, and is also the finish material when painted, so I saved a lot of money there. Even the floor and door are redwood picket fencing which does not shrink and has many other desirable qualities. 2x4s are used for all the framing of shelves, sofa/bed, and counter. Much savings.
That’s a really nice place i’m building one now from a large popup camper and sure could use some help…I go back and forth from mass to NC. having a home on the road is beautiful,no worries or motels. Jim
Great job Marsha – I particularly like the fusion of rustic and practical with clean lines and simple but pretty decor. This is very inviting and I imagine must be a real pleasure to come back to whenever you leave.
I really like the use of surrounding materials and whatever is available to make things work like your crate counter; washcloth holding potty etc. I lot of people don’t have the ability to think outside the box (pun not intended) and be frugal plus creative in this manner. I particularly was inspired by your writing on the walls before insulating to leave a message for all posterity. Should 100 years pass by and your camper for some reason gets torn apart after your death, there will be some history about the person who owned it for the insight of a future generation. I think I will do that with my current build since I just finished the outside and getting ready to wire and insulate also. It’s a great idea. Thank you for sharing this with us.
We are rather “king size” individuals considering a “tiny home.” I am
6′ 1″ and 210 lbs. N o way will I disclose my wife’s weight but she is 5’7″ Our size would appears to create many challenges especially if one family member is a bit claustrophobic. Probably an RV would be a more prudent path to investigate, but the tiny home concept is so darn intriguing!
Has anyone investigated/built a building as a series of modules that could be connected /disconnected individually as wanted. A total building of 2400 sq.ft. but built in say 5 modules of various sq. footages.
Sort of like the space station we put up years ago. Big enough for us oversized, yet with 5 different parts that could be connected/disconnected as the one needed. i.e. to vacation in, go to ball games, week-ends, church retreats, rent one or more section for all sorts of events!etc.!
Probably losing some weight might be easier?
Tere is a post about two tiny housea that share a deck, and one is the living area, and one is the office/work area, but they are perpendicular to each other, not connected. There are other posts where the entire bathroom is in a separate tiny house sitting outside then main house, and I don’t see why you couldn’t have one for the bed/bath, and one for the living/kitchen and join them with a short covered walkway that can be tucked inside when travelling. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Actually, though, if I were you, I would find a good 20′ or so used camper in good shape and redo the inside like you need to be comfortable when you travel. Might be the simplest, fastest, and least expensive way to get on the road.
RV’s are cheaper but that’s because they’re not really made for full time living. So whether one will suite you depends on what you intend to use it for and where.
Biggest issue is insulation, RV’s have little to none… Some of the newer high priced ones are getting better in this regard, new options like double paned windows are finally coming into the market, but what they usually mean by 4 season ready is that it comes with a heater and AC unit, which you may need a generator and/or additional fuel to use.
RV’s are built with road safety in mind, in some cases RV have stricter safety codes than residential houses. But there’s literally nothing on determining how well built they are or how comfortable and well designed they should be… Most are simply optimized to be as light as possible for easiest towing…
So the downside to RV’s is how often you will have to repair and maintain them, and how easy they are to damage.
RV’s are also built at a factory on a assembly line, which doesn’t preclude them to be easily customized for each individual owner. Prices of custom build RV’s can even exceed the highest end Tiny Houses.
The appeal of Tiny Houses is that each and every one can be unique, even at very low price ranges, and custom build specifically for the individual owner, and generally being built like a house means it’s more durable, better insulation, easier to repair and maintain, and can feel a lot more like a home… All of which saves you money in the long run and makes them much easier to live in full time.
There’s a just a wide range of cost from DIY to commercial builds and the downside to building it like a house is that it tends to be heavy and harder to tow and thus not always idea if you wish to travel a lot.
So the advice of maybe just getting a old camper and redoing it to fit your needs can be a good compromise between the mobility of a RV and the customization and comfort of a Tiny House, especially on a limited budget.
