Adam Money (also known as Adam Scott) looks deceptively boyish, with a surfer’s tan, blue eyes and a ready smile. Now in his 30s, he could be paying a big mortgage on a suburban ranch home, but instead Money is restoring a kitchen in the clubhouse of the RV park he owns, Orlando Lakefront. He’s built several tiny houses in this mobile home community, bought a few more, and he gazes at them lovingly, like family, as he tours the property.
From Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando Lakefront looks like any other ordinary mobile home park. But these tiny homes, like the movement itself, are secreted inside the more conventional picture of Americana. The standard American dream is a job and a house and a yard and a dog and a kid or two, but Money would rather build a neighborhood, one tiny house at a time.
Tiny houses are trendy, and yet they’re nothing new – wetuash, wattle-and-daub, log cabins and soddies were the original American tiny houses. Giant houses are still rising at a furious pace, and if that’s your choice, there’s nothing wrong with displaying your success writ large. For more and more people, however, something’s missing, and a big empty house is small comfort.
Money’s College Park tiny house village started on the western edge of Lake Fairview and is bit by bit spreading inland, back into the park. Money gambled on his intuition that people crave the look and feel of a traditional house; the brightly colored tiny houses strut like tropical cocktails in between weathered old mobile homes.
He pauses at the edge of the lake. “My first tiny house was that one over there,” he gestures with pride. It looks like the back of a U-Haul truck – and indeed that’s what it is, repainted cinnamon-orange and nestled into an oak-shaded wood deck. “Elaine liked that spot, so I converted a used trailer into a house just for her,” Money says. [Note: The author misunderstood. Elaine Walker’s tiny house was the first one at Adam’s park. Adam converted the U-Haul and put it where Elaine’s house had been when she moved her house to Palmetto, FL in January 2016.]
Cynthia Aimo, a retired attorney and one of Money’s early buyers, lives in a sunny yellow tiny house perched on the shore. She’s busy cleaning it while her friendly dog watches. “Mainly, I wanted something I could manage without gobbling up all of my time,” she offers from the doorway, vacuum cleaner in hand.
Aimo’s choice to stay small was deliberate: “It is a liberating feeling, not having a huge house hanging over my head, or a big rent check every month.”
Tiny homes represent an option for people who intentionally downsize and want to live more outside of their homes than within them. Conditioned to want more and more, many have succumbed to the American Dream spoon-fed to us by advertising agencies, but by redefining what is meant by “more,” people like Adam Money and Cynthia Aimo are reserving less for big houses and more for their own bigger dreams of the future.
With the exploding popularity of books, websites and TV shows (Tiny House Big Living, Tiny Luxury, Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Hunters, Tiny House Builders, Tiny House Arrest, et. al.) dedicated to the trend, “What’s a tiny house?” isn’t a question heard very often these days. But for the record, practitioners generally define a tiny house as a livable structure (walls, roof, kitchen, bathroom) under 500 square feet, about the size of a two-car garage.
The concept of “living little” started to rise during the decluttering/minimalist craze of the ’00s and gained traction when the recession hit, as a way to combat ridiculous mortgages, endless weekends spent on home repair and lawn-mowing, and the bitter reality that your house value can, despite all your work, drop like a rock when the big boys on Wall Street screw up.
The most common tiny dwelling is the kind on wheels. (Those living the life often refer to them as THOWs.) Tiny houses on wheels can go into RV parks (pending park-owner approval), and sometimes into backyards and other properties, if zoning laws let them – it’s all about access to water, electricity and sewerage.