Many people are inspired by the do-it-yourself ethos behind the tiny house movement, with the idea being that if you can't afford the standard single-family house, then you build one yourself – albeit on a smaller (and more affordable) scale.
But for those who believe that lack of building experience is a barrier to creating the home of their dreams, consider the story of Sequim, Washington-based shellfish biologist Tori, who built her own tiny house from scratch. Despite Tori's lack of prior construction experience, she was able to create a lovely little home for herself, while learning from her mistakes along the way.
Now a happy tiny homeowner, Tori explains her motivation for overcoming her initial hesitation in undertaking such a big project:
"My reason for wanting to go tiny was that I couldn't really afford to buy a house on my own at the time. Living in rentals was expensive and you can't do anything fun to them: you can't paint rentals, you can't put a fence in, you can't make a backyard. So a tiny house allowed me to have full creative direction. And it was a bit of a challenge – it was a scary task to take on, and in doing that I proved that I could accomplish something that I had no experience in."
Starting from the outside, Tori's 24-foot-long tiny home sits on top of a customized Iron Eagle trailer base, which she says allowed her to bolt the structure directly to the frame. The home's plumbing runs underneath, and is insulated in order to prevent frozen or burst pipes.
Tori notes that one of her favorite things about this trailer base is that she was able to build a small bump out over the trailer tongue at the front, which makes extra room for the bathroom sink, and therefore enlarges the bathroom too.
On the inside, Tori's living room has been outfitted with a multifunctional sleeper and sectional couch. Not only does this type of sofa make the living room feel more comfortable for lounging around in, it also serves as a place to store things in, and can also transform into an extra bed for guests.
The interior has been clad in white shiplap to make the space look larger, which offers a nice contrast to the dark colored, reclaimed wood beams, and to the darker window trim.
The dining and work table is made with a butcher block counter from IKEA, which Tori cut down to size, with enough leftover material to create an extra countertop to cover her washing machine.
Moving over to the kitchen, Tori explains that one of her "favorite mistakes" is her under-mounted farmhouse sink, which has been mostly covered up now because it didn't fit into the cabinets she purchased. So instead she built a frame for it to sit upon, and covered the sink with a gray countertop, creating a cleaner look.
"It's just one of the things with building a tiny house that I had to keep adapting to little mistakes or tweaks, as it was my first time building anything," says Tori.
Tori's cooktop runs on propane, and is shored up with a lovely DIY backsplash made out of what looks like adhesive hexagonal tiling that she has cut up to add a bit of personal flair.
The open shelving here allows her to stack plates and cups in plain view and within easy reach.
Directly opposite the kitchen is what Tori calls the "coffee nook" and the laundry zone, which includes the combination washer-dryer machine, and a set of drawers to store clothes.
The laundry zone extends to under the stairs, which has integrated a mini-closet to hang clothes, along with storage for shoes.
The stairs lead up to the bedroom, which has a ceiling made with reclaimed metal corrugated sheeting. Tori says that she made this design choice because it subtly defines the bedroom as its own space, even though it is open. The bedroom has an operable skylight for fresh air, and as an extra egress in case of fire.
Directly below the bedroom is the bathroom, which includes a toilet, the sink in its own bump out, and the shower, which Tori says is her "second favorite mistake" of the house, as she had to build her own beautiful quartz shower floor, when she discovered the prefabricated shower pan she'd bought was the wrong size.
All in all, Tori says she spent about $30,000 and almost three years to build her own tiny house. Much of the effort was in "not getting discouraged" whenever mistakes were made, and in conquering her fear of the unknown. Tori's story is a inspiring example of how even someone with zero construction experience can indeed build a beautiful place to call home.