The concept of living minimally and having the freedom to pursue the things I love started over a decade ago when I sold everything, built out my grandmother's old camper van, and took off on the road with no idea when or if I would return. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s those leap of faith moments and pushing past my comfort zones, that end up being the most rewarding experiences of my life. The tiny house build was no different.
Even though Laysea and I had both spent years living in vans, the idea of building a tiny house didn't really dawn on us until the pandemic hit and we were stuck in a foreign country in lockdown in a space that was smaller than most people’s bedroom. Our three-week trip quickly turned into four months and the thought of continuing to pay rent for our apartment in San Diego that we couldn't even get back to became more and more frustrating. During lockdown, we started looking on Pinterest, watching YouTube videos, and using a free 3D computer program to design our dream tiny house. Our goal was to build a home that lowered our monthly overhead costs while also allowing us to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
When we returned to San Diego, we purchased a custom 26’x8.5’ trailer from Tiny House Basics and they helped us turn our 3D model into proper elevations that we could use for the build. Laysea’s dad is a professional contractor in Florida that specializes in certified green home technology. He was eager to help us on the project and drove his custom-built Airstream out to help us with the build. It was great to spend that quality time with him and his skills and ideas definitely helped take our home to the next level.
One of our goals was to build the entire house off of solar power which ended up making it easier to find land that we could build on since we weren't dependent on electrical hookups. Goal Zero sent us a few Boulder 200 Briefcases, a Yeti 3000X, and two Tank batteries which ended up being perfect for the build. We incorporated lots of other eco-friendly products into our home like sheep's wool insulation from Havelock wool, a composting toilet, greywater filtration, energy star certified appliances with a retro look from Unique Appliances, and lots of reclaimed teak wood all over the house including our gorgeous exterior siding, interior flooring, stunning hexagon countertop, and floor to ceiling bathroom tiles all from our friends at Indo Teak Design. We also installed the Goal Zero Home Integration Kit which has allowed us to continue running the entire house off of power from the sun.
Laysea and I learned the value of maximizing space and functionality from our years on the road, and we tried to incorporate those elements into our home whenever possible. We fully designed our cabinets with both of those elements in mind and then had our friends at Icon Woodworking turn our vision into a reality, which we absolutely love. I also have lots of tools and outdoor gear that I wasn't willing to sacrifice even though we were moving into a tiny house. We designed a simple 8’x8’ shed on the back to look like it seamlessly connects to the house, but could be somewhat easily broken down if we even needed to move.
Overall, the build was a lot more time-consuming and challenging than I expected, and we somehow timed it just right to have lumber costs at 400% and lots of items unavailable indefinitely because of manufacturing and shipping issues due to the pandemic. The easier thing to do would have definitely been to just keep renting our apartment, but just like setting off in my grandmother's van years ago, this experience has given me so much more confidence in life, created incredible memories I’ll remember forever, and stories I’ll be proud to someday tell my kids and grandkids.
To see more behind the scenes and follow along on our next adventure check out @TravisBurkePhotography and @Layseahughes.