A Hawaii-Based Couple Build a Luminous Tiny House in Just 25 Days

Facing a COVID-19 shutdown, Taylor and Michaella McClendon recruit their family to build a breezy tiny home on the Big Island—which you can now purchase for $99,800.
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When the pandemic brought things to a halt on the Hawaiian Islands, Taylor and Michaella McClendon found themselves suddenly without work. "[We] moved to the Big Island two years ago to run our destination wedding photography and videography business," says Taylor. "Yet, like so many others, all of our projects were cancelled when COVID-19 hit. Two weeks into the shutdown, I woke up one morning with the idea to pursue my tucked-away dream of building a tiny house."

Taylor knew just who to recruit for the job: his brother-in-law Ike Huffman, a finish carpenter, and Ike’s parents Greg and Joy, an experienced builder and interior designer, respectively. Built in just 25 days, the airy tiny house was such a success that they’ve decided to turn it into a full-time gig.

Big Island resident Taylor McClendon pitched the idea of building a tiny home to his wife Michaella, brother-in-law Ike Huffman, and Ike’s parents, Greg and Joy—all of whom have design and construction experience. The resulting 28-foot home is clad in cedar and metal.

Inside, the floor plan prioritizes an open living area and kitchen, with numerous windows and doors to maximize natural light throughout. A simple palette of materials and lighter finishes adds to the airy feeling—as does the 13-foot ceiling.

Taylor considered the project an experiment to test out ideas for improving the design of tiny homes. A big focus became adding more windows and leaving spaces open rather than filling every nook and corner.

Built over 25 long working days, the backyard construction project was also balanced with regular visits from Taylor and Michaella’s two children, Caedmon and Iona.

"Our first hurdle was finding the right trailer," Taylor explains. "We researched and found the exact one we wanted from Iron Eagle in Oregon. However, due to COVID-related delays, we likely would have waited a month for it to arrive in Hawaii." 

In a serendipitous turn of events, Taylor was connected with another local resident looking to sell a brand-new tiny house trailer from Iron Eagle, and the project quickly moved forward. "We discussed the idea on a Friday, and the trailer was parked in our driveway by the following Monday. To the soundtrack of Neil Young, we finished the subflooring the first day."

At one end of the home, the living area features a set of custom vertical windows with a small loft area above. A window seat with built-in storage occupies space over the trailer tongue.

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To reach the loft, a series of rungs made from pipes lead up through a cut-out in the loft floor. The team opted for this solution instead of a ladder along the front, which would have detracted from the design both visually and spatially.

"We have seen a number of tiny houses that could simply use a few extra windows," says Taylor. The approximately 250-square-foot space offers nearly a dozen windows, including a set of four clerestory windows running along both sides. "The northwest cedar tongue-and-groove cladding is another favorite [element]. It adds an elegant and natural softness to the contemporary and minimalist design. And it smells amazing!"

Corresponding with the exterior facade, cedar runs along the ceiling and interior walls. The back half of the home features a galley-style kitchen with full-size sink, stove, and fridge.

Concrete countertops surround a 36" apron sink in the kitchen and top a seating area at one end. The counters were designed flush with a large window in the back to allow for easier passing of items through to the outside.

A mini closet provides space for a washer and dryer while space underneath the stairs adds even more storage. Several stair treads are also hinged, revealing hidden compartments.

Taylor and the project team carefully considered how each space would be used and the tradeoffs required to prioritize certain features. "Big kitchen? Small bathroom? Living area? We asked ourselves what we valued most, and for us, it was the kitchen and living space," he says. "We wanted the bedroom and bathroom to be functional, but not the primary focal points. We also valued empty space and didn't feel the need to build out every corner."

At the rear of the home, the bathroom offers a 42-inch-wide shower, as well as a central vanity and toilet.

Both traditional and composting toilets are available to accommodate off-grid living.

The group worked on the project Monday through Friday for five weeks straight. "Greg, who has remodeled and built dozens of homes, often stayed up at night solving technical problems," says Taylor. They all quickly realized the need for precision planning, as a miscalculated inch here or there would affect the entire design. Taylor adds: "Throughout the process, Greg would often say, ‘Building a tiny house is like constructing a skyscraper on a postage stamp—you can’t afford to mess up your measurements, or else it offsets everything.’"

A view from the bedroom loft.

The bedroom measures 10' x 8' and features windows along one side and a corner.

Other features of the design include flexible options for off-grid living. "All the gray water can be run off through a pipe to either septic, sewage, or ground with composting toilet," says Taylor. The home can also connect to any form of water or electricity needs, although solar panels or a solar generator are not included. Orders for the made-to-order tiny home start at $99,800.

Two bands of clerestory windows run along the front facade, where a single glass door is flanked by simple light fixtures to complement the metal cladding.

This fall, the couple will be moving back to the mainland and have decided to begin a tiny house construction business based in Dallas, Texas. "We are amazed at how this dream has materialized amidst so many changes and the odds feeling against us," says Taylor. "I’d encourage others to step out while the world is resetting and changing." 

For more information on pricing and availability, please visit their website or find them on Instagram @tayandmckay. Prices start at $99,800.

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