Boise tiny house getting big attention

BOISE -- In November 2011, Macy Miller began working on her big plans for a tiny house: A 196 square-foot tiny house to be exact.

Miller is a designer at a commercial architecture office. She wanted to learn more about building processes from framing to electrical work.

"I wanted to learn more about construction. I wanted a hands-on project. I wanted to save money on rent. There were a lot of things that just kind of lined up for me for it to make sense," Miller said.

Grand total to build: Under $12,000

While she says people typically spend $25,000 to $30,000 on a tiny house, she wanted to build her home for less than half that amount.

"The idea behind it was to take one year's worth of rent payments, build a house, live in it for two years so it could pay for itself and then some," Miller said.

Her house took her a year and a half to build, and by using reclaimed and bargain materials, doing the bulk of labor herself or with her dad, her final price tag was$11,416.16.

What's in a tiny house? The same things that are in any other house

Her home is rectangular and set up so you can walk end-to-end. She has a loft she uses for a bedroom for herself, boyfriend, and 4-month-old daughter Hazel. She has a living and entertainment space, small table and chair, and bookshelves and cabinets for storage.

On the other end of Miller's home, is a kitchen that includes a combination washer and dryer unit as well as a stove, oven and kitchen sink. Her bathroom has a sink, shower, and toilet.

"It's a composting toilet. It's the most expensive item in my tiny house. Twenty percent of my budget is right there. That's because it's a legal, certified, safe sewage system," Miller said.

Wheels down: Building codes mean trailer construction

Like other most tiny houses, Miller's home is built on a flatbed trailer with wheels. Houses as small as hers don't meet building code requirements that in most towns require a minimum square footage.

"Sometimes those minimums are as high as 1,400 square feet or even more, which is a lot to bite off when you could feasibly live in 300 square-feet," Miller said. "So the wheels are a way to kind of go around that and be permitted and legal through the DMV. So legally, it's permitted as an RV."

Throughout her project, Miller blogged about her experiences and construction. She continues to blog about living in her home and other things like her family or craft and sewing projects. Her blog continues to get big web traffic from around the country and the world.

The blog that took off and the book, movie and magazines that followed

"I never expected anyone to read it except my mom occasionally or something. It has gone international. It's crazy because I can see where all my traffic is coming from. Like I'll wake up and be like, huh, I'm big in Romania today or Peru. It's so weird to follow it along. It's hard to trace all the places that are publishing it now. It's so weird," Miller said.

Miller's home is on the cover of a book, in a recent TIME magazine feature about tiny houses, and in the documentary Tiny, which is available on Netflix. Her home will also be featured in Dwell magazine this fall. She also has her own e-book about her home and sells plans.

Who lives tiny? It's a (mostly) women's world

Most people have been supportive or at least interested, she says. As for who lives in tiny homes, it's mostly women and retired couples.

"It's a female-dominated thing. Probably about 65% of tiny houses are owned an built by females, which is interesting. But it's also an opportunity for retired people to kind of live their golden years and not have to worry about continuing to pay a mortgage and travel," Miller said.

Others who choose the "tiny life" include artists and people who simply want to get away from a big house lifestyle in suburbia.

"I think we kind of lost that feeling that we can do something different than that. So I think this is a movement of people who are kind of like, "That doesn't for me. I'm going to do something that does," Miller said.

Miller's plans for the future

For Miller and her family, she says living tiny is definitely their perfect something, at least for now.

"Yes, I've always been a pretty minimalist person. I hate shopping. I don't have a shoe fetish or anything like that, so it works for me," Miller said.

Miller says she accomplished her initial goal of learning more about building and is saving money. She says her monthly utilities run around $50, and she rents her lot for $200 a month.

The initial idea was to live in the house for two years, and then take it off the grid as a family cabin. Miller now thinks she'll stay a bit longer and may even rent it out later because she's had people interested in testing out the tiny lifestyle.

Learn more about tiny homes in Idaho

Idaho Tiny House Enthusiasts is a meet up group for local people interested in tiny homes. Miller will be giving a tour of her home in August for people who'd like to discuss how she is living tiny.

An Idaho group called Idaho Tiny Houses plans to sell tiny homes to the public and use the profits to help homeless families get the materials to build their own tiny homes. Read and watch KTVB's story on that group here.


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