The tiny-house enthusiasts gathered this weekend at the St. Johns County Fairgrounds say their itty-bitty homes leave them feeling liberated, not squished.
Just listen to Renee McLaughlin, who rents out her old 3,300-square-foot house and has downsized to an 87 square-foot micro-house she parks on her family’s property in rural southeast Iowa: “I just paid off a credit card. I have no rent, no utilities, no water. Well, not much water. I have a tiny garbage can it takes me three weeks to fill.”
Now she travels to tiny house festivals around the country — the number is growing — to sell T-shirts made of recycled material, with the logos “Tiny on!” and “Tread lightly and tiny on!” That gives her enough money, she said, to live, liberated.
The first Florida Tiny House Festival has about 90 tiny houses, including small houses on wheels, converted school-buses, a converted shipping container, a converted horse trailer, vintage campers, teardrop trailers and a yurt.
Some tiny-house people don’t consider alternate structures to be tiny houses, but the United Tiny House Association, which is putting on the festival, is pretty open-minded.
“If it’s tiny, we support your decision to be tiny,” John Kernohan, chairman of the group, said Friday, the first day of the event.
One thing about the festival is big: He said he registered it with the Guinness World Records for the largest gathering of tiny (under 500 square feet) structures on record.
“This thing’s turned into a monster,” he proclaimed.
The event goes on at the fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20.
Tiny houses are huge, at least in interest. It’s hard to turn on a TV without seeing a tiny house show somewhere.
Indeed, HGTV will be there Saturday to film the unveiling of a house whose construction has been followed by film crews for its “Tiny House, Big Living” show. And Derek (Deek) Diedricksen, who hosted that network’s “Tiny House Builders,” will be keynote speaker at the event that day.
Adam Lehman of Davenport, south of Orlando, built this TV house, which he’s selling for $95,900. It’s a 270-square foot place, on wheels, with plenty of custom, upscale features. It even has a washer-dryer, custom stained glass, sliding pocket doors, 18 windows and a tumbled marble tile shower.
He said some tiny-house people who favor more spartan settings aren’t happy about the way some tiny houses are getting bigger and fancier. “Some people will walk through this and hate it. They’ll say, ‘This is just so over the top, we don’t need this much room.’”
But he figures it’s all part of the spectrum.
On the other end of the spectrum is Brian Kennedy of Charlotte, N.C., who set up a table to offer free advice on designing tiny houses. He’s 6-foot-8, but he figures all he needs is the 137-square feet house he’s building out of reclaimed, repurposed materials.
That reduces waste — an interest of his —and saves money. He already has most of the materials he’ll need. “And I have spent $354.99 thus far,” he said.