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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tiny houses

Mark my words -- someday I will own one of these:

I spent a while looking at tiny prefabricated and kit houses after remembering a New York Times article on tiny prefab homes that I read a year or so ago. A lot of cool modern designs, but most are still relatively expensive (e.g. $75,000) and involve substantial expenses to get them set up or installed at your location. (You can get a Modern Cabana for about $10,000, but it's not intended to be a standalone house, unless you don't feel the need for a bathroom or kitchen.)

Which is where Tumbleweed Houses, builder of the WeeBee, pictured above, comes in. While not using that sleek modern aesthetic that is so alluring, their homes do appear quite attractive and well-designed (check out the interior photos on their site), and have a couple important advantages. One, they're comparatively affordable -- the WeeBee is $46,000, and comes totally complete. They're also built directly on a trailer, so you can tow it to where you want to put it (they are, literally, trailer homes). This also means you can move it somewhere else later if you like. And apparently you don't even need a building permit in many areas because they're so small and aren't on a foundation.

So, let me sketch out a scenario. You buy some land in a scenic rural area a few hours from your permanent home that can be had relatively cheaply, maybe even someplace that wouldn't be suitable for a normal house. You wheel your WeeBee in and leave it there. Doesn't even need to be connected to utilities, because it uses propane for heat, hot water and cooking, and you can attach a solar panel. A composting toilet is an option. Maybe you can set up a rainwater collector or just do without showering (who showers when they go to the country for the weekend, anyway?). Then, you've got a cozy off-grid place to really get away...maybe do some hiking, read outside, or ride your bike into town. Sounds pretty good, right?

One obstacle (if you're on the east coast, anyway) is that these houses are built in Sebastapol, CA. They charge $4 a mile to deliver, or you can pick it up yourself. A cross-country road trip towing one of these Tumbleweed houses would be interesting -- you could sleep in the house, and you'd attract a lot of attention at the RV parks...

2 comments:

lj said...

If they're literally trailer homes, and aren't on a foundation, I can't help wondering what separates them from regular trailer homes. That is, are they safe in tornado country? (Interesting to compare the two in other ways, also). I think a lot of these are designed on the west coast, with the west coast in mind: no tornadoes, weather that permits having the outdoors as your living room year round.

It is very appealing in many ways. I remember the ones in that NYT article looking very spiffy.

teague said...

You certainly wouldn't want to be in one of those during a tornado. (They are called Tumbleweed houses, after all.) But in my vacation home scenario, anyway, it's in a mountainous area not prone to tornados.

Regular trailer homes are defined not so much by their wheels (most of them never go anywhere), but rather by their status as the cheapest housing available. These Tumbleweed houses appear very well designed and constructed, and are built like real houses except that they are mounted on a trailer. They're also way smaller than an average trailer home.

The guy who designs them lived in the first 70 sq ft one in Iowa for a couple years...