Living with Less: Tiny Places and Small Spaces

Tiny House

Karl and Hari Berzins, along with their two children, Ella and Archer, live in a tiny house that measures 8-by-21 feet (total:168 square feet overall) with two separate sleeping lofts that have 3 feet of head space; there are areas dedicated to office, kitchen, bedroom, living, dining and bathroom. Appliances and fixtures include: A 12-gallon hot water heater (under the kitchen counter), an apartment-sized range, under-counter refrigerator, a built-in couch and shoe bench, kitchen sink, hand sink, toilet and shower. There's a clothing cabinet for each family member. And even in a such a small place, there's windows and a full-light door that brings in a lot of natural light inside. "We designed it the way we did so that we could live in it for as long as it takes us to build our main house on the property," says Hari (there's a blog about the house at www.tinyhousefamily.com; A video is available at http://iamgenerationimage.nikonusa.com/profile/tiny-house.

After losing their restaurant and house in 2008 (during the economic collapse), the Berzins purposely set out to rebuild their lives; in February 2010, the couple bought three acres and continued to save for their tiny house. Construction began in June 2010 (by Karl and Hari themselves!); the family moved in May 2011: "This was a big step in our plan to design and build a debt-free homestead," Hari said.

The Berzins say that tiny-house living allows more time for each other and more focus on the things they love to do (like gardening and music-they also give lectures and speeches on all aspects of tiny-house living at home and garden shows across the country. And there's a steadily growing tiny house movement; a segment was recently featured on "Nightline"-one family had actually converted an old school bus into living quarters!).

A bigger house has always been part of the family's plan, however, building 1,400 square feet just up the hill from the tiny one. It'll be one board at a time, paying for it as they go, so the Berzins will be mortgage free (they started in October 2012, with plans to move in later this year).

The tiny house (about 50 feet from the new 'regular' one) will remain in use as a guest house. The Berzins also maintain a 45-by-65-foot garden where seasonal crops are grown for fresh eating needs.

(Portable) Shed Offices

A "spinoff" of the tiny house movement is the portable shed office, extremely popular on the West Coast (according to Global Workplace, San Diego has 4.2 percent-the highest proportion-who consider home as their main place of work. "California is definitely the biggest market for us," says Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, co-founder of Studio Shed).

The sheds are designed online (they're prefab structures) in a range of materials and colors with electrical hookups and varying technology.

There's even a shed spinoff for musicians that features Auralex Acoustics Studiofoam (prices range from $13,000-$30,000).

Other portable offices include KitHaus, modules inspired by California's midcentury modern architecture. The k3 is the company's most popular one (117 square feet, starting at $32,500). LoftCube also specializes in mini-structures, with impending plans to launch in the U.S. (basic models are about $122, 400, two-story ones, about $325,000).

Portable Storage Solutions

Whether residing in an apartment or even in a regular-sized house, you can still face a lack of storage space (such as too-small closets), but you can make the most of limited resources by considering ClosetMaid's new Closet Maximizer; it's a no tools needed (!) system that securely clips to an existing wire or wood hang rod, but easily detaches if needed. Features include: Laminated shelves with an adjustable, double-hang rod (that can be positioned on either side) and storage accessories (like fabric bins and hanging organizers). The affordable Maximizer is available in three finishes (dark cherry, chocolate and white).

Storage should not only look good, but also be completely functional. To achieve this end, ClosetMaid also offers a Decorative Storage product line that's available in three, six and nine cube designs and in three finishes to blend with any interior-and complement it.

For more info and details, visit www.ClosetMaid.com, www.StorganizationBlog.com or call 1-800-874-0008.

Sources: "Less Is More" by Kathy Van Mullekom-Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) (TNS)-The (Sunday) Vindicator, May 3, 2015, "Maximize Your Space" by Family Features and ClosetMaid-Vindy Homes-The (Sunday) Vindicator, June 7, 2015 and "Live & Work" by Lana Bortolot-Entrepreneur, August 2015

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