The Biggest Little House in the World: A Reno, Nevada, Tiny Home

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In downtown Reno—the "biggest little city in the world"—revamped railroad sleeping quarters become slick urban homes.
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In downtown Reno—the "biggest little city in the world"—revamped railroad sleeping quarters become slick urban homes.
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At only 275 square feet, the SoDo 4 homes need space-saving features such as a stacked washer and dryer, a sliding bathroom pocket door and a hidden ladder to the sleeping loft to maxmize their floor space.

Tired of seeing core urban areas in their hometown of Reno, Nevada, deteriorate, Pamela Haberman and Kelly Rae began buying and renovating run-down homes in 1998. Their company, HabeRae Properties, specializes in urban infill projects, many with small square footages.

The pair was determined to focus on tiny homes after sharing a 400-square-foot home for 10 years. Rae says she had a feeling a smaller house trend was coming. “Our world was getting carried away,” she says. “When people come to us, they’re in that mindset; they want a simple, affordable place.”

In 2007, Haberman and Rae bought four 100-year-old brick structures south of downtown Reno. Formerly sleeping quarters for engineers and brakemen on the V&T railroad, the 275-square-foot structures were in need of a major overhaul.

Haberman and Rae remodeled the four homes into modern, eco-friendly urban nests using lots of salvaged materials. Above each living area, Haberman and Rae built sleeping lofts, leaving the ground floors open for entertaining. “Our residents are young, energetic people,” Rae says. “We wanted to give them an open floor plan.” They kept the small homes from feeling cluttered with space-saving techniques such as sliding pocket doors, stacked appliances, mini-sinks and ample shelving.

The Good Stuff

• Each SoDo 4 (south of downtown) home has a deck made from Trex recycled decking.

• Low-emissivity, doublepane windows and extra roof insulation make up for the brick walls’ lack of insulation.

• Designers Haberman and Rae transplanted landscape plants from a construction site and built raised garden beds from scrap renovation wood.

• A hidden ladder leads to the sleeping loft.

• Haberman and Rae chipped away at the walls’ plaster to expose some of the original brick.

• The door between the bathroom and the living area slides into the wall, saving space.

• A stacked washer and dryer save floor space.

• The homes’ original 100-year-old Douglas fir flooring, buried beneath six layers of linoleum and carpet, became beautiful again after days of refinishing.