Vol 7 No. 16 - January 10, 2007

Keeping it simple – really, really simple

Tumbleweed builds houses ranging in size from 70 to 850 square feet.
By Louise Bolger
sun staff writer

How many times have you thought about running away, living in a one room cottage on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, on a remote island in the Pacific or in the Rocky Mountains, selling or giving away all the superfluous things in your life and getting down to basics? Come on, you know you have.

For Jay Shafer, an art professor in California, his dream became a reality when he started designing super-downsized homes. For the past seven years, Shafer has built and lived in houses smaller than 100 square feet. Six years ago, he started a company called Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (www.tumbleweedhouses.com). Tumbleweed builds homes ranging in size from 70 to 850 square feet with prices from $20,000 to $90,000.

The tiny houses pack a lot into their teeny square feet. They come with cathedral ceilings, loft bedrooms, front porches, fireplaces, gable roofs and can even be towed. The kitchens are about 4 x 5 feet, smaller than a full size bed, with cook tops and mini refrigerators. The dining table and vanity are both retractable, and a 2 x 4 foot bathroom is almost all shower. Built with astonishing attention to detail, the tiny homes are also eco-friendly appealing to idealists who are seeking to help the environment and live plainly.

I don’t really know why the idea of tiny homes caught my attention, but the designer’s theory that living space should be taking care of your needs and not demand a lot in return is something I can understand. Everyone, at some point, feels like a slave to his/her home, even if it’s smaller than the 2,400-square-foot, average American home. But how do you manage living in minimal space? Apparently, your brain accepts the small space if the structure is properly proportioned.

I’m not sure my brain accepts that explanation.

Even if you don’t see yourself watching TV on your Blackberry for eternity, a Tumbleweed house would come in handy as a backyard studio while you’re undergoing a major renovation or building a new home. Some Tumbleweed buyers have been Hurricane Katrina victims who needed an inexpensive, practical place to live.

If you’re ready to drop out, a tiny environment-friendly home could be your ticket to simplicity. Leave it to California, once again, to set a trend, tiny though it may be.

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