Lina Menard ’05 showers with a garden hose, owns a hypoallergenic cat named Raffi and has been featured on a Portlandia episode. She’s also probably one of the few Whitman graduates, who, when faced with paying back student loans, decided to build a house instead. But before I explain that one, two pivotal moments:
In 2011, Menard had finished undergrad, held a certificate in sustainable building and design, and was ready to pursue a master’s in urban planning at Portland State University. At the time, she was also one of only five tiny house dwellers that she knew of in the city of Portland. By the time she finished her master’s and founded her business just four years later, tiny houses had become popular in the city and nearly ubiquitous online.
In 2014, Menard was out of graduate school and fully immersed in the alternative housing scene. It seemed about time to settle down. But, she, like many other Whitman alumni, was working at making a life in Portland at a time when the after effects of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis had reached some of their sourest extremes. Few were buying homes, and American cities were full of houses made for five or six, while more people than ever were living alone or in pairs. Just as the mortgage bubble had glutted the market, so too were the streets and apartments of Portland glutted with large, unwieldy spaces. Coming of age in this moment pushed Menard toward a career and a lifestyle that encouraged “collaboration and less competition.”
Thrilled by the prospect of never having to pay rent again, and enticed by a new way of living that eschewed so many consumer ills of the day, Menard took the $25,000 that had accrued in savings thanks to some careful investing, and built her own tiny home from the ground up. An entry from her blog in January of that year reads: “Now that I’ve lived in two tiny houses on wheels, a travel trailer, and a yurt, I’m ready to begin building a tiny home of my own.”