Michael Miller strokes his cat, Underfoot, as he relaxes inside his tiny home at the Lakeside RV Park in south Everett. The 245-square-foot house was built around Miller’s need for a full-size kitchen. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Michael Miller strokes his cat, Underfoot, as he relaxes inside his tiny home at the Lakeside RV Park in south Everett. The 245-square-foot house was built around Miller’s need for a full-size kitchen. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Tiny homes: Owning houses the size of your average living room

The first rule of living small is getting rid of everything except the essentials.

Less stress, more money.

That’s tiny living in a nutshell for Everett resident Michael Miller. “I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been,” he said.

Miller, 50, always wanted a tiny home, but a divorce was the tipping point. He finished building the 245-square-foot space last year. It’s at Lakeside RV Park in south Everett, the only RV park in Snohomish County that allows tiny homes.

Living in a tiny house is a different experience for folks accustomed to regular-size homes — in other words, nearly all of us.

“It takes a specific type of person to be able to do this, quite honestly,” Miller said. “You have to be able to release 80 percent of the crap you’ve accumulated over a long time.

“I didn’t need all that stuff.”

But Miller, the executive chef at Hilltop House retirement home in Seattle, needed a kitchen.

A nice one.

The tiny home is, more or less, built around the kitchen, which includes a full-size stove with a microwave hood, an 11-cubic-foot refrigerator, and built-in cabinets, shelves and racks.

There’s also a living room, a loft and a gaming station. Because space is tight, every inch of the home is used as efficiently as possible.

“You’re just down to the essentials,” Miller said.

What are the benefits of tiny living? His utility bills are cheaper, he spends less time cleaning and he has a smaller carbon footprint.

Everett-based Carriage Houses Northwest built the house shell with stairs, dormers and laminate flooring, and Miller installed the appliances, plumbing, gas lines, track lighting and a ceiling fan. It cost him $52,000 when it was all said and done — nearly twice the price of the average tiny home ($23,000), which ranges in size from 100 to 400 square feet.

Both figures pale in comparison to the current median home value in the United States: $215,600.

Nationwide, the appeal of reduced costs, environmental impact and a simpler lifestyle continues to make tiny homes relevant. They’re most popular in Colorado, Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and California.

Some cities, including Seattle and Detroit, have built tiny-house villages for the homeless. An organization based in Langley on Whidbey Island, Tiny Homes in the Name of Christ, plans to build at least six homes measuring 220 square feet.

Still, despite the positives, tiny homes aren’t on the rise in Snohomish and Island counties. They haven’t surpassed mother-in-law homes as a suitable housing alternative either, even though the guest housing takes months to permit and costs up to $100,000.

Kurt Galley, owner of tiny home builder Carriage Houses Northwest, said more tiny homes could be built in Snohomish County someday, but legal hoops make things difficult.

“We get calls, emails and visitors all the time,” Galley said. “But there are a lot of factors at play that affect purchasing a tiny house — permitting and connections to water, sewer and power being the biggest ones. As municipalities scramble to increase infill and look more seriously at alternative housing options, I expect that tiny houses will be a major piece of that conversation.”

Carriage Houses Northwest, which sells several of its base models starting at $39,995, is one of nearly two dozen home builders in Washington. The company builds an average of 20 homes a year all over the state, including in Seattle, Port Angeles and Bellingham.

One of the tiny homes was for Mount Vernon resident Clay Christofferson, whose house was featured in April on an episode of HGTV’s “Tiny House, Big Living,” which follows the construction of tiny homes in the U.S.

Christofferson is not tiny — he’s 6-foot-7.

The 34-year-old salesman for Farmstrong Brewing Co. in Mount Vernon said he was the tallest person to apply for the TV show. His episode is titled “Tall Man, Tiny House.”

Christofferson’s tiny home has 198 square feet of living space and 13½-foot ceilings.

When he was in his 20s, Christofferson lived in a three-bedroom house; one room contained nothing but junk. After a divorce, he sold almost everything he had and left the rest of his stuff in storage.

“Eventually, after a year, I got it down to everything I owned was in my car or a small bedroom,” Christofferson said.

A friend floated the idea of buying a tiny home. Then his sister suggested he try out for “Tiny House, Big Living.”

“That was the catalyst,” Christofferson said.

He shares his tiny home with his girlfriend.

They’re making sure they don’t start “nesting” and filling the house with too much stuff.

“We really don’t have more than we need,” Christofferson said. “It’s easier to clean and manage. If something goes (missing), you know where it’s at.”

Most of the household items are expensive but better suited for tiny living in the long run, such as multipurpose utensils. They even bought a mattress with a 40-year warranty.

The cost savings of owning a tiny home makes a huge difference, Christofferson said. Though his monthly payments are close to what he was paying for a 30-year mortgage on his last house, he’ll have the loan for the tiny house paid off in three years.

Christofferson’s home is stationary, while Miller’s tiny home is built on wheels.

Miller doesn’t plan to stay in the RV park forever. All he has to do is clear the shelves, store the glass and shut the doors. Then he can hit the road.

He plans to buy land with the money he’s saved living in a tiny home, and convert the house to solar power for even more savings.

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