A California Couple Customize Their Tiny Home With Multi-Layered Interiors

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By Michele Koh Morollo
After working with a couple to design their custom trailer, New Frontier Tiny Homes decide to officially name the new model after the owners' daughter.

When their baby daughter Escher arrived last year, Bela Fishbeyn and her husband Spencer Wright decided it was time to buy their first home. They opted for a 300-square-foot dwelling by New Frontier Tiny Homes, which they have set up in the glorious hills of Boulder Creek, California.

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"The home is just so easy to live in and we do it with a toddler," says Fishbeyn.

"The home is just so easy to live in and we do it with a toddler," says Fishbeyn.

Fishbeyn, who is the editor for The American Journal of Bioethics at Stanford University, spent months searching for the right tiny home designer and builder, but was having a hard time finding one that stood out from the pack. 

Fishbeyn and Wright love that their home is set in a natural landscape with an incredible mountain view.  

Fishbeyn and Wright love that their home is set in a natural landscape with an incredible mountain view.  

"We didn’t want to build another studio on wheels. We wanted a house that featured everything—and more—than you’d find in a regular sized home. We thought that since we’d only be paying for 300 square feet, we should make the best of that minimal floor space," explains Fishbeyn.

"As soon as we saw New Frontier’s Alpha model by David Latimer, we knew he was the perfect builder for us. We immediately sent him an email, and pestered him constantly until we were finally able to enter into contract in December of 2016." 

A glance at the kitchen and living area. The leather bench and Oaxacan lumbar pillow are from The Citizenry.  

A glance at the kitchen and living area. The leather bench and Oaxacan lumbar pillow are from The Citizenry.  

Although the couple commissioned an adapted version of the Alpha model, they ended up getting a full-custom design, which Latimer has since included in his portfolio as a new model named Escher, named after Wright and Fishbeyn’s daughter.

The hand-forged, carbon-steel pans are from Blanc Creatives.

The hand-forged, carbon-steel pans are from Blanc Creatives.

Fisbeyn is so satisfied with her family’s new way of life that she’s made it a mission to see tiny homes find a wider audience. "So far, there have been too many barriers of entry for most people to dip into tiny homes. We’re currently working on a model to change that, and distribute tiny homes to a much wider market," she says.

Thanks to the cleverly designed layout, they can witness the changes of seasons from anywhere in their home.

Thanks to the cleverly designed layout, they can witness the changes of seasons from anywhere in their home.

When building Escher, rather than solely focusing on maximizing square footage, Fishbeyn and Wright collaborated with Latimer to alter the perception of space within the shell. 

They envisioned a home with lots of different areas—some for sanctuary, some for work, and some for entertaining. As a result, the couple worked with Latimer to integrate various soft barriers in the form of floor-to-ceiling curtains, as well as shoji paper doors. 

Hafele hardware has been used for most of the maple plywood cabinetry. 

Hafele hardware has been used for most of the maple plywood cabinetry. 

Instead of a full rectangular layout, they designed the bedroom and bathroom in an L-shape so a larger area of the house would retain its high ceiling. This also meant that there would be enough space for Escher to have a room all to herself.

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The fabrics for the interior curtains are Alpaca wool from Sandra Jordan.

The fabrics for the interior curtains are Alpaca wool from Sandra Jordan.

"From both inside and outside the home, you can always see a multitude of different spaces and environments. This adds an intriguing vibe, and keeps the house feeling fresh," notes Fishbeyn.

Fishbeyn and Wright spent just around $130,000 to purchase and customize the trailer. Yet, thanks to the help of many of their creative friends who got involved in the project, their home is now valued at $190,000.

Fishbeyn and Wright spent just around $130,000 to purchase and customize the trailer. Yet, thanks to the help of many of their creative friends who got involved in the project, their home is now valued at $190,000.

By weaving numerous interesting details into the design, Latimer layered the interiors to make the home feel more expansive. He added contrasting exterior siding and end-walls, as well as floating bedroom lights and ceiling panels to create a greater sense of depth. 

He also used LED valence lighting throughout the house, and incorporated an interior wall panel that was custom made by 1767 Designs, a wooden wall art studio located in Nashville, Tennessee. 

"Living in a tiny home naturally directs you toward purposeful activities," says Fishbeyn.

"Living in a tiny home naturally directs you toward purposeful activities," says Fishbeyn.

Storage has been integrated into almost every part of the house. For instance, the bathroom has a built-in walk-in closet. There is space under the master bed, which can be easily accessed via a hydraulic lift. More so, the dining set can slide underneath the kitchen, and contains two tables, three benches, four stools, and more than 100 cubic feet of storage.

Storage has been integrated into almost every part of the house. For instance, the bathroom has a built-in walk-in closet. There is space under the master bed, which can be easily accessed via a hydraulic lift. More so, the dining set can slide underneath the kitchen, and contains two tables, three benches, four stools, and more than 100 cubic feet of storage.

Most of the furniture has been custom built by Latimer and the New Frontier team, who were also responsible for the copper backsplashes, shelving, and the bathroom vanity that has been crafted out of walnut. 

A look at the Italian ceramic kitchen countertops.

A look at the Italian ceramic kitchen countertops.

For the interior decor, Fishbeyn has added natural colors and materials to the monochrome palette by using various materials—dried/fresh flowers, leather, wood, quality textiles, as well as a variety of stones, metals, and woods—to create contrasting textures. 

"We sought out objects that would endure and evolve over time so that we never have to throw them away, and we also don’t end up accumulating junk," she says. 

"Seeing our daughter grow up in such a special place brings us a lot of joy.  She’s able to explore the world around her and discover a sense of wonder and freedom for herself," says Fishbeyn.

"Seeing our daughter grow up in such a special place brings us a lot of joy. She’s able to explore the world around her and discover a sense of wonder and freedom for herself," says Fishbeyn.

Fishbeyn says the biggest challenges the family faced during this process were financing, securing land, and dealing with the uncertainty involved in undertaking the project. 

"Presently, there aren’t any banks offering financing secured on the value of tiny homes, and zoning regulations make finding land a big headache," she explains. "There are very few roadmaps for setting up homes such as ours, unless you’re a headstrong ‘do-it-yourselfer,’ which is one of the main reasons why we want to help other people do the same thing." 

After the custom trailer home was completed, Fishbeyn and Wright built a deck extension themselves using Western Red Cedar.

After the custom trailer home was completed, Fishbeyn and Wright built a deck extension themselves using Western Red Cedar.

"So many people have the space to set up amazing tiny houses that they could live in, or open up to short-term renters, but all the hurdles along the way keep them from pulling the trigger. We think we can do a lot to remove those barriers, and open up this resource to a whole new wave of people who could benefit," she says. 

To learn more about the family's tiny home, check out their website here.