However, zoning should be considered for all of the above if you wish to make it your primary residence. Both RV’s and Tiny Houses have issues finding places you can legally live in them full time and there are places that won’t allow you to park with either of them…
This is one of the reason some people opt to do stealth conversions so they look like regular commercial vehicles and don’t look like someone may be living inside of them.
So whatever you choose, make sure to do a good amount of research first…
Ok, so let’s increase the size by 2 feet on the beam, 3 feet in length, add an othe 15-16thousand for the build cost and still better value then some small camper like THOW was seen recently.
It can be done at a low cost and very nicely as Marsha’s trailer show the possibility.
Nicely done, simple no frills but very functional.. obviously built for her needs and the location and the available facilities were taken into consideration In the design. It is even adequate for traveling with minor modifications to allow for simple bathroom facilities. Think teardrop campers with camping shower enclosure and solar water heater or even with propane on demand water heater.
Anyhow lots of options. Good job. Proof that you don’t need to spend a fortune to have something decent. Anyone can do it as long as you spend the time to build instead of finding the excuses why you can’t.
WHY NO BATHROOM?
I grew up in the backwoods of North Carolina without bathroom or running water until I left for college. Those ammenities are not a given in my life. I.e. I can live without them.
. . .oh, and no electricity in my youth either.
I just love your builds! I’m planning on doing a Box Truck tiny house. Build of my own. You have inspired me so much! I just wanted thank you personally before anything else.
I just wanted to make a comment about living of the grid. My Grandpa lived in a one room tiny red, house. That had a dirt, cold cellar and a type of loft thingie. When my dad was small, they lived of the land. My Grandpa had a trap line, that went into three provinces in northern Canada. For about 90% of the time, they all lived in a teepee ⛺️, then heavy canvas Tent, with a portable cast iron stove in later years. Twice a year, as the family made their rounds on the trap line, they would stay in a cabin, that they shared with two other family’s. All the families would check in on each other, to make sure, everyone was ok, and didn’t need help.
The sense of community was very important. They made life work. And did with out with lots of the things that we all take for granted now a days.
My Grandpa was born in 1897. He was 2 yrs old when his Father my Great Grandpa “Mikisew” signed the Treaty 6 land settlement. The might have lived poorly by western standards. But the wealth of information about the plants, grasses, flowers, trees, animals, land, all things natural was more valuable than a piece of paper.
Our homes weren’t meant to be a place that we spend 100% of our time. Like we do now. We where meant to be living and being in touch with our surroundings and lands.
My dad is 74, he is one of two, surviving children of 23 my grand parents had. I want to make my life modelled after my grandparents values. Because they took care of the land and had respect for it and all things alive, that live on it. I want what I do to be that important it makes such an impact on the young people’s lives, that they see the value and importance of living consciously.
Thank once again, for your tiny builds. For posting them, and for being apart of this movement of inspirational living. I’m just so thankful that I found all your builds today. You’ve truly inspired me big time. I look forward to all your future builds and posts. God bless you, amen.
I always wanted to go back to that way of life. Because, it’s in my blood, to live like that. Some would ask me, ” why camp for 6 weeks? That’s not a vacation, that’s roughing it. ” I think it’s romantic, to live with out certain things. It makes you get closer to your needs and helps you alvaluate your wants. Thank you for posting all your builds, and thoughts, and sharing your life with us all.
Marsha: a woman who “gets it.”
It’s refreshing to see a “tiny house” that’s more than just an SMALLER version of the typical, ego-trip, “big house,” built buy spoiled rich people for spoiled rich people.
I’ve seen soooo many on this website that caused me to comment (while rolling my eyes), “they just don’t get it.”
Thanks for sharing, Marsha.
If I were single, I’d ask you if YOU were!
Marsha, you are my inspiration! Yet ANOTHER awesome job.
Pat in NC
Thank you, Pat!
Congrats on your new build Marsha! Always refreshing to see someone build exactly what they need/want on a relatively small budget. I had a few thoughts & questions. How much time or labor hours do you think you have in it? I know you had a good deal of help so what amount of time would you estimate for a person doing a similar solo build?
I was wondering what you used for insulation? Those canvas painters drop clothes from Lowe’s are great. Heavy material at a reasonable price & so many uses.
