Hard to believe, but we're closing in on four an a half years since moving into the little house. When we began this journey, we had no idea of the future, except for the little house that came out of necessity and dreams, and a plot on which to put it. How long would we live here? We didn't know. All we knew then, and in fact, all we know now, is that we really don't know much of anything in this fluctuating life. We have hopes & dreams, but sometimes, it's good to sit with contentment right where you're at, live fully there, and see what comes next when it arrives.
How reassuring it's been to have found, on this side of four years, that the little house has been big enough to hold us, even with nearly all our boys now in their teens. There's no way we could have lived happily in the little house for this long had it not been for careful planning in the design and for knowing what size would make a liveable home for our family, while still being within our reach.
I recall the time, five years ago, when we took a drive to see some truly tiny houses for the first time. The big idea of living small had hatched in our minds, and we were wondering so many things. Was this a crazy notion? Could we do it? We went, we looked, we considered. And we came away from that walk-through knowing without a doubt that a tiny house would not work for us.
We were not interested in living in an RV size home. We wanted to live small, but we also wanted to live well. In the grand scheme of living well, space, and how it was distributed, mattered to us. My husband didn't want to turn sideways to walk down the hall or through the doors. We needed more seating for our family than a love seat or upholstered bench could provide. We wanted a dinner table large enough to put dinner on. We wanted our children to have their own spaces. We didn't want to spouse-climb to get in and out of a master bed tucked into a corner of a closet-size space. Where would the drafting table go? The guitar collection? The football paraphernalia? What about a desk? What about a washer and dryer? The home we chose had to accommodate our lifestyle, but it especially had to accommodate our needs.
I dove head-long into research, sifting through all the information I could find on small homes, portable homes, tiny homes, and what codes regulated which. What I found was this: tiny homes built on a chassis with wheels fall into the park model category, which is a type of recreational vehicle. Park models are titled and registered as an RV and must comply with national safety regulations set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI A119.5) for recreational vehicles. These regulations restrict the width, length, height, and square footage of the home (400 sq ft in the US; 540 sq ft in Canada).
The home we needed exceed those restrictions. This is when I went, quite literally, to the drawing board, to the county building department, and back to the drawing board. Could I design a small home that would fit our needs, was within our budget, and that could, technically, be portable? The resulting design truly fell into no-man's land: it wasn't a park model, a manufactured home, or a foundation-built home. No established building code had provision for it. After multiple conversations with our county's building department, it was established that only because we live in rural Wyoming where there are no building codes, would it be possible. Multiple conversations with the builder then followed. We were asking him to go outside his ANSI license to build our home. He required written approval from our county's building department, and ultimately, a liability sign-off, before he would agree to build it.
The little house that almost wasn't, was delivered a few months later.
When photos of our house hit the internet and magazines, stirring up a frenzy of interest, email, and questions, I knew I wanted to offer building plans for homes similar to ours for others who were thinking about this big idea of small. But I also knew I wanted to offer something that would actually be buildable in most areas of the country and the world. And? I wanted to include adjustments that I would make if I were to build ours all over again. Because, truthfully, as much as we love it, our house isn't perfect.
Enter the Shelter Collection. I took inspiration from our home - the floor plan so many of you love - brought it into alignment with the Internationl Residential Code, and designed four permanently-built house plans that can accommodate singles, couples, or families. In many cases, the code requirements in themselves caused the square footage to increase from our home's 665 square feet. In other cases, specific requests from readers who were potential small-home dwellers, caused the square footage to increase (Shelter No. 1 can sleep 8). The resulting plans range in size from 1100 to 1400 square feet.
One question that readers ask often is this: Why don't you offer the floor plan of your exact 665 square foot house?
Loves? Now you know. The good news is, if you love our house, but you're looking to build something even smaller than Shelter No. 4, the smallest plan in the collection, you could modify it to exclude the second floor, therefore bringing the square footage below 1000. Additionally, the private master bath in Shelters No. 2, 3, & 4 was designed to be eliminated if necessary, as well, bringing the total square footage down by another 70. Just ask me about these details if you're interested. NOTE: Modifications in design plans will have an additional modification fee.
Now, after all this talk about small houses and small house plans, I'm excited to announce the Fall Sale of the Shelter Collection! Beginning today, all four of the building plans in the collection are 25% off - a $500 savings! Fall is the best time to purchase plans for a spring/summer build. It gives you ample time to collect bids and building permits, to secure the best contractors, and beat the rash of last-minute finish decisions. The sale on the Shelter collection will end at midnight on Thanksgiving Day.
If you're curious:
For the backstory of our living small, go here
For the full Cabin Story and many more details about our little house, go right over here.