I visited one of the first tiny house communities in the US. Here are the 8 most surprising things I learned.
After staying a few nights at Orlando Lakefront, a tiny house community in Florida, I learned a few surprising things about the tiny house movement. I was surprised by how much space some of the homes had and by how many of them had luxury amenities, like fireplaces and dishwashers. Since the tiny house movement is still relatively new, building codes and zoning laws have not yet caught up. I learned that this causes a lot of headaches for homeowners. Visit Insider.com for more stories.
Tiny house owners typically get asked the same questions: How small is your house, how does your bathroom work, and where do you put all your belongings? In an attempt to answer these questions myself, I stayed at the Orlando Lakefront, a tiny house community in Florida. During my time there, I slept in a 350-square-foot tiny house and chatted with some of the residents. Over the course of three days, I earned a greater understanding of the downsizing movement. Some of the things I learned surprised me.While most people think tiny houses are cramped, most of these houses actually felt quite spacious.
The tiny house I stayed in for three days was only 350 square feet, but there was more than enough space to move around in. In fact, the bathroom and kitchen were larger than those in my apartment in Brooklyn. The homes I toured in the Orlando Lakefront community had similar layouts, and each one surprised me with the amount of space it offered. Amenities like dishwashers and fireplaces are pretty common in tiny houses.
The bathroom in the tiny house I stayed in had a washer and dryer, and the kitchen had a dishwasher. While it was surprising to me, many of the tiny houses in the community had similar appliances and amenities. "You can have tile, and fireplaces, and big-screen TVs," Orlando Lakefront owner Adam Money told me. "A lot of people are excited that you can have everything in a little house." Although the space felt bigger than I expected, it was surprising to learn that entire families live in tiny houses.
Amanda Burger, a tiny house owner, lives with her two children, a 14-month-old and a 4-year-old, in her 26-foot-long house. She sleeps in one loft while her children sleep in another. "I just think of it as a very small apartment," she said. Similarly, Mickie Boehm, another resident in the community, lives with her husband in a tiny house full time. But when her children come home from college, they all live under the same tiny roof. Windows are arguably the most important part of tiny houses because they make the space feel larger.
There were two large windows in the living space of the tiny house I stayed in, and there was a large garage door that opened onto a deck in the kitchen. I quickly learned that windows are the easiest and most common way to make a tiny house feel more open. In fact, Li-Mor Raviv, a future resident of the Orlando Lakefront community who is currently having her house built, said her home will have 15 windows when completed. A common misconception is that all tiny houses use composting toilets. In reality, many tiny house bathrooms are completely normal.
Boehm told me that one of the most common questions she gets is about her bathroom. "How does it work? Do you compost?" she said, imitating people who ask her similar questions. The Orlando Lakefront community actually has a septic system, so all the tiny houses in the neighborhood can hook up to the system and operate like regular homes. Beyond the toilet, all tiny houses have typical sinks and stand up showers. Elizabeth Silva, another resident in the community, even has a full bathtub in her tiny house. Not all tiny houses are cheap DIY projects. In fact, many hire contractors to build their homes.
While some do opt to build their tiny houses themselves, many turn to contractors to do the work for them. Boehm and her husband planned to build their tiny house themselves, but realized it was going to be too much work and require too much expertise. Instead, they hired someone to do it for them. Similarly, Burger had a contractor build the frame of her tiny house, and she completed the interior on her own. Because the movement is still new, there aren’t any building codes, which causes headaches for homeowners.
When building a regular-sized house in the US, everything must meet specific requirements set by the International Residential Code. For example, each home must have regulation plumbing, electrical, and mechanical features so that they are considered safe to live in. These codes, however, do not exist for tiny houses. "Issues like ceiling heights, emergency escape egress and lofts are almost impossible to pass through the existing IRC code," Andrew Morrison, of Tiny House Build, told Curbed. "We need a national-level code [for tiny house building regulations]." DJ Gilley, a resident of the Orlando Lakefront community, said she learned the hard way that tiny houses do not have legal requirements to meet. After hiring a contractor to build her tiny house frame, she realized that all the electrical and plumbing were wrong. When she went to the contractor to fix it, he refused because legally he hadn't done anything wrong. Gilley said she had to spend an extra $40,000 to fix these issues. Tiny house owners told me one of the most difficult parts of owning a tiny house is finding a place to park it.
Zoning laws in the US do not have a classification for tiny houses, so owners have to classify their houses as RVs, trailers, or mobile homes. This makes it especially difficult for homeowners to find a place to park their tiny houses. States like Massachusetts, California, Florida, and Oregon are a bit more lenient, but most only allow tiny houses to be parked in rural areas. The owner of Orlando Lakefront, Adam Money, has attempted to make tiny house living easier by creating a community where people can park their tiny houses full time. He charges anywhere from $450 to $650 per month to park in the neighborhood.
Read more: 6 owners of tiny homes reveal how much they spend each month on housing Here's what living in a tiny house is really like, according to people who traded their homes for minimalism 35 incredible tiny homes from around the world
More like this (3)
Home improvement site HomeAdvisor found the 10 most popular US states for tiny home living. The...Home improvement site HomeAdvisor found the 10 most popular US states for tiny home living. The site zeroed in on the states with the most Instagram posts that were tagged with the #tinyliving hashtag. Some of the best US states for tiny living include California, Florida, and Texas. The tiny home movement has gained traction in the US in recent years, offering a lifestyle...
Here's what living in a tiny house is really like, according to people who traded their homes for minimalism
Tiny houses are on trend right now, but while the minimalist lifestyle has benefits, it also...Tiny houses are on trend right now, but while the minimalist lifestyle has benefits, it also brings challenges. Tiny houses can help people live debt free, but living in tight quarters can also create unexpected problems that can seem magnified in a tight space. Here's what life is really like living in a tiny house, from the good to the bad. Visit Business Insider's...
Google just revealed its annual "Year in Search" trends for 2019, a detailed list of the...Google just revealed its annual "Year in Search" trends for 2019, a detailed list of the top searches from users for the year broken down into categories, such as fashion or news. One of the categories was "Home Style searches." The top 10 searched terms for home styles on Google in 2019 include well-known aesthetics like "farmhouse style," "Art Deco style," and "modern style...