Tumbleweed Tiny Houses: A 648-Square-Foot Home in Maine

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Inspired by church and temple designs, Jay Shafer mixes grassroots simplicity with "monumental design principles."
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The Speed's kitchen makes the most of space with built-in shelving and organizing.
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When the kitchen table isn't in use, it can fold into a bench for additional seating.

Ben and Sarina Speed live–happily–in Franklin, Maine, with two young children and two cats in a 648-square-foot home. How do they do it? “You really don’t need as much space as you think,” Sarina says. “You do have to be willing to spend more time outside and not have everything. You just can’t hold on to all the stuff.”

That’s just the message that Tumbleweed Tiny Homes founder Jay Shafer, who designed their home, hoped to convey. A minimalist at heart, Shafer built his first tiny house out of frustration more than a decade ago. When he couldn’t find a livable, efficient space to fit his personal needs, he built himself an 89-square-foot home in Iowa City, Iowa. Shafer’s been so comfortable in his home–which he affectionately calls “Tumbleweed” –that he moved it with him when he relocated to Sebastapol, California, and lives in it still.

Shafer started the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company so others could live in small, well-made homes. He designs “tiny” homes (65 to 140 square feet) and “small” homes (251 to 837 square feet) with whimsical names such as Lusby or Harbinger, often inspired by people he respects. “All along the goal has been to get the word out that bigger is not necessarily better and that there is another way to live,” Shafer says. “I feel like we’re accomplishing something.”

More about the structure:

• Ben and Sarina purchased plans for the Enesti home from Tumbleweed Tiny Homes and built the 648- square-foot house themselves using certified sustainably harvested wood from a local lumberyard. Building costs, including land, a 600-foot driveway and materials, totaled about $55,000.

• The roof of the Speeds’ home is covered in locally milled cedar shingles.

• After their daughter was born, the couple decided to add a bedroom near the back of the house so their son and daughter could have separate rooms. With the addition, the house will total 800 square feet.

• Ben and Sarina use what is normally”dead space”–interior walls and corners of rooms–for shelving.

• The Speeds spend about $600 a year on wood to heat their home and about $100 a month for all utility costs.

• When the kitchen table isn’t in use, it can fold into a bench for additional seating.

• Easy storage spaces are essential for small-space living. A stackable washer and dryer nestle into a built-in alcove in the Speeds’ home.

• Ben and Sarina painted their walls with BioShield and low- VOC Benjamin Moore paints. They built countertops from oak and local ash and used cabingrade pine for the flooring.