Beth Ann “B.A.” Norrgard worked more than 20 years as a paralegal in a large downtown law firm when she decided to make a big change in her life—she moved into a tiny house.
For the past year and half, Norrgard has lived her dream in a 112-square-foot tiny house she built herself (pictured at top) . In comparison, the average American home is about 2,600 square feet.
“It was spectacular,” she said, recalling her first night in her tiny house. “My whole house is like a grownup treehouse. It’s all natural wood and feels amazing in there. When I first got in there, I felt really liberated and really free.”
Norrgard gets paid to exhibit her house at workshops and works as a consultant in the industry. She runs the blog A Bed Over My Head and still does a bit of contract paralegal work.
The Tiny House dream
Demere O’Dell is a Web designer at the Federal Reserve of Dallas and lives in a modest-sized house. Her dream is to buy land in the country where she can have horses and live in a tiny house.
O’Dell doesn’t have the land yet, but she began building her tiny house in June. It will sit on an 8 by 20 trailer and will measure just shy of 200 square feet.
“For me, it’s more about the lifestyle so that I can afford to get horses, and go kayaking and take trips.”
She is documenting her experience on her blog The Little Fish House.
Building a business
Bryan Smith has been building luxury homes in the Dallas area since the 1970s.
During the Great Recession he came up with the idea of a subsidiary, Texas Tiny Homes, to offer a high-end home with a small footprint. The company launched a website in December 2012 and has been selling plans for homes between 377 and 1,659 square feet. Its smallest plan, not yet available for sale on the website, is 275 square feet.
“From the outside, they will look like million-dollar homes, just smaller,” Smith said.
The company is in talks with about 50 customers to build their small-sized home and is looking for a site for a model home.
“One of the biggest obstacles that we are facing for our product, because it is a site-built home vs. a trailer, is finding lots for our customers that will allow these smaller homes in the deed restrictions,” he said.
Home on wheels
Like Smith, residential designer Maria Hars became interested in the tiny-home movement during the Great Recession. Hars recently stayed in a tiny house on wheels while vacationing to experience what it’s like.
“It had a window facing south so I didn’t feel like I was in a closet,” she said. “With any house, it all comes down to how it is designed and how it functions.”
Storage space is an issue, but it’s possible to design a tiny house with adequate storage, Hars said. She is collaborating with an architect to bring a tiny home design to life and envisions a future market helping tiny house owners who want a designer’s touch.
Pros and cons
Is a tiny house right for you? We asked those in the movement to go over the pros and cons.
- No mortgage, no rent and no property taxes if the house is on wheels
- A sustainable way to live with a small footprint
- Flexible lifestyle
- You’ll have to get rid of your stuff.
- Regulations hinder the movement. Most cities don’t allow site-built tiny houses or allow someone to live full time in an RV, which is what a tiny house on wheels is considered.
- The lifestyle is challenging for families with children.
“For someone thinking about a tiny house, they need to think about the things that they need vs. the things that are just filling a space,” O’Dell said. “The lifestyle is about simplicity and recognizing that you don’t need all of those things.”