There’s a quote by designer William Morris hanging inside Robinson Residential’s first tiny house.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
In this space, the contrary would be ludicrous. At 160 square feet, there is only room for the essentials.
Given its size, a tiny house isn’t just a small home; it’s also a lifestyle. No more running out to Costco or Wal-Mart and stocking up on a year’s supply of toilet paper — where would you store it?
“You have to throw that thinking out the window when you’re designing a tiny house, because if you have that much stuff, you’d probably use it for a footstool in the first month because you have no space to put it,” said John Robinson, principal designer and partner of Robinson Residential.
The kitchen table recedes into the countertop. The staircase to the loft bed slides into the cupboard — and provides storage space. Where the four tiny-house designers saw “a few square inches going to waste,” they squeezed in an extra shelf.
Robinson Residential designs houses and provides the plans to builders. But with the market “a little slow last year,” designing a tiny house was a way to keep busy and potentially break into a new market.
Robinson said the design was well received at a tiny house show in Portland, Ore., in the fall. A Wisconsin builder will be supplying Robinson’s homes to U.S. east coast customers.
The real thing — which was built in little more than three days in December — will be part of the Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs in August, which Robinson calls “the Burning Man of tiny houses.”
Robinson said many tiny houses on the market are “unfortunately” of substandard quality, because builders are looking to meet a price point of, say, $15,000.
Robinson wasn’t concerned with making the most affordable house if it meant compromising on quality. His tiny house has lots of natural light — skylights, windows and patio doors, with a seven-foot deck on either side making the house feel larger than it is.
The house is well insulated to withstand a Saskatchewan winter, but, said Robinson, “It would be a stretch to be in here in a howling blizzard for a week with your spouse or whatever, because you can’t get away from each other.”
He sees the Saskatchewan tiny-house market as a lake guesthouse or a temporary home before you build your permanent cabin.
But there could be a community of tiny houses, including a social hall, community kitchen and laundry.
Tiny-house owners are “very communal. They’re not hermits because they’re living in their little house. They’re living in a little house because that’s the lifestyle they want and what they can afford,” said Robinson.
Robinson Residential’s first tiny house is on display at the Regina Spring Home Show, which runs Thursday through Sunday at Evraz Place.
PERKS TO TINY HOUSE LIVING, according to John Robinson
“You can clean your house really fast.”
Robinson Residential’s largest tiny house is 220 square feet (28 feet long by eight feet wide); the smallest is 100 square feet — aptly named the Centipede.
“I don’t think there’s any other houses you could get into for that amount of money and can be living in it a week later.”
That said, legally parking one is an issue. “There’s a lot of bylaws in place and they’re not the same as a laneway home or a garden suite,” said Robinson.
“You can still personalize the space.”
There is decent wall and shelf space for art and decorative items. But “you have to look at ways of using the same piece of furniture or the same square footage several ways” — like one space tripling as a bedroom, office and dining room.
“It’s a very eco-friendly way to live.”
Styrofoam insulation makes it energy-efficient. A small space costs less (monetarily and energy-wise) to heat. There’s a composting toilet. The Centipede model will have an off-the-grid option, including solar panels and a wood stove.
“It’s a chance to look at a different way of living for a year and see if it works for you.”
There’s room for less, which means more trips to the store. There’s a propane heater, which means lighting it with a flame, not turning up a thermostat.
“If you’re in here and you’re in a rainstorm, it’s going to be very much more a part of your life,” said Robinson. “It’s not such a sterilized existence. You’re more in tune with what’s happening outside your window.”
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Photos by: Bryan Schlosser/Regina Leader-Post