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Tents, a Cabin, a Sailboat and Now An Off-Grid DIY THOW

Natalie and Lucas have lived in tents as wilderness guides, rented small spaces and cabins, and even lived in a 29-foot sailboat while building their tiny house! Now they’re proud owners of their off-grid THOW, which they’ve lived in for 4 years.

First they parked in Northern Wisconsin on a friend’s land, and now they rent from a couple in Oregon they met via Facebook. Their home doesn’t have running water, but they do have a great solar system set up for electricity.

Many of the materials in their home were reclaimed from places that have significance to the couple, and all in all they spent about $30,000 on their tiny home. We got to do an interview with Natalie (@nataliejacksonwellness on Instagram) which you can read after the photo tour of their beautiful home.

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Their $30K DIY Tiny Home in Oregon

Here’s the sailboat they lived in while working on their THOW.

Keeping cozy by the wood-burning stove.

Room for two in their tiny kitchen!

Most of the wood seen here is reclaimed.

Love the wood storage under the couch.

Their kitchen has both a stovetop and an oven.

I really love the metal backsplash that blends in with the shiplap.

Copper sink and their gravity-fed water.

I’m always impressed with people who keep open shelving looking so nice.

Those little windows add a lot of character.

Cozy bedroom loft with a tiny bookshelf.

Here’s their bathroom (no shower).

Some hanging storage and drawers.

More open shelving.

Nature’s Head composting toilet.

Talk to Natalie about Off-Grid Tiny Life

What are your name(s)?

Hello! We are Natalie and Lucas.

How many people (and animals) are living in your home?

Just us and formerly our dog, Tischer.

Where do you live? How long have you lived tiny?

We live in Ashland, Oregon. This is our fourth year living in our tiny house.

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?

I help people unearth their instinctual health as a Wellness and Lifestyle Coach and is also a part-time educator at an outdoor school. Lucas is currently a full-time graduate student studying Outdoor Adventure Leadership.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

We wanted to simplify how we lived (perhaps to more mimic our outdoor adventure living style), get out of debt, stop paying rent money to others, and to have our own home. We both have a background in wilderness travel and have lived in small homes, tents and on a sailboat.

Specifically, Natalie wanted to gain building skills while Lucas wanted to create a custom space that could be shutdown easily and would allow us to keep our belongings in one space – even if it wasn’t always the same location.

How did you first learn about tiny life?

We first started talking about it while living in a small cabin in Northern Minnesota. That led to a couple years of research and planning plus scribbling design layouts on napkins while in the meantime we bought and moved onto a 29 ft sailboat (another version of tiny living!) which served as our home until Tiny was livable.

How did you acquire your tiny house? Are you comfortable sharing how much it cost?

We designed and built our home. Tiny is solar powered and 100% off-grid. There’s no running water and we heat with a wall mount propane heater and one cubic foot wood stove. I believe we are hovering around 30K total (this includes repurposed materials, too).

Have you done any renovations?

Our tiny house (Tiny as we call her) is mostly complete but we continue to do small projects. Lucas recently built a drying rack drawer for dishes and we’re putting a mirror and shelf in the bathroom. We learned quickly that a house, no matter the size, is never completely done. Our build was also done essentially paycheck to paycheck so we had the luxury of living in it before completion and adjusting our original designs – when possible – to what we learned.

What are bills/utilities like compared to before?

We currently pay a small monthly rent to park on someone else’s property. We rotate between two 20lb propane tanks (wall-mount propane heater and range/oven) that on average last 1-2 months. Depending on the year, we either buy firewood or cut and dry it ourselves. We have access to showers at the campus rec center or local gym.

How did you find a place to “park” your home? Or do you travel?

The first 3 years we lived in northern Wisconsin and parked on friend’s land. Now in Oregon, we found a couple willing to host us on a local Facebook page.

Before going tiny, what was life like?

We bought a 1970’s sailboat on Lake Superior and lived aboard for three seasons. During the winters we rented a friends home who were snowbirds to Utah. And of course, we spent as much time as possible on outdoor adventures.

Is there anything from your old life that you miss?

Nope. We do look forward to owning a piece of property to build a shed for our outdoor gear and a sauna.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

We save gallons of water by using a separating, composting toilet and not having a shower. Cleaning takes minimal time. We get to experience living in the same home but in different locations.

What about some challenges?

It can be challenging to both be on a phone/Zoom call, even with headphones. There isn’t another room one of us can go in to speak. Taking good care of our outdoor gear like bikes, boats, surf boards and tools is challenging because we don’t have a shed or garage. A designated entryway would be nice during the shoulder seasons. We often track in snow or mud.

What makes your tiny home special?

We designed and built Tiny ourselves! We relied heavily on the expertise of our friends and family members, along with the local lumber yard staff, but we did it!

The interior wood in our home is connected to special people and places. Our pine panelling on the long walls is from the historic resort where we met and worked together in northern Minnesota, the bathroom barn door wood was milled on a good friend’s property, the hardwood floor is 40 year old reclaimed flooring from the marina owner where we kept our sailboat. The stair stringer and treads is also reclaimed wood from a company that extracted sunken old-growth timber from Lake Superior from back in the logging days.

What is your favorite part of your tiny home?

Few physical possessions equals more rad experiences living! We go outside more often, regardless of the weather and we’re both quite proud we designed and built her ourselves.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?

We did a lot of research and had countless conversations around potential ideas. If you’ll be living with another person, have stellar communication on what you want and how you want to bring ideas to life.

As far as the build – we ran DC wiring for our lights and some outlets for a lower 12v draw off our batteries. Cross ventilation is key (opening windows across from each other. A ceiling fan does wonders to move the warm air down during winter and pull the warm air up during the summer. Storage lives in every empty space. Pay attention to potential air gaps where cold outside air could meet warm inside air – we get some frost on the floor baseboards in some parts of the house when the temperatures are near zero degrees.

Anything I didn’t ask about that we should know?

Thank you for sharing our story! We appreciate how Tiny House Talk showcases different homes and we’re excited to add ours into the mix.

Learn More:

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Our big thanks to Natalie & Lucas 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.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Mary Will
    November 14, 2020, 10:16 pm

    We have watched as Lucas and Natalie built this tiny home from scratch. Starting with the trailer that tiny was built on. It was truly a labor of love. It is a place of inspiration and cozy charm that anyone would love to call “home”. We are so proud of them!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      November 16, 2020, 10:06 am

      That’s so cool, Mary!

  • Marsha Cowan
    January 10, 2021, 12:54 pm

    Really nice tiny house! I love the stairs and the tiny windows. That kitchen counter is beautiful! I like the way you have cross breezes in the loft. The whole house is pretty darn cute!

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