Home & Garden

For some, going tiny means going home

Has a binge watching session of HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living got you daydreaming about a massive downsize? Imagining a life in which your home has wheels?

Hundreds of those dreamers came to the N.C. State Fairgrounds on Saturday for an expo on the latest phenomenon in the housing market: living a life in under 399 square feet.

If you are tempted to go small, here are a few misconceptions clarified during the tiny home showcase:

▪  Tiny does not mean cheap

These petite homes can be as fancy as you wish. That means the price tag can bring a little sticker shock. Jeff and Carol Marlow, owners of Free Spirit Tiny Homes in Chapel Hill, splurged on several luxuries in their model tiny house.

Jeff Marlow insisted on a hot shower whenever he wished; a tankless water heater cost $2,000.

Final price on Marlow’s 199-square-foot tiny home: $55,000.

▪  It might be your home, but to the zoning inspector, it’s just a building

Nationally and on the state level in North Carolina, tiny houses aren’t being regulated by building or zoning codes. Want to get water or electricity hooked up to your home? Get ready to have an unscripted conversation with your town’s building and planning department. If you’d rather wing it and stay off their radar, many of the units simply plug in to a generator or an electric outlet, said Dustin Matthews, salesman for Heritage Housing, which has an office in Asheville.

Matthews said he has brought electricity to a tiny home by plugging in to a 110 amp extension cord. Just don’t count on doing a load of laundry with that juice, he warned.

▪  Not willing to climb a ladder to get to your bed?

Many of the modern models offer beds or bedrooms on the ground level — a true comfort to potential buyers like Janene Shackleford of Durham. Shackleford imagines aging in a tiny home, but worries that as her bones and muscles age, too, the ladder will prove daunting.

“No ladder, no way,” she said Saturday, after exploring a home with a loft bed.

Think of a tiny home as a Lego board. You build what you want.

▪  Yep, your mother’s dining room table is not gonna fit in the space

Tiny homes are, well, tiny. That means that you aren’t going to simply move from your suburban “McMansion” into a tiny home without doing a lot of purging. Most people equip their tiny homes with brand new tiny things, Matthews said.

As the market grows, so are the vendors catering to the tiny market.

▪  Go ahead, splurge

Unwilling to make do without a full-size refrigerator? No problem. Need a shower you can sit down in, go for it. Just as tiny doesn’t mean cheap, it also does not mean roughing it. The homes on display offered everything from rainforest shower heads to mahogany flooring.

Carol Marlow insisted on this luxury in hers: a double-sided deep basin kitchen sink.

Locke: 919-829-8927 or @MandyLockeNews

If you go

The Great American Tiny House show is open through 5 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the Graham Building at N.C. State Fairgrounds. It continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 18. Adult admission is $10. Children 12 and under are free.

Be aware that several of the exhibitors canceled at the last minute, so fewer tiny homes are on display. Five homes under 400 square feet can be toured, along with some recreational vehicles.