Hi! Melanie here! At ATWS we’re interested in challenging the norm of debt and spending. That’s why we’re starting a new column called, “Living Tiny.” (See the 1st tiny home tour.) We’re focusing on people who have gone to (what some would say) extreme means with their living situations to get out of debt, save money and live a simpler life. Today we have a tiny house tour with Nicole. She’s a studio manager for a photography studio and lives with her cat, Nuka in Portland, Oregon. Take it away, Nicole!
Hi, I’m Nicole! I’m a Portland, Oregon native that loves the outdoors, travel and my cat, Nuka. In my spare time I hike and shoot photos, go camping and help people design their tiny homes. I have a love for film photography and try to shoot film for personal projects.
My tiny house journey started while traveling back and forth between Portland and Cortes Island, BC. A good friend asked me if I’d like to make a photo book of tiny living spaces. After visiting some tiny homes on Cortes, I realized I wanted to build my own.
My reasons for wanting to live in a tiny house are all encompassing. I cannot fathom being able to afford an average 2-3 bedroom home in Portland with student loan debt, but I needed my own space. Rent has been going up in Portland at exponential rates and I became tired of paying $500+ for a room in a shared house. I felt like I was throwing money away. After living in a travel trailer and a car for a year, I realized how little I need, and the freedom of movement became more and more appealing. A tiny house seemed like a great investment towards ownership and I could get cheaper rent on a larger plot of land- allowing for money saved and more food gardening. Currently, I pay $250 a month plus utilities for a plot in a good friend’s backyard in NE Portland.
After taking a workshop with PAD (Portland Alternative Dwellings), my father and I began building The Tiny Bathhouse on weekends in July of 2013. We were both working full-time jobs while building and we weren’t able to completely finish it before I had to move into it in March of 2014. We continued to tie-up loose ends and plumbing/electrical aspects for a few months post move-in. Overall, the building experience was fun and challenging. I was learning many basic building techniques as we built! I wouldn’t have been able to build The Tiny Bathhouse without my father, who has a background in building.
Of course my tiny house cost more to build than I expected. At first I thought I would omit the trailer aspect, which is the most expensive part. I wanted to build my house with the ability to strap it to a borrowed trailer for moving, but after the PAD workshop I realized this would be far more complicated. With the trailer and all building materials I ended up spending $12,000. I was lucky enough to have friends give me things like windows, porch lumber and to have a very resourceful father. I put all of the material costs on two credit cards with very low interest rates. One of the cards I have had for ten years only has a 7% APR and the other I was able to get a $4,000 cash advance with no interest for a year. I paid that card off by the deadline and I am still sending large payments to the other credit card. I have a goal to pay it off in the next year. In the end, it will take me about two years to pay off my tiny house, while working full-time and making student loan payments. My rent is cheaper than a room in a house in Portland and after a few years I will likely have saved thousands of dollars in rent, despite my building costs.
I designed the interior of The Tiny Bathhouse to feel very open and spacious despite being on a 7.5 x 20 ft trailer. The interior is warm and inviting. It’s like a little cabin with pine floor and built-ins. There are 6 full-sized windows and a glass front door that allows lots of light to come in. Sheetrock walls painted a faint seafoam green accent the red tones in the pine paneling of the loft and built-ins. The loft has plenty of sitting room due to the shallow pitch of my roof and my high top plates- the walls are 11’ & 8” tall! A clawfoot tub resides in the kitchen area, with bench seats and drawers in the back. There is enough space in the tiny house for two people to do yoga, head to head.
The Tiny Bathhouse doesn’t have an indoor toilet, I currently use the toilet at the house where I am parked. Not having a toilet in the tinyhouse allowed for a large hanging-bar closet and more open space inside. The front porch and stairs are two separate pieces, both detachable for moving times.
The clawfoot tub is my favorite part of my house- hence the name. I have always wanted a clawfoot tub. Even though it might seem impractical in a tiny house, it truly makes me happy every time use it. I love living in the tiny house. It is much bigger than the 16” travel trailer I occupied for 2+years prior. I love coming home to my little kitchen and cooking food with my little propane RV stove is very satisfying.
Before living in the RV, I had a room in a house for 6 years and acquired a lot furniture and unnecessary stuff. I had put most of my things in storage upon moving into the travel trailer, so as I was building the tiny house, I began selling everything to help cover the costs. I sold my bed, dressers, desk, tables, books, CDs, clothing and so much more that I have already forgotten about. I gave away tons of old art work and unneeded items. My weeding process continues to this day. Every month I take a few more things out, extra mugs, old knick-knacks and things that I just don’t need. It’s a very freeing response to our consumerist culture and I encourage everyone to get rid of things on a regular basis. Down sizing is freeing!
There are a couple things about my design that I might change down the road. The double decker closet isn’t quite practical since you have to be in the loft to reach the top bar, but I still admire the aesthetic of it. I would say having a toilet inside wouldn’t bother me that much, though I do prefer to keep bowel movements out of such a small space. There are very fancy composting toilets you can buy that separate out urine and feces that keep the smell at bay, and having one of those in a tiny house seems convenient. That may be something I would consider for a remodel down the road- who knows!
My advice to anyone who wants to embark on a similar journey is to hire someone to build it for you if you’re working full-time! If you build it yourself, you can still hire a plumber and an electrician to do all the nitty-gritty things at the end when you’re burnt out. And you will get burnt out. The best cure for burn out is having a building partner and a deadline.
And if you’re still not sure if the tiny life is for you, come to Portland and stay in the Tiny House Hotel for a few days to feel it out!
Would you ever consider giving up your current living situations for a simpler way of living? Let’s chat in the comments!
P.S. Looking to declutter and minimize? CLICK HERE to learn about the Fearless Minimalist Guide