The following questions are based on Macy Miller’s website Minimotives (see #35 on her list)
How many square feet is your house? What is the size of your trailer?
140sf + 80sf for loft. The trailer is 20′ long x 8’6″ wide.
How many people live in your tiny house?
My partner (now husband) and I share the rent on the property. He lives separately in a small cabin on the other end .
What part of the country do you live in?
Ojai, CA (2 hours north of Los Angeles)
When did you start and finish your build and how long did it take?
I started in Sept 2012 and finished in Oct 2013, so just over a year.
What plans did you use to build your house?
I designed my own house completely from scratch. I’ve been designing other people’s homes and offices for more than 20 years, and this was a great opportunity to challenge my skills. You can purchase my Design Plans HERE.
How did you find the property that you put your tiny house on?
My partner lived on the property for several years, as a rental, before I moved in. Both of us pay monthly rent on the property. For anyone interested in looking for properties in Ojai for your tiny house, you can contact the local realtors Ray and Cheryl Deckert via their website: www.BestBuysInOjai.com
Why did you decide to build?
I wanted to live in a way that reflects my values regarding sustainability, simplicity and living within my means. Because of my profession in design and construction, I wanted to learn about building my own home.
What was your life like before your tiny house?
I am an active person who loves to be outdoors. Most of my life I moved from house to house, city to city, so I wanted to maintain a flexible lifestyle. More importantly, I wanted to minimize my debt and a tiny house allowed me to do that.
How did you come to hear about the movement, figure out it was right for you and and get started?
I heard about Jay Shafer’s tiny houses before, but the traditional gingerbread style did not appeal to me. However, the philosophy behind tiny houses did appeal to me. I realized later that I could design and build my own house, so it was a perfect opportunity to express my own values.
What is/was your design inspiration?
My design inspiration is from Scandinavian and Japanese architecture. They have beautiful design sensibilities combined with utility and function, light filled spaces that are timeless, simple and clean.
How did you find the time to work on your house with a job, relationships, AND building a house?
I completed the construction in one year, but I definitely gave up all of my free time during that year (holidays, weekends, weeknights). I was juggling projects in my design firm Sol Haus Design during the week and building/ researching the rest of the time. Building a tiny house requires a commitment and sacrifice, but it’s certainly worth it in the end.
Have you run into any problems with your local codes?
I consulted with my local building official early during construction (which I recommend). Luckily I have been able to work with local officials to start the conversation. Read more on Macy Miller’s blog post HERE:
Where did you get the tools that you use?
I’m lucky! My partner had access to construction tools. My long term vision is to create an intentional community with tiny houses and shared resources, like a tool shed, workshop and a library.
Were you able to stay on schedule?
Yes, thanks to carpenters and other builders that I hired to keep me on track towards the end.
What was the most time consuming portion of your build?
Modifying the trailer took about 2-3 months, welding and putting in the floor insulation. It was also wintertime with rain and wet weather. In 2012, no one was building trailers to maximize the widths and heights for tiny houses. Luckily my partner had the skills to make the modifications.
What was the most limiting factor for your build?
Cost. I wanted to stay within my budget (originally $25K). I also wanted to be environmentally conscious, using reclaimed, non-toxic materials, and to minimize waste. I spent a total of $40K in the end.
What are the reclaimed building materials you use?
The french doors are from Craigslist, three windows and pocket door were from Habitat’s ReStore, the oak flooring and all the wood for the exterior deck were reclaimed.
How do you move your tiny house?
I rent a truck or use my partner’s heavy duty truck if I need to move it.
Do you have accessory sheds to supplement storage/working/living?
Yes- I rent a small office space for my design practice. Also I have a small storage unit off site and a small trailer onsite to store my outdoor sports gear.
Did you consult any professionals for your design?
Yes, I consulted with a structural engineer for the framing and with a Title 24 engineer (for energy efficiency) for insulation and window requirements. I hired professional help for plumbing and electrical.
Is your house insured?
Yes with Darrell Grenz from Portland Oregon. Contact him via website:
Have you been using any sponsorships to help fund your house?
I don’t have sponsors because I wanted full control of design. Because I work in the industry, I was able to get trade discounts for products and labor was also discounted from friends who are artisans/craftsmen.
What do you have for cooking?
2 burner RV stove, sink, small refrigerator. No oven (I don’t feel I need it or I can build an outdoor oven later).
Are you off grid?
Yes, my PV system consists of 750 watt solar panel array. During the cold and rainy season, I plug into the grid to my partner’s cabin.
