Downsizing with Style

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Photo: Tumbleweed Homes

With rising energy costs and the lingering effects of the mortgage crisis, demand for smaller houses has never been greater. Which is a boon for Jay Shafer, who’s been preaching the gospel of downsizing since 1997, when he founded Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. in Sebastopol, California, and began designing and constructing homes that range in size from 65 to 172 square feet. But his petite abodes pack a lot into their wee footprints. The company’s 65-square-foot XS-House, for instance, offers built-in storage, a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping loft, and front porch.

Slideshow: 11 Tiny Houses We Love

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Photo: Tumbleweed Houses

Shafer himself resided in an 8’-by-12’ house that measured just 100 square feet until he married three years ago. Now he and his wife (and their toddler son) reside in the relatively spacious 500-square-foot home he built next door. “Once I moved into a tiny house, my life opened up, says Shafer. “There was less maintenance, less mortgage, less waste—more time to live.”

Fully constructed with electrical, plumbing, and heating systems, Shafer’s Tumbleweed Tiny Houses start at about $39,000. Most customers, however, just buy the plans, which cost from $99 to $859, and build the diminutive structures themselves. Because the tiny houses have wheels, the structures are considered travel trailers and do not require a building permit. “You can pretty much put one anywhere you can place an RV,” notes Shafer.

In August, the company plans to launch its new Box Bungalows, a line of Craftsman-style tiny houses that feature mix-and-match modular components. To learn more, visit Tumbleweed Tiny House Company online or pick up a copy of Jay Shafer’s book, The Small House Book (Paperback-2009), at Amazon.

For more on prefab and tiny houses, consider:

10 Cool Shipping Container Homes
Mobile Homes: Then and Now
Home Sweet Container