STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Kelle Graves summed up the feelings of many homeowners as she settled into her favorite chair with her dogs, Ewok and Panda, to watch TV.
“This is my paradise,” said the Baylor Scott and White employee about her 400 square feet of living space in Kingsland.
Known as a tiny home, Graves’s miniature mansion perfectly fits her lifestyle.
“My tiny home has all of the comforts of a house without wasted space,” she said. “It is so economical. The best part is that house cleaning takes less than an hour to achieve!”
Tiny homes have caught on around the world, spawning a number of TV shows about life in diminutive digs. Unlike the average American home, which costs about $300,000 for 2,600 square feet, the price of a tiny home ranges anywhere from $25,000 for a no-frills model to $150,000 for a luxury edition. Size ranges from 100-400 square feet.
While many tiny homes are set up on private property, as they grow in popularity, communities much like RV parks are popping up around the country, including in Central Texas.
Lisa Morgan owns and operates Highland Lakes Tiny Homes on 11 acres in Kingsland. She not only sells and rents tiny homes on the property but lives in one. To her, the allure is affordability while still retaining the comforts of home, just on a smaller scale.
Morgan and her partner, Mike Leamon, like to relax at day’s end on their home’s front porch, where a cool breeze slips by at all hours. The pair live large in their small space with plenty of room for all the typical home activities, including cooking and entertaining.
Morgan and Leamon’s journey to tiny homes began in an Austin RV park. They enjoyed the environment of their camper and the park community until their monthly rent just for the space jumped to $1,100 because of a property tax increase. They immediately began looking for a new place to hook up their tiny home.
When the couple came across the Kingsland acreage, their first thought was to put in an RV park for 45 trailers. Then, they discovered tiny homes. Now, they sell the homes, live in one, and rent others short term to prospective buyers who want to try them before committing.
Despite what some people think, Leamon said, tiny home living doesn’t mean going without.
“It’s compact living,” he said. “You don’t have the Betty Crocker (Easy-)Bake Oven. It’s full appliances with a king-size bed.”
Leamon once owned a 3,000-square-foot home that he thought was essential. Now, with less stuff, he feels freer and happier.
Tiny home owner James Wayman concurred. He lives in Tobeyville on a friend’s property and works at Numinous Coffee Roasters in Marble Falls. He owns a THOW, or Tiny Home on Wheels, that measures 20 feet from the front door to the back wall and sits on a trailer. His reason for jumping into the tiny home world is similar to many 20-somethings: cost.
“I got seriously into it when I couldn’t afford a house, and I was tired of paying rent,” he said.
Since it’s on a trailer, his home is also easy and affordable to move.
Wayman and fiancée Mackenzie White, who lives in her own tiny home in the Marble Falls area, enjoy grilling and entertaining friends under the awning on one side of his house, which they will both call home after the wedding. Though small, the place boasts all the necessary items to make it livable and comfortable.
Wayman’s home, built by Brian Barrett of Sasquatch Custom Homes in Magnolia, includes first-rate styling and design such as floors made of 75-year-old red oak and walls of cedar shiplap. The ceiling is repurposed pallet wood.
Before making the purchase, Wayman asked himself three questions: Is it affordable; can it sleep more than himself; can it have a porch? He was able to answer “yes” to all three.
All four of these tiny home owners said they have no regrets about their big decision to buy small.
“I think it’s built for people who don’t need a lot but like quality things,” Wayman said. “It helps if you’re a minimalist, someone who looks at necessities and chooses those things.”
“I don’t miss anything,” Morgan added. “Everything I need is in this house.”
“It was the wisest decision I’d ever made,” Graves said. “I love the way it’s built. I love the way it’s isolated. It’s so economical, and it’s so little.”