Resting on a trailer bed and boasting less than 200 square feet in space, the tiny house is the modern day’s best example of simple living.
But, according to a report by WCIV, Charleston, S.C., while the home is simple in the resource it provides, it is anything but simple in design. Its builders argue it is more than a shed on wheels. It brings to life a vision of sustainable living — from the composting toilet to the hybrid electrical system.
It’s the dream home of Cedric Baele and Andrea Tremols.
The home the couple has built is not an original idea. Tiny house designs and concepts have been mainstream for about eight years. Since the fallout in the economy, the affordability and adaptability of tiny houses has increased their popularity.
The design of the couple’s home is one that has taken influence from concepts used in recreational vehicles and boat building. Baele’s father was a boat builder in Charleston, and Baele said he himself has spent plenty of time restoring boats with living spaces. He says his knowledge of building with limited space and research, backed with insight from Tremols, has played a large role in what he describes as a “design that just makes sense.”
With a grin on his face, Baele will admit a large part of the build was spent at the Charleston County Library. He said they spent about a year researching tiny house designs before they stopped talking about tiny houses and decided to build one.
“This is a very small project, and this is an extreme,” Tremols said. “It doesn’t have to be this small, but it can still be this affordable. It can still be this comfortable.”
Due to the home’s size, the couple has spent countless hours brainstorming how to best utilize every inch of space. At one point, they even tore it down and started over.
“I want people to know you don’t have to get rid of comfort to live this lifestyle,” Tremols said.
There’s space for a stove, a small refrigerator and a sink. The bathroom is about the size of a of a public restroom stall, complete with a small stand-up shower area. There is sitting space, a couple of feet of it, and the loft upstairs is a closed loft.
The couple said the loft was originally planned to be open, but they later figured it would be good to close it to allow the opportunity for either of them to have private time.
From the amount of counter space to the sleeping loft, flexibility was kept in mind to make the most out of space and make every space comfortable.
“In terms of versatility, this is a pretty cool thing,” Tremols said.
Why a tiny house?
Not long out of college, uncertainty in the current economy is what the couple says was a key element in their decision to enter the tiny house market.
The couple says any time they talk about the house, there is plenty of interest. They hope their construction will spark enough interest to spread the popularity of tiny houses and their benefits.
“People my age, people I talk to that don’t want to be indebted, people that are coming out of college in an economically unstable time. …Many are interested,” Tremols said.
Tremols graduated from the College of Charleston in 2008, and the economy had just tanked. She said she feared not being able to ever find a comfortable place to live. The tiny house construction has eased her mind.
“This is an opportunity for those people like me to own something for themselves,” she said.
For Baele, living in debt for 30 years just wasn’t appealing.
“It seemed pretty clear that this was the right idea for us,” he said.
The home is nearly complete, missing only appliances, bathroom furnishings a few panels and love. In all, Baele said they have spent only $7,000 on their dream home, though he admits the cost in hours of work is much different. It’s a six-month project the couple hopes to have wrapped up by the end of January.
“Sustainability — definitely a buzz word these days,” Baele said.
More than 90%of the tiny structure was built with reclaimed materials. A ventilation system that doesn’t actually use AC, modern insulation, plans for solar energy use and a design that will make the best of cross ventilation and natural heat are what Baele says make the home a premiere example of simple, green living.
“Sustainability for me means living with only the amount of resources I truly need,” Tremols said. “That came out of living abroad and having lived on organic farms and having lived and worked with people who lived only with what they absolutely need.”
The couple said the reclaimed materials in their home have helped not only to build the structure but also to build the home’s character. From the home’s maple floor taken from the old Charleston cigar factory to the cypress siding taken from an older home in Awendaw, the home offers a history lesson of sorts.
“Every piece of the house has a story,” Baele said. “It has a sort of whole history here in Charleston and just using that makes the house, even though it’s new, have a sense of place.”
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