Are you going to have a washer and/or dryer?
No because it takes too much electrical load being off the grid. I go to the laundromat. I may consider getting a portable washer in the future.
Where does your water come from?
Hose bib is connected to city water.
What kind of toilet are you going to have?
Composting toilet. Because it is illegal in the County of Ventura, I use the outdoor toilet connected to a septic tank.
What do you use for a heat source?
Gas propane fireplace with a remote control and thermostat.
What are some of the space savings tricks you used?
So many! My sofa is multi purpose: seating, storage and guest bed. I have drawers under my kitchen cabinets instead of baseboards. I have storage behind my bed. My coffee table is on casters and can be my dining table, side table, and storage. I have a small loft above my desk for additional storage (or extra sleeping space).
What do you have for insulation?
Rock wool insulation Roxul for the walls and ceiling; denim insulation for the foundation. I prefer Roxul for ease of use, cost, higher R-value, acoustical and fire retardant, and readily available off the shelf.
How much did your tiny house cost?
Approx. $40,000 (includes solar panels, all interior furnishings & equipment, outdoor deck)
What was the most expensive part of your house?
My fireplace ($3k), trailer ($3k) and big operable skylight ($1k)
What has been your biggest accomplishment with your tiny house?
Putting the plywood on the roof with only ropes and carabiners, without scaffolding (I‘m a rock climber).
Is there anything you’ll miss about living in a standard house?
None – It has been surprisingly easy to live tiny. The bigger challenge is living off the grid. I choose to live very simply with minimal power consumption, so I don’t have a washer/dryer nor large appliances.
What has been the scariest part about building your own house?
Making sure the plumbing and gas lines worked before moving in. Hooking up the fireplace/ gas stove was not done properly at first. Because it was the most expensive item, I was concerned it wasn’t going to work. It was fixed soon thereafter.
If you could change one thing about your house what would it be?
I would put a vent pipe for the plumbing. I didn’t put one in because I didn’t want an unsightly penetration in the roof.
How did you pay for your house?
I paid for my house with income from my design projects, my retirement account, and a small business loan.
Specifications for Vina’s Tiny House
Vina’s Tiny House is designed to be off the grid with solar panels and passive heating/ cooling techniques. The interior includes non-toxic healthy interior finishes. Many building materials are reclaimed from Habitat ReStore. Building materials are locally sourced to support the local economy and to reduce carbon footprint. Vina’s Tiny House is a community effort handcrafted with a lot of QUALITY, LOVE and CARE. Approx. Cost: $40,000
- HEATING: Propane gas fireplace (zero clearance) by Swedish manufacturer Jotul
- TRAILER: 20′ x 8’6″ trailer, dual axel 10,000#GVWR customized for maximum width & pop-out
- ROOF: very durable galvalume standing seam metal roof
- EXTERIOR SIDING: high grade cedar siding with shiplap joint, vertical orientation
- RAINSCREEN: furring strips over vapor barrier allows condensation on the exterior wall, reduces mold and dry rot
- WINDOWS: energy efficient vinyl windows by Milgard, dual pane, low E
- DOORS: reclaimed french doors (dual pane, tempered glass) and reclaimed pocket door with custom art glass
- SKYLIGHTS: energy efficient and operable for natural ventilation, serves as emergency exit from loft
- LIGHTING: All energy efficient LED
- COOLING: ceiling fan with remote control; cross ventilation with operable skylights and windows
- SOLAR: 750 watt system with 4 batteries, 2 modules, inverter, charge controller
- WATER HEATER: small RV tankless, on-demand, powered by propane gas
- APPLIANCE: Energy Star undercounter refrigerator
- PLUMBING: high quality stainless steel sink, faucets and shower fixtures in satin nickel
- STOVETOP: RV 2-burner stove with propane gas
- BATH: Fully tiled shower with bench, compact sink and composting toilet
- INSULATION: R-15 walls (Rockwool), R-19 floor (denim), R-19 roof (Rockwool), non toxic, fire retardant
- SOFA: Custom sofa functions as a bed, seating and large storage
- MILLWORK: Custom cabinetry with maple veneer FSC certified plywood, no formaldehyde, off-gassing
- INTERIORS: natural/organic whitewash on interior walls, no VOC’s (volatile organic compounds)
- OUTDOOR DECK: all lumber reclaimed from fallen trees, recycled wood decking, 2×6 joists recycled from trailer
- CUSTOM ARTWORK: Art glass, custom drapery and pillows by local artist