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Living large in Tiny Houses (photos)

Road Trip at Home: For minimalists who covet home ownership but not a mortgage, the efficient Tiny Houses may be the answer.

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Daniel Terdiman
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1 of 22 Tumbleweed Tiny Houses

Tiny Home

GRATON, Calif.--In an era of mini-mansions and underwater mortgages, one group of people has largely avoided both while managing to be as green as possible: residents of Tiny Houses.

Started by Jay Shafer, who began living in a 75-square-foot house in 1997, Tumbleweed Tiny Houses specializes in designing homes that are both functional and highly efficient. Sized between 65 and 837 square feet, the homes are meant to be affordable while emphasizing the need for organization and minimalism.

Seen here is the XS-House, Tiny Houses' smallest home, which can be bought built-to-order for $39,000, or can be built by customers themselves for about $16,000.

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Front

This is the front of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses owner Jay Shafer's personal home. It is the 89-square-foot Epu, which weighs about 4,700 pounds and costs about $46,000 pre-built or about $20,000 for do-it-yourself, including plans, materials, and labor.

Though Tiny Houses are obviously small, they all have charming porches and are designed to be as functional as possible.

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Wardrobe

One of Shafer's major design principles is to include as much storage as possible. In his 89-square-foot house, there's about 100 cubic feet of storage, including this wardrobe.
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Heater

This is a marine furnace, that runs off of propane. Shafer says that in temperate climates, the house costs only about $70 a year to heat, given that it is very well insulated.
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Living room

Shafer tries to design his Tiny Houses so that there is one room that gets as much space as possible, so it is highly livable. This is the living room in his Tiny House.
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Loft bed

Another way that Shafer makes minimal space works is by elevating elements of the house. This is the loft bedroom above the main living space.
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New frame

This is the frame for a new prototype Tiny House that Shafer is building. Generally, he sells about one pre-built home a year, and the rest of his several dozen annual customers buy plans, which can cost as little as $10--when he's running a promotion--or several hundred dollars.
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Building new Tiny House

Here, Shafer and a worker build the new prototype.
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Kitchen shelving

Shafer says he puts a lot of energy into making sure that "stuff" is moved to the periphery of each room and stays out of the way. These are shelves in the kitchen of his personal Tiny House.
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Kitchen

This is the kitchen of Shafer's Tiny House. It has a propane-powered stove, and a small sink connected to a gray water filtration system.
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Pots and spices

In an attempt to get as much off of surfaces, Shafer has designed the kitchen to emphasize hanging things like pots and pans and spices on the walls.
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Fridge

Shafer keeps a "dorm" fridge under the sink.
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Toilet

Some of Shafer's designs feature composting toilets, meaning that no black water runs into the local sewage system.
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Bodega plans

On the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses Web site, Shafer features peeks at the plans for each of his designs.

This is the plan for the Bodega, which comes in two versions, one that's 261 square feet, and another with an extra bedroom that's 365 square feet.

While many of the Tiny Houses are actually "tiny" and are geared toward single people, some are meant for couples, or even families. But all are meant to be very space efficient.

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Back of the house

The rear of Shafer's Epu Tiny House.
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Right side

This is the right side of Shafer's Tiny House. Because the building is smaller than houses are required to be in most municipalities, Shafer designs them to technically be recreational vehicles, meaning they are built on a frame with wheels. Still, most people plant the houses in place and don't move them.
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Shower stall

The bathroom in Shafer's Tiny House features a set up for a shower.
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Z-Glass

This is the Z-Glass, which is 370 square feet and requires about $26,000 in materials to build.
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Ernesti

This is the Ernesti, one of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses' largest models. It comes in two variations, one with two bedrooms that is 746 square feet, and the other which is three bedrooms and 843 square feet.
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Fenci

This is Fenci, which is 130 square feet and comes either ready made for $54,000, or build it yourself for $23,000.
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Bodega

This is the Bodega, which comes in a two-bedroom version that's 261 square feet, and a three-bedroom version that's 365 square feet.
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Sebastarosa

This is the Sebastarosa, which comes as either a two-bedroom model that's 750 square feet. It can be built as a two-bedroom at 750 square feet, or as a three-bedroom at 847 square feet. The materials cost between $49,000 and $56,000.

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