Tiny living means normal living for this couple

Kyle and Danae Schmidt live in their customized tiny house located on a farmstead near Marion Reservoir. “One of the plusses for us is—and we’ve heard this before as we were building and we’ve found it to be true—that our house draws us outside and invites us inside,” Danae said.
Kyle and Danae Schmidt live in their customized tiny house located on a farmstead near Marion Reservoir. “One of the plusses for us is—and we’ve heard this before as we were building and we’ve found it to be true—that our house draws us outside and invites us inside,” Danae said.
Kyle and Danae Schmidt have found that living in the 200-square-foot house they designed and built works for them—it’s both functional and comfortable.

“I’ve actually been surprised how normal this feels,” Danae said about life since they moved into their house seven months ago. “When people ask how is tiny living, we really don’t know how to answer that—well, it’s like living.”

The Schmidts, who started construction in May 2014, moved the house to a farmstead near Marion Reservoir. They negotiated an agreement with the owners to rent space and to pay for electricity and use of well water.

“We moved in right at New Year’s when it was 10 degrees for two weeks,” Kyle said.

The first night their electric heater wasn’t working right and the outside temperatures were frigid.

“Oh, my goodness, this better not be how it is,” Danae said about that night, but since then the heater has functioned properly.

While the house, built on a trailer that is tagged for the road, is mobile, the Schmidts don’t plan to take it out for weekend drives.

“We can relocate, but we’d have to pack up,” Kyle said. “It would be a hassle to just take it somewhere.”

To transport the house, a vehicle, such as a one-ton pickup, is needed.

“Our total width is 81⁄2 feet eave to eave, and just short of 131⁄2 feet tall at the peak,” Kyle said, adding that the length is 24 feet.

The trailer’s covered wheels set on boards, and jacks support each of the four corners, which stabilizes the structure.

Outside a rubber hose provides water to the house.

“It’s basically like an RV—you hook up a garden hose and plug in,” Kyle said. “So we run a heated hose in the wintertime so it won’t freeze. Then we have a 50 amp breaker that we hook electricity to.”

Two tanks at the back of the house provide propane for the water heater and oven range. The house is air conditioned.

“Summer has been great,” Danae said. “It cools really great.”

Kyle Schmidt customized multiple features for their tiny house, including a narrow organizer with shelves for canned items that’s part of the kitchen cabinetry. <p>
Kyle Schmidt customized multiple features for their tiny house, including a narrow organizer with shelves for canned items that’s part of the kitchen cabinetry. <p>

Customizing

Inside, in their living room and dining space, a customized cushioned seating area has drawers beneath for storage. A white gateleg table with drawers for storage and drop-leaves, purchased at Ikea, can adjust its size.

“We made the couch to fit the space and used the cushions we had,” Kyle said. “Pretty well the only thing that is not customized, furniture-wise, that’s in here is (the Ikea table). Otherwise it’s all hand made.”

This view captures the inside of the Schmidts’ 200-square-foot tiny house with its kitchen and stairs to the loft, now used as their sleeping quarters. The bathroom is at the back. A second loft is on the front end of the house.
This view captures the inside of the Schmidts’ 200-square-foot tiny house with its kitchen and stairs to the loft, now used as their sleeping quarters. The bathroom is at the back. A second loft is on the front end of the house.

The kitchen, with its countertops, full-sized sink, refrigerator and oven range, gives Danae what she needs.

“I knew that I wanted to have ample space to cook and bake,” she said. “A lot of tiny houses just have a stovetop and don’t even have an oven.

“I think with any tiny house if you don’t want to sacrifice something like an oven, then you have to sacrifice something else, like storage space where the oven would be underneath the stove.

“So we didn’t sacrifice as much in the kitchen,” she added, “and I’m really glad we didn’t.”

The refrigerator is RV size, not a mini fridge, Kyle added.

The white cabinetry includes several customized features, such as a narrow organizer with shelves for canned items that pulls out and a lower cabinet space for laundry.

The ceiling and interior walls, finished with wainscot paneling, also are white. Dark flooring and teal accents, such as the sliding door between the kitchen and bathroom, complement the crisp, clean color pallette.

The house has two lofts, one on either end.

“I think another great thing that I think we’re glad that we did, and would try to do again, is having two sleeping spaces,” Danae said. “We haven’t been able to fully utilize (the front loft) yet because we’re still working on some shelving.

“It’s just nice to have an extra space,” she added. “Eventually our room will be up here and that space will be another getaway.”

Steps up to the backend loft serve as storage drawers and provide some seating, plus behind is a small closet primarily used to hang coats.

In the bathroom, there’s a small tub with a shower, a compost toilet and a cabinet for storage.

Tiny house living requires determining one’s priorities. The Schmidts use a portable non-electric mini washing machine to clean their laundry and an electric spinner to spin out the water. “It’s not bad,” Kyle said. “It just takes time. It’s not as convenient (as a washing machine).”
Tiny house living requires determining one’s priorities. The Schmidts use a portable non-electric mini washing machine to clean their laundry and an electric spinner to spin out the water. “It’s not bad,” Kyle said. “It just takes time. It’s not as convenient (as a washing machine).”

