"I love knowing that every detail that goes into our homes serves a purpose and will be used and appreciated," says Ellie Madsen, who cofounded Paradise Tiny Homes, a design-build company on the Big Island of Hawaii, with her brother Dan Madsen. "We are designers, carpenters, artists, and all-around positive people," Ellie explains. "We do the majority of the [design and build] work ourselves."
Before Ellie and Dan joined forces to design and build tiny homes, Ellie managed properties in Montana, and Dan lived on the Big Island, where he operated a skate shop and a printing business—and still does. "The skate shop and printing business sometimes pull me in other directions, so working with Ellie has been invaluable," he says. "She’s so dedicated. I went to Europe for a couple of weeks, and she was able to finish out the interior on her own, and it turned out great; I think we kind of need each other."
According to Ellie, part of what brought her and Dan together in business was the recent passing of their mother Barbara. "I left Hawaii seven years ago to manage rentals in Montana, and this brought me back," Ellie says. "She left us a home. Dan and I moved into the house and started collaborating and creating." Dan sees their creative collaboration as a kind of tribute to their mom. "She was always down to talk through ideas," he says. "I think she would be proud."
The brother-sister team don’t take on definitive roles in the company, but they bring different, complementary skills. "I’ve worked lots of construction and carpentry jobs and gained experience along the way," Dan says. "And it’s cool to see what Ellie has picked up from working property management and development on the mainland." Ellie is business-minded, but she’s also creative. "I definitely took charge of the interior and will continue to play a large role in layout design," she says.
The design Dan and Ellie devised for Oasis Tiny House is one they’d be happy to live in. "We built it the way we’d want it if we were to live there," Dan says. Clad in teal-painted plywood, the house is outfitted with a partially curved roof, a bump-out window, high ceilings, an outdoor bar, and a shower that juts out over the trailer's tongue. "They’re design [features] that maximize space," Ellie says. And preserving space is right up Dan’s alley. "For me, the most interesting part of designing and building tiny homes is the size restriction," Dan says. "You’ve got to really get creative with those limitations."
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The partially curved roof allows for maximum headspace in the loft-style bedroom. "The idea of the curved roof came from years of building backyard skate ramps," Dan says. "It kind of resembles a half-pipe." On the interior, shiplap-style plywood walls lend texture and warmth, and in the living room, two large, half-moon windows placed together in the shape of a circle flood the space with natural light and mark the exterior of the tiny home with a playful aesthetic.
Dan and Ellie connected the tiny home to the outdoors by creating a large deck and an outdoor bar area with a live-edge mango wood counter on the front facade. A large kitchen window ties the interior to the deck and the landscape beyond. Guests sitting at the outdoor bar can be served through the kitchen window. "People in Hawaii essentially live on their lanais because of the moderate temperature," Dan says. "Lanais are key parts of homes in the islands, and they’re even more important in dwellings with limited indoor space. We balanced functionality with aesthetics the whole way through."
More Tiny Homes:
Plumbing: Seth Lux
General Labor: Hunter Hays
Interior Design: Ellie K Design
Electric: John Werner
Carpentry/Framing: John Bradford, Cheyne Bradford
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