I’ve had a thought for a long time & you mentioning that you bought all your supplies from Lowe’s including the trailer rekindled it as well as a few tips for buying construction supplies.
I wonder if you went to management at a big box store & offered to buy all materials from them, agreed to let them publicize the build (hey, look what you can build from our store) , just how much of a discount you could achieve? I also wanted to mention that if a person can come up with a complete material list, they can shop it around & get the best price for their build materials. I’ve gotten some unbelievable discounts on some of my construction projects in the past by doing this. All suppliers want the sale & everything is negotiable. Lets say you want to deal with Lowe’s because they are close to you. If you get prices from other suppliers (get a printed quote) most all suppliers will meet or beat the best price of their competitor so you get to use the closest supplier & have the best price. One other point. If the supplier will deliver your goods, order 10%-15% more than you need because they won’t be very selective in picking the lumber. I know for a fact that Lowe’s or Home Depot will take back the excess as long as you haven’t damaged the materials in any way. This technique can save a lot of time.
I noticed you used the torx head screws. They are about the only fastener I use anymore, great product. One cool thing about them is you could conceivably easily disassemble whatever you have built & save all the torx screws to boot.
Have you considered a small attic vent fan? Might make it even more comfortable.
Thanks for sharing your lovely little build with us.
I bought the trailer, then pulled it around front where the store loaded everything on my list for building, and then I drove it all away. Hauling it myself and buying it all at once did net me some discounts, and I only had to go back once or twice to pick up a few extra pieces of redwood fencing or plywood sheets. Lowes was as excited about the build as I was, so we drove it by there before leaving town.
Hi, I am amazed at your building…I would love to be able to build my own tiny home. Congratulations on your cleaver way of living.
MARSHA, MARSHA, MARSHA………………i HAVE FOLLOWED YOU INTO EVERY NEW TINY YOU “DO” I CHANGE LINENS.YOU CONVERT AND DO TINY HOMES.I LOVE THEM ALL, BUT THE NEST HAS MY HEART.BEST OF THE BUNCH IN :MY” OPINION ,. LOVE YOUR WORK AND BEST WISHES.
It has been three and a half years since I sold the Nest, and I still get calls wanting to buy it. I could have sold it about 50 times by now. Lol! Maybe I will look into building more “nests” in the future just to sell. Thanks!
I finally got a chance to really look at the pictures of your beautiful new build and can’t say I’m
surprised by how cozy and beautiful it turned out. Having lived in your Little Red Bus for exactly 5 Months, today, I have come to really appreciate your creativity and ingenuity. Thank you, again, so much for having entrusted me with your Baby. I expect to live in it very happily for quite some time to come and will slowly, as I live with it, make some changes to make it even more my own, s.a. I want to convert the night stands into seating that can fold into an extra bed as needed (would love to get some tips from you on how you built your sofa and use that for my chair/bed build). But all the things that originally attracted (magically drew) me to “Little Red” (as I now call her) still apply thanks to your wonderful eye and sense of style and creativity. Looking forward to seeing what you’ll do in the future. And I concur with the reader who suggested you should start a YouTube channel.
All my best wishes for you.
Ina, Hello! I just saw this comment today (New Year’s Eve, 2018). I am glad you are enjoying Little Red so much and that he is in such good hands. If you still have my cell number, text me when you are in the area, and we can meet up. Take care.