Challenges

Regulating humidity in the house is one challenge the Schmidts are learning how to handle.

“In a regular-sized house, humidity has an opportunity to disperse,” Kyle said. “So we have a small space, and a propane stove that creates moisture, a hot shower that creates moisture and our house is pretty tight.”

Anticipating humidity would be an issue, Kyle said when the house was built they installed small exhaust fans to help take out the shower steam.

“It doesn’t get it all,” he said. “The air conditioner helps a bit in the summertime. Honestly, we’re still figuring it out.”

Danae admits she misses one convenience, in particular.

“I’m living just fine without one, but I’m not going to lie, I do miss a washing machine,” she said.

The Schmidts chose to use a portable 5-gallon hand-crank washing machine for laundry.

“You fill it with soap, hot water and get it all sudsy and add your clothes,” said Danae, who uses biodegradeable detergent. “ I do probably two loads a week for the two of us. You just spin it for two minutes and then dump it, and then fill it with clean water and rinse it.”

She said she also uses an electric spinner to get the water out and then line dries the clothes.

“It’s a process,” she added. “It works.”

Prioritizing space

Tiny houses reflect what’s important to their owners, and the Schmidts have chosen not to have Internet access nor a television in their house.

“We had a nice, big TV, but then we got to thinking that’s going to be pretty tacky,” Kyle said.

Danae said she’s glad they decided not to have a TV on the wall.

“It would stick out,” she said. “A flat screen isn’t flat, and that takes up 6 inches of our hallway.”

For entertainment the Schmidts use a projector, which projects on the wall, to watch DVDs and other programming they have.

“Things that you see will be different because the things that people value will be different things,” Danae said about other tiny houses they’ve seen. “Like there’s a lot of pictures online that have TVs on the wall or whatever, and that’s fine.”

Since moving into their tiny house, the Schmidts spend more time together.

“In the other house we were living in, the bedroom was downstairs and the kitchen was upstairs,” Danae said. “And if I was cooking supper and Kyle was downstairs hanging out in our room, then we didn’t see each other for an hour. That’s not the case here. So that’s been really fun. We like spending time with each other.”

While the Schmidts also enjoy hosting at their place, the size of their house has an impact.

“We’ve had overnight guests,” Danae said. “A con that I’ve really been feeling is that we’re not able to do that as easily. Putting two more people in this house doubles the amount of people in a really small space. But we have had up to nine people in the house for a couple of hours.

“So hosting-wise, it’s really fun to host people, and we’ve hosted lots of people for dinner.”

The Schmidts agree that a big plus is how their house draws them outside and invites them in.

“Being that there’s windows everywhere, you see something on either side of you, and you want to check it out,” Danae said. “And it’s a comfortable, cute space inside. We like being inside and we like being outside.”

Life lessons

A life lesson from tiny house living is realizing how little “stuff” is really needed.

“It’s something to pass on to others, too, as a challenge,” Kyle said.

Danae said an ongoing lesson for her involves surrender.

“If God invites me to surrender something or to step out in a way that is uncomfortable, and I believe that he’s good, and I believe that he’s faithful, then I can trust that he’s going to bring me around to wanting to surrender—I can surrender that willingly, and I can step out willingly because I know that he’s going to be faithful, even though it’s like an unknown, even though it’s a scary thing.

“I think as we continue to journey through life, that’s a good reminder for us about the next thing that’s going to come up.”

Another plus for tiny house living is a lower cost of living.

“We spend maybe 15 percent of what we spent before on living,” Kyle said. “Something that’s fun for us is just being able to give that money away and being able to be more free with that, and that was some of the goal, at least for me, of doing this, living this way, is being able to be generous.”

Tiny house advice

The Schmidts have advice for those who may be considering tiny house living.

“Prioritize for what you spend the most time in or with, and that means you’ll have to sacrifice something else,” Danae said.

Those who work out of their homes will need a work space with a desk that folds down.

“It’s all about what your lifestyle is—what you like to entertain yourself doing, what part of your life that you’re going to spend in your house,” Kyle said.

They also recommend spending a lot of time looking at pictures online and taking opportunities to tour actual tiny houses.

“I had ideas in my head for four years before we started building,” Kyle said. “And then when it got down to crunch time on designing, all those ideas got totally scrapped because they just weren’t going to work.

“But I had kind of a narrow vision because there wasn’t much to look at,” he added. “Then all of a sudden we saw a few things that really struck our eye, and we totally revamped our thoughts.”

Far from being isolated, tiny house living has invited the Schmidts to be interdependent and part of community, whether that be working with others to build their tiny house or washing towels and sheets, which isn’t easy to do in the hand washer.

“It gives us an excuse to go visit others,” Kyle said with a smile.