Mid-Michigan Woman Builds 130 sq. ft. Vacation Home

By: Caroline Vandergriff Email
By: Caroline Vandergriff Email

When most people dream of owning a second home, they dream of more than 130 square feet. For Kathy Roberts, the tiny size of her new house is a perfect fit.

"I'm a very big fan of sustainability, living simply," Kathy Roberts explained. "So I thought, well if I could build one of these tiny houses completely off the grid, then that would give me the chance to see what that's like and experiment with it."

Roberts is joining the tiny house movement (www.tinylife.com), a way to focus on smaller spaces and simplified living with a home no more than 400 sq. feet. Her house isn't quite finished yet, but Roberts has been working on the Eco-friendly design for almost a year. The cozy dwelling has bamboo floors, a compost toilet, a wood stove for heat, and solar panels for electricity.

"I can run a laptop, a refrigerator, an electric burner, some lights," Roberts said. "I can't do anything extravagant, but in 130 square feet, you can't do that anyway."

Right now, the tiny house sits in Roberts' driveway in Howell. However, today it begins the journey to Colorado, where Roberts owns 11.5 acres of land about 40 miles west of Denver. One of her sons live in Colorado, and the other lives in Michigan.

"So I would like to split the time between the two families," said Roberts. "I'm not a wealthy person and so doing anything like buying a permanent home is really out of the question. And I've always wanted, for many many years, I've had a dream of having some land in the mountains."

It's a dream of a simpler life that certainly comes with a few challenges.

"I think the hardest part will be the nonstop maintenance," Roberts said. "For example, taking care of the compost toilet, collecting water, making sure the water is filtered and safe, maintaining the batteries, cutting wood, keeping the wood stove fed."

Roberts says the hard work is worth it if it means spending more time with family. Her land in the Rocky Mountains also has a cabin, where family can stay when they come visit.

"My grandchildren love to play in it," said Roberts of the tiny house. "They have a wonderful time. It's about having a place where my family can gather and be together and have fun and make memories."

The tiny house is built on a 20 foot trailer, which will be the home's foundation. Roberts' drive to Colorado, with the house, begins today. It will take her about three days to get there, and then Roberts will put the finishing touches on her new vacation home.

To follow Roberts' journey, you can read her blog: http://tinyhouseoverthehill.blogspot.com/

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  • by Valgus Location: Oxter,MI on Nov 5, 2012 at 10:45 AM
    Cute structure! Cute playhouse for the kids! The porch is a loss of inside living space. It seems like a complicated route versus retrofitting a camper trailer. There are a lot of camper trailers off the grid. The piked roof would shed the snow well. I hope she has glued, screwed and braced all the joints, so they aren't all separated or broken by the time she gets to Colorado. The "simple life" is not really simple. It is complicated, time consuming, rigorous, strenuous, and often physically and mentally taxing; high tech and not always safe. Been there!
  • by Rob Location: Fowlerville on Nov 5, 2012 at 07:34 AM
    This looks like a great idea, except it's too small. I'd love to do this to an old school bus. Cover the whole top with solar panels and redo the inside like a house... It would be brilliant and I'd have something like 230 sq. ft. to live in.
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