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posted: 11/12/2017 6:00 AM

Companies, communities bet on tiny-house living

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  • ESCAPE Homes is building a tiny-house resort in South Cairo, New York.

    ESCAPE Homes is building a tiny-house resort in South Cairo, New York.
    Courtesy of ESCAPE Homes

 
 

We've all been watching the tiny-house phenomenon for a while now. Tiny houses have become a fad since the cost of housing has skyrocketed in parts of the country and salaries have fallen behind.

For some people, the only way to own a home is to resort to a space that is considerably smaller than the typical home. Some prototypes have been designed with a trailer hitch so the structure can be relocated easily to, say, a location with a landscape, so the homeowner can have a yard.

The concept is appealing, but in truth, people have found it challenging to locate places where they can permanently park their home on wheels. It has become an issue in many communities, as homeowners worry that the character of the mobile homes will diminish their property value. Locating the perfect site can be easier in rural areas.

Another dose of reality has come in the form of human behavior. It turns out that for some of the people appearing on the various HGTV programs devoted to tiny-house living, the strain of living in such tiny quarters has surfaced. As we see with follow-ups, some couples cannot manage to live in 300 square feet together, and one moves out.

Additionally, when compared with the lifestyle of an urban micro-unit, rural or suburban settings are more restrictive. In the city, for example, people can get to a pub, cafe or coffee house in minutes simply by walking out the building's front entrance and down the block.

There are numerous prototypes and manufacturers of tiny houses. Escape Homes is being used in a unique manner to create the new Think BIG! tiny-house resort in South Cairo, New York, just two hours outside of Manhattan. The getaway spot is the brainchild of Bob Malkin, founder of the famed retail store Think Big! that opened in New York City's SoHo neighborhood in 1979 and features oversized pop art. Units vary, but a few are just around 270 square feet and offer queen-size beds, full-size appliances and bathrooms. Each little house has a private patio complete with outdoor dining table and seating, a Weber grill and a fire pit!

The same company has begun to build and deliver specially designed tiny homes for Texas, Florida and California residents who have been displaced by recent hurricanes and wildfires. Search back to post-Hurricane Katrina days and you will find the genesis for an alternative to the maligned FEMA trailer. In June 2006, Congress appropriated $400 million for FEMA to design an alternative-housing pilot project, and the result was the "Katrina Cottage." Mississippi received approximately 2,800 cottages for people who'd lost their homes in the storm. Louisiana has completed the construction of about 500 units.

As the demand for smaller homes increases nationwide, the Katrina Cottages -- hailed by some as the new Sears, Roebuck & Co. house -- continue to gain popularity. A series of designs by Marianne Cusato and a team of designers are now available as building plans. Designs range from 308 square feet to 1,807 square feet. Several of the cottages have "grow" options that allow them to be expanded over time.

A unique manufacturer that specializes in creating one-of-a-kind tiny houses from reclaimed elements can be found in Austin, Texas. Called Reclaimed Space, the designers weave together rustic structures that can be delivered most anywhere in the continental United States. Spaces are built with 100-year-old barn wood, longleaf pine and corrugated metal that the founders meticulously gathered from barns and homes across Texas. Their Crawford Double shell is 448 square feet, and the La Arboleda shell is 640 square feet.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at christinebrun@sbcglobal.net.

2017, Creators Syndicate

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