Welcome to Tiny Home Profiles, an interview series with people pushing the limits of living small. From space-saving hacks to flexible floor plans, here’s what they say makes for the best tiny homes on the planet. Know of a builder we should talk to? Reach out.
The founders of Clever Tiny Homes have big resumes. Didi Zhao has designed globally-recognized projects, like Universal Studios and the Venetian Las Vegas Casino. Jonathan Palley has been building and selling technology products for two decades, influencing how millions of people interact with the internet. And as a longtime tiny-home dweller, Asa Feinstein has worked as a sustainability consultant for international businesses. So how did they all suddenly get into the business of building tiny homes together?
Well, they’re also family—Palley and Feinstein are cousins, and Zhao is married to Palley. During the pandemic lockdown, they built a prototype for Asa. "This project illuminated the potential to combine our experiences in design, technology, and manufacturing to build quality tiny homes," Palley says. As their company name suggests, Clever Tiny Homes builds small-footprint units that pack in impressive features. Here’s what they say sets them apart.
What qualities make your tiny home stand apart from the rest?
Our homes stem from a unique approach that blends manufacturing efficiency with high-quality construction. We focus on a singular, well-optimized product rather than a broad range of models and customizations. This concentration allows us to refine every aspect of our tiny homes.
In one example of how we optimized our process, our engineering team dedicated two weeks to enhancing the home’s wastewater system, ensuring both efficiency and reliability. Similarly, our approach to sourcing materials is strategic and cost-effective. By standardizing elements like flooring across all homes, we procure directly from manufacturers at significantly reduced costs—as low as one-fifth of retail prices.
These optimizations are the "secret" behind our ability to offer top-tier quality at competitive prices. Our approach not only leads to cost savings, but it also elevates the overall quality and performance of our tiny homes.
What does your tiny home cost and what does that pricing include?
Priced at $64,955, our 200-square-foot studio unit comes fully equipped and features a custom-built Murphy bed, a 12-foot quartzite countertop kitchen with high-quality appliances, a spacious bathroom with elegant tiling and a Kohler bathtub, five extra-large windows, and an impressive amount of storage space.
Standard materials are chosen to perform in a variety of climates, and include James Hardie siding, a standing-seam metal roof from Sheffield Metals, OSI sealants and adhesives, a Rinnai high-efficiency water heater, and an industrial trailer foundation. We are currently developing a one-bedroom model that will be available for ordering in March and shipping in June. It will have similar aesthetics to the studio unit, but will be double the size at 400 square feet. The price will be around $100,000.
Where are your tiny homes currently available?
Our homes are available throughout North America and Hawaii. We negotiate with shipping companies to get the best deals for our customers, and clients tend to be pleasantly surprised by the low rates.
Is your design currently pre-permitted in any U.S. municipalities?
Our homes are certified by the National Organization of Alternative Housing (NOAH) as RVs and are permitted anywhere they’re allowed, as well as a growing number of locations where local governments have passed ordinances allowing tiny homes on wheels as a special housing category.
In addition, we are currently working on modular and HUD certification for our homes, which will substantially increase the locations where our homes can be placed—including as an ADU in most backyards in California.
How long can a client expect the process to take after they put down a deposit?
Once a deposit is made, clients can expect their home to be completed and delivered within three to four months.
What aspects of an install do you manage?
While we do not directly manage on-site installation activities like excavation or hookups, we do provide comprehensive guidance on all aspects of the process in order to ensure a smooth and successful installation of your tiny home. Our homes have standard RV hookups and only take a couple of hours to set up once on site.
What aspects of the design can a client customize?
Clients can personalize their homes with choices like washer and dryer hookups, composting toilets, solar power systems, dishwashers, and electric ovens. Clients can choose not to include certain features, too. For example, we've had clients ask for a home without a kitchen because they planned to use the home as a yoga studio. We do, however, limit customization for individual builds to maintain efficiency and keep costs low. For bulk orders, we’re able to provide more extensive customization options.
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