11/12 We moved to a tiny house to get more room – and it worked!

Tim Francis, his wife (Laura Hubbard) and their three children standing in front of their house.

Tim Francis and his wife, Laura Hubbard-Miles, and their children – baby Edith, Tom, three, and James, five – outside their tiny home, the Fruit Store, in Gloucestershire, England. Photograph: Sam Frost for the Guardian

As Laura Hubbard-Miles and her husband, Tim Francis, prepared to welcome their third child, their thoughts turned, naturally enough, to their living arrangements. But at a point when most couples start looking for more space, they have instead done the opposite and moved their growing family into a home not much bigger than a garage. The Fruit Store is a 15 sq metre (160 sq ft) stone outhouse that once kept apples fresh but now stores two 34-year-old adults and their children, James, five, Tom, three, and newborn Edith. Even an estate agent would struggle to describe the place as bijou. It is, quite simply, tiny – and that’s partly why they chose it.

While many of us live in poky accommodation owing to a lack of other options, the Laura and Tim have joined a growing number of people purposefully converting to small-scale living – the so-called tiny house movement. Downsizing is hardly a new idea, but its current incarnation is a response to environmental and financial concerns as much as the age-old desire for simplicity and freedom. As house prices continue to rise far beyond the budgets of many families, tiny homes – any residential structure smaller than 46 sq metres – offer a cost-effective and ecologically sound alternative for those prepared to squeeze into them…

Until they made the decision to move to the Fruit Store, the couple lived in a shared-ownership flat in north London, where Tim worked full-time as an architect and Laura as a teacher. “The flat was enormous,” Tim says, slightly wistfully, “but there was no outdoor space and just taking the boys to the park was a real expedition. We knew there was no way we could afford anything bigger and after eight years in London we were getting really frustrated.”

A summer spent in their campervan, volunteering on projects for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms left the couple wondering how the family could live differently. “The last place we stayed was an eco-village in the Alps where our accommodation was this tiny stone building that just had beds and a wood-burning stove,” explains Laura. “It was so cosy and the boys loved it. We’d got used to travelling in a van and living with very little and we thought, could we do something like this? As we were leaving Switzerland, Tim suggested the Fruit Store.”

At that stage, the Fruit Store was being used as overflow storage for Tim’s parents, Mick and Jude, who live in the former gardener’s cottage of the Hatherop Estate in rural Gloucestershire. It was cold and dark with no running water or electricity. But it had the enormous benefit of being cost-free and in a desirable part of the country where the family would otherwise have had no chance of owning a home.

The lack of overheads would offer an opportunity for Tim to take the plunge into self-employment by setting up his own architectural practice – starting with designing and converting the Fruit Store – and would allow him and Laura to spend more time at home with their children. As for the outdoor space they had all been craving – well, outdoors was pretty much the only space they would have. They called Tim’s parents to discuss the idea: “They were unsure at first but quickly became as enthusiastic as we were about giving it a go.” A few months later, the couple had sold their London flat and most of their possessions, won change-of-use planning permission and moved in with Mick and Jude to begin work…

Read more – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/nov/12/we-moved-to-a-tiny-house-to-get-more-room-and-it-worked

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Elaine Walker

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