Western Living Magazine
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Here's how tiny-home experts maximize small square footage (and maintain plenty of style).
It turns out it is possible to own a home for $100,000 or less in Vancouver… you just need to be willing to downsize to a “tiny home,” a new breed of sub-400-square-foot mobile houses gaining popularity in a world newly intrigued by minimalism.But if the tiny homes that Shannon Elliott and Brian Persse of Vancouver’s Mint Tiny Homes are building are any indication, limited square footage doesn’t have to limit your lifestyle at all.The Vancouver-based company manufacturers their pint-sized houses on the West Coast, where the majority of its customers are (though you’ll find their work farther flung as well, with orders in Alaska, Texas and beyond). Built right on flat-deck trailers, these mini homes are built to be mobile—but they’re much more than the classic definition of a mobile home or trailer. Though tiny homes are no wider than the width of a road, they can range from 200-to-400 square feet, and include elements like lofts, ladders and staircases.Why are people thinking small? “Tiny homes offer a healthier lifestyle,” says Elliott. “There’s a better incentive to get outside, and its way more affordable…plus there’s the flexibility.” Homeowners will typically rent land and park their house there as long as they need (tiny homes can live anywhere an RV can, so setting up camp in a downtown parking lot won’t exactly fly with the city, but there are plenty of other spaces out there). Sure, the loft bedrooms don’t allow for much headroom (“Usually you can’t stand up,” laughs Elliott) but the amount of space saved there goes to more practical use elsewhere in the home, like allowing some room for a full claw-foot tub.Each tiny home is built custom, with client input. “Getting to know the homeowner, that’s the real trick of the trade—we really have to find out what works for our client and where they spend the most time. Are they usually on the couch, or in the kitchen cooking? Where should we be focusing more or less space,” explains Elliott. “We’re able to make the most of square footage by cutting out on the spaces between and maximizing the things that you actually use.”The customizations vary widely—one office transforms into a guest room thanks to a murphy bed; in another home, owned by a woman who does aerial yoga, there’s a reinforced beam so aerial silks can be hung from the ceiling.Storage, of course, is key with limited square footage, and tiny homes have cabinets and cupboards hidden everywhere. You’ll find it underneath beds, tucked under staircases and lining most walls.Making space for creature comforts like full-sized showers or premium, full-sized appliances are essential for making these spaces still feel like home, even for those who are downsizing. “It’s quite a change if you’re coming from a house; it’s going to be a shock to your system no matter what,” says Elliott. “At least if you can cook a nice meal or take a nice comfortable bath, the transition is smoother.”Tiny homes can start from around $50,000 and go up to the $100,000 range if you’re looking to splurge, but even at the premium level, it’s a better deal than you’ll get on any Vancouver condo right now.Want to see some of these tiny creations in person? Mint Tiny Houses will be at the B.C. Home and Garden Show, February 21 to 25.
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