This has a kitchen which contains everything that is essential for living and cooking without going overboard as so many do. So often you see a huge kitchen with enormous fridge freezer, full size stove and miles of countertops but little actual living space. The blurb always implies that without such a huge kitchen it is impossible to live either as a couple or family. My sister’s house has a kitchen with a stove at one end, countertop at the corner and then the sink, cupboards below and shelves over. She manages to house and feed, daily, a family of 9. My last kitchen had a countertop of about 5 feet which contained sink and stove with a tiny space in-between. Again this was originally for a family of 6. This kitchen here is perfect for one to live and cook, it looks as though there is a slow cooker on the shelf below which would probably provide enough heat overnight to keep the whole place warm when needed as well as good healthy food. You can cook most anything on the gas hob, you don’t really need electric for anything except the fridge, and this size is plenty for one, and nowadays charging tablets and laptops. My husband lived in a caravan not much bigger than this for years Monday to Friday, biggest difference was being able to tow with a 1.3l car. It got cold in the winter (ice on the bed covers one year) but heated up as soon as he put the kettle on and made porridge for breakfast each morning and the toilet was in a tiny awning over the door and part of one side, a flushable camping toilet. You don’t need a huge kitchen and bathroom, nor a huge sleeping space, secondary storage for low usage items and out of season clothing is cheap and saves on cupboard space in the TH (we rent a small container in a secure yard for furniture we can’t use presently and seasonal clothing etc.) which cuts down enormously on the interior space needed. For myself, I am seriously considering having 3 sheds, a kitchen/living one, a bed/bathroom one and a work studio for painting and sewing, all connected by a small patio area. Cold and will get wet when it rains but will only need to heat a small space in winter plus it gets round the planning issues which have a minimum space before you have to gain planning permission (I think NZ has similar laws which would serve me there as well, possibly better as it’s warmer in the winters though drier weather is a moot point judging by reports from family). 2/3 8’x10′ sheds, suitably insulated, would be ideal and the ability to compartmentalise the different aspects of daily life would make life easier. Marsha has the right idea, THs are ideally designed for simple living, electric only for essential items and a simple camping loo or composting loo is all that is needed (a nightime stroll across the yard doesn’t appeal at my age any more). Daily baths or showers are a luxury and a sink is more than adequate for daily washing. We use a pallet with plastic around the sides and a small pressure sprayer for summer showers outside (too cold in winter) and the same sprayer for washing hair, or the sink and a bowl in winter. Simple but more than adequate. People forget that a couple of generations ago this was normal, and the big empty spaces we now live in are a recent thing. Marsha has the right idea, though the basic needs for each different according to numbers of those living in the house and working needs, but it may take a group of people who are willing to find somewhere where the planning laws have a loophole, like a minimum size before permission is needed, and exploit it to form a small eco community. Having visited somewhere which showed that the first ‘monastic’ enclosures in Ireland were a grouping of THs, mainly round, where each monk had his own TH with a communal cooking/eating area I have been thinking about a community built on similar lines. Don’t know if it’s possible but THs like Marsha’s give hope.
Marsha – another great build reflecting creativity, optimism and a real spirit of adventure! Thanks for sharing. Your houses are always inspiring, homey and cute. I wish that one or two photos took in the full space but imagine that it’s hard to get a long perspective in that small area. Enjoy.
For anyone who is still following this post, I am still in this tiny house, and loving it! I have an RV hose running inside now for running water into my sink, and the sink drains into the sewer which makes life easier. I cut the double bed back into a single size to put two drawers with a desk top next to the bed, another convenience that has made life easier and gives me a lot more room to move around when the bed is out. Last winter, I did not even need the heat, but this winter I have moved further up the mountains and so use my little propane heater in the mornings to warm the place up while I am dressing for work, but once the sun comes up, the house heats itself, and when I come home from work it is nice and cozy and warm until bedtime. Still using the camp facilities which are really nice, so never bothered to put in any sort of bathroom, just use my little porta potty at night, and empty it once a week. Life is sweet and inexpensive and good here.
. . .oh! and I bought a 2004 GMC Sierra to haul my house last spring. I put about $2500 under the hood, new tires and back shocks, and he runs really well. This house is easy to pull, even through the mountains.
Nice work Marsha and good use of recycled materials.
I have plans for a 7×8 Redhawk that looks very similar and your pics give me some good ideas for some modifications.
Awesome!!! I am super impressed with your builds! I live in a state with nasty winters, so my vintage camper is put into storage. The hubby would NEVER consider anything like this. So I live my dreams through posts like this. Happy Trails!
Would it be possible for you to send me the picture of your new improvements as in your last listing with the desk? I think I could live in something similar to this without too much trouble!! Thank you!