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Mindful : June 2015
Go Small or Go Home In January 2014, Dawn Higgins stood on a flatbed trailer in the snow. “Oh my god,” she thought. “I can’t live in something this small. I’ve lost my mind.” Three months earlier, Dawn was at a party when she bumped into her friend James Constable. “ Dawn!” exclaimed Ja mes. “ You’re back! What are you doing?” Dawn had no easy answer. Having sold her last business—a bookshop-café—and taken an extended vacation abroad, she now had no job, no home, and no direction. “I don’t know,” she said. Then a thought fluttered into her mind. “How would you like to build me a tiny house?” “ You mean, like a tiny house on wheels?” “ Yes,” said Dawn. “I so want to do that.” That was the birth of Full Moon Tiny Shelters—a tiny house construction company. Within a few months, Dawn found herself standing on a flatbed trailer outside James’ rural wood shop. “That’s your new home,” James said. “This is not gonna work,” she thought. Building a tiny house right is ha rd. What looks like a desig ner dollhouse is more like a troop trans- port vehicle: sturdy, battery-powered, cold- and rain-resista nt, compact, and stocked with food and water. But there are almost no instructions for how to build one. Ja mes has built houses for decades, but that didn’t help much when he sat down to design a tiny one. Instead, he drew on his experience with a different kind of small, off-grid vehicle: boats. They worked through the winter a nd finished the exterior by Ma rch. Then they hit a roadblock. “ It Dawn Higgins built her 203-square- foot tiny house for $60,000. It could have cost a lot less, but she had the money so she put it toward handcrafted details and furnishings like a sleek, Danish woodstove, solar panels, and french doors. turns out that when you reach toward simple, it is shockingly more difficult, expensive, a nd time-con- suming tha n expected,” wrote Dawn in a blog post. “Simple is so counterculture it is all but extinct.” There’s no “tiny house” section at Home Depot. It took Dawn months to find the right stove, oven, fridge, a nd woodstove. It took more time still to find tradespeople with the creativity and skill to install everything properly. “ We want to build using the best materials and methods,” says James. “ You can afford to have everything handcrafted when you’re doing it on a 200-square-foot scale.” They finished Dawn’s house in June and imme- diately started on a second, this time to sell. Dawn drove her house away and parked it temporarily in her mother ’s driveway. Three days after the summer solstice, she moved in. With the double French doors open to the countryside, Dawn sat on a bench seat beside her sleek Danish woodstove, lounging under her new home’s 11-foot ceilings. The expan- sive wood surfaces and sunshine-filled windows created so much space that, oddly, the house almost felt too big for her. “This is what I call the living room area,” said Dawn. “It’s where I do yoga.” PHOTOGRAPHSCOURTESYOFDAWNHIGGINS(LEFT)ANDKIMKASL(RIGHT). 52 mindful June 2015