Small change—the sudden popularity of the ‘tiny, tiny house’ movement
- Published: April 1, 2019
With real estate prices getting larger and larger in Yellow Springs, the trend towards smaller and smaller homes — and consequently smaller mortgages — has taken hold in recent years among villagers.
The “tiny house movement,” as it is commonly known, is growing in response to rising real estate prices, sustainability efforts, rising real estate prices, reduction of the carbon footprint, rejection of the consumer society, but mostly rising real estate prices.
But for some, even tiny is a stretch.
Recent college graduate Demi Smaul says she wants to remain in Yellow Springs. “But, like pretty much everyone else my age, there’s not much in the future for me getting a loan, even for a 300 sq. ft. tiny house.” she said.
That’s why Smaul and three of her friends last fall initiated what they call the “Tiny, Tiny House Movement.”
“Basically, it’s a 36- to 60-square foot unit. It’s like a tiny house, only tiny. Tiny, tiny — a box, actually.”
Smaul points to a sturdy oven range cardboard shipping container, recently salvaged from behind the local hardware store and retrofitted with four sturdy two-by-fours and reclaimed roof shingles.
“Now that’s quality,” she says. “There’s also a quarter roll of insulation in there.”
Smaul points out that while her weatherproofing efforts reduce the available amount of space by about three square feet, they keep “the whole thing toasty, even in the colder winter days. Itchy, but toasty.”
But wet weather is another thing, altogether. One of Smaul’s friends, Willy Phit, has been experimenting with wax paper and carpenter’s glue to waterproof the structures.
“This is the third generation,” Phit said. “Our first attempts sort of melted on us after a hard rain.”
Smaul chimed in, “Yeah, I stretched that morning, and, well, that’s not a good idea even in dry conditions. But basically, I was wearing the structure. Also, my favorite — no, my only — book got real waterlogged.”
Smaul, who stands 5’11”, and her Bernese mountain dog, Tiny, have lived in everything from a discarded paper towel box — which she deemed “way too flimsy” — to a longish IKEA packaging for shelving units.
“That one was very Scandinavian, very minimalist, but the flaps never quite closed right after I put it together,” she said.
When asked about the zoning controversy around tiny houses, specifically regarding aesthetics and the depreciation of property values, Smaul laughed. “People don’t even notice our tiny, tiny houses. We, like, totally fly under the radar. Just look at the number of people who have boxes and other junk out in their backyards all the time.”
Other members of the Planning Commission stated in a 2013 meeting their additional concerns over safety, that the small structures might possibly provide “places where lawbreakers can hide.”
Smaul, now folded neatly into her space, smiled over her shoulder and said, “Just let ‘em try.”