Be Inspired by This Tiny House Designed and Built by a Single Mom
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Be Inspired by This Tiny House Designed and Built by a Single Mom

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
A Bay Area single mom priced out of the rental market takes matters into her own hands and constructs a tiny home for herself and her teenage daughter.

Shalina Kell is a graphic designer, a maker—and now she can add "tiny home builder" to her resume. The single mom lives with her teenage daughter in a lovely, light-filled 350-square-foot tiny home in Sacramento that she built and designed herself. 

Shalina Kell with her daughter.

Shalina Kell with her daughter.

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Just a few years ago, she was renting in the Bay Area and feeling squeezed by her prospects for future homeownership. "The rents just kept going up and up," she explains. "I really always had a dream to build my own house, and so when I came across the tiny house movement it all just kind of clicked for me."

Kell used two types of siding, which she purchased at a discount. 

Kell used two types of siding, which she purchased at a discount. 

Kell learned about tiny homes via Pinterest and British reality home shows, however she was also influenced by her contractor father—and she had dreamed of building her own house since she was a little girl, back when her idea of the perfect playhouse included stud walls, insulation, electrical, real windows, and a "real door with a lock on it." 

When the time finally came, Kell was fortunate to have access to her father's arsenal of tools and space on his land to build. She embarked upon her project in June 2015, and by July 2017, the mother and daughter had moved into their very own tiny dream home. 

"I loved the challenge of planning a fully functional home on a 32 ft x 8.5 ft trailer. I knew I wanted to include all of the basic living spaces that you would find in a conventional home: kitchen, living room, bathroom, two enclosed bedrooms, a laundry area, and storage spaces," explains Kell. 

"I loved the challenge of planning a fully functional home on a 32 ft x 8.5 ft trailer. I knew I wanted to include all of the basic living spaces that you would find in a conventional home: kitchen, living room, bathroom, two enclosed bedrooms, a laundry area, and storage spaces," explains Kell. 

"The fact that my forever dream to build a house was a possibility at this point in my life feels unreal."    —Shalina Kell

Kell didn’t want the house to feel small, so she built high ceilings in the main living area. The staircase on the right leads up to the loft that serves as her daughter's room. She even built storage into the staircase.

Kell didn’t want the house to feel small, so she built high ceilings in the main living area. The staircase on the right leads up to the loft that serves as her daughter's room. She even built storage into the staircase.

Kell's teenage daughter's room.

Kell's teenage daughter's room.

Kell also notes that she wasn’t exactly the ideal candidate for tiny house living—she cites Mari Kondo's philosophy as helping to make her downsizing dream a reality. "We had a lot of stuff, and narrowing it down did take some time and mental energy. I never had the intention of becoming a minimalist, but there was undeniable freedom in simply letting go of anything that didn’t bring me joy, or that I wasn’t using."

Kell found appliances which perfectly fit her small space: an 18" dishwasher, a 20" stove/oven, and a refrigerator that’s about a foot smaller than a full-sized one.

Kell found appliances which perfectly fit her small space: an 18" dishwasher, a 20" stove/oven, and a refrigerator that’s about a foot smaller than a full-sized one.

She was even able to squeeze in a compact stacked washer and a vented dryer.

She was even able to squeeze in a compact stacked washer and a vented dryer.

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Now Kell wants to share her joy with others—she is making her tiny house plans available via an e-book that will be available on her website, Her Tiny Home, in the Spring of 2019. "I hope to inspire those who have their own dream of living in a tiny home and need a little push in the right direction," she explains. 

A staircase leads to Kell's loft. 

A staircase leads to Kell's loft. 

Kell didn’t want to have to climb ladders to access the bedrooms, so she built narrow stairways with doors to provide privacy. Transom windows above the doors open for air circulation when the thru-wall fans are on.

Kell didn’t want to have to climb ladders to access the bedrooms, so she built narrow stairways with doors to provide privacy. Transom windows above the doors open for air circulation when the thru-wall fans are on.

The e-book will include floor plans, electrical plans, side elevations, detail drawings, and her notes. It will also include her own personal story, including information about her design and build process, materials, and how she saved money throughout the project.

"My goal in building my tiny house was to provide a peaceful and comforting space for my daughter and I to call home while gaining some financial freedom and more time together," says Kell. "We’ve already reaped the benefits with less financial stress, more traveling, and the joy of coming home to a house that I own that’s customized especially for us."

The tiny bathroom sits on a small footprint, but it has everything that the mother-daughter duo needs. 

The tiny bathroom sits on a small footprint, but it has everything that the mother-daughter duo needs. 

Kell's bedroom.

Kell's bedroom.

To learn more about Shalina Kell and the tiny home she designed and built, and to order her eBook, go to Her Tiny Home. You can follow her on Instagram @hertinyhome.

Related Reading: Dwell’s Top 10 Tiny Homes of 2018